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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (08/2010) AMP (06/2010) AMP (10/2010)   Vol. 44 August 2010 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the August 2010 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question This is one of two buttons which my son and I recently found while relic hunting in Mississippi. We were told that you might be able to help us research it. Can you tell us its value, if any, and maybe a little history on it?

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Answer Well, I know that not long ago a c. 1810-14, Mexican royalist button like yours brought a little over $500 at auction. Beyond that, however, I'd better defer to our good friend John T. Powell- - who comments on its historical significance as follows: "During Spain's War of Independence against the occupation forces of Napoleonic France, numerous royalist regiments were raised in the New World and manned by local criollo (creole) officers and men. Most of the new units were equipped partially or wholly by Spain's British allies. Some of these regiments were made up of first-rate troops equal or superior in quality to fixed veteran forces already serving in Spain's colonial empire. Such a unit was the Patriotas Distinguidos de Fernando 7o de México (Distinguished Patriots of Fernando VII of Mexico), formed in 1810 in Mexico City. Some of these buttons are Sheffield silver plated; others, silver foil laminated. In addition to these reportedly recovered in Mississippi, "Distinguished Patriots" buttons have also been found in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. The presence of the men who wore these buttons so far from home, and often well within United States territory, is presently unexplained. It is believed that these troops were engaged in covert operations in southeastern North America, but the nature and outcome of their mission remain to be studied and defined."


Question During a hunt at an Ohio townsite abandoned over 50 years ago, I was surprised to unearth this Illinois Central Railroad baggage tag. The maker is W. W. Wilcox of Chicago. Any idea how old it might be, and how much it might be worth?

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Answer Although some Wilcox tags date from the 1880s and perhaps earlier, my sources say this Illinois Central one is closer to the 1900s. Unfortunately, the long history of the line is of little help in dating the tag. The Illinois Central Railroad was officially chartered by the state in 1851, and when completed in 1856 was the longest railroad in the world at that time. It continued to thrive and expand over the next century or so, and in 1972 merged with the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad to form the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad. After further acquisitions. in 1989 it again became the Illinois Central and was bought by the Canadian National Railway. Incidentally, Illinois Central also diversified into other industries, including bottling, doing business as Whitman Corp. and PepsiAmericas, now a part of Pepsico. Value of the fob? $35-50.


Question I dug this fob or token in Danville, Pennsylvania. One side depicts a seated woman and two children, surrounded by the words, "A Clean Tooth Never Decays." The reverse reads "Presented by the Florence Mfg. Co., Florence, Mass., U.S., Makers of the Pro-phy-lactic Tooth Brush." Any information about it would be appreciated.

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Answer I'm not sure just when this advertising medal was issued, but my best guess would be around 1910-15, as Florence Mfg. Co. ads of that period prominently display the same slogan, "A Clean Tooth Never Decays." The latest date for it would be 1924, as Florence Mfg. changed their name in September of that year to the Prophylactic Brush Co. They began marketing toothbrushes 'way back in 1885, and by the mid 1910s had become the first firm to package toothbrushes in individual sanitary boxes. The medals may have been included with these boxes, but of course they could also have been given away via magazine and newspaper ads, local merchants, dentists, &/or school hygiene programs. In addition to fighting tooth decay, during WWII the company took a stab at something totally different, manufacturing plastic practice bayonets for the U.S. Navy. Despite some oxidation and discoloration, your find should fetch $10-15 or more.


Question Mark, can you tell me anything about this old Sargent lock?

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Answer A pin tumbler type padlock made by Sargent & Co. of New Haven, Connecticut, it dates from the early 1900s, when an ad proudly proclaimed, "No other lock as good! Rustproof and burglar proof, the strongest and most secure padlock ever made! Heavy cast bronze metal [with] two gold plated German silver keys... $1.24." That may not sound like much, but back then it had the same purchasing power as $30 does today. Taking those amounts into account, your lock has just about held its value: the highest price I've seen paid was $34 for one in working condition, complete with the original keys.


Question Detecting at a potato field in eastern Long Island, I found this Roman coin. It's about the size of a U.S. 50¢ piece and appears to be heavily tarnished silver. I would like any information that you may have about it, including its value.

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Answer As ancient and authentic as it may seem at first glance, the letters WRL stamped on both sides identify your coin as a post-1972 copy made by Westair Reproductions, Ltd. of Birmingham, England, a company specializing in replica coins. miniature figures, other metal novelties, and jewelry. A British museum catalogs a similar example as c. 1988-90, and describes the metal as a zinc alloy. This attribution is confirmed by Kerry Wetterstrom, a professional numismatist and editor/publisher of The Celator- -the leading publication for collectors of ancient coins. He identifies the original piece on which yours is modeled as a dupondius, a large bronze coin issued during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, a.k.a. Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (whew!), who ruled from 54 to 68 A.D. Another British firm currently offers copies of this coin for £1.99, or about $3 U.S.


Question While cleaning out an old house, I found this unusual item. It is 9" tall, with a triangular tube mounted on a bracket above a 5" circular base. It is painted gold and has "Argascope" written on the side. There is a lens in the top of the tube, and this lines up with a hole in the base. I tried to research it online but had little luck. Any idea what it might be?

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Answer The G is actually a stylized T, and what you've got is an "Artascope," a type of kaleidoscope sold by Artop Specialities of Rochester, New York in the 1920s. Assorted small items were placed on a revolving tray or turntable (missing from yours), then viewed through the tube, and mirrors within created multiple images for a kaleidoscopic effect. In addition to the golden model, there was a bright red Artascope, and there may have been other finishes as well. It came in a brightly colored box bearing illustrations of the scope, folks of all ages happily peering into it, and representations of the kinds of designs one might see. Complete with box, a very good Artascope can command $75-100+. However, when one like yours- no box or tray- appeared at auction earlier this year, the winning bid was under $10.


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