Subscribe now!

Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (08/2009) AMP (06/2009) AMP (10/2009)   Vol. 43 August 2009 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the August 2009 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found this "Henry Clay 1845" button in Parsippany, New Jersey. It is coat size, two-piece, gold gilt, and backmarked "Scovills & Co. / Superfine." The shank is intact. Could it be a campaign button, and what do you think it's worth?

Image 1
Answer Political clothing buttons were especially popular in the 1830s and '40s, and more than a few were issued in support of five-time presidential candidate Henry Clay. Yours is one of at least a dozen varieties associated with the campaign of 1844. Of his repeated defeats Clay is said to have remarked, "I'd rather be right than president." His critics, of course, never tired of replying that both ambitions had eluded him. Even so, he was indisputably a key player in American politics of that era, and today all Clay political memorabilia remain highly collectable. This particular button would likely bring $300-350+.


Question While bottle digging in a privy, I uncovered this large bronze medal. It is approximately 2" in diameter and nearly 1/4" thick. One side reads, "IN COMMEMORATION OF THE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE / 1876 / ACT OF CONGRESS JUNE 1874"; the other, "THESE UNITED COLONIES ARE AND OF A RIGHT OUGHT TO BE FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES / 1776." There is some corrosion. Any information you can provide about its history and value will be appreciated.

image 2
Answer As indicated by its inscriptions, this medal was issued to commemorate the centennial of American independence. The design is the work of William Barber, then chief engraver of the U.S. Mint. Beginning on October 31, 1874, varieties were struck in copper (erroneously listed as bronze by some sources), gilt copper, and white metal alloy, along with a very limited number in silver and one in gold. In all, there were about 7,000 copper medals like yours, offered by the U.S. Centennial Commission at $3 apiece. Uncirculated examples have recently sold for $200-250+; VF-XF, $75-100. Due to condition issues, yours is worth a good deal less, but would still add interest and historical appeal to any coin & relic hunter's collection.


Question I dug this unusual piece at a park in Oregon. I am sure it is silver, but a coin shop only offered me $1.25 for it. What is it, and what is its true value?

Image 3
Answer It's a Masonic membership token from the RAM (Royal Arch Masons) Chapter 172 in Poughkeepsie, New York, and the metal is indeed silver. Its date of issue is uncertain; however, Masons reportedly did not begin using tokens of this exact type until after 1895. Typically, such tokens would be presented individually to members over a period of many years. One side imitates the design of a Jewish shekel of the Year 2, a coin of Simon Maccabaeus (143-135 B.C.). On the other side is a keystone, a familiar Masonic symbol, enclosing a circle of letters- HTWSSTKS- said to be the mark of the order's ancient Grand Master and to stand for, "Hiram, the widow's son, sent to King Solomon." The small space in the center of the circle is reserved for the member's own mark (initials, etc.), but is frequently found blank. Most Masonic silver shekels retail for $25-30.


Question While detecting around an early 1900s dump north of Amarillo, Texas, I found this badge reading, "U S / FOR SERVICE / 4TH / LIBERTY LOAN / 1918." Is it valuable?

Image 4
Answer There were four U.S. Liberty Bond campaigns in 1917-18 to help raise funds for the Allies in World War I. Enlisting the aid of celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Al Jolson, and Mary Pickford, along with large, energetic organizations such as the Boy Scouts, the U.S. Treasury Department raised some $17 billion dollars through bond sales- more than half the federal government's total war costs. Unfortunately, the 4th Liberty Loan ($6 billion @ 4.25%) ended in effective default, when the Treasury refused to redeem the face value of the bonds in gold, as stipulated at the time of sale. And since the dollar had been devalued from $20.67/oz. gold in 1918 to $35/oz. in 1934, bond holders lost over 40% of the principal, or nearly $2.9 billion. As for your find, the Treasury issued official badges, medals, and other awards in conjunction with each of the campaigns... even some reputedly cast from captured German cannons. I couldn't locate a listing for this one, but other WWI Liberty Loan badges often fetch $30-50.


Question I'm writing for a friend who is seeking information about this 2" medallion. There is an inscription on one side: "COMICE AGRICOLE DE ST. QUENTIN"; and on the edge, "ARGEN." What can you tell us about it?

Image 5
Answer Your friend's medal was issued in France in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The designer was Adolph Rivet, a French engraver and sculptor of the period. Comice Agricole de St. Quentin means, "Agricultural Show of St. Quentin." Medals of the same design were struck for other locales in France as well. Argent means "silver," but in this case I'm not certain whether it's solid silver or silver plated. I've also seen it in bronze. This one apparently was not awarded, as the rectangular space for the recipient's name is unengraved. Value? I'd guess $50 or more, although I've seen similar medals sell for as little as €15-20 ($20-25) on eBay France.


Question Some club members and I were hunting at an 1800s ghost town in Utah when we came up with this "MASTODON EIGHT LEVER" brass padlock. On the shackle is, "EAGLE LOCK CO., TERRYVILLE, CONN., U.S." Any idea of its age and value?

Image 6
Answer The "Mastodon Eight-Lever" is one of the better known locks of its kind and dates from 1915-30. The Eagle Lock Co. alone had at least 18 different models/brands. Several versions of the "Mastodon" were produced, some with brass cases and some steel. Despite shackle-stamped references to 1894-95 patents on some locks, this specific design was patented by James Roche in 1914. Further exploiting the "prehistoric pachyderm padlock" theme, Eagle also introduced a slightly lower priced six- and eight-lever "Mammoth" series. A 1927 wholesale catalog lists locks like yours for $12/dozen. Nowadays, a nondug brass "Mastodon," with key and working, can command $35+; steel, maybe half as much.


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!