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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (07/2005) AMP (06/2005) AMP (08/2005)   Vol. 39 July 2005 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the July 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found this lock along an old railroad track near my home, about ten miles outside of Philadelphia. Over the years, I've seen quite a few locks in your column, and I hope you can help me determine the age and value of this one.

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Answer It's from the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad and dates from the late 19th century. (Following a merger in 1902, the line became the Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington.) As a matter of fact, another PW&B lock was featured in the August 1999 issue. However, yours is an uncommon and, evidently, previously unpublished variety. The scrollwork, lettering, and other decorative details are definitely different from those of other examples. Bill & Sue Knous- - the authors of Railroadiana, have examined photos of your find and agree that it does indeed appear to be a genuine variation on the PW&B lock pattern. Value is difficult to estimate in this instance, factoring in both condition and rarity, but the consensus is that it's certainly worth a minimum of $750+, and at auction... well, that's anybody's guess. What I can tell you is that another PW&B lock brought $1,300 several years ago, and collectors are sure to be excited about this new and unusual discovery.


Question A friend uncovered this item while searching a trash dump. When folded, it measures roughly 1-1/2" x 3-3/4", and there are six "pages" labeled Monday through Saturday. Later, I found it listed in a Civil War collectibles reference as an ivory pocket diary or notebook. Any further information would be appreciated.

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Answer Dating from the mid to late 1800s, it's what is known as an aide memoire (French for "memory helper"). Often carried by both men and women, its ivory leaves could be written on with an ordinary pencil- some had a tiny pencil fitted onto the side of the case- and notes were easily erased with a rub of the thumb. Similar ivory booklets served as ladies' dance cards. Later on, around the turn of the last century, there were also some with celluloid rather than ivory pages. Prices vary a good deal, but for a relatively plain aide memoire the range is usually $50-100. As a matter of fact, one nearly identical to your friend's find just sold for $77.01 on eBay.


Question I recently dug this Dr. Pepper watch fob while detecting in Denison, TX. What can you tell me about it?

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Answer Created in 1885 by pharmacist Charles Alderton at Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, Texas, and said to be America's oldest major soft drink, Dr. Pepper quickly grew in popularity, but its real breakthrough as a national and international favorite came in 1904, when it was introduced to an estimated 20 million people attending the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (world's fair) held in St. Louis, Missouri. The fob's eagle design replicates the official silver medal which was awarded to the Dr. Pepper Co. at the expo. The scene on the reverse depicts the company's national offices and factory in Waco. (One version of the fob also lists the bottler, the Artesian Mfg. Co.) The metal, sometimes misidentified as silver, is nickel-plated brass. What's it worth? Probably $200-250 as found; $300-400 with full plating.


Question Can you identify this attic find for me? It's silver, about 4-1/8" long and 2-1/4" high, and looks sort of like a miniature lamp. There are three markings on different parts, each made up of three symbols, including ( I think) a triangle and moon & star. The tip or burner screws into place, and the funnel on top is pressed in.

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Answer What you've got is an Edwardian table lighter from the early 1900s. There should also be a top/cap which fits into the same opening as the filling funnel. Unfortunately, without seeing sharp close-ups of the marks, I can't determine its origin. Several comparable "Aladdin's lamp" style lighters of British manufacture are currently being offered at £100-200, or about $190-380 U.S., and a few for significantly more. Since such items are a bit out of my bailiwick, I would suggest that you take the lighter to a reputable specialist in antique silver for a hands-on appraisal.


Question I located this 1-1/2" brass pin while water hunting at a small-town public beach in New England. The front has two cursive L's in the center, with the following on the four arms of the cross: "Look Up and Not Down... Look Out and Not In... Look Forward and Not Back... And Lend a Hand." There are radiant lines between the arms. Any idea what it might be?

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Answer I believe that it was issued over a century ago by a Christian youth organization known as the Look-up Legion. Founded in the 1870s by Mary A. Lathbury, director of the children's department of The Christian Advocate, the Look-up Legion was one of a number of groups which adopted the Four Mottoes: "Look up and not down..." etc. The mottoes first appeared in a story written in 1870 by Edward Everett Hale. Perhaps best known as the author of "The Man Without a Country," Hale was also a widely acclaimed reformer and Unitarian minister, and was unanimously chosen as chaplain of the United States Senate. During the late 1800s, the Look-up Legion reportedly had as many as 100,000 members, who wore badges or pins in the form of a Maltese cross backed by a rising sun- which I'd say is a pretty fair description of the item you found. Interest in Look-up Legion memorabilia is modest at best, but even so, a pin like this one ought to be worth $10+.


Question I received this large medallion from a friend who found it back in the 1980s at a site near Mobile, Alabama. It's 2-1/2" x 3", bronze or bronze-plated, and quite heavy. On the front is a wide border reading, "H M. PRICE SLAVE AUCTIONSH DEALER IN SLAVES ." An inner oval is formed by a bullwhip on the left and shackles on the right, framing the inscription, "Property of M. Price Slave Auction - No. 18 - 14 Main Street, New Orleans, 1838." The back reads, "All Slaves Guaranteed in Sound Health." I would like to know its history and value.

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Answer Then again, maybe not. As much as I dislike being the bearer of bad news, this is not an authentic artifact but a modern fantasy item, and has been well documented as such. There are no known genuine slave tags, or hire badges, from any locations other than Charleston and Charleston Neck, South Carolina- and there are countless fakes of those as well. Although they have no historical value, tags like yours nonetheless find a ready market, and honest dealers sell them for anywhere from a few dollars up to $25-30. For readers who'd like to learn more, Rich Hartzog's "Fake and Fantasy Slave Tags" page is a great place to start. You'll find a link to it at:


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