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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2003) AMP (09/2003) AMP (11/2003)   Vol. 37 October 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the October 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Some time ago, I acquired this large brass "MARINES" plate in mint condition. I would be interested in your opinion concerning its age, rarity, and value.

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Answer Seldom seen and keenly coveted, a c. 1807 U.S. Marine Corps cap plate would easily command five figures. Unfortunately, careful comparison of your plate with authentic specimens reveals a number of telltale discrepancies, leaving little doubt that it's a modern (20th century) replica. Another reader recently picked up a similar example at an estate sale. While some of these are of recent manufacture, others have been around for many years. Back in 1963, in their book American Military Insignia 1800-1851, J. Duncan Campbell and Edgar M. Howell noted that, "Reproductions of this die strike were made prior to its acquisition by the National Museum, and specimens outside the national collections should be considered with caution." As for the respective values of original and replica, it's pretty much a case of "ten grand vs. tin can." High-quality reproductions such as yours can be purchased from reenactor suppliers for less than $50.


Question Mark, I dug this odd item in a Civil War camp in Tennessee. It consists of two iron disks held together with a wing nut and is marked "J. D. WILLOUGHBY PAT'D ...1859." Any idea what it might be?

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Answer What you've got is a "Willoughby stopple," an early device for sealing glass jars. Sandwiched between the two disks was a rubber gasket. When the assembled stopple was placed in the mouth of the jar and the wing nut was tightened, the compressed gasket bulged against the glass, creating a seal. Here's one in use on a "Ladies Favorite" jar of the period:

Greg Spurgeon, a specialist in antique jars and closures, told W&ET that the value of a 2-3/8" Willoughby stopple with rust pitting would be fairly low, maybe $25-50; one in choice condition, $150. However, you can probably double that if yours is the hard-to-find 2" variety, rust or no rust.

Photo of bottle courtesy of Greg Spurgeon Antiques -


Question This very small- approximately 1-1/2"- fishing reel was found at an old homesite in Ohio. Is it a toy or the real thing?

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Answer An inexpensive model designed to hold about 25 yards of line, this sort of no-frills reel sold for 25¢ or less in the late 1890s. In fact, Sears, Roebuck & Co. offered one model, "The Competitor," for a mere 9¢ in 1897. Some of these had no drag mechanism; others had a simple ratchet drag or "click." In the past, I've seen reels of similar size and vintage selling for $50 or more. Dug and damaged (separating side plate, etc.), yours would, of course, fetch considerably less.


Question This token was found in a bottle dump in Yuma, Arizona. One side reads, "SULLIVAN / AND / KELLEY 10¢ YUMA, ARIZ."; the other, " H OLD PLANTATION H 10¢ MERCHANDISE." How old it is, and how much is it worth?

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Answer Sullivan & Kelley's "Old Plantation"was a Yuma cafe around 1918-20. The token is a rare one, and although additional discoveries have been reported since it was originally rated R-9 on a scale of 1-10, it's still in the $100 range (retail).

Special thanks to Arizona token collector Peter N. Spooner, P.O. Box 12183, Tucson, AZ 85732. E-mail:


Question I located this Coca-Cola medal (?) while detecting around some Army barracks that date back to 1939. The metal is "goldish" in color. Although you can't see it in the photos, on the back at the very bottom is "Schwaar Milwaukee" in tiny lettering.

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Answer One of the earlier Coca-Cola watch fobs, it was first issued around 1907 and was made in both silver- and gold-plated brass, as well as sterling silver and 10K gold. On some fobs the reverse reads, "Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles, 5¢"; on others, "Drink Coca-Cola, Sold Everywhere, 5¢." The manufacturer's name is actually Schwaab, not "Schwaar." Plated fobs of this type usually list for $100-150; sterling, $250+; 10K, $1,000+. As you'd expect, repros/fakes abound.


Question While searching an 1870s pioneer homestead in Ontario, I recovered 25 coins, mostly American, dating from 1824 to the 1930s. The best was an 1830 half dollar. I also found U.S. buttons from the War of 1812 and Civil War, along with this ornate buckle. Any information about it would be helpful.

Answer Your find appears to be a thin, die-stamped brass buckle made for use on a cloth belt or sash, and both its style and construction suggest a date in the late 1800s. While the elaborate panoply of arms, flags, etc. might seem appropriate for a "stock" generic" militia plate, such designs were also used on civilian paramilitary, organizational, patriotic, and purely decorative buckles. Sincere there is a Union Jack on the left banner, it's presumably British or Commonwealth in origin &/or usage. Offhand, I'm unable to identify the device on the right banner, but it doesn't seem to match any of the provincial or major Canadian city flags with which I'm familiar. Even without further attribution, this unusual and attractive accoutrement should bring $150-200 (U.S.).


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