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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2011) AMP (08/2011) AMP (12/2011)   Vol. 45 October 2011 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the October 2011 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found this pewter Indian. On the front is, "Society of Colonial Wars "; and on the back, "Black Starr Frost. " I haven't had any luck trying to research it. What can you tell me about it?

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Answer The Society of Colonial Wars, founded in 1892, is an organization for males over 18 who are lineal descendants of military personnel or elected officials who served in the Colonies which later became the United States, between May 13, 1607 (settlement of Jamestown) and April 19, 1775 (Battle of Lexington). Today the General Society comprises 32 state societies, with total membership said to be around 4,000-4,500. A 6" pewter statuette similar to yours was found in Connecticut over 60 years ago, and eventually was purchased by the state society there. It was made by a New York City jewelry & metalware firm which operated under the name of Black, Starr & Frost between 1876 and 1929, when it merged with the Gorham Corporation. So far I've found no other records of this item or any valuation for it. Despite some evident cracking, it still displays well and should be of interest to any collector having ties to the Society.


Question This thing was in a box of stuff in an old closet. It's about 2-1/2" across, weighs a little over 3 oz., and seems to be made of cast iron. (A magnet sticks to it.) What is it, how old is it, and what's it worth?

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Answer It raises a number of points... and particularly points of contention. There are those who unhesitatingly identify it as a Civil War caltrop, a spiky iron menace made to be strewn in the path of advancing horses. Others dispute this, insisting that a true caltrop would have only four points, one of which would be pointing straight up when it was at rest. What you've got, according to them, is more likely an oversize jackstone, from some Brobdingnagian version of the familiar game of jacks. The problem is, apparently neither side has any airtight proof to offer. It's been asserted that not a single reference to caltrops can be found in the many volumes of the Official Records of the Civil War. Then again, while there are plenty of images of 19th century children with their toys, so far no one's come up with a tintype showing a happy youngster surrounded by a cluster of sharp-pointed giant jacks. And so the argument rages on, ad infinitum. Count me out. What I can tell you is that those who are convinced that "caltrop " is correct have often bought and sold examples of this size for $75-100+.


Question Mark, can you identify this token? It's a little bigger than a nickel and looks like pewter. One side has "CONTINENTAL 1776 - 1876 " and shows a Continental soldier. The other side has, "J. REED / * ONE PRICE CLOTHING * " and "S. E. COR . / SECOND / & / SPRUCE / STS / PHILAD. " It's a little rough and probably not worth a lot, but I'd still like to know its history.

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Answer This is one of about a dozen commemorative varieties issued in observance of the U.S. Centennial by the Jacob Reed clothing & dry goods company of Philadelphia in 1876. Reed, a tailor who also traded in Army & Navy goods, was in business at least as early as 1824, closed shop for a time in the 1860s, returned to trade after the Civil War, and was eventually succeeded by his sons. If it were in Fine to Very Fine condition, your token would be worth $10-15. Unfortunately, it's struck in white metal, a pewter-like alloy which, as you've discovered, oxidizes easily and is usually doomed to deterioration, if not utter destruction, in most ground conditions.


Question I dug this baggage tag right next to the tracks of a railroad line between Waynesboro and Millen, Georgia. Can you give me some information about it, including what the initials stand for?

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Answer Before it arrived at the depot, it was down at the dock. It's a baggage tag, all right, but "M. & M. T. Co. " is the mark of the Merchants' & Miners' Transportation Company, a Baltimore-based cargo & steamship line which enjoyed a hundred-year run, beginning in 1852. In the postwar era it gradually expanded its routes all along the East Coast. Briefly, in the 1920s and '30s, it even ventured as far afloat as Havana and the Bahamas. Since it was found in Georgia, I suspect that your tag dates a little after 1900, when the company opened a line between Philadelphia and Savannah. Value? $50+.


Question I found this "JAMESTOWN TERCENTENNIAL EXPOSITION 1607 - 1907 " badge at an old home site in Norfolk, Virginia. The pin is missing from the back, which is marked "WHITEHEAD & HOAG CO., NEWARK, N.J. " Do you know what it was used for, and whether it could be tied to a specific person?

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Answer The few listings that I've seen for it describe it as an "employee's badge "; however, badges of this sort were sometimes worn by authorized vendors at major expositions, too. At any rate, even with the pin missing it's worth $60-75. As far as I know, there is no searchable database which would enable you to identify the individual to whom the badge was issued. For those unfamiliar with the Jamestown Exposition, it was a world's fair held at Sewell's Point on Hampton Roads, Norfolk, Virginia from April 26 to December 1, 1907. Although it boasted many attractions, and had such distinguished visitors as President Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Booker T. Washington, attendance was far below expectations (three million rather than the predicted six million). It fell short of projected revenues, too, to the tune $2.5 million in debt, and ended up in receivership. The day after it officially closed, the New York Times declared it to be, "...the most colossal failure in the history of exhibitions. " Nevertheless, it had its moments, and only a decade later a new chapter in its history began when the expo site was selected as the location of the Naval Air Station Hampton Roads.


Question What is the age of this 44¢ Orlando, Florida "Mayer's Candy Kitchen " token? It's 35mm and made of brass.

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Answer While researching your find, I came across a January 26, 1915 issue of the Orlando Morning Sentinel naming Mayer's Candy Kitchen as one of the merchants contributing to an upcoming "monster civic parade." So, 1910s seemed a reasonable guess. From there Florida tokens specialist Steve Ratliff helped tighten the date range a bit further, noting that, "The company first shows up in the 1914 directory as 'Mayer Galentin - Mayer Confectioner and Candy.' In the 1918 edition it appears as "Mayer Candy Company' (unincorporated), and then disappears in the 1919 directory. " As for the odd denomination of 44¢, Steve theorizes, "I guess they made it to match the price of a candy package, or maybe they were just being cute! They had 28¢, 39¢, and 50¢ tokens, too, and those three are listed in Clark's book, Florida Tokens. " Today, your 44¢ find could command as much as $100.

Readers are invited to get in touch with Steve about other old and unusual Florida tokens at Also, be sure to check out his website:


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