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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (02/2002) AMP (01/2002) AMP (03/2002)   Vol. 36 February 2002 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the February 2002 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question This skull lock was dug at a Texas construction site. Do you have any information about its history and value?

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Answer A classic among the so-called Story locks, it's one of a couple of "Skull & Crossbones" varieties issued by the National Hardware Co. in the late 1800s... and no, it didn't come with a skeleton key! Like nearly all Story locks, it's of cast iron construction. One version has only scrollwork on the reverse; the other bears a bold N H Co. monogram. If it were in excellent condition, with key, it would be worth $350-400; as is, probably 50% less. Incidentally, there are modern replicas of this lock, generally identifiable by a cast 85 on back, near the top... or evidence of the telltale numerals' removal by some fiendish "restorer"!


Question I unearthed this 7/8" heart-shaped silver coin near a Colonial church site in Maryland. It appears to be a British 1559/60 groat of Elizabeth I. Whoever cut the coin did a very good job of centering and shaping it. Would it have been done for some commercial purpose, or just for personal reasons?

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Answer Your find is a type of "love token"- a coin modified for use as a gift, keepsake, or jewelry. Usually, at least one side is smoothed and reengraved with a name, initials, sentiment, date, &/or decorative design. So, although this example could be considered a finished piece, it may actually have been a work in progress, with the final touches never added. The big question is, when was this bit of Elizabethan hammered silver refashioned into a heart? In the late 1500s? Two or three centuries later? Unfortunately, there's no way to know, and that fact, along with the lack of an appealing inscription, tends to suppress the price somewhat. Best estimate? Under $50.


Question Mark, could you please tell me what this is? It is made of thin, plated metal, and underneath the scene stamped on the front are the words, "Vive La Crosse." There is a large, tongue-like tab on the back, but no marks of any kind.

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Answer It's a belt plate celebrating the sport of lacrosse and, according to the tiny British Registry mark in the lower left corner, it dates from 1870. The mark is the type in use from 1868 to 1883, and the code symbols (difficult to read here, even under magnification) appear to be "III" (metal), "27" (day), illegible parcel number, "Rd" (registered), "C" (1870), and "D" (September). The mark indicates that the plate was evidently made in Great Britain. The French inscription Vive La Crosse may be a hint that it was meant for the market in Quebec, long a stronghold for the sport. W&ET contacted officials at the Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame, who stated that they were unfamiliar with the plate and, as a matter of policy, cannot authenticate or appraise items. However, they expressed an interest in examining and displaying it, and I'm sending you their contact information in case you'd like to pursue that possibility. With no published valuations available- and assuming, of course, that it's authentic- I can only guess that it might bring $100-150 or more from a collector of lacrosse memorabilia.


Question When an old house was being razed in Atlanta, I spotted this token sticking out of an eroded slope. The front reads, "Pro Patria et Gloria Swanson Paramount - Madame Sans Gene"; the back, "Liberte Fraternite Egalite. Sans Gene Means You'll Never Worry. Madame Sans Gene. A Paramount Picture." Anything you can tell me about it would be appreciated.

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Answer It was struck to promote the April 1925 release of the silent film Madame Sans-Gêne ("Madame Doesn't Care"), the story of a French washerwoman who becomes a duchess and friend of Napoleon. Not only did Gloria Swanson star in it, but she was also instrumental in securing permission for it to be filmed on location in France. The obverse inscription is a play upon the Latin phrase Pro Patria et Gloria ("For country and glory"); the reverse is a variation of the French national motto, Liberté Égalité Fraternité ("Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"). Value? $10-15.


Question Last year, I uncovered this dragon pin/brooch in Jacksonville, Florida. Beneath the dragon is a banner inscribed, "The Buffs." What prompted me to write to you about it was the November 2001 cover of your magazine, showing what was identified as a British 3rd Regiment ("The Buffs") belt plate from the Revolutionary War. It seems highly unlikely that my own find is 225 years old, so what's its real age, and also its value, if any?

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Answer The history of The Buffs begins with Thomas Morgan's Company in 1572 and continues all the way into the 1960s, when they were merged with other regiments. Their name originated in the 1700s, when two regiments were commanded by a Colonel Howard. To avoid confusion, they began to be referred to by the colors of their facings, and eventually became officially known as The Buffs and The Green Howards, respectively. Use of a dragon as the regimental badge spans several centuries as well. The catch on the pin of this one (not shown in the photo) clearly puts it in the post-1900 category. Other attachment devices are more common, but it could be a dress uniform collar badge. Another possibility is that it's a sweetheart pin, a privately purchased brooch made in imitation of the regimental insignia. Either way, it would probably be priced around $25 here in the States, according to a WWI/WWII militaria appraiser.


Question This unusual pin was recovered at a site which also yielded mid to late 1800s buttons and bullets. Is it a military insignia of some sort, or even from the same era?

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Answer Not quite! It's a WAGGGS- World Association of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts- membership pin. WAGGGS, an international order of Girl Scouting, was established in 1928 and remains in existence today. This original emblem was introduced in 1949 and continued in use until 1990, when it was replaced by a more modern design; however, the symbolism remains essentially the same: gold trefoil (clover) on blue background = "the sun shining on children everywhere," and also the Threefold Promise; two stars = the Promise and the Law; top leaf vein = a compass needle to show the way; stalk of trefoil/flames = love of >humanity. Obviously, given their long history and worldwide distribution, such pins are far from scarce, and this one would bring only a few dollars at most.


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