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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (02/2012) AMP (12/2011) AMP (04/2012)   Vol. 46 February 2012 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the February 2012 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question A friend of mine just came over with this bayonet & scabbard. Can you identify them for us? Also, what kind of money are we talking?

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Answer They're for an Indian Wars period (c. 1870s or later) Springfield "trapdoor" rifle. Shop around, especially on the internet, and you'll likely find a few excitingly high price tags for them, but the real-world retail value of your friend's rig is under $150. If someone insists that it's worth far more, fine and dandy- but be sure to get his written estimate in the form of a cashier's check! Incidentally, other readers might also like to know that the U.S. rosette on the leather scabbard "frog" is sometimes misidentified, or deliberately misrepresented, as a Civil War period cavalry rosette. So, if you're just getting into collecting, be careful out there.


Question At first I thought that this was a portable inkwell (the wires look like a pen rest), but the inside has some felt padding, and the ink would leak out. The base is 1-3/4" x 3-1/4", and it's 2-1/8" tall when unfolded. The metal appears to be plated brass, and the base says, "PAT. OCT. 30. 1888" What is it... any idea?

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Answer Well, Frederick A. Frick had an idea anyway. On the stated date in 1888, the Rochester, New York inventor was granted a patent for this little gem, officially listed as a "Heater for Curling-Irons." In an application filed the previous year, Frick proudly proclaimed, "In practical use my improved heater for curling-irons will be found exceedingly convenient and highly efficient. It is also cheap in construction, not liable to get out of order, and so light and portable as to be readily carried from place to place, while its construction prevents the accidental spilling of the alcohol." Compact, clean burning, oh-so-convenient, and no singed or sooty locks... could milady ask for anything more? Although this example seems to be missing a slotted insert that went over the wick, it's still an appealing Victorian "small" which should fetch $35-50.


Question I found this brass tag at the former site of Paulville, Missouri, a town that was later moved and renamed Brashear in 1872. I know it's not too clear in the photo, but the tag has an eagle on it, with a banner or ribbon beneath stamped, "THOMAS LEGAN / PAULVILLE / MO."; and on the back "FARMER / & F. M." What can you tell me about it?

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Answer Identification tags of this type have been around for nearly 150 years, and the eagle variety is one of the most common. At one time they were worth only a few dollars at most, but lately I've seen them bring $15-20. Of course, someone with a special interest in the individual or locality named on the tag might offer two or three times that amount. As for Thomas Legan, he was born in Franklin, Indiana in 1831, the son of Daniel and Frances Legan, and was still living there at least as late as 1860. By 1870 he had relocated to Paulville, Missouri, where at age 38 he resided with his wife, Sarah (née McQuin), also 38, and their six children- John, 16; Jane, 14; Martha, 10; Francis, 5; Adelia, 3; and Amelia, 2 months. Newton McQuin, 27 (evidently Sarah's relative, perhaps her brother), also lived with the family. Census records list Legan's occupation as "farmer," which of course corresponds with the information on the tag. By 1880, he had moved to Kirksville, Missouri, where census records list him as a "laborer" rather than farmer. I'm not certain what "F. M." on the tag stands for, but it may identify Legan as a Freemason. In fact "F. M." was sometimes used on tags in that manner, as a shortened form of AAOFM (Ancient & Accepted Order of Free Masons). I do know that a Masonic lodge was established in Paulville in 1869, although I couldn't find any specific reference to Legan as a member. At any rate, maybe this information will enable you to research the tag further.


Question Mark, I need your help in identifying this Scovill brass button. It has the Latin words "AMAT VICTORIA CURAM" around a monogram composed of the letters " B M A." I found a translation for the Latin: "Victory loves care," i.e. "Victory favors those who carefully prepare." But what is "BMA"?

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Answer What you've got is a cadet's uniform button from the Brooks Military Academy, a Cleveland, Ohio college prep school for boys and young men age 7-20. Founded in 1874, the academy was named in honor of the Rev. Frederick Brooks, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, who had long dreamed of establishing such an institution. Also known at various times as Brooks Academy, Brooks School, Brooks Military School, and Brooks Academy & Military Institute, it survived for only 17 years, closing its doors for the last time in 1891. (A better fate awaited its distaff Brooks School for Young Ladies and Misses. Founded in 1876. and later renamed the Hathaway Brown School, it continues to flourish today.) Value of the button? $8-12.


Question I'm hoping you can tell me something- anything- about this big brass token or medal that I dug next door to a courthouse built over 150 years ago. The front reads, "THE GREAT LOUISIANA GOLD MINE" and depicts a prospector holding a gold pan. Beneath, near the edge, are the initials "H A S." On the reverse is, "$ 100 / SER. NO. 605." I've taken it to a club meeting and posted it on several forums, but still haven't been able to learning anything about it. Can you help?

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Answer Will you settle for, "Sort of"? So far, I've found nothing about this particular medal, but I can offer a clue or two about its age and origin. "H A S" is the mark of Henry Alvin Sharpe (1910-1982), a multi-talented and intriguing man who was a ship's captain, patriot, poet, muralist, engraver, entrepreneur, and undoubtedly more. He is perhaps best known as the inventor of the colorful Mardi Gras doubloons, literally millions of which have been tossed to parade crowds and party revelers in the Crescent City. Sharpe seems to have begun designing and engraving medals in earnest sometime around 1956, when he opened an art studio in New Orleans' French Quarter- and certainly by late 1959, when he created his first "doubloons." He is also recognized for his reverse intaglio die work on the U.S. Mint's 1967 Mississippi Sesquicentennial medal. Leading dealer Rich Hartzog- - reports that Sharpe has a solid following among collectors, and even as dug this piece could easily retail for $15-20+.

Read the update!


Question I hope you will be able to shed some light on this brass object found at an old homesite in Savannah, Georgia. I thought it to be a water nozzle at first, but the base has no threads- only three holes in the side. It measures 3-5/8" in length, and 1" in diameter at the base. What is it?

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Answer It is indeed a nozzle... not for use with a hose and water, but to direct the air forced from a pair of fireplace bellows:

It's difficult to estimate the age of this item, as they remained largely unchanged for well over a century, but it might very well date from the mid 1800s. (The bellows shown below are attributed as c. 1840.) Although yours is admittedly an unusual find, it has relatively little monetary value unless you can find someone seeking it for restoration purposes.


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