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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2005) AMP (09/2005) AMP (11/2005)   Vol. 39 October 2005 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the October 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Mark, I discovered this bell at what seems to be a pre-WWII military site here in Texas. It's 14-1/4" in diameter, weighs about 60 lbs., and inside at the top there are three small raised areas with the words "LOEFFLER GOLD BELL." Haven't been able to find out anything about it, but am hoping you can, and that maybe it's worth more than scrap brass.

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Answer Your find is a U.S. military ship's bell and was made by the Loeffler Corporation of Pendell, Pennsylvania, probably sometime after 1940. The company was founded in 1939 to supply brass valves and other hardware to the Navy, but I'm not certain when they began casting bells. Today Loeffler manufactures bronze ship bells for both commercial and military usage; however, only military bells bear the letters U.S. The cost of a new bell of the same size and quality would be well into four figures. While I couldn't locate any price listings for salvaged or surplus Loeffler bells, other 20th century nautical/military bells of comparable size ranged from about $500-750 at auction, up to fixed prices of $1,000 or more.


Question This badge was found in the bottom of an old blanket box. The front is engraved, "MESSENGER / W. U. T. / Co/ Middletown / NY"; the back reveals that the silver dollar-size badge was made from an 1862-O FR Mexican 8 reales. I am assuming that "W.U.T. Co." stands for the Western Union Telegraph Company. Can you tell me anything about its history or value?

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Answer I would definitely agree with your attribution of this item as a late 19th century Western Union messenger's badge. My guess is that it was not specifically authorized by Western Union, but probably prepared to order by a local jeweler for use in Middletown, New York. It appears to have been totally hand-engraved, and if not unique, must have been one of only a few; otherwise, stock or custom-struck badges would have been ordered instead. Also, when Middletown officially incorporated in 1888, the population was about 12,000, and it seems doubtful that a city of that size would need a large number of messengers. Your badge should have a great deal of appeal not only to collectors of Western Union and New York memorabilia, but also to those who specialize in "love tokens," i.e., coins which have been smoothed and re-engraved for use as jewelry, pins, fobs, badges, etc. I discussed it with several dealers and appraisers, and their estimates averaged around $300.


Question I dug this brass eagle's head while searching around an old cellar near my home in northwest Pennsylvania. Could you tell me what it was attached to, and about how old it might be?

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Answer It's the pommel from a c. 1840s-60s officer's saddle. A privately purchased item, the fancy eagle-motif saddle had contrasting feather-pattern stitching which continued the detailing of the pommel onto the leather. Saddles of this type saw service in both the Mexican War and Civil War. Interestingly, some of these same brass birds later ended up as handles on canes, umbrellas, and even a knife or two. At any rate, it's at least a $150 find, and an identical example is currently available at that price. Although two others are tagged at $295 and $350, let's be realistic: faced with those choices, which would you buy?


Question What can you tell me about this souvenir from the World's Columbian Exposition, or world's fair, held in Chicago in 1893? The pin is rusted off the back of the piece that says "N. DAKOTA."

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Answer Badges of this type were offered with a variety of state names on the hanger bar at the top. As a matter of fact, I just saw one (non-dug) with an "e;IOWA"e; bar. Although not specifically issued for the event, your badge may have been purchased by one of the many visitors on October 10, 1893, which was observed as North Dakota Day, with then-Gov. Eli C. D. Shortridge, former governors Andrew H. Burke and John Miller, and other state dignitaries participating. As a generic souvenir badge, it would likely retail for $25-30+; however, a North Dakota collector's offer could go higher.


Question While doing some dump digging in northern California, I unearthed this embossed glass lid which reads, "CUTTING PACKING Co SAN FRANCISCO CAL" and, on a raised shield in the center, depicts a strange, dog-like animal with a beak and wings, wearing a banner which also says "CUTTING." Do you have any information about this company, and does the lid have any value?

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Answer Founded by Francis Cutting in 1858, the Cutting Packing Company was one of California's first leading fruit packers. Cutting also operated salmon canning factories in California and Alaska. In addition to its own name brand, it marketed a line of "Griffin Brand" canned goods. (That curious critter you described is, in fact, the mythological griffin.)


Question Not long ago, I acquired this unusual pendant which shows two otters kissing. Stamped or etched onto each otter's body is a small rectangle. Within one rectangle there is a cross; in the there are traces of what may be a fleur-de-lis. On the back of the pendant there is some sort of symbol and then the letters "...LVER." The metal is heavy and seems to be pewter or a similar alloy. Could this be a genuine Trade Era artifact?

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Answer I don't believe so. In fact, a lot of these have popped up on internet auction sites lately, in both pewter and bronze finishes, for $18-25, and in various online shops for even less. What's more, they exhibit identical incised marks (supposedly done by hand) and identical wear patterns, something which would never occur on individually crafted and circulated pieces dating back to the fur trade days. An authentic pendant may have been used to create the mold, but yours is almost certainly one of a "cast of thousands."


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