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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (06/2009) AMP (04/2009) AMP (08/2009)   Vol. 43 June 2009 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the June 2009 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Can you identify this coin that I found? Although unreadable in the photo, the date is 1570. Around the portrait on the front is, "PHILIPPVS D. G. HISPANIARVM REX"; and on the back, "POVR. LA. CHA___ DES. COM__. EN B_____."

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Answer It's actually a type of token known as a jeton or rechenpfennig. Although made for use as counters (calculation tokens), they often bore statements of royal or political authority. This one is from the Duchy of Brabant (now part of the Netherlands and Belgium), and the portrait is that of the Spanish Hapsburg king Philip II, whose vast empire included the uneasily held, so-called Low Countries (Netherlands). The obverse inscription translates as, "Philip [II], by the grace of God king of Spain." The complete reverse lettering is G. POVR. LA. CHAMBRE. DES. COMPT. EN. BRAB.-"For the chamber of accounts in Brabant." A similar piece in better condition (F-VF) recently brought €50, or about $68 U.S.


Question I dug this lapel pin at a site where I have found coins dating as far back as the 16th century. It's made of gold and is 1-1/4" x 5/8". At first I thought it was an Elks fraternal pin, but then I saw the letters "A. O. F." Any idea what that might stand for?

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Answer Your pin or badge was worn by a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters, a fraternal insurance-benefit society. The A.O.F. began in England in the early 1800s, but had its origins in an older order, the Royal Foresters, founded in the 18th century. A.O.F. lodges, or "courts," were established in the U.S. by the 1830s, and in 1874 a major split resulted in the formation of another group, the Independent Order of Foresters. Although the A.O.F. continued in the U.S. for quite some time, by the 1970s it had only a few hundred members. Today the organization survives in England as the Foresters Friendly Society. Your find likely dates from around the turn of the last century. Collector interest in A.O.F. memorabilia is fairly limited, but the badge should be worth bullion value + 20%.


Question This two-piece brass button was recovered from a Florida fort site occupied from about 1820 until 1900. It's 5/8" in diameter, and the letters on the front look like R. W. S. & J., although I'm not quite sure. There is a Firmin & Sons, London backmark. What is it, and how old is it?

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Answer The Old English lettering is T. W. S. & Co., for Thomas Wilson's Sons & Company, a shipping line based in Hull, England. While Thomas Wilson was purchasing ships for use in the Swedish iron ore trade as early as 1825, sources suggest that the line itself was not formally organized before 1841. After his death in 1869, Wilson's sons Charles Henry and Arthur continued and greatly expanded the company, until it had more than 100 ships and was the largest privately owned shipping line in the world. It was eventually sold, in 1916, to Sir John Reeves Ellerman, then widely regarded as the wealthiest man in England. The button is probably c. 1870-80 and certainly no later than 1891, as buttons issued after that time were lettered T. W. S. & Co., Ltd. Value? $25+.


Question I located this PAGE belt buckle in an old park in California. It's brass, 3" x 2", and still has a scrap of leather attached. Is Page a name or a job, like a messenger? I haven't been able to find out anything about it, so any information would be great.

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Answer It's a cadet's belt plate from the Page Military Academy of Los Angeles. Advertised as "A Big School for Little Boys," Page was founded in the early 1900s as an educational institution for boys age 6-14. In 1941, it acquired another school, the Oneonta Military Academy of Culver City, California, which was for high school age boys. They then reorganized as the Page-Oneonta Military Academy, maintaining the two separate campuses. The schools are reportedly no longer in existence. Even with a bit of a bend on one corner, the plate might fetch $20-25+ from someone with a special interest in the school.


Question This 3" brass tag was found some time ago in Aiken, South Carolina. The front is stamped "69" and, in tiny letters around the hole at the top, "Pat'd Dec. 31, 1867." There are no markings on the back.

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Answer Arthur Stafford of Brooklyn, New York came up with this saw-toothed monstrosity 142 years ago, when he decided to design a tag that would keep hotel guests from carting off their room keys. According to his patent application, "These teeth increase the ornamental appearance of the tag, and for hotel-keys are particularly acceptable, as lessening the risk of a person accidentally taking the key with him." (Well, no kidding, Arthur... but "ornamental"?) Similar tags stamped with the name of the hotel often sell for $35-50, and sometimes much more for Western states tags; stock/generic tags like yours, with no name, are worth somewhat less.


Question While searching around an old school, I uncovered this brass plaque. It's about the size of a license plate and reads, "Presented by Automobile Club of Michigan / Honor Trophy / For Excellence in Safety Activity / 1938 AAA 1939." We've never seen anything like it. How about you?

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Answer Evidently, plaques of this sort were presented to schools by the AAA-affiliated Automobile Club of Michigan, in recognition of their safety patrol participation. The AAA School Safety Patrol program originated in 1920. However, just when the practice of awarding plaques began, or how long it continued, is unclear. The only published price I could find was for a 1942-43 Michigan plaque, auctioned for $24. I thought that was a little low, so I asked Jim & Nancy Schaut, authors of American Automobilia. They agreed, suggesting a value range of $50-100, depending on condition.


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