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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (08/2011) AMP (06/2011) AMP (10/2011)   Vol. 45 August 2011 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the August 2011 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question My son-in-law found this cap & ball revolver near Holdenville, Oklahoma. Is it a reproduction or an original? Either way, we would like to know the manufacturer, what year it was made, and how much it might be worth. Can you help us?

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Answer It may look as if it's been lost almost 150 years, but the marks struck on its brass frame tell a different tale. From left to right, the first is a provisional Gardone proof mark, and the second is a Gardone and Brescia black powder proof mark. PN stands for polvere nera- Italian for "black powder." Gardone and Brescia are not manufacturers, but locations in Italy. XX7 is the year of proof... 1971. Another of the photos you submitted shows a maker's mark (too dark to be printed here) identifying it as a replica made by, or for, Navy Arms of Ridgefield, New Jersey. Over the years they imported arms from a number of manufacturers, notably Pietta. This appears to be their Model 1860 replica of the Griswold & Gunnison revolver, a Confederate firearm modeled on the Navy Colt. Back in the 1970s, it retailed for $60; today, nondug and in good condition, maybe twice as much. As for this one, just hang it on the wall and enjoy it! (And the value of an original Griswold & Gunnison? $20K!)


Question Mark, can you identify this little button with a locomotive on it? It's 9/16" in diameter, has a "Rich Color" backmark, and the shank is intact.

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Answer Collectors call these gilt-brass waistcoat buttons "Jacksonians," since their period of popularity coincides with President Andrew Jackson's term of office- 1829-37. Notable for their small size and thick, applied rim, most feature floral, sporting, or patriotic motifs. The locomotive variety is comparatively scarce. In the U.S., steam locomotives first appeared around 1829-30, when the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad built the Tom Thumb, and the South Carolina Railroad rolled out the Best Friend. So, this c. 1830s-40s button was surely among the first of its kind to "go loco." Incidentally, it was not made for use on railroad uniforms, as some have suggested, but simply designed to appeal to a public enthralled by a new and exciting mode of transportation. I found a couple listed at $75-80, but would expect this one to fetch a few dollars less... maybe $60-70.


Question Do you know the age and value of this railroad lock? The shackle is stamped "FRISCO-S"; the keyhole cover, "MANF'D BY / NATIONAL BRASS MFG. / - CO. - / KANSAS CITY, U.S.A."

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Answer This was the standard switch lock of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, better known as the Frisco, in the early 1900s. In 1978 the Frisco became part of the Burlington Northern Railroad, which later merged with the Santa Fe Railroad to create the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) Railway in 1995. The maker of the lock, the National Brass Mfg. Co. of Kansas City, Missouri, was described in a 1901 trade publication as a supplier of "railroad lanterns, car and locomotive brasses, bronze castings, etc." It was acquired by the Prier Brass Mfg. Co.. also of Kansas City, in 1906, but a statement assured customers that, "The manufacture of lantern and railroad brass work will be continued as heretofore." National Brass lanterns are especially collectable, and their locks, although a little more common, are very desirable as well. Yours is worth $100-125, according to Sue Knous- - author of Railroadiana II - The Official Price Guide.


Question Unearthed in Lake Charles, Louisiana, this looped medal (?) has a World War I soldier on one side, and on the other the inscription, "VERDUN 1914-1918. On ne passe pas! " Inside a small circle is a building or monument, along with, "OSSUAIRE DE DOUAUMONT." Actual size is about 1-3/4" (2-1/4" with the loop and ring) long x 1/2" - 3/4" wide. Can you tell me something about its history and value?

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Answer Probably issued in the late 1920s or '30s, it commemorates the Battle of Verdun and the Douaumont Ossuary. The Battle of Verdun, one of the longest and most horrific in human history, took place between French and German troops from February 21, 1916 to December 18, 1916. During that time, some 40 million artillery rounds were exchanged, and at least 306,000 men lost their lives- an average of 1,000 per day for nearly ten months. During the battle, French General Robert Nivelle is said to have vowed, "On ne passe pas," French for "They shall not pass," although some have attributed those words to his commander, Philippe Pétain. Built between 1920 and 1932, and located in Douaumont, France, within the Verdun battlefield. the Ossuaire de Douaumont, or Douaumont Ossuary, is a memorial containing the remains of 130,000 unknown French and German soldiers who fell on the fields of Verdun. Your find may have been suspended from a ribbon and awarded to veterans at some event held there, or it could be just one of the many souvenir items available for purchase by visitors to the memorial, battlefield, and surrounding region. I couldn't locate any current or recent price listings for it, but other Verdun souvenir medals, fobs, pins, etc. are typically in the $25-50 range.


Question This medal belongs to a friend from Romania. It's bronze and fairly large- 65 mm, or a little over 2-1/2". The obverse shows two men, with the surrounding inscription, "PRIVILEGIRTE OESTERREICHISCHE NATIONALBANK 1 JUNI 1816." On the reverse, within a wreath are these words: "FRANCISCUS I KALENDIS IUNIIS A MDCCCXVI CONBDIDIT FRANCISCO IOSEPHO I ANNUM LXVIII SUMMA GLORIA REGNANTE SAECULARIA ORIGINIS ACTA SUNT MCMXVI." We have taken it to a number of coin shows, hoping that someone might recognize it, but so far it remains unidentified. Can you tell us what it is, or at least give us a clue or two?

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Answer It's a commemorative medal issued for the centennial of the National Bank of Austria. Designed and engraved by Prof. Stefan Schwartz, it was struck in Berlin, Germany. The obverse depicts finance minister Graf von Stadion receiving a charter for the bank from Emperor Francis I on June 1, 1816, and the related reverse inscription also honors Emperor Franz Josef I, "now in the 68th year of his glorious reign." (As it turned out, it was his final year as well.) While at least one dealer optimistically offered this piece at $125, I found several Extremely Fine examples tagged at $25-30.


Question While cleaning out an old garage, I came across a box of junk, and in it was this pin or badge from the "5th Annual Los Angeles Open - 1930." In the center is a golfer wearing knickers. What can you tell me about it?

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Answer The Los Angeles Open (now the Northern Trust Open) was first held in 1926, at the Los Angeles Country Club. The local Junior Chamber of Commerce put up a $10,000 purse for it, at that time the richest prize in professional golf. In succeeding years, the event was hosted by other area country clubs, and in 1929-30 it moved to the Riviera Country Club. The 1929 tournament was the first golf tournament ever broadcast on radio. The L. A. Open again made news in 1938, when "Babe" Didrickson Zaharias became the first woman ever to play in a PGA event for men. In 1930, the year your badge was issued, the tournament winner was Denny Schute. This year, top honors went to American-born Australian Aaron Baddeley, who walked away with $1.17 million. Evidently, L. A. Open badges are of limited interest to collectors. In a recent auction, one like yours (but with red paint or enamel remaining in the outer ring) drew only four bids. The highest, $22.39, was below the reserve; so, the badge remained unsold.


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