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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (08/2003) AMP (07/2003) AMP (09/2003)   Vol. 37 August 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the August 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Please identify this foreign gold coin. It is the size of a half dollar, the thickness of a dime, and in almost uncirculated condition. On the front is the bust of a man with long, flowing hair. Around the bust is the inscription "JOSEPHUS I. D. G. PORT. ET. ALG. REX." Beneath the bust is the letter "R" and the date 1751. The back has only a crowned coat of arms.

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Answer It's a 6,400 reis piece- also known as a peca or "Joe," and equivalent to 4 escudos- struck at the Portuguese colonial mint in Rio de Janeiro ("R"), Brazil. The Latin inscription translates as, "Joseph I [or Jose I], by the grace of God, King of Portugal and Algarve." (Algarve is a province in extreme southern Portugal.) The reverse bears the royal Portuguese arms. The metal is .917 fine gold, and the coin contains a little over 0.42 oz. pure gold. One of an estimated 610,000 minted at Rio in 1751, it lists for around $750, XF; $1,000+, Unc.


Question I found this small sundial in a cornfield where a house stood over 150 years ago. It's made of soft gray metal, either pewter or lead, and is less than 2" in diameter. There are three small holes that may have been used to mount it on some other object. Why would someone have a sundial of this size?

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Answer During the 18th and early 19th century, portable or pocket sundials were fairly common, as were combination sundial-compasses. In fact, a pewter one very similar to yours can be seen in Neumann & Kravic's Collector's Illustrated Encyclo-pedia of the American Revolution. How much is it worth? Well, that depends on how, or whether, it's marked. Check carefully near the edge, in the center, on either side of the gnomon (pointer), and underneath for any letters or symbols other than those which are obviously functional on the dial. In good condition, an unmarked sundial of this size should bring around $150, and twice that if marked by a European manufacturer. However, an attributable American mark would put the price over $1,000.


Question In a column earlier this year, you discussed a silver-plated shaving mug; so, I'm hoping you can offer some information about this unusual ceramic one that I found while searching around the cellar of a demolished Victorian home. The mug has the name "J. M. Schmidt" and what appear to be crossed scrolls, with the number "6" above and letter "D" below the scrolls. The mug is stamped "Germany" on the bottom. Hope you can identify and price it.

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Answer The "scrolls" on your find are actually cannons, and the design is a U.S. Army artillery insignia. The 6 and D represent "6th Regiment, Battery D." The earliest date for the mug would be 1891, when, in compliance with the McKinley Tariff Act, imported goods began to be marked with their country of origin. Based on this and a few other factors, my best guess is that the mug dates from around 1895-1905. In those days, many men had personal shaving mugs bearing symbols of their occupation or fraternal membership. Often these mugs were kept on display at the local barbershop. Imported mugs were usually supplied as blanks to barber supply firms, and then decorated to order in the U.S. The insignia on this one evidently was copied from an artillery hat badge. Although I couldn't find any recent price listings for military-related shaving mugs, W&ET contacted Mike Griffin of the National Shaving Mug Collectors Association, and he indicated that in nice condition (no chips, cracks, etc.) your find might retail for $800+.


Question This 5-1/2" x 6" stamped brass horseshoe, embossed "Take Simmons Liver Regulator in Time," was found at an old farmhouse in Mississippi. I can only assume that it was an advertising piece for some type of tonic many years ago. I've asked all the old-timers around here, and nobody knows anything about it. Do you?

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Answer Only at second hand, I'm happy to say! Simmons' Liver Regulator was the concoction of Dr. M. A. Simmons, and one of its prime ingredients was "ambrosia weed" (ragweed). In addition to stimulating and fine-tuning one's lethargic liver, it was claimed to purify the blood and relieve everything from chills and fever to headaches and heartburn while "imparting new life and vigor to the whole system." I'm not sure when the company began, although an 1879 ad claimed that "for 40 years it has proved its great value," thus implying a start-up date of 1839 or earlier. At any rate, they were still in business in the 1900s, with Dr. Calvin Frank Simmons, the founder's son, then at the helm. As for the horseshoe, it served as the frame of an advertising clock made by Ansonia, which explains the phrase "in time" on the heel calks (ends) of the shoe. I recently saw one of these clocks offered in the $700-800 range. However, another source lists the same horseshoe alone for around $60-70, as an advertising piece made to be placed like a "lucky horseshoe" above, on, or beside the door of a store. So, perhaps it was used both ways.


Question Here's a cap pistol that was hidden in the partition of a house I bought some 50 years ago. It's 5-1/4" long and marked "Federal Kilgore No. 1"- and it still works! I'd appreciate some information on it.

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Answer The Kilgore Mfg. Co. of Westerville, Ohio was founded in the mid 1920s and introduced a line of cast iron toy cars, trucks, cannons, cap guns, and caps. The "Federal No. 1" was one of its early models. In the 1960s, Kilgore relocated to Toone, Tennessee, where it continued to produce cap guns for another two decades. Now known as the Alliant Kilgore Flares Co., the firm no longer manufactures toys, but makes signal flares, military pyrotechnics, etc. According to cap guns specialist Don "The Gun" Sindelar, the "Federal No. 1" currently brings between $20 and $40, depending on condition. Next time you're online, be sure to check out Don's website:


Question I dug this "KOTM" medallion at the site of a late 19th century tavern in southwestern Pennsylvania. Could you identify and date it for me?

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Answer The initials are those of the Knights of the Maccabees, a fraternal order founded in Ontario, Canada in 1878. The organization soon established chapters in the U.S. as well, and had over 300,000 members in 1914, when it shortened its name to The Maccabees. The national governing body was called the Supreme Tent, districts or regional headquarters were known as Great Camps, and local chapters were Subordinate Units. A little over 40 years ago, the Maccabees ceased to operate as a fraternal order and became simply a life insurance group. At last report there were fewer than 3,000 members nationwide. Your medallion dates back a century or so and is from a badge now missing its hanger bar and perhaps other pieces. If complete and non-dug, it would be worth $25-35+; as is, likely less than half that.


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