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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (04/2012) AMP (02/2012) AMP (06/2012)   Vol. 46 April 2012 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the April 2012 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Only my second silver dollar in 30 years of detecting, this 1922 Peace dollar looks as if it has been stamped or “popped,” so that the head of Liberty is bursting through it, standing out about half an inch from the background. I tried to research it online but could find nothing like it. While I know that it probably has no numismatic value after what’s been done to it, I’m guessing that it is worth more than silver content alone. Can you advise me?

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Answer Exactly when and by whom repoussé or “popout” coins were first made is the subject of some speculation and dispute, but two early patents offer a clue- one for the concept or process (#735891), granted to William Malliet in 1903; and another for dies used to create them (#775826), to George Keppler in 1904. U.S. coin denominations all the way up to $20 gold pieces have been used as popout “host coins”; however, silver coins, and especially the Barber series, were often favored. Originally, Art Nouveau style Liberty heads were the image of choice, but there are popouts depicting presidents, royalty, children, Indian chiefs, human skulls, horses and other animals, hand religious and fraternal symbols as well. Due to heavy demand and the inherent expense of using real coins, faux popouts were also produced in quantity for use in fashion and jewelry. They’re still being struck today, by the way. Genuine, vintage popouts are highly collectable, and your prize could easily carry a $150 price tag... about 4-5 times as much as an unaltered 1922 Peace dollar in circulated condition.


Question I dug this old lock in Denver, Colorado. It is solid brass, 1-3/8" x 2", and has “ST. LOUIS” on both sides. Any information, including value, would be helpful.

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Answer Your warded padlock dates from the early 1900s, and although there are no maker’s marks, the style is very similar to that of locks made by the E. T. Fraim Co. of Lancaster, PennsylvaniAs for the “St. Louis” name, it’s been suggested that this is one of a number of locks issued to cash in on the enormous interest and enthusiasm surrounding the St. Louis World’s Fair, or Louisiana Purchase Exposition, held in 1904. However, purists protest that a true commemorative ought to carry the word FAIR or EXPOSITION, or at least the date 1904. At any rate, it’s a fairly common but collectable little item, usually retailing around $20.


Question Can you identify this mysterious button for me? There is a portrait of a uniformed man in the center, and the border is formed by the head and wings of an eagle. It is almost fully gilt, and the shank is intact.

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Answer For readers who suspect (quite rightly!) that my memory’s, well, sometimes suspect, too... yes, you have seen a button like this one before. In fact, that’s the problem. In the years since it last appeared here I’ve seen lots of them, often misidentified; so, maybe it’s time for a quick refresher. First, despite the opinings of oracles elsewhere, this is not a U.S. or foreign military button- or a cadet button- or a sweetheart button- or any sort of organizational button. It’s a post-1900 lady’s fashion button, and the man depicted on it is (gasp!) actually a woman. Say hello to Sarah Bernhardt (“The Divine Sarah”) in her celebrated role as the young Napoleon II, in Edmond Rostand’s play L’Aiglon, which was written expressly for her and premiered in 1900. Son of Napoleon Bonaparte and his second wife, Marie Louise of Austria, the young emperor lived almost his entire, lamentably short life in exile, dying of tuberculosis at 21. The title of the six-act tragedy comes from his nickname, L’Aiglon, “The Eaglet.” But enough about that. These buttons are found in at least two sizes, 3/4" and 1-3/8", worth $7-12 and $25-30, respectively. There are also two-tone varieties in silver & gold finish, and dress/sash buckles of much the same design.


Question I need your help on a BRYAN watch fob that I found. It’s shaped sort of like a suitcase, and on the “handle” is GREENDUCK CO. CHI. Got any info about it?

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Answer It’s from the 1908 presidential campaign of the perennially optimistic and persistent William Jennings Bryan. A gifted orator, Bryan gained national fame as a political “stump speaker,” but his eloquence wasn’t enough to elevate him to the Oval Office. Nominated as the Democrat candidate in 1896, he was soundly defeated by his Republican opponent, William McKinley. They put on the gloves again in 1900, and McKinley scored another knockout. By 1908, Bryan was ready to take on the Republicans once more, stepping in against William Howard Taft, a candidate hand-picked by President Theodore Roosevelt as his successor. (Rather than seek a second term, Roosevelt opted instead for an extended African safari.) Tipping the scales at over 350 lbs., Taft was no lightweight, politically or otherwise, and promptly handed Bryan his worst defeat yet: 321-162 electoral votes. There are quite a few fobs from all three campaigns, but yours can be confidently attributed to 1908, since the Greenduck Co. of Chicago wasn’t founded until 1906. Value? $30-35+.


Question Okay, Mark, I’ve got a tough one for you! On both sides of a c. 1920s bronze vase are two logos, the same as shown in the photo. To me, it looks sort of like a college frat pin, but who knows? Also, at the bottom of the wreath there are three letters: AXI. Any ideas?

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Answer Trust your fraternal instincts! Check the AXI again, and I think you’ll find that it’s AX∑- Alpha Sigma Chi, the national professional chemistry fraternity. First organized by a group of undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin in 1902, it now boasts about 64,000 members, both collegiate and professional, nationwide. On the heraldic bend, or diagonal band, are alchemical symbols for the “Seven Metals of the Ancients”: gold, silver, iron, mercury, tin, copper and lead. These correspond to seven celestial bodies or deities (the sun, Sol; moon, Luna; Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn), and to the days of the week. Certain other symbols’ significance is revealed only upon initiation into the fraternity. Obviously, a valuation of the vase is impossible without additional information and photos.


Question This unusual ring was recovered some time ago by a friend detecting in New England. It has three different colors of metal, and multicolored enameling on the headdress. I have looked everywhere, hoping to identify it, and am now hoping that you can shed some light on its origin and worth.

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Answer Your friend’s find appears to be one of the c. 1930s-50s Mexican souvenir rings commonly referred to as “Mexican biker rings,” and sometimes as “fighting rings.” Popular designs included Indian chiefs, Aztecs, skulls, horse heads, and horseshoes. Although occasionally seen in solid silver and even gold, these massive rings are usually made of a silver- or gold-toned base metal alloy, with notched borders and applied ornaments of contrasting metal colors on the top and sides. Some feature inlaid or enameled designs. Made for the tourist trade, they were also popular with servicemen, who bought them in border gift shops. Rings of the same sort were sometime sold in mail order novelty catalogs such as those of Johnson Smith. Today they can easily fetch $50-100, and some skull rings bring $350-500+. Sterling silver and karat-gold examples are, of course, more valuable as well.


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