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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (04/2010) AMP (02/2010) AMP (06/2010)   Vol. 44 April 2010 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the April 2010 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I live in the Niagara region of Ontario, Canada, and while out detecting a few months ago I found this item. It is cast brass, measures about 1-3/4", and seems to be some sort of cap badge. Research leads me to believe that it is linked to a British regiment of the War of 1812. Can you confirm this? Also, what sort of value does it have?

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Answer Nice field work and homework! It does indeed appear to be an early 19th century British hat badge of the type worn by light infantry, and as such is likely worth $150+, according to professional militaria appraiser George Weller Juno. Skilled and experienced advance units, light infantry (along with the rifle regiments which evolved from them) are said to have worn this insignia because their orders were usually relayed by bugle rather than drum or some other signal. Over time, the bugle became a widely used insignia for general infantry as well, and British light infantry and rifle regiments continued to wear badges and buttons depicting the same style of bugle and trefoil-knot, tasseled cord right into the modern era.


Question This brass tag was recovered at an old stone foundation in the woods near Baltimore, Maryland. It's 3/4" x 1-1/4" and holed at one end, with part of an iron loop still attached. One side is stamped "M. & C. C. OF / 498 / BALTO. 1881" in large lettering; the other bears an address: "7 W. LOMBARD ST." Living in the area, I am curious to know what organization or business it may have belonged to, and would appreciate any information about its history and usage.

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Answer It's a dog license tag, and an uncommonly early one, too. The lettering stands for "Mayor & City Council of Baltimore," and as far as I can determine, 1880 is the first known year of issue. The reverse address is actually 97 W. Lombard St., the location of die sinker and manufacturer J. W. F. Dorman, who struck the tags. What's it worth? My sources say maybe $150-200, but get a few collectors in a bidding frenzy, and who knows?


Question A friend dug this neat watch fob just outside of Sun City, Arizona. (She finds all the good stuff!) The back reads, "ALLIS-CHALMERS TRACTOR DIVISION MILWAUKEE, U.S.A. JOHN BAUMGARTH & CO., CHICAGO." What can you tell us about it?

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Answer Advertising Allis-Chalmers' Model L-10 crawler tractor, it dates from the 1930s or early '40s. The first Model L's appeared in 1931-32, but production was fairly limited. The final year for the series, facing mounting wartime demands, was 1942. Although best known for its bright orange tractors, Allis-Chalmers not only produced a wide range of agricultural, industrial, and military equipment, but diversified into other fields of service and production. Its long history of manufacturing came to a close in the late 1990s, but today the name lives on in Allis-Chalmers Energy, Inc., an oilfield services company based in Houston, Texas. There were at least three makers or suppliers of this fob: John Baumgarth & Co., Metal Arts, and R. R


Question This shield-shaped pin is black at the top, with a red dragon holding a sword. The lower half is blue, with two crosses and a teepee in white. What is it, exactly?

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Answer It's the distinctive insignia, or DI, of the U.S. Army 12th Infantry Regiment. The upper portion, now darkened, was originally gold in color. Officially approved on June 20, 1923, the design incorporates a curious combination of symbols: the crosses, representing the iron fastenings of millstones, are said to recall the 12th's crushing losses (almost 50%) in the Civil War; the wigwam, Indian Wars service; red & gold- the colors of Spain- the Spanish-American War; the battlement, the capture of El Caney in that war; and the red sea-lion, from the arms of the Philippine Islands, the Philippine-American War. In Fine or better condition, with pin intact, it would be worth $15-25; as is, tarnished and fading, maybe half as much.


Question I know it's not exactly treasure hunting, but I've started to get into geocaching and am intrigued by the odd items people place in caches. The writing on this fancy red, white & gold badge looks Russian. Can you identify it?

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Answer It's a Soviet Guards badge. The word at the top is Russian for guard, and CCCP at the bottom is equivalent to USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The red star, emblematic of the Soviet Union, has since become a universal symbol of communism. Awarded to units for distinguished service in WWII, the elite title of Soviet Guards was authorized on September 18, 1941. Special banners were awarded to Guards as well. However, the badge itself, ordered to be worn on the right side of the chest, reportedly was not introduced until May 21, 1943. These and other Soviet badges and insignia have flooded the collector market in recent years, but a nice example can still retail around $10-20.


Question I found this neat little 1955 "JUNIOR FIRE MARSHAL" badge at a site near Lordsburg, New Mexico. A square tab above the eagle folds down onto the back, so that the badge can be attached to a shirt pocket. The tab is marked, "HARTFORD FIRE INSURANCE CO. 1955." What's the scoop on it?

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Answer Your badge was issued by the Hartford Fire Insurance Co. as part of their Junior Fire Marshal® program, created to educate children about basic fire safety for themselves and their families. Widely acclaimed by parents, teachers, and firefighters alike, the program is said to have deputized over 110 million Junior Fire Marshals since its founding in 1947. In addition to badges, over the years Hartford has offered other membership premiums such as rings, and today the program's young members proudly wear red fire helmets. Despite some dealers' price tags of $20 or more, the badge is an easy buy at $5-10.


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