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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (12/2002) AMP (11/2002) AMP (01/2003)   Vol. 36 December 2002 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the December 2002 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question While metal detecting on a piece of land that we own, my uncle and I were surprised to find this iron cannon. It is 33-1/2" in length and has the initials "PR" on the larger end. Any information on it would be great!

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Answer Known as swivel guns, small artillery pieces of this type were widely used in the 18th century, both on ships and boats and at fortifications. Highly maneuverable, they could be quickly aimed, and some had a socketed knob on the cascabel (rear portion) for a wooden tiller to aid in directing fire. Unfortunately, the downside of their design was instability due to recoil, and thus they lacked the size and "wallop" of fixed or carriage-mounted cannons. I don't know the significance of the "PR," but I suspect that it's simply a foundry mark. Exactly how much the gun might go for in today's often erratic militaria market is anybody's guess, but in the past similar examples have brought $3,000 or more.


Question I have identified this button, dug at a 1700s homesite along the Delaware River, as a Washington Inaugural- Albert #WI-12-B, with 54 marks around the rim, rated R5 for rarity. As you can see, it still has great detail and gilt; the shank, however, is missing. What I would like for you to tell me is its value.

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Answer Couldn't I just tap dance in the mine fields instead? Lately, several Washington Inaugurals have fetched phenomenal amounts, causing some dealers and collectors to assume that all varieties are now more valuable. I'm not so sure, mainly because during the same period many more of these buttons have been discovered, including some uncommonly nice ones like yours. While some of Albert's c. 1976 rarity ratings have held up pretty well, others are ripe for revision. What we can say with certainty about your button is that it's not particularly scarce compared to other Washington Inaugurals, but as a dug specimen it's about as handsome as they come, even with a spot or two of oxidation and without a shank. I wouldn't blink if someone bid over $2,000.


Question My son and I were hunting around an old farmhouse in Wisconsin when he pulled up this copper arrowhead. It's about 4" long, and the edges of the base are turned inward to wrap around the arrow's wooden shaft. I've been detecting for 30 years and haven't found one yet. Can you tell us something about it?

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Answer It's a Copper Culture socketed spearpoint, likely dating back 3,000 years or more. Skilled prehistoric craftsmen fashioned all sorts of tools, weapons, and ornaments from the metal, not by smelting and casting it, but by cold-hammering native copper nuggets found around the region. While most of these artifacts come from Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states, they occasionally turn up in such distant places as Mississippi and Oklahoma, attesting to the far-reaching trade among early Americans. As you'd expect, prices of copper points depend on a number of factors: size, type, condition, color/patina, etc. Your son's is at least a $200-250 find.


Question Mark, I'm hoping you may shed some light on this recent recovery made near a Confederate camp in Georgia. I've shown it to several Civil War relics experts, and they believe it's of the period and possibly a mounted rifleman's bugle insignia. It's die-stamped brass and measures approximately 3" x 3/4". Thanks for your help.

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Answer While one source says that this hat badge was worn as early as the 1870s-80s, according to U.S. military records cited in History of the Administrative and Technical Services by Leon W. Laframboise, the same insignia, made to resemble the standard field service bugle, was first officially authorized in 1904, for "Field Musicians of Infantry" and "Trumpeters of Cavalry," with unit numbers and letters to be affixed to the top &/or center. Variations (with and without numbers) reportedly remained in use until 1917. So, even though there seems to be some disagreement about when it first appeared, it's definitely post-Civil War. As for what it's worth, the highest-priced I've ever seen was a little under $100 in mint condition, and it goes without saying that one with wear, discoloration, or other problems would go for a great deal less.


Question What's the story of this dime-sized token with a man on horseback and the words, "The Rough Riders Brigade - Roosevelt 1904"?

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Answer A political piece issued for the 1904 presidential campaign of Theodore Roosevelt, it was intended to capitalize on his fame as commander of the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War, and depicts him leading their valiant charge up San Juan Hill. Already a well-established politician when he was elected vice president in 1900, Roosevelt became chief executive following the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Yet when he sought to continue serving in 1904, it was in large part his popularity as a military hero that gave him a decisive win over his Democrat opponent, Alton B. Parker, and that fact is reflected in memorabilia from the campaign. If it were in F-VF condition, the token would retail around $40; as found, maybe $20-25.


Question Searching a friend's lawn, I found a child's ring showing a chick hatching from an egg, with the phrase "Oh, You Chicken" underneath. Inside the band is stamped "Sterling" and "Pat. Appl'd For." Please tell me something about it.

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Answer It evidently dates from the early 1900s, when "Oh, you chicken!" was a popular expression appearing on buttons, pins, and other novelties, and was even the title of a tune by one of the era's most celebrated songwriters, Fred Fischer ("Peg O' My Heart," "Chicago - That Toddling Town," etc.). Some of these novelties were advertising premiums, and a few companies also used a "chick & egg" trademark- notably Bon Ami cleanser, with the slogan "Hasn't Scratched Yet"- but I can find no evidence that any of them ever used the same image and phrase together, or issued such a ring. In addition, the use of silver, the nonadjustable band, and the marks on the band are more typical of retail jewelry than a giveaway item. Other children's novelty rings of similar age often bring $50-100+; so, until or unless a listing to the contrary turns up, that seems a reasonable range for this one, too.


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