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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (07/2003) AMP (06/2003) AMP (08/2003)   Vol. 37 July 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the July 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I unearthed this sword at a ghost town on my family's ranch in California. The total length is 34-3/4"; the blade is 30" long and 5/16" thick. There are no markings on it, but it seems older than Civil War swords that I have seen. Any information would be helpful.

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Answer Our thanks to professional militaria appraiser George W. Juno, who identifies your find as a c. 1830s-50s militia infantry sword. Whether it was an officer's sword is uncertain: if so, it would have had a sharkskin grip and an etched blade- features unfortunately long since lost to rot and rust. While some American military goods suppliers made such iron-hilted swords, many imported them; and your find, unmarked and bearing shield-shaped langets, is probably of European manufacture. Even today, similar swords are readily available, usually retailing for $500, complete with scabbard. As found, yours might bring $150-200 in a militaria sale, but it's probably more marketable as a decorator item.


Question Please identify this gilt brass button which has a Liberty cap surrounded by "E Pluribus Unum," six stars, and the date 1834. The back is marked, "True Whigs of 76 & 34."

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Answer This is one of a variety of clothing buttons issued by the Whigs for the Congressional campaign of 1834. Although a newly formed political party at that time, they took their name from the early American Whigs who resisted British rule. A politically diverse group, the Whigs of 1834 were mainly united by a fierce opposition to what they regarded as the "tyranny" of President Andrew Jackson and the Democrats. Prominent figures in the movement included Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. For a time the party proved quite competitive, and two of its presidential candidates were successful: William Henry Harrison in 1840, and Zachary Taylor in 1848 (both of whom issued plenty of their own buttons, by the way). By the mid 1850s, however, the Whigs began to suffer serious division and attrition, and by the 1860s they had vanished altogether. Your button, which exists in two sizes, 13 and 16 mm, is worth about $125.


Question Mark, I found this chain-style watch fob at a storm-swept beach in Maine. Both the chain and the coin attached to it seem to be made of gilt bronze. What I'd like to know is, what kind of coin is it, is it genuine, and does it have any value?

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Answer It's evidently a copy of an ancient Greek silver coin- specifically, a Siculo-Punic tetradrachm struck around 320-300 B.C. The wreathed-head portrait on the obverse represents one of the lesser female deities from Greek mythology- possibly Tanit or Artemis- and I believe that the Punic inscription beneath the horse's head means, "The People of the Camp," referring to mercenaries fighting for Carthage. An authentic coin of this type could bring over $1,000 in Very Fine condition; but if this is a late 19th or early 20th century base-metal copy made for ornamental use, I'd estimate the value of the fob at less than $100.


Question While detecting in a local park, I found this metal purse. It is 1" wide and 2" long, and holds only two nickels and two dimes. Could you give me any information on it, including how old it might be?

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Answer The ornately embossed, spring-loaded coin holder that you found was likely made in the late 1800s. Victorian ladies frequently carried them on a chatelaine, an elaborate, chain-like affair worn at the waist, with various items suspended from individual chains: purse, pencil, note pad, scissors, smelling salts vial, etc. As for its coin capacity, 30c may seem an absurdly small sum, but in those days it would have been more than sufficient for incidental little around-town expenses such as a cup of tea, a tip, or trolley fare. Also, while seldom put to such extravagant use, the same slots would accept $2-1/2 and $5 gold pieces. Silver-plated coin holders of this sort often list for around $50.


Question This copper coin or token, approximately the size of a half dollar, was dug at an old site in Virginia. One side is dated 1800 and has a fancy monogram ("HC" or "JCC"?); the other has "PENNY" between leaves and flowers. Some people said it might be a Hard Times token. Are they right?

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Answer Not quite. It's a token, all right, and times were definitely hard for those who used it; but there the similarity ends. What you've got is classified as a Conder token, one of a huge variety of halfpenny and penny tokens issued in Great Britain in the late 18th century. Unlike many of them, though, this one wasn't meant for general commercial trade. The CH script monogram stands for Christ's Hospital- a somewhat misleading name for a juvenile care institution functioning mainly as a charitable boarding school. Established in 1552 by Edward VI, it remains in existence today. According to The Provincial Token - Coinage of the 18th Century by Dalton & Hammer, back then the boys of Christ's Hospital were forbidden to possess regular coinage or purchase anything outside the gates of the institution. Instead, they had their own "Housey-money," struck in halfpenny, penny, and sixpence denominations. Today, your "penny" would sell for $20-30 in Fine condition.


Question I found this 1-1/16" x 2" brass "W. L. I. & C. Co." tag while searching a construction site in southern Wisconsin. Any idea what its history might be?

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Answer It's from the late 1800s or early 1900s, and the initials are those of the Wisconsin Lakes Ice & Cartage Company, a Milwaukee enterprise which delivered coal in the winter, ice in the summer, and miscellaneous freight year round. (I believe that this is the same firm which was later renamed the Wisconsin Ice & Coal Co., and is now known as Hometown, Inc.) The tag is probably a claim check used in the transfer side of their business. It might not fetch much elsewhere, but to a collector there in the Badger State- especially one specializing in Milwaukee memorabilia- it could well be worth $50 or more.


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