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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (05/2008) AMP (03/2008) AMP (10/2008)   Vol. 42 May 2008 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the May 2008 edition of W&ET Magazine
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR FINDS

A PARTY FOR MARTY


Question I would like some information about this Martin Van Buren political item. I think it is a pendant, because it has a small hole at the top. The front has, "MARTIN HHHHHHVAN BUREN," his portrait, and the date 1849. The back says, "FREE SOIL / FREE LABOR / FREE SPEECH." I found it at an old cabin in the woods, about 25 miles from Kinderhook, New York, where Van Buren lived. The owner of the property told me that Van Buren's wife used to stay in the cabin to get away by herself from time to time.

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Answer It's called a shell medalet and was issued in 1848 for Martin Van Buren's last attempt to return to office. America's 8th president (1837-41), he proved to be one of its unpopular ones as well, in large part because of the country's first major depression, the Panic of 1837. After losing a bid for reelection in 1840, he opted out in 1844, but in 1848 decided to give it one last try, this time as the Free Soil candidate. The Free Soil movement, composed of mostly disaffected Democrats, opposed the expansion of slavery into the new territories of the West. Van Buren finished a distant third in the contest, receiving no electoral votes and only about 10% of the popular vote. Two versions of the medalet are known- one of gilt brass, and the other of silvered brass- and as you guessed, there was originally a small wire loop at the top for suspension. If nondug and in Very Fine or better condition, it would be worth $1,000-1,500. W&ET asked a couple of leading political memorabilia experts to value your find, and the higher estimate of the two was $500, retail.


SOLDADO ESPAÑOL


Question This buckle was found by my grandfather along a stream, far from any known home or community. How it ever got there is a mystery. It's brass and approximately 2-1/8" x 2-7/8". On the front is a coiled horn with "25" in the center; the back is plain. Can you identify it?

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Answer It's a 19th century Spanish infantryman's belt plate and almost certainly was brought back to the U.S. from Cuba as a souvenir of the Spanish-American War in 1898. Records of the Spanish order of battle in Cuba indicate that both their 25th infantry battalion and 25th rifle battalion were deployed there at that time. The market is fairly soft for Spanish militaria of the period, but the plate might fetch as much as $100-125.


WILD IN THE STREETS


Question Mark, I dug this cent-sized brass token in Kansas City, Missouri. The obverse depicts a jester; the reverse reads, "KANSAS CITY / 1897 / KARNIVAL / AND / FLOWER PARADE." I've done a bit of research on it, but so far have only determined that it was an annual event, and that the committee or group which conducted it was called the Kansas City Karnival Krewe. Any additional information would be appreciated.

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Answer The Kansas City Karnival Krewe was founded in 1894, and took their frivolity and frolic to the streets each October until 1903, when some of the more straight-laced locals deemed them "too boisterous and riotous." A Mardi Gras type, carnival-season event, it was slated to coincide with the annual pageantries and revelries of the Priests of Pallas, which included huge parades with floats (built on mule-drawn wagons in the early days, and later on streetcar chassis), various contests, and a masquerade ball. The Priests of Pallas were active from 1887 through 1924. All of these Kansas City Karnival pieces seem to be holed, and my guess is that it's actually part of a badge. Value? $10 or less.


IT'S A HARDWARE ISSUE


Question I found this "OVB - Our Very Best" watch fob in the front yard of a home dating back to the turn of the last century. What can you tell me about it?

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Answer This handsome shield-shaped advertising watch fob was issued in the early 1900s by Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. of Chicago, one of the nation's leading hardware companies in that era. "OVB" ("Our Very Best") was one of their proprietary names and brands, along with Hibbard, Revonoc, and Chrysolite (a type of enameled ironware or "graniteware"). The OVB watch fob was offered in the "Dealer Helps" section of their Want Book, or catalog. A fairly common but popular fob, it's often tagged at $35-50, but you'll find them under $25 on eBay. Some years ago, one price guide listed it at over $80. Trust me... at that price, it will remain yours forever. (By the way, there's also an OVB brass lever padlock made in the same ornate style. Get your hands one of those, and it's an easy $300+.)


SUNNY SIDE UP


Question This strange object was unearthed when we were replacing a water line about 3-4' deep, at a home which was built around 1906 in Dayton, Kentucky. What is it?

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Answer "Leapin' lizards!" as O-eyed Little Orphan Annie used to exclaim. It's the Miracle Compass Sun-Watch, a 1938 premium of Ovaltine, which sponsored Radio Orphan Annie, a series based on the popular comic strip character. Featuring an exotic Egyptian design on the back, the "watch" was a miniature sundial inset with a tiny, working compass. To possess one of these thaumaturgic timepieces, kids had to mail in a gold seal found under the lid of a can of Ovaltine chocolate drink mix. Today, this Annie freebie is valued at $25-50 in Good to Fine condition, and at least until recently, a Near Mint one was considered a $125-150 item. However, last May, in a Hake's Americana & Collectibles auction, an exceptionally choice example, complete with its original mailer, was hammered down for an astounding $1,518!"Leapin' lizards!" as O-eyed Little Orphan Annie used to exclaim. It's the Miracle Compass Sun-Watch, a 1938 premium of Ovaltine, which sponsored Radio Orphan Annie, a series based on the popular comic strip character. Featuring an exotic Egyptian design on the back, the "watch" was a miniature sundial inset with a tiny, working compass. To possess one of these thaumaturgic timepieces, kids had to mail in a gold seal found under the lid of a can of Ovaltine chocolate drink mix. Today, this Annie freebie is valued at $25-50 in Good to Fine condition, and at least until recently, a Near Mint one was considered a $125-150 item. However, last May, in a Hake's Americana & Collectibles auction, an exceptionally choice example, complete with its original mailer, was hammered down for an astounding $1,518!


'WAY PAST COOL


Question While detecting in a field where I also found several coins from the 1890s, I came up with this silver-plated, red & blue enameled "Leonard" whatsit. It has a crown atop an elongated shield with an open book and quill pen (upper left), an hourglass (upper right), and a pair of wings (bottom). On the back is "Bastian Bros. / Co. / Rochester, NY." They are still in business, but I have been unable to obtain any information about it from them. Do you know what it is?

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Answer Well, I do now! It took a bit of doing, but I finally managed to ferret out the answer you're after, and there's some really cool history behind it. Improbable as it may seem, what you've got is the emblem from a 1930s Leonard refrigerator! In 1881, Edmund J. Copeland and Arnold H. Gross started the Grand Rapids [Michigan] Refrigerator Co., later renamed the Leonard Refrigerator Co. As time and technology moved on, the Leonard line evolved from ice-cooled boxes to electric refrigerators. In 1926, Kelvinator acquired the company, and eventually a full range of Leonard major appliances, companion to the Kelvinator line, was developed for marketing through exclusive Leonard dealers. In 1937, Kelvinator merged with the Nash Motor Co., and in 1954 Nash-Kelvinator combined with the Hudson Motor Car Co. to form AMC. As a result, in the 1950s, tags on Leonard refrigerators read, "Manufactured by American Motors Corporation"- just like Nash Ramblers! Over time, however, the Leonard name was phased out in favor of Kelvinator. Unfortunately, your find has minimal monetary value.





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