Subscribe now!

Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (01/2004) AMP (12/2003) AMP (02/2004)   Vol. 38 January 2004 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the January 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found this 3-1/4" coin-like disk and would like to have your thoughts on it. It is dated 1896, and the design resembles that of a Morgan silver dollar. However, it has "16 to 1" on one side of the eagle, and "NIT" on the other.

Image 1
Answer What you've got is a "Bryan Dollar." During the presidential campaign of 1896, thousands of such oversized coins were issued to ridicule the so-called Free Silver doctrine. Democrat candidate William Jennings Bryan and his supporters advocated the free coinage of silver and a new, bi-metal monetary standard in which silver was valued at a ratio of 16:1 to gold. Bryan's Republican opponent, William McKinley, was endorsed by those who favored a single-metal, gold standard. They pointed out that if the Free Silver proposal were literally implemented, a coin containing a dollar's worth of silver would be "as big as a stove lid!" Hence, the size of this satirical piece, and 16 to 1 on the reverse. The letters NIT stand for "Not in Trust." Although some other varieties of Bryan money were struck in silver, "dollars" like yours were typically cast in tin, lead, zinc, etc. Value? In VG but excavated condition, $50 or less.


Question A fellow relic hunter recovered this eagle & anchor cufflink at a Colonial site in New York State. I'm guessing that it's late 18th century, but is it military or political/patriotic, and how much is it worth?

image 2
Answer A reasonable date range for this handsome little sleeve link button would be late 1790s to about 1820. Privately purchased, it would likely have been worn by an American naval officer, although any attribution is speculative at best. But enough of these off-the-cuff remarks. You asked for a price, and according to professional militaria appraiser George Weller Juno the magic number is somewhere between $150 and $200.


Question I found this silver badge while detecting around the foundation of an old house. Some of the lettering might be hard to make out in the rubbing, but it reads, "Souvenir. International Range Association, Denver, 1887." What's the history behind it?

Image 3
Answer In 1886, Western cattlemen decided they'd had enough of meddlesome middlemen and united to form the International Range Association. Spearheaded by the New Mexico Territorial Cattle Growers' Association and the State Livestock Association of Texas, the movement rapidly roped in members not only from neighboring states, but also Mexico and British Columbia. Seeing their livelihood threatened by diseased herds, stock thieves, and unscrupulous agents, they fought back with quarantines, blacklists, and other hard-hitting tactics. Unfortunately, despite short-term successes, the cattlemen couldn't overcome the powerful commission companies and the politicians who were often in league with such firms. After only two years the International Range Association was forced to face the facts, saddle up, and ride off into the sunset. Your badge from their 1887 convention should be highly collectible, even without its hanger bar. Since it's the first one I've seen, I asked a couple of dealers for their best estimates. One pegged it at $25-35, but the other was more optimistic, feeling that it might easily command $100 or more from a collector of Colorado or Western memorabilia.


Question Mark, I was wondering if you could provide me with some information on this token or watch fob that I uncovered at a turn-of-the-century farmhouse. The obverse has an oval portrait of Abraham Lincoln, flanked by two steam locomotives with the dates 1852 and 1922. Underneath is a span bridge with the words "First Bridge / Mississippi River / Rock Island Lines / 70 Years of / Service." The reverse has "70th Anniversary" at the top (divided by a small, oblong hole), a Rock Island emblem in the center, and "1852-1922" at the bottom.

Image 4
Answer Issued in 1922 for the 70th anniversary of the Rock Island Railroad Company, this commemorative medal came suspended from a red, white & blue ribbon pin- and there's an interesting tale in its details. In 1854 the company received authorization to build the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River, from Rock Island, Illinois to Iowa. This proved controversial for a number of reasons, and not everyone thought it was an accident when on the night of May 6, 1856, the steamboat Effie Afton, said to be the fastest sidewheeler afloat, crashed into one of the bridge's piers. Both the boat and bridge were destroyed by fire. John Hurd, owner of the Effie Afton, sued the railroad for $50,000 in damages (a colossal sum at that time), and Rock Island responded by hiring a highly regarded trial lawyer by the name of Abraham Lincoln. An expert in railroad industry matters as well as the law, Lincoln gave a compelling presentation of the facts of the bridge incident, and his closing argument won a dismissal of the case. It also won him even more fame in his state and profession, and helped set the stage for his future political career. As for the medal, if were non-dug and on its original ribbon, it would bring $50-60+; as is, $25-30.


Question A couple of years ago I wrote to you about a buckle with the letters "WOW,"which you identified as Woodmen of the World. What can you tell me about this one, which is very similar but has "MWFA"instead?

Image 5
Answer Your find is a belt plate worn by a member of the Modern Woodmen Foresters, a uniformed contingent of the Modern Woodmen of America fraternal benefit association. The MWA was founded in 1883, and today has a membership of around 750,000. The Modern Woodmen Foresters, active from the 1890s to the 1930s, were a colorfully outfitted, axe-wielding drill team whose precision performances earned them widespread acclaim. During the group's existence, its ranks reportedly rose to more than 160,000 men in 10,000 units. Today, MWFA plates usually list for $35-50.


Question I've occasionally seen objects like this pictured with Civil War relics in books and magazines, but I'm not sure what it is. Do you know?

Image 6
Answer Well, let's start with what it isn't. For some reason it keeps getting "identified" as a flag staff finial- or, in one or two instances, as a flag staff butt cap, which I suppose just goes to show that some of us aren't always sure which end is up. Did anybody ever stick one on a flag staff? Maybe... but trust me, that's a long way from where it was made to go. What it is, is a buggy shaft tip, the same sort that can still be bought from horse hardware dealers for $3-8 apiece, depending on size and source. Over a century of exposure to the elements might add some character, but I doubt that an old one would fetch much more from a knowledgeable collector. Even so, as you've noted, it makes an interesting addition to an assorted relics display.


Subscribe now!

Copyright © 1995 - 2015 People's Publishing. All rights reserved on entire contents; nothing may be reprinted, or displayed on another web page, without the prior written consent of the publisher.


Subscribe now!

Go to top of page

Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine Best Finds W&ET BookMart W&ET Archives Put some treasure on your coffee table! Subscribe! Subscribe To Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine Find W&ET Near You Silver & Gold Makes a Great Gift!