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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2002) AMP (06/2002) AMP (11/2002)   Vol. 36 October 2002 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the October 2002 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found this baggage tag while detecting near an old railroad depot. It is made of brass and reads, "Pat. July 27, 1880. 30352 To Be Used by the Cent. Pac. R. R. Co. - Only -" Do you know if it has any value?

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Answer How about $400-450? While patent date isn't always a reliable indicator of an item's age, your tag was indeed issued in the 1880s by the Central Pacific Railroad Company. Formed in 1861 by San Francisco's famed "Big Four"- business leaders Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis Potter Huntington, and Leland Stanford- the CPRR drove its line eastward from San Francisco all the way to Promontory, Utah, where on May 10, 1869 its tracks met those of the Union Pacific Railroad and the two were ceremoniously linked with the famed golden spike, completing the nation's first transcontinental railroad. By the early 1880s the CPRR owned over 1,200 miles of track and held leases on nearly 2,000 more. In 1884, it came under control of the Southern Pacific Company but officially remained a separate entity for another 75 years. In short, that little bit of brass has a rich history behind it... and now you're a little bit richer for having found it!


Question Mark, I dug this nickel-sized "ROYAL DOCK YARD BATTN" button in a Utah ghost town founded by Welsh immigrants in 1863. It is backmarked "Wilkinson & Son / London" and is in very good condition, with the shank intact and even some gilt remaining. Thanks for any information you can offer about it.

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Answer Royal Dockyards were maintained not only in Great Britain but throughout its empire. They provisioned and repaired ships of the Royal Navy, enabling the nation to keep its fleets continuously at strength and in service. Under authority of an admiral superintendent, the dockyards were staffed by a mix of civilian and military personnel, and their battalions were composed of these same employees. For example, one Mediterranean unit of the mid 19th century consisted of 300 men organized into three companies, each commanded by a captain and four or five lieutenants. A number of Royal Dockyards buttons exist, but they are seldom seen and therefore somewhat difficult to price. I haven't encountered this particular variety before, but in the past others have reportedly been valued at $25-50+.


Question While hunting around an old foundation in Haverstraw, New York, I located a 2" x 2" bronze medal showing a large building, with the date 1876 underneath. At the bottom is a bust portrait of George Washington. Please identify it if possible.

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Answer It's evidently the main portion of a souvenir badge from the U.S. Centennial Exposition (world's fair) held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1776, in observance of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Depicted on it is Memorial Hall, the expo's only permanent structure, which later became the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For some reason, this badge seems to be unlisted; however, a specialist in Centennial Exposition memorabilia told W&ET that he had seen at least one other like it some years ago. He also suggested that, incomplete and excavated, it might bring $50.


Question Coinshooting in northern Minnesota, I came up with this unusual coin. It's copper, about 1-1/8" in diameter, and has a shield & crown on one side, and three crowns and "C. R. S." on the other. What is it?

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Answer Struck sometime in the 1640s (the date's illegible), your find is a Swedish 1/4 ore. The letters C.R.S. stand for Christina Regina Sveciae, Latin for "Christina, Queen of Sweden," who reigned from 1632 to 1654. Unfortunately, it's been worn down and roughed up over the past 350+ years, but that doesn't detract from its interest or significance; and in fact, the numismatic impact isn't as bad as you might expect. Even if it were in Very Good condition, it would only be a $5-7 coin; and as is, it's just as much fun to find.


Question The eagle on this shield-shaped object holds a banner bearing the words "Our Country's Defenders." On the back is crudely scratched,"J. R. Summers, 1942, Dayton, Ohio, U.S.A."- I'm not sure about the date- and possibly "R.I.P." Could it be a patriotic watch fob? A pin or pendant? Maybe a medal or award?

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Answer Right the first time! Apparently someone planed off the original reverse, which would have had the date 1917, "The United States in the Great War," a list of World War I events, and the mark of the maker/supplier, H. H. Stratton of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Perhaps better known for its postcards, this firm also produced patriotic souvenirs for U.S. Mexican Border Service troops, c. 1916-17. Similar WWI fobs sometimes sell for $35-50 or more, but this one's more likely to be in the $15-25 range.


Question Could you please tell me something about this Russian medal I found? It is attached to a pentagonal piece of metal (not shown here) which has a wide slot and several tabs.

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Answer Authorized on January 24, 1988, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Armed Forces, it was awarded to regular USSR servicemen, combat veterans, and recipients of other medals for distinguished service, valor, etc., as well as members of the KGB and police forces. The suspension device which you describe is the inner frame of the medal's multicolored ribbon brooch. Huge numbers of these were presented, and their value is therefore predictably low- maybe $15 in nice original condition, but much less otherwise.


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