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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (11/2006) AMP (08/2006) AMP (06/2007)   Vol. 40 November 2006 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the November 2006 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Some time ago, a buddy dug this Great Northern Railway lock at a Washington State railroad town dating back to the early 1900s. A local locksmith made a key for it, and the lock still works fine. Any idea what its value might be?

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Answer A. Your friend's find would probably retail around $300-350. One in similar condition brought $315 in a Schofield's auction last year, and a few months ago another (working, with key) sold for $391.79 on eBay. Incidentally, there's a far more valuable Great Northern Railway embossed lock with different style letters. That one can be worth $2,000+. So, you might want to keep that in mind when checking unillustrated price listings.

For those who like a bit of history, the Great Northern Railway was the creation of James Jerome Hill, a 19th century tycoon known as the "Empire Builder." It began in 1889 with the merging of a number of Minnesota railroads and gradually expanded all the way to the Pacific Northwest, reaching Puget Sound in 1893. Eventually totaling over 8,000 track miles, it was both the northernmost transcontinental railroad and the only one privately funded, refusing all federal subsidies. In 1970 it became part of the Burlington Northern Railroad, and today the longtime Great Northern Railway lines belong to the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway.


Question I found this strange medallion at an old mineral spring in Wisconsin. The metal is silver, and the Z on the eagle's breast is gold; a fine silver chain is attached. On the back is, "ZNAK ZANDARMERII 842." It is 2-1/2" tall and 1-1/4" wide. Can you tell me what it is, and what it might be worth?

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Answer What you've got is a Polish Military Police hanger badge, probably from the early 1930s. Znak Zandarmerii means something like, "Sign of the Military Police." The estimated date range is based on the highly distinctive eagle, which is identical to one briefly used on Polish coinage in the early 1930s. Internet searches turned up a couple of these badges at auction websites, one in Poland and another in Great Britain. The latter describes the badge as, "White metal, silver plated; superimposed [gilt] bronze 'Z'..." Suggested minimum values are 550 Zlotych (Poland) and £100 U.K., or about $179.43 and $187.67, respectively. A world militaria appraiser at a U.S. auction house places the price a bit lower, and cautions that recent replicas are known to exist.

Special thanks to Polish detectorist Artur Wójcik and friends at the hobby forum for their generous assistance in researching this item.


Question While metal detecting in western Utah, I located this belt buckle and am curious about its value.

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Answer It appears to be a buckle from the 1856 reorganized Committee of Vigilance of San Francisco, a vigilante band of citizens who seized control of the city for a time, in an effort to free it of corrupt politicians and other criminal elements. Appearances, of course, can be deceiving. In fact it's a modern concoction which first came on the market in the late 1960s or early '70s and has remained readily available ever since. Some buckles have "Tiffany, New York" on the reverse; others, "Bay State Jewelry & Silversmiths"; still others, a small medallion bearing a bust of Napoleon surrounded by "Napoleon Empereur." The earliest ones were actually made by a metal novelties company in England; some of the later versions are of U.S. manufacture. The book New Belt Buckles of the Old West by J. Duncan Campbell makes it quite clear that no such buckles are mentioned anywhere in contemporary accounts of the uniforms and accoutrements of the 1856 Committee of Vigilance of San Francisco. In the past, more than a few gullible folks forked over hundreds of bucks apiece for these fantasies. However, among honest and knowledgeable dealers and collectors, the going rate is now around $10-20.


Question Rummaging around in an old house, I came across of box of odds & ends, including this "Woman's Relief Corps 1883" president's badge. The back is engraved "Sedgwick Corps No. 36," and the original pin is intact.

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Answer The Woman's Relief Corps was established in July 1883 as a ladies' auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization for Union Veterans of the Civil War. In 1962 it was incorporated by an act of Congress as the National Woman's Relief Corps, and remains active today. Beneath the badge's "President" hanger bar is a monogram composed of the letters F, C, and L, representing the motto "Fraternity, Charity, and Loyalty." In the center of the cross is the GAR medallion. "Sedgwick Corps No. 36" is the name of a local unit. According to veterans' memorabilia specialist Everitt Bowles of your badge might fetch as much as $50.


Question I would appreciate some information on a token that I found at farmhouse in Ohio. The front says, "Aracoma Coal Company / A. C. CO. / 25"; the back, "25 payable in cash on pay days when due to employee to whom issued. / Ingle-Schierloh Co. / Dayton, O. / Pat. Pend. / In Merchandise Only. Not Transferrable."

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Answer This Aracoma Coal Co. token was issued for use in a company store operated by Ira B. Early from 1912 to 1925 in Logan, West Virginia, where Aracoma had about 150 employees. One source names a Mr. S. B. Early as the owner of the company at that time. The name Aracoma comes from a local legend of Princess Aracoma, a Shawnee Indian said to have lived on an island (now the city of Logan) on the Guyandotte River from about 1760 to 1780. Rated R8 for rarity, with R10 being the highest, the token is worth $20-25 as dug.


Question Here's one of my relic hunting finds that I need your help on. It's some sort of gilt hat shield with an eagle and crossed swords at the top. The shield is quartered: candlesticks, upper left; lamp, upper right; [unidentified], lower left; stack of cannonballs, lower right. Around the shield is a banner with lettering, but it's too worn to read. There is a threaded post on the back. Size is 2-1/8" x 2". Ever seen one of these?

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Answer It's a cadet's cap badge from St. John's Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin. The school was founded by Dr. Sidney T. Smythe in 1884; however, the badge is definitely 20th century. In 1995 St. John's merged with Northwestern Military and Naval Academy in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, forming what is now St. John's Northwestern Military Academy. On the school coat of arms, the image in the lower quadrant is an arm holding a football. The banner bears the Latin motto Laborare Ludere Orare: "Work hard. Play hard. Pray hard." Value? Based on other post-1900 academy badges, likely less than $20.


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