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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (08/2006) AMP (05/2006) AMP (11/2006)   Vol. 40 August 2006 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the August 2006 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Mark, I'd like some information about this 1-1/8" silver pin that I unearthed at an old site in Troy, New York. In the center is a figure on horseback with a rifle, and the rim is inscribed, "W. H. VANTINE / Co. I 3rd N. Y. V. Cav."

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Answer What you've got is a Civil War soldier's identification pin, an item which would have been privately purchased, as the Army did not issue ID tags or badges at that time. Even as dug, with minor damage, it could command $1,200-1,500, according to professional militaria appraiser George Weller Juno. Of course, as with any "named" or personal relic, the value can be considerably enhanced by detailed information about the individual. Here's what I found...

Born the son of Albert and Letty Van Tene (the spelling varies) in Wappinger Falls, New York on March 17, 1844, William Vantine enlisted at age 19 as a private in the Union Army on January 29, 1864 at Poughkeepsie, New York, and was mustered into the New York 3rd Cavalry. In April 1864 his unit was assigned to the 1st Brigade, Kautz's cavalry division, Army of the Potomac, and reportedly "saw much hard service with that organization for the remainder of the war." An unofficial source cites "distinguished service" but provides no details. Returning home, young William married Salina Gray Curtis on January 3, 1865, and was mustered out of the military on May 17, 1865 at David's Island, New York Harbor. From later census and pension records we know that he was 5' 8" tall and had dark hair and hazel eyes; worked as an iron moulder; had at least four sons (William, George, Charles, and Arthur) and three daughters (Frances, Stella, and Eva); resided in Troy, New York from 1867 to 1873; in Medina, New York from 1873 to 1877; and in Seneca Falls, New York from 1877 to 1907; was approved for a military pension as an invalid in 1890; died on January 2, 1908 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and is buried in the Restvale Cemetery in Seneca, New York.

All of which goes to prove once again that when a relic hunter recovers an artifact, its story is not lost forever.


Question My research has failed provide even a hint of what this 7-1/2" tall, pear-shaped container might be. The spout- the stem and leaves of the pear- screws into what appear to be brass threads; otherwise, the metal is silver. It is marked "900" on the base, and my jeweler has confirmed that it is sterling silver. Do you have any idea what it might be?

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Answer It's a rosewater sprinkler, probably made in one of the Middle Eastern countries in the 19th or early 20th century. The "900" mark signifies .900 fine, i.e., 90% pure silver; technically, sterling is .925. The figural pear design was a popular one, and I located a fair number of listings for examples from Egypt, Iraq, and especially Turkey. Often offered by Judaica antiques dealers, rosewater sprinklers are also sometimes cataloged as spice containers, and most seem to be in the $350-500 range. The lowest price I found was $126 (in 2002); the highest, $650.


Question I found this silver Indian Trade brooch while metal detecting in Michigan. I've been told that it dates from the late 1700s or early 1800s, and that the initials "V. R." are those of the maker; however, I haven't been able to identify him, and nobody else seems to know his identity, either. Can you solve the mystery?

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Answer So far, the most likely candidate would seem to be Victor Rouquette, a silversmith known to have worked in Detroit, Michigan at least as early as 1817, and to have used just such a "V. R." mark. The brooch certainly appears to be genuine and, if so, is a solid four-figure find. As a matter of fact, a dealer/collector to whom I forwarded the photo has indicated that he would offer $1,200 for it, and that it might very well retail for several hundred dollars more.


Question I dug this White Elephant Saloon token at a construction site in Fort Worth, Texas. It's in Very Fine condition, and I've been told that it's c. 1885. Can you confirm this, and also tell me how much a collector might pay for it?

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Answer Your token does indeed date from around 1885, and is quite rare and valuable. According to Texas tokens specialist Jerry Adams- - it's worth at least $400, and could go as high as $550. There's also a White Elephant Saloon token from Fort Worth which bears the image of an elephant. Your Brunswick & Balke piece is actually the scarcer of the two, but the eye appeal of the picture token usually gives it the edge in value. Brunswick & Balke manufactured billiard tables, saloon fixtures, etc., and also supplied tokens to many of their customers. However, the initials B. & B. beneath the words White Elephant on the token stand not for Brunswick & Balke, but for Gabriel Burgower and Nathaniel Bornstein, who (along with silent partner Samuel Berliner) were the owners of the saloon. A later group of partners included Luke Short, a friend of such well-known Westerners as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson. Rather than try to summarize the saloon's colorful history here, I'm going to recommend that you read Jerry Adams' excellent online article about the White Elephant at


Question I found this trapper's good luck watch fob at a long-abandoned rural church near Belden, North Dakota, and would like to have your opinion of its value.

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Answer During the early 1900s, a number of fur companies gave fobs to trappers, agents, and customers, and also offered them through ads in trapping and sporting magazines. In addition to the Northwestern Hide & Fur Co., who issued yours, some of the major firms included the Abraham Fur Co., S. Silberman & Sons, and Revillon Frères. Not long ago a fob exactly like this one brought $268.78 on eBay.


Question Doing some internet research, I've managed to learn a bit about comedian Tony Cabooch, whose name appears on this Anheuser-Busch "Good Luck Talisman." Under magnification, "W. M. Temead, MD" can be read at the bottom of the token on one side, and the date 1927 on the other. Dr. Temead's name explains the medical insignia, but what's up with the swastika, and who or what is Swacade?

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Answer Tony Cabooch, whose real name was Chester Gruber, was a popular entertainer in the 1920s and '30s, specializing in ethnic humor, and the token was a premium of Anheuser-Busch on the Air, a radio program sponsored by the famed St. Louis brewery to promote its brand name and nonalcoholic products during the Prohibition era. As for W. M. Temead, MD, an even closer look will reveal that it's really Whitehead-Hoag, the maker of the token. Prior to its adoption by the Nazis, the swastika was widely used as a good lunck symbol, and there are hundreds of different swastika tokens from around 1910-30. The other symbol is called a caduceus and is, of course, a familiar emblem of the medical and health professions. The word Swacade is evidently derived from swastika and caduceus, and the combination of the two is intended to convey the message, "Good luck and good health." A leading exonumist who once assembled one of the largest collections of swastika tokens told W&ET, "With both the swastika and the caduceus, and the beer tie-in as well, it's a nice piece, and I'd have to guess that it would retail for $50-65, perhaps more.


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