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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (11/2004) AMP (10/2004) AMP (12/2004)   Vol. 38 November 2004 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the November 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found this silver, bone-backed "29" button, which I believe to be a British 29th Regiment officer's button, at an 18th century Canadian site and would appreciate your comments on its history and value.

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Answer Your identification's impeccable, and your luck's incredible! Despite a bit of rim loss, the button's in exceptional condition for an excavated specimen, and its rarity and eye appeal could easily command $1,250+. The roots of the 29th Regiment of Foot (later called the Worcestershire Regiment) reach all the way back to 1694, and the unit had a long record of service in North America. In 1749, they helped establish Halifax, now the capital of Nova Scotia, and returned there often in later years. Unfortunately, perhaps their greatest claim to fame, or infamy, came in 1770, when they were stationed in Boston. On the evening of March 5, confronted by a crowd of angry colonists, members of the regiment killed three and wounded several more in a clash which came to be known as the Boston Massacre. The 29th came away from that encounter with a new name, too: the "Vein Openers," as the first British soldiers to shed American blood. Seven years later, the 29th served at the Battle of Saratoga with General Burgoyne, whose doomed troops - a fourth of all British forces in North America - were surrounded and forced to surrender. And thus the regiment's days as the notorious "Vein Openers" came to a humbling close.


Question Mark, I dug this belt plate in upstate New York some time ago. I know that "Excelsior," on the banner above the eagle, is the state motto, and am assuming that it is a New York Militia plate. Do you have any clue as to its time of use and value?

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Answer This gilt brass panel plate variety, displaying an eagle on a half globe with a panoply of flags and arms, was in general use around 1835-50 and evidently saw some service in the Civil War as well, based on campsite and battlefield recoveries. However, it had largely been replaced by other designs by that time. In fine condition, with attachments intact, it's about a $400 find.


Question After finding this brass item at an old houseplace here in Texas, I showed it to some other hunters in our club and got several different opinions as to what it might be. I'm still not sure, so now I'd like your take on it, too.

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Answer As you've noted, relic hunters and collectors have put forth a number of theories about this triangular or fan-shaped piece with a five-pointed star. Some call it a martingale... one well-known reference lists it as a rosette... another source says it's from the corner of a heavy saddle blanket. There's also been some lively debate about whether it's a Texas cavalry device. Here's what I think: 1) It's not a martingale or rosette, but definitely a saddle-related corner ornament. 2) It's probably, but not provably, from the early 1860s, i.e., the Civil War period. Like a lot of other stuff, it may have been in use before and after, as well as during the war. So, just to be safe, let's call it mid 19th century. 3) The star would definitely have appealed to a Texan; however, there's no way to prove or disprove such usage. My best guess is that it's a civilian item which some troops, possibly from Texas, took to war. How much is it worth? Although recently I've seen one or two tagged higher, I'd say $200 is a real-world price.


Question I located this object in an Indian camp in western Nevada. Made of copper or brass, it has a Liberty head and eagle   shield like those of a $20 gold piece. It's not one, of course - but can you tell me what it is?

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Answer Your double eagle look-alike is a spiel marke or game counter, c. 1850s; and while it bears no maker's mark, it was almost certainly struck by the Lauer firm of Nuremberg, Germany. The inscriptions Comp. S. Marke and Compos. Spiel-Marke are variations of Composition Spielmarke, and Spielmarke is German for "play money." The motto In Unitate Fortitudo is Latin for, "In unity [there is] strength." These design differences were intended to prevent accusations of counterfeiting, Similar game counters imitated other U.S. gold denominations, and as their name suggests, they were used in much the same way that play money and poker chips are today. Value? Probably $7-12, although lately on eBay they've ranged all the way from $2.95 to $32.99, apparently with no takers at either extreme.


Question I found this medal while detecting in Chattanooga, Tennessee and would like to know more about it. It says, "Cleveland, Ohio, 1915. Safety First. First Triennial Convention," and the train in the center has "B. of L. E." on it, for Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

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Answer It's the "drop," or medallion, from a badge issued for the convention. Founded in 1863 as the Brotherhood of the Footboard, the organization changed its name to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers the following year. At the Triennial Convention of 1915, the B. of L. E. adopted a resolution recommending minimum wages and hour-limits for workdays. Later, in league with other railroad brotherhoods, they threatened to strike if their demands were not met. Hoping to avert a crisis, President Woodrow Wilson met with union leaders, ordered an investigation, and urged Congress to provide a legislative remedy. The result was the Adamson Act of 1916, providing for the eight-hour workday. In January of 2004, the B. of L. E. merged with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and became the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. According to Bill   Sue Knous, authors of the Railroadiana price guide, your badge is worth about $25 as found. By the way, be sure to visit their website:


Question I would like to know the value of this coin. I think it's gold, but I'm not sure.

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Answer The Blake   Co. $20 gold piece is one of the most common gold replica coins. Sometime around 1970, the Chrysler Corporation issued countless thousands of these copies as part of a "Gold Duster Days" sales promotion for one of their Plymouth models. Since these were not real gold but plated base metal, it's relatively easy to identify them by weight. A genuine gold piece of this type reportedly weighs 32.9 grams; a copy weighs less. Of course, other gold tests can be performed as well. Supposedly, only two genuine Blake   Co. $20 gold pieces exist - one in the Smithsonian Institution, and the other in the collection of the Bank of California. Blake   Co. was a Gold Rush era assay firm and made ingots from raw gold. The few known coins that they struck are believed to be patterns or trial pieces. At one time, the replicas had relatively little value, but in recent years they have often brought $5-15+ in nice condition. Some dealers are currently offering them in the $35-50 range; but frankly, that's more than a tad too steep. The highest price I'm aware of is a preposterous $203.50 shelled out by an enthusiastic but ill-informed bidder in an internet auction. Trust me... no knowledgeable collector is ever going to pay that for your find or any other fake Blake.


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