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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (06/2003) AMP (05/2003) AMP (07/2003)   Vol. 37 June 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the June 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Mark, I recovered this ring near an old cellar hole in New Hampshire. The site was occupied from the mid 1700s to the early 1800s. Just over 1/2" in diameter and 1/8" wide, the ring is made of copper, with traces of gilt remaining. There are raised bands at the edges, and between them is "ADAMS LIBERTY," along with what could be illegible lettters &/or numbers, or some sort of ornament. I have been told that it may be a bereavement ring, but haven't been able to find out anything about it. Any ideas on what this ring is, and what its rarity and value might be?

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Answer As far as I can determine, yours is the first such ring reported. Although differing somewhat in style, and of a size more appropriate for a child, it's reminiscent of the rare, c. 1800 George Washington mourning/memorial ring first reported in this column in April 2000; and "ADAMS LIBERTY" certainly invites attribution to President John Adams. At first I thought it might be a mourning ring as well, but on reflection the sentiment of the inscription seems more patriotic than memorial. And while it's true that Adams did not enjoy the same popularity and acclaim as his predecessor, Washington, there are a number of patriotic souvenirs related to his term as president in 1797-1801. Obviously, as previously unseen, it's difficult to value; but specialists familiar with the Washington ring have suggested $1,000-1,500 for this excavated Adams example.


Question Recently, while detecting at a Civil War site, I dug what I believe to be Missouri state seal buttons. This is one of them, backmarked "SCOVILL MF'G CO. WATERBURY." Any information as to value, how many were made, and when, would be greatly appreciated.

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Answer Listed in Albert's Record of American Uniform & Historical Buttons as #MO 1A, it is indeed a Civil War variety- and, as found, is worth $500 or more. With regard to the quantity issued, maybe the answer's buried somewhere in surviving Scovill archives; but for now you'll have to settle for an honest, "I don't know."


Question Exploring around an old townsite in Kentucky, I found this brass lock. The front is marked, "T. Slaight. Patent Oct. 14, 1851. Newark, N.J."; and the back,"U S M R R." Can you tell me a little about its history and what it might be worth?

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Answer It's from the United States Military Railroad. With the enactment of the Railways & Telegraph Act in January 31, 1862, President Lincoln was authorized to take control of U.S. railroads in order to expedite the war effort. Those lines which were seized in order to enforce compliance were organized as the United States Military Railroad, which was headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. Later on, captured Southern lines became part of it as well. Whether classified as a Civil War relic or a railroad collectible, your lock is a $275-350 find. In fact, a non-dug one in choice condition recently fetched over $565 at auction; but frankly, that's pretty steep.


Question I'd like your comments on this silver cup that I found. It has a raised stag's head on each side, and deeply engraved script initials- "F. J. G.," I think- on the front. The bottom is marked, "Man'f'd & Guaranteed by 212 The Middletown Silver Co. Quadr...l." The finish is darkly tarnished, and the lip is bent in two or three places.

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Answer Its heavy, ornate construction and flared base and lip are typical of gentlemen's shaving mugs made around the turn of the century (19th/20th). Some came with porcelain liners, and some also had a shaving-brush rest cast onto the handle or front of the mug. The metal of yours is actually silverplate, as indicated by the incomplete "Quadruple" mark. The Middletown Silver Co. was established at Middletown, Connecticut in 1899; so, the mug could be at least 100 years old. The firm later went bankrupt in 1910, then reorganized and remained in business until the late 1930s or '40s, eventually merging with other companies. If it were in better shape, this might be a $100 find; as is, it's still collectable but probably not worth the cost of restoration.


Question Searching at the c. 1923 Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair, New Mexico, I located this watch fob in the shape of a scrawny rooster. The back reads, "The Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co. Gas Tractors, Steam Traction Engines, Threshers, Hullers. Mansfield, Ohio." There is also a maker's mark: "Bastian Bros. Co., Rochester, N. Y." Any info on it would be great.

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Answer The Aultman-Taylor Company of Mansfield, Ohio was founded in 1890. At first manufacturing engines and threshers, it added tractors to its product line around 1910 and continued in operation until 1924, when it was acquired by a competitor, the Advance-Rumely Co. of LaPorte, Indiana. So, your fob's about 80-90 years old, which fits right in with the site where you found it. The "starved rooster" logo represents the efficiency of Aultman-Taylor's threshers, which supposedly didn't spill enough grain to feed the chickens. You'll often see the fob priced higher, but based on recent auction action, $60-75 would be a fair offer... still not exactly "chicken feed"!


Question This medal comes from an area that I believe was a War of 1812 camp. I'm not sure what type of metal it's made from, but it's 1-3/16" high and 1-1/8" wide. On the shield, the pair of scales and rampant lion are red in color, and the geometric shapes are green. The lettering on the scroll beneath the shield- JUSTITERRAM INCOLANT- is also in green. What is it, how old is it, and what's it worth?

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Answer It's the distinctive insignia (DI) of the 796th Military Police Battalion. The motto, which should be read as three words- Justi Terram Incolant- is Latin for, "Let the just inhabit the earth." The 796th MP Bn. was constituted on June 23, 1942, and activated on July 9, 1942 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Subsequently stationed at Camp Shanks, New York and Fort Custer, Michigan, the unit shipped out to Europe in April 1944, and after stops in Scotland and England, went on to serve in France and Belgium. It was deactivated in France in June 1945, after which the entire "battalion" consisted of one lieutenant and one enlisted man. In April 1946, still existing mainly on paper, it was transferred to Vienna, Austria, where by the end of the year it had been expanded to 22 officers and 484 enlisted men. The 796th MP Bn. continued to serve in Vienna until March 16, 1953, when it was deactivated. Your DI is of WWII vintage and European manufacture, and there are both brass and nickel silver varieties, now worth $10-15 and $20-25, respectively.


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