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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (01/2003) AMP (12/2002) AMP (02/2003)   Vol. 37 January 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the January 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question On a relic hunting trip near Sharpsburg, Maryland, I found what I believe to be a brigade badge. It's made of brass, measures 1-1/4", and has only a portion of the pin remaining on the back. There are no markings or engravings. Of course, I'm interested in its value and whatever else you can tell me about it.

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Answer Your find is a Union Army 18th Corps badge. The 18th Corps was organized on December 24, 1862, and this symbol- known in heraldry as a cross bottonée or cross treflée, and sometimes referred to as a "budded cross"- was officially adopted as its badge on June 7, 1864. At that time, the corps had nearly 16,000 men, including officers, and had seen extensive action in North Carolina and Virginia. Between mid May and mid June of 1864 alone, it reported 5,198 casualties, including 661 killed, 3,589 wounded, and 948 missing in action. Inexplicably, on December 3, 1864, the corps was ordered discontinued, and white troops of the 10th and 18th Corps were organized into the 24th Corps; black troops of the same units were organized into the 25th Corps. The 18th is among the more common corps badges, and the same symbol has seen widespread civilian use as well. Nevertheless, it's very collectable, and an uninscribed brass one like yours, recovered in a military context, would likely retail for $500-600.


Question I uncovered this unusual dark brass bell at a Florida site dating back to the 1800s. Any idea how old it is or how much it's worth?

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Answer Depicting an elegant lady in Elizabethan attire, this ring-a-ding figurine is familiar to bell fanciers as "Queen Elizabeth I." There are a number of varieties, ranging from the late 1800s all the way up to the 1950s; however, I suspect that yours is from the turn of the century (19th/20th) and of British manufacture. Such bells have been popular since Victorian times, and antique ones are often from England. France and Belgium made many as well, and there are also American "lady bells." More recently, copies have come from China and India. Older bells are typically heavier, thicker at the rim, and better detailed, with signs of wear on the head and face (handle) and interior. Some have a clapper made in the shape of a boot or pair of boots- a feature not found on newer bells. Price tag? Probably $100+, unless the metal is actually bronze, in which case it would fetch much more.


Question Please identify this large coin or medallion with a loop attached. On one side "Sanctus Martinus" surrounds the figure of a knight on horseback, holding a sword in one hand and preparing to strike a man on foot, whose cloak the knight grasps in his other hand. On the other side are the words "Republica Lucensis," a crowned "Libertas" emblem, and the date 1743.

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Answer Your coin is a scudo from the Republic of Lucca, a 18th century city-state in Tuscany, Italy, and the metal is .916 silver. Sanctus Martinus is Saint Martin (a.k.a. Martin of Tours), who forsook a successful military career for a life of Christian ministry, and the scene is less sinister than it seems. In fact, it depicts a famous incident at Amiens, when Martin, then a soldier, cut his own cloak in two and gave half to a beggar shivering in the cold. Republica Lucensis is the Republic of Lucca, of course; and Libertas means liberty. If unaltered and in Fine condition, this 1743 Luccan scudo would be worth around $60-75; as is, though numismatically less desirable, it still retains most of that value as an attractive example of coin jewelry.


Question Mark, I found this medal while detecting around an old farmhouse. I have shown it to several people, but no one has been able to tell me what it is. Can you?

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Answer What you've got is the suspension medallion, or "drop," from a badge issued by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Originally, it was suspended from a red, white & blue striped ribbon with a pin-back hanger bar at the top. Founded in 1881 (note the Roman numeral date on the badge) as an affiliated order of the Grand Army of the Republic, the SUVCW remains active today. In case you're wondering about the motto on the obverse, Gratia Dei Servatus, it's Latin for "Preserved [or Kept] by the Grace of God"; and on the reverse, Filii Veteranorum, "Sons of Veterans." Thumb through a few catalogs or click around the internet and you'll see the same badge, with ribbon, priced at $20+; but one trip to a Civil War collectors' show, and you'll know that's more than a tad too high. The medallion alone? Half the real-world value of the badge- or less.


Question Generally keys aren't of much interest to me, but this one's an exception. I dug it at the site of a 1918-32 New Mexico mining camp. Solid brass or bronze and weighing almost 2 oz., it has the number 505 stamped on the top, and also on the end, in reverse, as on a stamp or printer's type. Do you know if there's any significance to the numbers?

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Answer It's a night watchman's key, probably dates back 75-85 years or so, and is a $15-20 find. It was kept at a designated station on the watchman's rounds, and when he stopped there he would insert the key into a special clock which he carried on a shoulder strap. Turning the key in the clock caused the raised numbers on the bit of the key to print or emboss a paper disk or tape inside the clock, and the clock would register the date and exact time that the key was used. After that, it was on to the next station and key, where the process was repeated. Later, the paper insert would be removed and reviewed by a supervisor to confirm that the watchman had properly completed his rounds. Although superseded by electronic versions to some extent, the system remains in use today.


Question Coinshooting in Kentucky, I found this brass token on a chain. One side has a bust of "Georgivs III," and the other reads, "In Memory of the Good Old Days 1768." Any information would be appreciated.

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Answer Issued sometime in the mid to late 1800s, it's a gaming token (used like a poker chip) made in imitation of a British "spade" guinea, a gold coin struck during the reign of King George III. It's not a counterfeit, since the details are sufficiently different, the date's nearly 20 years too early, and there's obviously no intent to deceive. These are fairly common and usually sell for $5 or less, F-VF.


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