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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (05/2006) AMP (02/2006) AMP (08/2006)   Vol. 40 May 2006 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the May 2006 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question This pair of baggage tags was dug at a railroad site in Nevada. The larger tag reads, "PATD. JULY 1880 287 EMIGRANT CEN. PAC. R. R. TO C. & A. R. R. VIA U. P. RY. VIA KANSAS CITY"; the smaller one, "W. W. WILCOX CHICAGO EMIGRANT C. &. A. R. R. - AND- CEN. PAC. R. R. VIA KANSAS CITY 287 VIA U. P. RY." I recognize the marks for the Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railway, but what does the C. & A. R. R. stand for? Also, do you know how much the tags might be worth?

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Answer Comparatively scarce- much less in matched sets- "Emigrant" tags were used by one-way passengers heading West in the late 1800s. The letters C. & A. R. R. stand for the Chicago & Atlantic Railroad, which had 11 special "Emigrant" cars built by Jackson & Sharp (Delaware Car Works) of Wilmington, Delaware in 1883. That fact, along with the patent, narrows the date range pretty well, as do the marks of the other lines: Union Pacific adopted the name Railway rather than Railroad in 1880; and the Central Pacific was merged into the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1885. With all those clues, it's safe to say it's c. 1880-85, and probably 1883-84. As for value, how about $1,200+? That's the estimate of Western railroad tags collector Jack Lucas, P.O. Box 391, Moraga, CA 94556. E-mail:


Question Mark, this definitely isn't a recent find, but I'm hoping you can answer a question or two about it. When I was a kid back in the 1960s, a friend and I used to snoop around in a nearby junkyard, and one day he found this combination lock. When he showed it to me, I reminded him that he owed me 50¢ and said if he'd give me the lock, we'd be even. Any idea how old it is, and what sort of return I got on my half dollar?

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Answer It dates from the late 1800s, when locks of this sort were made by a number of firms, including the Canton Combination Lock Co., the PMT Lock Co., and the Youngs Lock Co. Today, some maker-marked examples are worth hundreds of dollars; unmarked ones like yours average $125-175, retail. The highest price I found was $242 for one in extremely fine condition; the lowest, $30... probably a misprint. As for the 50¢, well, I'll let you do the math.


Question Coinshooting at a park in Kansas, I found this large silver medal of Pope Leo XIII. The reverse reads, "Bene Merenti." Can you identify it?

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Answer Such medals are awarded by, or on behalf of, the Pope and Roman Catholic Church to individuals in recognition of their faith and service. The phrase Bene Merenti is Latin for, "To the Well Deserving." When presented, the medal would have been suspended from a yellow & white ribbon. I'm not certain just when it was issued, but I believe it's from the 1880s. (Leo XIII was Pope from 1878 until 1903.) At any rate, I found several of this variety and condition listed in the $200-250 range.


Question These handcuffs were discovered in an old storage locker containing various items from the Bay area of northern California. The odd thing about them is, they're stamped with the names of two different companies- "Mf'd by Smith & Wesson" and "The Peerless Handcuff Co., Springfield, Mass." There's also a "Pat. Feb. 20, 1912" mark, and on the back, "D. C. Huge I 207 O.P.D." We believe the cuffs are authentic, and that they belonged to an Officer Huge of the Oakland Police Department. Are we right?

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Answer Since I'm more of a specialist in off-the-cuff remarks, W&ET asked handcuffs expert Yossie Silverman of to handle this one. Here's his reply: "I think the patent date is actually 1915. These are the Peerless Second Model, made after 1925. They were made by Smith & Wesson, who had manufacturing facilities that Peerless (the patent owner) didn't. I'm guessing, from the name on the patent, that Wesson came up with this design and then 'spun off' a company (Peerless) to market them; but making them required his original company's facilities (S&W). This was the case for many years. In fact, I believe that it wasn't until the 1970s that Peerless started making their own cuffs. The other stampings are almost certainly the name of the policeman and the department. The handcuffs are worth $75-100."

Thanks, Yossie!


Question Greetings from Australia! I found your name and address on the internet while trying to research this American buckle, given to me by a friend who found it in New Orleans. The front depicts four clown faces surrounding a balloon with the words "Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show - On Earth - Season 1908." On the back is "Tiffany Studio New York." I suspect that it may be only a replica, but wanted to check it out with you.

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Answer Good on ya! This is one of many so-called "Tiffany" buckles which suddenly appeared in the late 1960s and early '70s. Most are actually not replicas but fantasies- that is, they're not based on authentic older buckles, but are simply modern concoctions intended to look like antiques. Nor were they designed or produced by Tiffany & Co. of New York. In fact, this one has been attributed to John R. Fairchild, a British manufacturer. Not long ago an identical buckle brought $29.99 on eBay; another with slightly different attachments on the back (evidently a more recent, American made knockoff) was offered at a starting price of $5.99, but drew no bids.


Question A detecting buddy came up with this Hawaii Junior Working Reserve badge. Any information about it would be appreciated.

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Answer The Junior Working Reserve was a postwar successor to the United States Boys' Working Reserve and several other homefront support, youth service organizations founded during World War I. Its stated purpose was to provide vocational training and guidance to boys and girls, ages 16-21. While ordinary Working Reserve badges are often under $20, as a pre-statehood item from Hawaii your friend's find is reportedly closer to $75.


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