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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2008) AMP (05/2008) AMP (12/2008)   Vol. 42 October 2008 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the October 2008 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found this medallion on the Pecos River in Crane County, Texas. It is brass or bronze, 1.65" wide and 1.80" tall, not counting the loop at the top. I would appreciate any information about it.

Image 1
Answer It is a Roman Catholic religious medallion, and the lettering surrounding the crucifixion scene= Amor Meus Crucifixus Est= is Latin for, "My love is crucified." The figures other than Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary (left) are traditionally identified as St. Mary Magdalene (kneeling) and St. John the Evangelist. On the reverse are depicted the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The heart of Jesus is surmounted by a cross and often, although not in this case, surrounded by a crown of thorns. The heart of Mary is surmounted by flames and pierced by a sword, a reference to Luke 2:35 and Simeon's prophecy to Mary that, "...a sword shall pierce through thine own soul." The medallion is obviously of some antiquity and may well date from the Spanish colonial period of Texas history.


Question My son and I found this spur in Gore, Oklahoma. It’s solid brass except for the rowel, which some enterprising cavalryman crafted from an Indian Head cent! We’ve looked at a lot of spur pictures, but none with the same feather design leading up to the rowel. Are you familiar with any like this? We’d also like to know the value.

image 2
Answer This is the stippled “rooster neck” variety of the Model 1859 U.S. cavalry spur. The highest price I’ve seen for a single spur of this type was just under $140 for a non-dug one in excellent condition. Generally, excavated examples go for $50-75, but find the right collector, and with that Indian Head rowel field repair yours might fetch twice the price.


Question We're new to the hobby and need all the help we can get. This is one of our recent finds, and we're hoping you'll be able to tell us something about it: what is it, how old is it, what's it worth, etc.

Image 3
Answer It's the "wreath" half of a two-piece, "tongue & wreath"waist belt plate, c. 1830s-50s and even later. Ordinarily, a wreath portion alone would not be too valuable, but yours is one of those welcome exceptions. See that big blossom at the bottom? Floral wreaths of this type were comparatively common on eagle-disc Militia plates, but they were also used on rare and extremely valuable South Carolina and Virginia plates. So, if someone happens to have only the tongue portion of one of those, a dug wreath like yours with an honest, attractive patina can be worth $500 as the missing piece needed to boost the price of the completed plate to $4,000+. Incidentally, some wreaths are marked "N. P. Ames," and one of those would add several hundred dollars more.


Question Although I've been a W&ET subscriber for many years, this is my first time writing to you. Can you identify this coin? Also, what is its value? It is 1-3/8" in diameter, .08" thick, and made of copper. On one side is what appears to be a globe with lines of latitude and longitude, with the words "PECVNIA TOTVM CIRCVMIT ORBVM." On the other side is a large crown, " X X 1753," and "IOSEPHUS I D. G. REX P. ET D. GUINEæ."

Image 4
Answer What you've got is a 1753 twenty reis coin struck for Angola, a country on the west coast of Africa, and long a colony of Portugal. The Latin inscription Pecunia Totum Circumit Orbum means something like, "[This] money circulates around the world"; Josephus I D. G. Rex. P. Et D. Guineæ, "Joseph I [or José I], by the grace of God king of Portugal and the Guineas." The total Angola twenty reis mintage for 1753 was reportedly 134,000. Today, your coin lists for $35 or more in Very Fine condition.


Question Mark, can you give me some info on this metal tag stamped, "C. M. & ST. P. RY. MILWAUKEE, WIS."?

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Answer It's a baggage tag from the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, which operated under that name from February 1874 until December 1927, when it became the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, better known simply as "The Milwaukee Road." I can't find any indication of when the tag was issued, but my best guess is that's it's at least 100 years old. There's no doubt about it desirability, though: within the last few years I've seen it listed from $175 to $200.


Question What is the story behind this "1878 Saignelegier Chiantel Fondeur" bell? It is cast brass with an iron loop or handle, and the clapper is missing. I believe there is a story about some Swiss gold miners in Utah, who had bells like these on their pack horses or mules.

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Answer Since it's been published elsewhere, I won't comment on the treasure tale. As for the bells themselves, we're indebted to Chuck Kelly and his wife DeeAnna Weed of Classic Bells for the following information from their excellent website= where DeeAnna writes: "These open-mouth bells, often found on the collectibles market in eight sizes ranging from 2-3/4" to 6" in diameter, are sometimes called Swiss cow bells. I have not found any reputable bell historian who can provide an accurate history of the Saignélegier bell design. Because of this, I am extremely skeptical of the many fanciful stories told about its origins. What I do know for certain is that Bevin Bros. Mfg. Co. of East Hampton, Connecticut has made these bells for many decades. According to a Bevin sales brochure, 'These Swiss cow and sheep bell reproductions are hand cast from mold patterns found in the Bevin Bros. factory almost 100 years ago. Each bell is cast from bronze in the pattern of the famous 1878 Saignélegier bell, which, legend tells, comes from the town of the same name.' Swiss cow bells that are genuinely old cannot easily be distinguished from new ones, especially since many new bells have been artificially antiqued. I value these bells at the retail price for new Saignélegier bells, which ranges in the Bevins catalog from $17.50 to $54, depending on size."


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