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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (11/2003) AMP (10/2003) AMP (12/2003)   Vol. 37 November 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the November 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR FINDS

THE REVENUE CREW


Question Mark, I dug this button near an old sawmill here in Pennsylvania.  It has an anchor and shield on the front, and ".H. U.  STATES .H. REVENUE SERVICE" on the back.  It still has some gilt, but the shank is missing.  Could you check it out and let me know what it is, and whether it has any value?

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Answer Variously listed as a Revenue Marine or Revenue Cutter Service uniform button, it dates from the 1830s.  Predecessor of today's U.S. Coast Guard, the Revenue Marine was authorized by Congress in 1790 at the urging of Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.  "Cutters" (light, swift, well-armed schooners) were stationed at strategic ports in order to enforce tariffs and customs duties, and safeguard American maritime sovereignty.  Over time, the organization came to be known as the Revenue Cutter Service (or simply "Revenue Service"); however, the name change did not become official until many years later, in 1863.  Finally, in 1915 it was combined with the Lifesaving Service to form the Coast Guard.  As found, your button might bring $300; undamaged, $400.


A MATTER OF DEGREE


Question Please identify the insignia on this gold & onyx ring. 

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Answer It's the Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree emblem.  Founded in 1882, the Knights of Columbus is a fraternal order for Roman Catholic men.  The Fourth Degree, which places special emphasis on good citizenship and national loyalty, was introduced in 1900.  Its members are the uniformed group within the order and are active in local units called "assemblies."  Along with the other three degrees, it is expressed in the Knights of Columbus' motto, "Charity, Unity, Fraternity, Patriotism."   Its emblem represents the Trinity and is composed of three symbols: a globe for God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth; a Crusader's cross for God the Son, Jesus Christ; and a dove for the Holy Spirit.  Its colors are those of American flag- red, white, and blue.  Rings such as yours retail new for about $300 in 10K gold, and $400 in 14K


HOT ON THE TRAIL


Question While coinshooting a lawn in Spokane, Washington, I found this copper or bronze medallion.  The design resembles a cross section cut from a log and shows a large building surrounded by the words, "Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition 1905."  On the reverse is the inscription, "I Hit the Trail at L. & C. Expo."  I'd like to know the history and value of this unusual item.

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Answer Commemorating the 100th anniversary of Merriwether Lewis and William Clark's exploration of the Louisiana Territory and Oregon Country, this first West Coast world's fair was held in Portland, Oregon from June 1 to October 14, 1905, and attended by more than 2-1/2 million people.  Your find, a watch fob (or possibly a badge drop), depicts the Forestry Building, which was proudly proclaimed to be "The World's Largest Log Cabin" and continued to stand until 1964, when it was destroyed by fire.  Sprawled across 200 acres bordering a large lake, the expo boasted more than a score of major buildings, including seven spectacular exhibition "palaces," along with scenic vistas, sunken gardens, a Bridge of All Nations, and of course The Trail- a huge midway lined with rides, shows, and attractions of every description, from the Temple of Mirth to the Haunted Castle, to Princess Trixie the Educated Horse and the Famous Diving Elk.  You could stroll through an Oriental Bazaar, visit the Canals of Venice, and even take a Trip to Siberia.  By day an amazing airship (blimp) trolled overhead, and at night thousands of lights transformed The Trail into a dazzling wonderland.  And after all that, who could resist bringing home a souvenir or two?  In fact, who could resist one even now, 98 years later... especially if it's a dandy like yours, worth at least $50.


HALF & HALF


Question After recovering one half of this buckle at a New Hampshire muster field, I returned a week later and located the matching half.  Both silver-plated pieces are 1-3/8" x 2-3/8".  They fit together with a tang and socket, and each has a loop on the back for a belt or sash.  Any information would be appreciated.

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Answer A late 1800s lady's dress buckle, it features a two-piece design sometimes described as a "butterfly buckle."   Even though it has a spot or two of wear &/or oxidation and some minor bending of the attachments, it's still an extremely attractive example.  Your letter doesn't say whether there are any maker's marks, but those might also enhance the value. Victorian silverplated buckles of this sort can easily sell for $100 or more, and I'd say the same is true of yours.


TUNED OUT


Question Relic hunting at a ghost town in Montana, I uncovered some sort of "badge."  It's small (about 1-1/4"), shield-shaped, and has a hole in the center and another at the bottom.  The front reads, "Jacot's Patented Safety Check Sept. 22, 1886."  The back is blank.  What is it?

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Answer During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Jacot & Sons, 39 Union Square, New York City, specialized in high-quality music boxes, both cylinder and disc types.  They were also U.S. distributors for the famed Mermod Freres line of Swiss music boxes.  Your "badge" is a tag which was mounted inside the case, next to the movement of one those melodious mechanical marvels.  As for Jacot's Patented Safety Check, it was a device designed to prevent a "run"- i.e.,  erratic, high-speed rotation due to disturbance of the governor- from occurring and damaging the pins on the cylinder.  It might be worth a few bucks as a part for restoration, but as with most relics, the tag's real value is in the story it can tell.  Who knows?  That music box may have been the one comforting keepsake that a young woman took along to her new home 'way out West.  Or maybe it was a birthday, anniversary, or Christmas gift that brought a welcome bit of faraway magic to the wilds of old Montana.  As long as it makes you wonder...  well, you can't put a price on that.


ALL IN A DAY'S WORK


Question I found this pin in an old house that I was given permission to search.  It is 1-1/4" x 2-1/2" and seems to be some sort of political badge.  It shows two hands shaking, flanked by flags and a banner which reads, "Eight Hours" on the left and "April First" on the right, with the date "1898"(divided) underneath .  The design is in full color, with gold trim.  I would like to know the significance of the motto and date, as well as the value, if any.

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Answer What you've got is the top portion of a late 19th or early 20th century ribbon badge issued by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).  On April 1, 1898, the long-sought eight-hour day for miners finally became effective, along with a guaranteed minimum wage.  Celebrated annually by the union, it was also known as "Mitchell Day," in recognition of UMWA president John Mitchell's pivotal role in the victory.  According to a labor memorabilia dealer, early UMWA parade badges can command hundreds of dollars, while convention badges are generally less valuable; say, $40-50.  Unfortunately, without a ribbon-intact specimen for comparison, it's impossible to say which type your find comes from.  In either case, it's probably worth at least $20 as is, and even more from someone coveting it to complete a badge in his collection.





HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR FINDS



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