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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (04/2005) AMP (03/2005) AMP (05/2005)   Vol. 39 April 2005 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the April 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found this Oregon Short Line Railroad lock at a construction site in the Ogden, Utah area. As you can see, it had a fair amount of corrosion and has been cleaned. The shackle is stamped "A W Chicago" on one side, and "S' on the other. I'd like some background on the railroad, and an estimate of the lock's age and value, if possible.

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Answer The Oregon Short Line was founded in 1881 and began construction in Wyoming Territory. The following year, it was also incorporated in Utah, Idaho, and Oregon, and in 1884 linked to the Oregon Railway & Navigation Co. at a point on the Idaho-Oregon border. In 1889, it was merged with a number of other Union Pacific subsidiaries to form the Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway. Later, following an 1893 Union Pacific bankruptcy, the Oregon Short Line again became a separate entity. Finally, in 1936, it was reintegrated into Union Pacific. As for the lock, it was made by the Adams & Westlake Co., a major manufacturer of railroad hardware, and dates from the late 1880's. The scarcer of two varieties, having the name cast down the panel from top to bottom, it would probably fetch $1,500+ in fine condition; as is, maybe half that much, although recently a lock identical to yours brought just $500 on eBay.


Question Mark, I found this fob at a bulldozed site along Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada. It weighs roughly 7.5 grams, is 1" in length, and has been tested by a master jeweler as 18K gold. The stone is either an amethyst or foil-backed colored glass. Any information would be appreciated.

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Answer It's a late Georgian or Victorian- i.e., early to mid 19th century- fob seal. Although originally designed as functional, fob-style wax seals, they were often merely ornamental, and in fact many (like yours) had no engraving on the matrix or stone. Fob seals were worn both on gentlemen's watch chains and on ladies' ribbons or chatelaines, elaborate chain-like affairs suspended from the waist. W&ET asked Lisa M. Stockhammer of The Three Graces, a specialist in Georgian and Victorian jewelry about your find: "The fob appears to be cast rather than hand worked. Without hallmarks, it's impossible to be certain of its origin, but a good bet would be English, or perhaps American. It's also difficult to estimate its value from photos alone. If it is solid 18K gold with an amethyst, it might have a price range of $500-600; 18K & glass, $400-500; high-karat gilt & amethyst, $350-475; gilt & glass, $250-375. Of course, if there is any damage- for example, if the stone/glass is cracked- that affects value considerably." Readers are invited to visit Lisa's website at


Question This buckle, with a link in the form of a double-headed snake, was dug at an old logging camp in the vicinity of Carson City, Nevada. After seeing a similar buckle from Virginia in a Civil War relics book, I thought I'd get your opinion on this one.

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Answer S-link "snake" buckles saw extensive usage, both military and civilian, in the mid to late 1800s, and most were of British manufacture. However, this particular example, with its unusual belt loops, is one I haven't seen previously; most of those from the Civil War have plain wire loops instead. While some price guides list varieties of known wartime usage at $300-400, neither the style nor the recovery context of your buckle seems to fit that category. So, absent any solid 1860s service attribution, let's call it $100-150.


Question This 1929 Arizona "Registered Chauffeur" badge, #2080, measures 1-3/8" x 1-7/8". Please tell me how much it is worth, and also when the first and last badges were issued.

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Answer Chauffeur's licenses were required there at least as early as 1911, and the first badges may also have appeared at that time. Originally, they were undated, but beginning in 1928 new, dated badges were issued annually; and, for ease of identification, the design or shape changed each year. Some of the older ones (pre-WWII) were made of pure Arizona copper. The final year for chauffeur's badges in the state was 1951. Today, the 1929 badge books for $135, but I suspect you'd have little trouble getting an extra 20-30% for it, especially there in Arizona.


Question I uncovered this wings pin while searching an old dump dating back to the 1940s. It's silver with a hint of gold, about 3-1/2" x 1", and stamped "AMICO STERLING + 1/20 K". I think it's a WWII Army Air Corps insignia, maybe for a bombardier, but others insist that it's either a Flash Gordon badge or an airline pilot's wings. What do you say?

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Answer If there's a free dinner riding on this one, tell your friends how you like your steak! It's a U.S. Army Air Forces item, all right- specifically, an Aerial Gunner badge, authorized on April 29, 1943 for qualified aerial gunners and aerial armament technicians. AMICO is the mark of the American Insignia Co. of New York, a well-known maker of WWII period wings, badges, DI's, etc. According to John Conway of Manion's International Auction House, a specialist in in AAF militaria, such a badge in nice shape can carry a $50-75 price tag; as found, yours would be around $35-40.

1-2-3 POLKER

Question Can you help me to identify this unusual silver coin? I was told that the date is 1623 (note the 2 and 3 on either side of the orb), but I'm not sure. Actual size is just slightly larger than a dime.

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Answer It does indeed date from 1623, and it's a 3 polker- also known as a 3 poltorak or 1 kruzierz- from Poland. Value? $15-25 in Very Good to Fine condition. The abbreviated Latin inscriptions read SIGIS. III D. G. REX P. M. D. L. ("Sigismund III, by the grace of God, King of Poland [and] Grand Duke of Livonia"); and MONE. NO. REG. POLO. ("New money of Poland"). Sigismund (or Zygmunt) III reigned from 1587 until 1632, doubtless loved and badly misspelled by all.


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