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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (12/2003) AMP (11/2003) AMP (01/2004)   Vol. 37 December 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the December 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I dug this token behind an old house in Baltimore, Maryland and would like to know what it is and how old it is. It's about the size of a quarter and is made of copper or bronze. On the front is a face with "-?-ILKES LIBERTY" (the first word is hard to read) and a six-pointed star underneath. The back has a large "45" in the center.

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Answer Your find is a political token/medal presumably issued in the 1760s. The complete obverse inscription is WILKES LIBERTY, and the portrait is that of John Wilkes, a famous- some might say infamous- British politician during the reign of George III. On the reverse, 45 refers to a highly controversial essay which Wilkes published in The North Briton, No. 45, on April 23, 1763. This led to his being expelled from the House of Commons and put on trial, living in exile for four years, and spending almost two years in jail. However, he eventually regained his freedom and was restored to Parliament. Meanwhile, here in America his outspoken views and criticism of the British monarchy helped foster and fortify the early independence movement, and the number 45 became a widely used symbol of such sentiments. Today his fame lives on in the names of Wilkesboro, North Carolina and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. While I couldn't find any price listings for this piece, I did manage to locate a few for other John Wilkes bronze medals of similar size in the $50-75 range. However, I had a hunch that it could coax a little extra cash from a bidder with a special interest in American Colonial history, so I kept hunting. The result? I'm sending you contact information from a collector who's ready to write you a check for $150.


Question On a TH'ing trip to western Arkansas, I came up with this unusual brass item which shows a nude, bearded man sitting on a throne and holding a scepter with a snake wound around it. There is an owl at the bottom of the throne. An inscription, which I think is Latin, reads, "Conventus Medicorum XVI Internationalis." On the back (which didn't photograph very well) is the skyline of a city, along with a coat of arms and "MCMIX Budapestai..." The rest is illegible because of pitting. I'm guessing it's some sort of medical award. Please tell me whatever you can about it.

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Answer It's a medallion issued for the 16th International Medical Congress (convention) held in Budapest, Hungary in 1909. The figure depicted on the obverse appears to be Asclepius (a.k.a. Asklepios), the god of medicine and healing, and the snake-entwined staff is a form of the caduceus, a traditional symbol of the medical profession. The scene on the reverse is a view of Budapest. Regrettably, the coat of arms (not shown here) isn't clear enough to permit identification, but there's a good chance that it's either the City of Budapest arms or Hungarian national arms. Originally, the medallion would have been suspended from a ribbon or hanger bar. Whether it was given as an award or a souvenir of attendance, I can't say; however, the latter seems more probable, since there's no presentation inscription. I discussed it with medals expert Rich Hartzog of World Exonumia, and he indicated that even as found it might bring $20-25.


Question These binoculars were in a metal box that I found at an old homestead in northern California. About 6-1/2" long, they're made of black-lacquered brass and have pull-out covers for the lenses. They look to be 4 or 5 power, and the glass is in perfect condition. I couldn't find any markings on them. Any information about them- the maker, the year they were made, and possibly the value- would be appreciated.

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Answer Field glasses of this style, with a "japanned" finish, were widely used from the mid to late 1800s, and even afterward. Although evidently unmarked, they are possibly of French manufacture. Many were supplied unmarked to American vendors and contractors; others were simply stamped Paris, but some also bore brand or manufacturer names: Chevalier, LeMaire, Bardou, et al. Produced in quantity and of fairly good workmanship, they have survived in large numbers, and today plain ones in nice condition are often tagged at $150-200. You can probably get that much by shopping them around; however, the real truth is that they're all over the map. On the one hand, some relics and antiques guides suggest $300+. On the other, check online auction listings (both current and completed items) and you'll find comparable examples fetching $50-75.


Question A good friend of mine uncovered this shield-shaped brass tag while detecting in Indianola, Texas. The front has an eagle on it, and the name "W. M. FROBESE." On the back is "PAT. DEC 29, 1868" and the number "27." Can you help us out on this one?

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Answer Often sold by mail order, personal identification tags like this one were common not only during the last half of the 19th century, but at least as late as the 1930s. Unfortunately, your friend's find is a "maverick," bearing no indication of the city and state in which the owner resided; so, any attribution must be based on circumstantial evidence and conjecture. Having said that, I can tell you that Indianola, the town where it was found, was once the home of William Frobese, a prominent businessman of the late 1800s. Born in Germany in 1838, he came to Texas in 1859 and became a partner in-and eventually president of- Runge & Co., a banking and mercantile firm. Some years later, when a hurricane devastated Indianola, he and his family moved to Cuero, Texas. What's more, they took their house with them, having it dismantled, transported by ox cart, and then reassembled at 305 East Newman in Cuero. Named a Texas Historical Landmark in 1970, the home is reportedly still owned by Frobese's descendants. Did this tag belong to William Frobese? My guess is yes, but there's no way to prove it. I located no listings for him which included the initial M, as on the tag; but one plausible explanation is that the W. M. was intended to be read as Wm., an abbreviation for William. I should mention, too, that in some texts he's referred to as William Frobese, Sr.; so, it's also conceivable that the tag was his son's. Obviously, with these unanswered (if not unanswerable) questions, an estimate of value is impossible.

Incidentally, you and other readers in the region might like to know that Frobese and a partner, Emil Reiffert, Sr., issued trade tokens for their business in Runge, Texas. Our thanks to Texas tokens specialist Travis Roberts for providing these fine photos:


Question My wife and I are avid detectorists and also enjoy researching our finds, but this one has us stumped. It's a watch fob showing an eagle on crossed cannons, with the words, "UNITED STATES ARMY / WORLD'S WAR / ARTILLERY SERVICE / WE'RE THE BOYS THAT PUT THE RAP IN SHRAPNEL." The back reads, "IN THIS GREAT WORLD'S SERIES / LIBERTY VS. OPPRESSION / WATCH AMERICA AT THE BAT." It is also marked, "COPYRIGHT APPLIED FOR / U.S. NOV. CO. / MINNEAPOLIS, MINN." Got any clues?

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Answer Issued during World War I, it was a privately purchased item intended to be worn by, or given as a present from, men serving in the U.S. Army Artillery. The slogan "We're the Boys Who Put the Rap in Shrapnel" follows a formula used on many novelty fobs, buttons, pins, etc. in those days: "I'm the Guy Who Put the Ale in Yale," "She's the Gal Who Put the Arms in Charms," and... well, use your imagination! The "World's Series" baseball-theme wording on the reverse is fairly self-explanatory. As for the manufacturer of the fob, the U.S. Novelty Company, a number of different firms have used the same name, but so far I've found no information concerning the one in Minneapolis. What's it worth? Even fairly common military/patriotic fobs from World War I can bring $50. This one's got plenty of extra appeal and, despite some minor surface problems, shouldn't be too tough to peddle at double or triple the price.


Question Mark, I need your help to identify and date this coin. It's about the size of a quarter, and one side is blank.

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Answer What you've got is a variety of cash from China, issued during the Sui Dynasty, 589-618 A.D. Known as Wu-Ch'u coins, they were cast as full-weight, 5 shu pieces- 24 shu = 1 tael , a sort of Chinese equivalent of the ounce- with raised rims to prevent filing. In addition, they featured a non-dated design which allowed their continued usage during succeeding dynasties. Unrivaled in popularity and acceptance, they remained in circulation even into the modern era and saw far-flung service not only in trade but also as ornaments and game pieces. Even though made by hand, they were mass produced, sometimes literally by the billions, and are therefore quite common. Value? About $5.

Oriental numismatics being a bit out of my bailiwick, I was fortunate to enlist the aid of collector John K. Kallman, P.O. Box 122, Sartell, MN 56377. E-mail: Website:

Thanks, John!


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