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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (12/2012) AMP (10/2012) AMP (02/2013)   Vol. 46 December 2012 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the December 2012 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I pulled this token out of a little park in St. Helena, California. It’s from the Saratoga Saloon in St. Helena, and good for one drink or cigar. I’ve seen similar tokens before, but none exactly like the one I found. Do you have any information on it?

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Answer Although other varieties from the same saloon have been reported, yours puts a new page in the book. According to California tokens specialist Ron Lerch—— “It’s definitely an unlisted piece and, even in this condition, likely to bring $300 or so.” Previously documented tokens from the saloon suggest that it dates from the late 1800s or early 1900s. Two varieties identify the proprietor as C. Q. Vest, and I found records describing him as a saloon keeper in 1896. Another token, naming R. D. Graham as proprietor, also bears the name of the maker, Patrick & Co., a San Francisco firm founded by James M. Patrick in 1893. Check with nearby libraries and historical societies, and you may find more of the answers you’re after in local and regional histories, old newspapers, business directories, etc.


Question Mark, can you tell me the age and value of this International Harvester Corporation watch fob? The front shows a bronc buster, and the back lists various machines made by the company.

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Answer International Harvester’s long and legendary ride began in 1902. In those days nobody could cobble together corporations like J. P. Morgan, and he was in rare form when he combined the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, Deering Harvester Company, and a few smaller firms to create IHC. A clue to the age of your find appears near the bottom of the reverse: “Auto Buggies.” The first Auto Buggy rolled out in 1907, and the last in 1916; so, that would seem to be the time frame for this advertising fob, too. All early IHC fobs are highly collectable, and I’ve seen this one sell for well over $200. Of course, that’s an open invitation to imitation; and believe me, the fakers didn’t let us down. Is yours the real deal or merely one of innumerable knockoffs? Honestly, only an in-hand inspection by a fob expert can answer that question, but it looks pretty good from here.


Question This token is about the size of a penny. On one side it says, “United We Stand. Divided We Fall” and there is a thistle in the center. The other side says, “Drugs, Dry Goods, Groceries, Hardware & Notions.” How old is it, what was it used for, and how much is it worth? Also, what does it mean by “Notions”?

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Answer During the Civil War, when widespread hoarding resulted in a serious shortage of coins, many merchants resorted to tokens in order to keep business brisk. With a few exceptions, the tokens were generally valued at 1¢. Some were custom made and carried the merchant’s name, trade message, and location; these are known as store cards. Others were stock (generic) tokens, displaying flags, eagles, shields, Liberty, etc., but carrying no advertising, and are classified as patriotic tokens. Technically, yours is in the latter category, but it’s also what collectors call a “half card”— that is, it refers to goods or services, but not to a specific merchant or location. According to some sources, it was struck by the Waterbury Button Co. It’s a common Civil War token, rated R1 (over 5,000 known) in copper, and R3 (500-2,000 known) in brass; and it’s worth $15-25+ in VF-XF condition. “Notions” refers to small household items, especially those related to sewing... things like pins & needles, buttons, and thread.


Question I found this stamped brass object, along with a Civil War uniform button, at a location in northern California. At the top is an eagle, with the dates 1776 and 1876. Please identify it if possible.

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Answer Well, I won’t keep you in suspense... it’s a Centennial suspenders buckle. In 1876, Americans were unapologetically patriotic and couldn’t wait to celebrate the nation’s 100th birthday. Back then men wore suspenders, and wore them in style. So, it was only natural that Centennial suspenders became part of the big celebration. In fact, visitors to the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia that year were invited to stop by the National Suspender Company’s exhibit in Machinery Hall and order a pair of custom suspenders with the wearer’s name boldly woven right into the straps. Another manufacturer, West, Bradley & Cary, proudly promoted a special Centennial version of their Duplex Metallic End suspenders. Most of these buckles or clips bore patriotic symbols; however, some had military motifs, and one depicted a Minuteman. The dates 1776 and 1876 were a common feature as well. Value? Although I know of a few that fetched $35+, and have recently seen one or two tagged that high, a real-world relic price would be $10-15.


Question This little aluminum bell-shaped tag reads, “Dr. Bell’s Pine Tar Honey Cures Coughs” on both sides. Know anything about it, including how old, rare, or valuable it might be?

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Answer It was originally attached to a few links of chain, at the other end of which was a plain wire stickpin. The hole in the clapper was added later. E. E. Sutherland of Paducah, Kentucky was “the originator and sole manufacturer of Dr. Bell’s Pine Tar Honey,” a patent medicine which contained not only pine tar but assorted alkaloids, ammonia, capsicum (the hot stuff in jalapeños), glycerin, sassafras, sugar, and miscellaneous chemical delights. Tasty? Check out the smile on the face of this young satisfied customer, who’s sporting a bell just like yours.

Actually, that happens to be a photo of my Uncle Joe, taken in 1904, and thus gives us a fair idea of the item’s age. Note also the word cures. For years Dr. Bell’s claimed to cure not only coughs but even whooping cough, grippe (flu), and incipient consumption (early stage tuberculosis). Passage of the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906 paved the way for a crackdown on quackery, and the Shirley Amendment of 1912 prohibited false and misleading claims, including use of the word cure in such cases. So, your find is over 100 years old. A complete Dr. Bell’s stickpin can be worth $15-20; the bell drop alone, usually $5 or less.


Question I dug this Remington Phonograph Corporation “Model 1” nameplate near an old cellar hole in Rhode Island. In the center is a man’s portrait, with the signature “P. E. Remington” below. Information, please!

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Answer Grandson and son of the founders of the Remington firearms and typewriter companies, respectively, Philo E. Remington decided to do a little trailblazing of his own in 1920, founding the Remington Phonograph Corporation. He also acquired a record company, Olympic, and trademarked (but apparently never used) another record label, Reminola. In a letter to Presto magazine, Remington declared that he had “succeeded in producing a phonograph worthy of the Remington name” and “brought the phonograph much nearer to the goal of perfection than has ever been done before.” Bold claims, but the problem was that he was just a little late to the dance. Facing stiff competition from well-established companies such as Edison and Victor, as well as a host of other ambitious newcomers, by late 1921 the company had failed. An attempted reorganization as the Remington Radio Corporation in 1922 ended when Remington and other company officials found themselves facing stock fraud charges. The plate that you found was mounted inside the Model 1, behind the turntable. The hand-cranked Model 1 had an internal horn and was housed in a handsome wooden cabinet having cabriole legs and an ornate fretwork grille. The plate alone has little value, of course, unless needed for restoration; but it still has a story to tell.


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