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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (03/2004) AMP (02/2004) AMP (04/2004)   Vol. 38 March 2004 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the March 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question This item is 2-1/2" in diameter and made of brass, with a lead filled back and three brass wire hooks. Although a note found with it in a box reads, "Medal given...for defending a pass in the Catskill Mountains in 1776," I believe it to be a South Carolina belt buckle. Is this correct?

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Answer It's a mid 19th century South Carolina shoulder belt plate and, if genuine, should have a retail value of $3,500-4,000+. The design elements are those of the state seal: a palmetto tree and two shields, with the date 1776 below. Rising from a fallen oak, the palmetto represents the victory of South Carolina patriots over British ships at Sullivan's Island on June 28, 1776. The Latin mottoes on the shields are Animis Opibusque Parati ("Ready in Soul and Resources") and Dum Spiro Spero ("While I Breathe I Hope"), along with the word Spes (Hope). Obviously, the note found with it was based on a misunderstanding of the plate's true age and usage, unless of course it refers to an actual medal no longer in the box.


Question I uncovered this "Tomas Ortega - Indian Trader" token in the abandoned coal mining town of Gibson, New Mexico, near the Arizona border. Actual size is that of a quarter. Can you tell me anything about its history and value?

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Answer Although technically a "maverick" (no indication of locality), it's been attributed to Concho, Arizona, 1898-99, and is extremely rare- according to one source, probably only the second or third example known. It lists for $300 and could easily bring more. Similar tokens denominated "Good for 5¢" have also been reported, and those are valued around $300 as well. Tomás Ortega established his first trading post in Holbrook, Arizona in 1889, and today his descendants continue to operate Indian stores and trading posts throughout the Southwest.


Question A friend suggested that I write to you about this hand-engraved silver star that I found at a location where many Union soldier camp relics have been recovered. The star has a large solder spot on the back, perhaps for a stickpin or some similar attachment. The 20th Corps was in the area, but this doesn't look like any of their badges that I've seen. Any idea what it might be?

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Answer What you've got appears to be a decorative inlay from the stock of an early 19th century civilian rifle. In particular, ornate eight- and ten-pointed stars of silver, German silver, or brass can be seen on c. 1800-20 Kentucky rifles. While its value is likely less than $50, your "fallen star" would make a handsome addition to any display of artifacts from the period.


Question My dad dug this token near a northern California ghost town. The front shows clasped hands above the date 1812, encircled by "Union Copper Company . Birmingham ." and has been stamped "J M" and "Keighley." The back reads, "One Penny Token" and "For Public Accommodation," and has also been stamped "Keighley"; however, the "K" is missing. Who was J. M. Keighley, and why did he put his name on the token?

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Answer The Union Copper Company of Birmingham, England was one of many British firms which issued penny and halfpenny tokens in the early 1800s as a substitute for official coinage. This piece was subsequently countermarked around 1818 by the overseers of a poorhouse or union workhouse in Keighley, Yorkshire, England. In those days, hopeless debtors, paupers, widows, orphans, and the disabled and mentally ill were herded into institutions and exploited for cheap labor. According to documents from 1842, some 57 such unfortunates were housed at Keighley. The initials J M may be those of one of the overseers, but this is uncertain. Also seen are the initials G R and W W. Price tag? $15-25.

Note: A must for serious exonumia collectors is the new book Merchant and Privately Countermarked Coins, Advertising on the World's Smallest Billboards by Gregory G. Brunk. For a limited time, publisher Rich Hartzog is offering readers of W&ET not only a $20 discount on this massive reference ($89.95 retail) but also the accompanying Price Guide ($20 value) at no extra charge. Shipping is $5 to any U.S. address. Total price: $74.95, postpaid. Order from World Exonumia, POB 4143CPF, Rockford, IL 61110-0643. Phone (815) 226-0771. E-mail: Website:


Question One day while hunting here in my hometown, I found this badge, and now I'm wondering if you might have any information about it. It's about 1-1/16" wide, seems to be made of nickel silver, and says, "Troop I, 3rd Illinois Vol. Cav."

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Answer Fairly typical of veterans' badges produced for private purchase around 100-120 years ago, it evidently belonged to a volunteer cavalryman who served in either the Indian Wars or Spanish-American War, rather than the Civil War, as indicated by the designation "Troop." Recently, late 19th century veterans' badges have commanded considerably higher prices than in the past. Even unidentified (no name engraved) and in dug condition, it might fetch $150+; and if research reveals a distinguished or colorful unit history, that would naturally be a huge boost to the value.


Question Mark, I found this small pin- 5/8" diameter- at an old site here in New England. On the front, behind a pair of crossed swords, are the letters "BKRT," and across the top is the word "Delineator." On the back is a partially illegible mark, "... & Clust... N.Y." The attachment pin is missing. Please identify it if possible.

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Answer The Delineator was a turn-of-the century (19th/20th) ladies' fashions publication affiliated with the Butterick Co., a leading manufacturer of sewing patterns. Included in the magazine were sections for children: the Boys Knights of the Round Table (B.K.R.T.) and, for girls, the Jenny Wren Club. Apparently, there were also local chapters, as I found references to a number of these; for example, there was a 17-member B.K.R.T. Club, complete with flagbearer and drummer, for boys in Trenton, Illinois. The maker of the pin is Dieges & Clust. Founded in New York City in 1898. the firm later relocated to Providence, Rhode Island and remains in business today. In better condition, the pin would probably sell for $20+; as is, a few bucks at most.


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