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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (09/2003) AMP (08/2003) AMP (10/2003)   Vol. 37 September 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the September 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR FINDS

30-SOMETHING'S AFOOT


Question While detecting near my home in New Jersey, I discovered this rope-bordered button inscribed with the number "31"; however, I'm unsure of its composition and origin. Any details you can provide would be very helpful.

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Answer Your find is a British 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot enlisted man's coat button from the Revolutionary War. The metal is pewter. The 31st came to America in 1765 and were briefly stationed in the Pensacola, Florida area before being sent to the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, to protect British sugar plantations threatened by Carib natives. Although successful in quelling the uprising, they suffered heavy losses due to disease and eventually were transferred back to North America, where they remained from 1776 to 1787, serving in Canada. Companies of the 31st helped maintain defenses at Quebec during the Revolutionary War, and some of their troops also served in combat operations under General Burgoyne, being among those who surrendered at Saratoga, New York on October 17, 1776. Finally, after more than a decade of service in Canada, the regiment returned to England. Despite its damage- not unusual for a dug pewter specimen of the period- your 31st button is highly collectable, largely because the regiment's wartime presence in the U.S. was somewhat limited. Value? Around $300, retail.


TAKING A POWDER


Question Mark, I found this relic hidden beneath mulch on a rock, on my property in Somerset, California. Of course, I immediately recognized it as a powder flask (especially since there's still some powder in it!), but that's all I know about it. Can you tell me more?

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Answer Metal powder flasks were introduced in the early 1830s and soon replaced the traditional powder horn. Fashioned from thin copper or brass, they were often boldly decorated with patriotic or hunting motifs, and geometric or floral designs. Yours looks like an acanthus leaf pattern. Even long after the advent of breechloading, metal cartridge firearms, many old-timers still favored their muzzleloaders; and at the turn of the last century, an embossed flask with levered charger, similar to yours, could be had for as little as 35-50¢. Today, common, unmarked civilian varieties typically bring $75-100 in nice condition.


GRANDMA'S GOLD


Question On a recent coinshooting outing in Chicago, I struck gold, uncovering this 1856 British sovereign which was made into a love token. It's engraved, "From Grandma [to] J E H. 1878." What do you think its value might be?

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Answer Over 4,800,000 "Young Head" Victoria sovereigns were struck in 1856, and as a result they have only bullion value in lower grades. The gold is .917 fine, and the coin contains .2354 oz. of pure gold- about $87 worth at this writing. Gold love tokens are comparatively scarce, but the highest prices are reserved for those with fancy engraving (scenes, animals, people, etc.). Ordinary inscriptions don't command much of a premium, maybe bullion + 40-50%. Grandma and 1874 might help this one just a little, but I'd still estimate it at $125-135.


ON THE CASE


Question Searching a lawn in South Carolina, I came up with this watch fob. The front shows an old-time tractor above the name "CASE," an eagle perched on a globe, and "Power Farming Machinery." The back reads, "J. I. Case Threshing Machine Co., Incorporated. Kerosene and Steam Tractors, Threshers, Balers, Silo Fillers, Road Machinery and Automobiles. Racine, Wis., U.S.A." What's the time frame for this fob?

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Answer The company founded by Jerome Increase Case in 1842 quickly became a major manufacturer of agricultural machinery. Now known as Case IH (after a merger with International Harvester in 1985), it remains an industry leader. "Old Abe," the trademark eagle, was introduced around 1898. Clues to the age of your fob include the tractor (which appears to be the 1919 Case 15 - 27 cross motor model), the word Steam (their steam-powered line was discontinued after 1924), and the word Automobiles (they made them from 1910 to 1924). So, a guess of c. 1920 for the fob won't miss it by much. Price tag? $75-100+, assuming it's not a reproduction.


SHIP OF STATE


Question Mark, could you give me some information on this "Ter-Centennial" token that I found in Atlanta, Georgia? It's a little larger than a half dollar and made of brass. One side has the date 1607 and three sailing ships at the top, "TER-CENTENNIAL" across the center, and a large ship with smokestacks, "Battleship Virginia," and the date 1907 at the bottom. On the other side, the words "Jamestown Exposition. Norfolk, VA. 1907" encircle a scene of what I assume to the exposition, underneath which is "April 26 to Dec. 1."

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Answer Known as a "Battleship Virginia Dollar," this commemorative medal was issued as a souvenir of the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition held in Norfolk County, Virginia in 1907. The expo's purpose was ostensibly twofold: to mark the 300th anniversary of the first permanent settlement of English-speaking people in North America, and "to illustrate history, inculcate patriotism, and show the value of education." In fact, unlike most major U.S. expos, this one was not officially recognized as a world's fair, but rather an "International Naval, Marine, and Military Celebration"- in effect, a sort of "gunboat diplomacy" showcase in which the navies of the world could get a glimpse of the firepower, speed, and strength of the U.S. fleet, and have a chance to display their own. The battleship U.S.S. Virginia, namesake of the expo's host state, was launched in 1904 and remained in service until 1923. Over 441' in length, she boasted four 12" guns, eight 8", a dozen 6", 24 one-pounders, and a top speed of 19 knots. Listed in Hibler & Kappen's So-called Dollars as HK #349, your find would fetch $20-25 if non-dug and XF+. As is, it's closer to $10. Incidentally, there's also a silver "Battleship Virginia Dollar" of different design from the same expo, worth more than five times the price of the brass variety.


BORDERLINE HERO


Question I dug this "Mexican Border Service" medal at an old garden spot in Howe, Oklahoma and would like to know its history.

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Answer In the volatile years following the Mexican Revolution of 1910, increasing tension developed between the U.S. and its neighbor to the south. Finally, in 1916, following a series of raids across the border by the notorious Pancho Villa, President Woodrow Wilson sent both regular Army and National Guard forces to secure and defend American interests in the region. Under command of General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, they also pursued Villa across the Rio Grande, but the wily bandido eluded them. In 1917, the troops were recalled. What you've got is not an official U.S. military or state-issued medal, but one of the many "stock" (generic) medals which were sold for presentation by counties, cities, or civic groups to local servicemen, and were also available for private purchase as souvenirs. It's a $25-35 find.





HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR FINDS



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