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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (02/2011) AMP (12/2010) AMP (04/2011)   Vol. 45 February 2011 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the February 2011 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question My brothers and I recovered four cannonballs, some musketballs, five Revolutionary War buttons, and this bayonet at a site along the Hudson River in upstate New York. The bayonet is 20-1/2" long and triangular. There are no markings on it that we can see. Can you tell us if it's from the same period as the other relics, and also its value?

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Answer Getting right to the point... yes, and yes. Your find appears to be a late 18th century Brown Bess bayonet. The land pattern .75 caliber flintlock musket popularly known as the Brown Bess was the standard-issue arm of British infantrymen for more than a century, until it was finally phased out in favor of a percussion version in 1838. American copies of both musket and bayonet saw widespread use in the Revolutionary War as well. (There are also later copies, some of which now date back more than a century.) Today, original bayonets in good condition are available in the $150-250+ price range.


Question A friend and I were working an old mining camp, and he found a barrel hoop with this ornate 3" brass plate riveted to it. In the points of the star are "G," "R," "& Co.," "Estd," "1854," and "Phila," with "Trade" and "Mark" on either side. The design in the center looks like grain stalks, a flower, and a ribbon or banner with several letters: "- - RUS." I've tried researching Philadelphia manufacturers with the initials "G. R.," and all sorts of companies whose products would have been shipped in barrels: breweries, flour mills, and even pickle plants- all to no avail. Any help in identifying the firm and its goods would be appreciated.

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Answer It's the trademark of Rosskam, Gerstley & Co., a Philadelphia distillery. A late 1800s business publication named Louis & William Rosskam and Isaac Gerstley as owners. The illegible word on the banner of the logo is Verus, Latin for "genuine" or "true." Among their many malt and rye whiskies were brands such as "Keystone Monogram," "Old Saratoga," "Old Emperor," "Three Lilies," "Top of the Morning," and "Pat Hand." They maintained their own barrel factory, and in the early 1900s this became a subject of considerable contention with the Coopers International Union of North America, since Rosskam & Gerstley employed nonunion coopers. The company remained active until 1921, when (pun unavoidable) it went into liquidation. I have no information about the value of this item, but it should add plenty of interest to a display of relics from the camp where it was found.


Question Detecting in the Saginaw, Michigan area, I dug this 1" octagonal brass tag stamped "LICENSED 93 W. BAY CITY" on the front and "172" on the back. Is it an old dog license tag?

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Answer Indeed it is, and a doggone good one, too! Your 1893 tag from West Bay City, Michigan, evidently the first reported, could command $150-200 or more, retail. In those days, Bay City was bound by the east bank of the Saginaw River, with West Bay City flourishing on the other side. The two eventually merged in 1905. Census records indicate that West Bay City had a population of 12,081 in 1890, and a city directory from the same year lists one Martin Heath as pound master, of whom tagless tail-waggers might well beware. Let's hope that when #172 found himself in the doghouse, it was his own.

Special thanks to Dr. Bill Bone, author of the definitive U. S. Dog License Tags & Related Exonumia.


Question I found this "Palace of Liberal Arts" piece in Minot, North Dakota some time ago. It's dated 1904, about dime-size, and silver in color, although definitely not silver. What is it, and what's it worth?

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Answer This diminutive medalet, struck in aluminum and also in brass, is a souvenir of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (world's fair) held in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. A similar but slightly larger medal was struck in nickel-plated brass. Values range from $5 to $25, depending on the usual factors: condition, collector interest, etc. Despite its sharp details, this one's probably around $7-12 due to oxidation issues. As for the expo, it boasted 15 major exhibition palaces, and the Palace of Liberal Arts, a nine-acre architectural wonder with soaring 90' arched entrances leading to seemingly limitless "treasures of science, art, and industries," lured more than its share of an estimated 20 million visitors.


Question This "US" military belt plate was found by a fellow club member here in northern California. The tongue is intact on an unmarked back. I believe it to be authentic but would like to have it confirmed.

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Answer In 1872, Col. P. V. Hagner had what he thought was a fine idea- an elaborate belt & suspenders brace system for cavalry (and later infantry) troops. Unfortunately, reports from the field soon made it clear that few shared his enthusiasm. They did, however, like the handsome "US"-in-oval belt plate which was part of it, and as late as 1902 it was worn as a garrison dress plate. In the brief interval before Hagner's proposed system was rejected, some plates and keepers had integrally cast suspender loops at the top; but most of the plates have only a cast loop on one side, and a looped keeper which hooks onto the tongue. Examples like this one, missing the keeper, can fetch as much as $100-150.


Question During a hunt at Gaspee Point, Rhode Island, this little pin came to light. About an inch in length, it's marked "NY - Paris" on the wings, "Spirit of St. Louis" on the body, and "N-X-211" on the tail. The pin is intact on the back, but the catch later fell off. Can you tell me something about these pins? Do they have any value?

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Answer Your Spirit of St. Louis pin is one of many such figural pins issued in 1927, depicting the plane piloted by Lindbergh in his epic transatlantic flight. While some were simply retail novelty items sold by shops and mail order firms, others were offered as souvenirs at Lindbergh's many personal appearances. This particular variety typically retails for $20-30+. Propelled not only to Paris but also to almost unparalleled popularity in his own day, Lindbergh remains a seminal figure in aviation history, and almost anything relating to him and his Spirit of St. Louis is highly collectable.


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