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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (04/2013) AMP (02/2013) AMP (06/2013)   Vol. 47 April 2013 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the April 2013 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question This silver ingot, bearing a Spanish stamp and weighing 70 grams, was found on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Can you help me find out more about it?

William Ridenour
Blackshear, GA

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Answer No problem! Our thanks to professional numismatist and shipwreck treasure specialist Daniel Frank Sedwick— — who has the answers you’re after:

“This small, fragmentary silver ingot appears to be of the same series as some from a late 1500s wreck off Hutchinson Island on the east coast of Florida, popularly known as the ‘Power Plant Wreck,’ due to its proximity to a nuclear facility on that coast. These ingots are described in the book Spanish Treasure Bars by Craig & Richards (2003), and have been found in that spot for at least the past 60 years. I would be curious to know how one of these ingots wound up in Georgia, because this is the only instance, to my knowledge, of an ingot with this marking having been found anywhere but Hutchinson Island. Pirate involvement is a possibility. All of the ingots bear a crowned cross - lions - castles tax stamp from either Mexico or Santo Domingo, not seen on any other ingots. Because they are small— up to 70 grams or so— they must have been a form of plata corriente (makeshift coins), especially with their official markings to show taxation. The last one we saw, which was 32 grams, sold in our April 2012 auction for $3,200, against an estimate of $500–up.”


Question I dug this button while detecting across the old cart road from a cellar hole in Massachusetts. The front says “Massachusetts Artillery,” and the back is marked “ Gilt / London.” I’d like to know its approximate age and value.

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Answer It’s a scarce variety, c. 1800-1825, listed in Albert’s button book as #MS18A3. As found, with a fair amount of oxidation, little remaining gilt, and shank intact, it would probably retail around $250. However, other excavated examples have fetched as much as $350.


Question I found this buckle about a foot deep at a site in central Massachusetts. It’s cast brass and about 1-3/4" x 3". If possible, please identify it and provide an estimate of value.

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Answer It’s a Sons of Union Veterans (SV) dress sword belt plate dating from the late 19th or early 20th century. Created by the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a society for Union veterans of the Civil War, the Sons of Veterans of the United States of America was founded in 1881. In addition to its association with the GAR, in its early days the SV took on an active military role, serving with state militia units in the Spanish-American War. By the 1900s, however, its emphasis had shifted to patriotic, commemorative, and educational activities. Later renamed the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, today it remains a large and active organization, having been officially incorporated by an act of Congress in 1954. The Latin phrases on the plate— Filii Veteranorum and Gratia Dei Servatus— translate as “Son of a Veteran” and “Preserved by the Grace of God,” respectively. If nondug, in excellent condition and on the original leather, a plate of this type might sell for $100-150. Yours is closer to $50.


Question This little token or medal is about 17 mm in diameter and seems to be made of brass. On one side is an eagle surrounded by 15 stars, similar in style to the one on our Liberty Head $5 gold piece. On the other is the name McDonough. A coin dealer who examined it said that he thought it might be from the Civil War period. What’s your opinion?

Billy Arthur, Jr.
Snow Camp, NC

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Answer It does indeed date from the 1860s or thereabout, and was once considered a Civil War patriotic token, cataloged in Fuld’s book as #500/505. However, it was subsequently delisted, identified instead as a whist marker— a counter type token made for use in a card game popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition to the McDonough variety, at least five others have been reported, all with the same obverse and reverse dies, but bearing other names: Bainbridge, Decatur, Hull, Munro, and Perry. It is thought that they may have been struck in Great Britain for the American market. All are considered rare, and at least some have been rated R8 (only 5-10 known). Whist markers were often supplied in sets of four for use in the Hoyle scoring system. Arranged in a line, left to right, each had a value of 1 point. A piece placed above that line had a value of 3, and one placed below had a value of 5. Despite their rarity, markers of Civil War vintage seldom fetch high prices, and especially singles in dug condition. While a similar Perry marker graded AU brought $250, an equally nice Munro evidently drew no bids at all. According to expert exonumists, unless you're lucky enough to link up with the ultimate collector, this McDonough would likely go for less than $50.


Question Mark, what can you tell me about this watch fob that I found in Dewey, Oklahoma?

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Answer The central design is the insignia of the old U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps. In 1901, the Artillery was divided into Coast and Field Artillery; the two were later reconsolidated by the Army Reorganization Act of 1950, forming the Artillery Arm. Hoping to narrow that time frame further for your fob, I forwarded the photo to professional militaria appraiser John Conway of Manion’s International Auction House— — who commented as follows:

“It’s an interesting piece that appears to have been made from a stock blank, with a Coast Artillery officer’s branch device applied— apparently hand done, as it seems to be just slightly off center. Judging from its size and style, I’d guess that it’s from the mid 1920s at the earliest. What’s it worth? Well, not a lot to a military collector... say, $15-25. Of course, there’s a chance that a watch fob fancier would offer more.”


Question On a hunt with my metal detecting club in Stormville, New York, I came up with this 1919 New York “Licensed Chauffeur” badge. It’s in very good condition, and I know that these badges are collectable. How much is this one worth?

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Answer Although now 94 years old, it’s still comparatively common. Officially, there were 181,632 registrations in 1919, but the highest known badge number for that year is 323582. So, how many were there really? Nobody knows. It turns out that there were multiple offices issuing New York chauffeur’s licenses and badges at that time, and they weren’t handing them out in serial order, either. Until 1912, the badges were undated. Thereafter, their shapes or designs changed annually, as did the colors of their enameling (often matching those used on license plates the same year)— black & white for 1919. Price range? $20-30.


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