Subscribe now!

Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (02/2009) AMP (12/2008) AMP (04/2009)   Vol. 43 February 2009 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the February 2009 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question A while back, while hunting behind an old house in New Jersey, I came up with this engraved silver buckle stamped "STERLING" and "925 FINE." There is also a "B" over "U," or vice versa. Any idea who made it, or how old it might be?

Image 1
Answer Unger Brothers of Newark, New Jersey struck their silver jewelry and accessories with a combination trademark/hallmark composed of an intertwined U and B, encircled by STERLING and 925 FINE. While the firm existed from 1872 to 1919, its most productive period reportedly was 1892-1907. In 1914, it underwent a curious manufacturing metamorphosis, suddenly switching from silver to the production of airplane parts. Five years later, the business was sold. Undamaged and in fine condition, comparable Unger Brothers sash buckles often retail for $100-200+. However, given purists' prejudices and the expense of expert restoration, it's doubtful the investment would be worthwhile.


Question This half dollar sized, thin brass pendant, showing a baseball player at bat, was found in a wooded area surrounding a reservoir in Rhode Island. Age? Value?

image 2
Answer Usually listed as a watch fob, it may have been produced as a souvenir novelty or amateur athletic award. This would be consistent with both its lightweight construction and the banner at the bottom, suitable for custom engraving or stamping. Estimated dates range from the 1910s to '30s. Predictably, prices vary as well. Not long ago, an identical example fetched just under $30 at auction, but that was a bit of a bargain. There's a huge, hot market for older baseball memorabilia, and right now an online dealer has one tagged at $100.


Question Can you identify this brass star stamped, "ISTHMIAN CANAL / COMMISSION / 85849" and, in tiny letters beneath the hole, "AM. RY. S. CO. NEW YORK"? Actual size is about 2-1/16" between the top and bottom points.

Image 3
Answer The Isthmian Canal Commission, or ICC, was created by the U.S. Congress in 1899 to oversee construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. The first identification tags issued to employees on the project were diamond shaped, with rounded points. Star-shaped tags were introduced around 1906-07, remaining in use only until 1909, when they were recalled to be exchanged for round tags- perhaps because too many workers "got the point" while wearing them. There were two sizes of brass stars; yours is the larger, marked by the maker, American Railway Supply Co. of New York. Value? $75. A scarcer nickel-plated or white metal variety lists for $125. There are also ICC Engineering & Construction Department and Panama Canal tags of assorted shapes ($100-175).


Question Mark, I need help researching this relic that I recovered around an old foundation. It's about 1-3/4" in diameter, and on the front is an eagle. The back is blank. I found a Civil War "US" buckle at the same site. Could this be from the period, too?

Image 4
Answer Of even earlier vintage, it's part of a c. 1820s-30s Militia belt plate. The same "eagle on the rocks" device appeared on both a two-piece plate and a square, die-struck Sheffield (silver on copper) plate. Although likely a stock/generic pattern, it's been attributed by some to New York Militia units. What's it worth? Well, a complete plate in dug condition could easily command $700; the disk alone, holed as shown, maybe $100+.


Question This ornate medal or badge has "THE MODERN SAMARITANS" on the hanger bar, and an "MS" monogram on the star below. At the points of the star are the letters "BUCFP." Know anything about it?

Image 5
Answer The Modern Samaritans began as a fraternal insurance benefit society, founded in Minnesota in 1897. Evidently not as mild-mannered as their name implied, they were plagued early on by bitter political infighting as well as financial problems, yet somehow managed to survive. By 1920 there were 93 local lodges, with a total membership of more than 6,000; but after that, they steadily declined until 1936, when they decided to dispense with all the fraternal trappings and convert to a conventional insurance company, the Samaritan Life Association. The significance of the letters BUCFP seems to have been lost in the mists of time, but they probably represented various values or virtues: benevolence, unity, etc. I couldn't find any listings for Modern Samaritan badges, and suspect collector interest is modest at best. That said, fairly similar badges of other minor &/or defunct orders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries often sell for $20-25, and occasionally considerably more.


Question Can you tell me something about this ring? It's not silver or gold, and I'm not sure what kind of metal it's made of, but the design is unusual.

Image 6
Answer It bears a fasces superimposed on a swastika, and these were, of course, the symbols of two World War II Axis nations- Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, respectively. I discussed the ring with John Conway, a professional militaria appraiser with Manion's Auctions, and we think that it may be a souvenir item dating from the time of Hitler's visit to Mussolini in Italy, May 3-10, 1938. It appears to be of inexpensive manufacture, with some condition issues, including loss of plating and light corrosion. Even so, it's definitely collectable and could well bring $100 or more.


Subscribe now!

Copyright © 1995 - 2015 People's Publishing. All rights reserved on entire contents; nothing may be reprinted, or displayed on another web page, without the prior written consent of the publisher.


Subscribe now!

Go to top of page

Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine Best Finds W&ET BookMart W&ET Archives Put some treasure on your coffee table! Subscribe! Subscribe To Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine Find W&ET Near You Silver & Gold Makes a Great Gift!