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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2013) AMP (08/2013) AMP (12/2013)   Vol. 47 October 2013 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the October 2013 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Mark, I believe that this baggage tag is from the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad. I found it at a horse pasture in Symmes Township, Ohio, when my detector got a strong “quarter” ID reading under a barbed wire fence. Can you tell me what it is made of and what it might be worth? Thanks for any information you can provide.

Lydia Hirsh
Cincinnati, OH

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Answer It appears to be a “local” tag (as indicated by the star at the bottom), issued for use on the line between Cincinnati and Chillicothe, Ohio. The Belpre & Cincinnati Railroad, established in 1845, became the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad in 1851. Although bankrupt by 1857, it was sold and reorganized in 1860, and after a couple of fairly prosperous decades was purchased by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. By 1882-83 it was known as the Cincinnati, Washington & Baltimore Railroad. The earliest date for your tag would be 1852, when the M & C RR entered Chillicothe. The arced lettering, ornate serifs, and distinctive style of star are all characteristic of c. 1850s-60s tags, which are typically stamped brass or copper. Value? Sue Knous, author of Railroadiana II - The Official Price Guide, says, “That’s a nice, early tag. I would estimate its retail value at $150-200, but then, in the right arena... who knows?”


Question This old belt plate was dug at a site in Massachusetts. I couldn’t find it in any of the books I’ve looked through, but because of the tents depicted on it I suspect that it may be military. There are no marks on the back- only a flattened, rectangular tongue. Actual size is 3.1" x 1.8" Any ideas?

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Answer It’s a late 1800s plate related to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The tent is a symbol of the Encampment, an advanced level of that fraternal society. Lodge members in good standing who enter the Encampment may then be mustered into the Patriarchs Militant, a uniformed, chivalric, paramilitary organization which is the highest branch of the Odd Fellows. Your find may have been supplied by any of several firms, but identical plates are illustrated in a 19th century catalog published by the Ames Sword Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts, a major manufacturer of military and fraternal items in that era. Incidentally, these plates have occasionally been misattributed to the Knights of the Maccabees, another fraternal order which used similar tent imagery on its emblems, badges, and other regalia. While you may find choice ones tagged at $100 or more, the real question is, did somebody actually pay that much for it? At any rate, I suspect that your excavated example would fetch less than $50.


Question Searching in a friend’s yard, on a street near some railroad tracks- possibly a former work camp site- I found two of these 19 mm brass tokens with, “W. T. CAIN -H- NOT TRANSFERABLE -H- BARRETTS, GA.” on one side, and “ • GOOD FOR • 5 • IN • MERCHANDISE.” on the other. Do you have any information about them?

Wayne Sullivan
Douglasville, GA

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Answer W. T. Cain operated a general store for a turpentine business in Barretts, Georgia in 1914-20. At one time this piece was rated R-4 (only 2-4 known) and reportedly the only merchant token cataloged for that community. In addition to the two you found, at least one other, apparently previously unlisted as well, has surfaced within the last year or so. Nevertheless, they remain extremely scarce, and Randy Partin, coauthor of Georgia Trade Tokens, told W&ET, “ I have encountered only three or four of this denomination over the years.” A problem-free one in Very Fine or better condition could command $125+; yours, maybe $50-60 each. Earlier this year, one mislisted as a Civil War token was snapped up by a bargain bid of $40.


Question Not long ago I dug this little spoon with Shakespeare on it. It’s made of brass, and the name is on a blue enameled banner. Information, please!

Jessie Nielson
Sturgeon Bay, WI

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Answer This one could be just your cup of tea... well, sort of anyway. What you’ve got is a modern (20th century) souvenir caddy spoon, used to ladle out loose tea for brewing. What’s that got to do with Shakespeare? Measure for Measure... or maybe The Tempest in a teapot? There are literally dozens of different caddy spoons depicting the Bard, characters from his plays, his birthplace, and the Globe Theatre. And why not? After all, what’s more British than Shakespeare and a spot of tea, eh what? The only problem is, he never drank a drop of it! Tea didn’t come to England until the 1650s- long after ye goode Wm had “shuffled off this mortal coil” in 1616. No matter. Go ahead and have a cup... As You Like It. As for the spoon, it’s going to need a bit of burnishing- “Aye, there’s the rub!”- but once its lost luster has been restored it should be worth $10-15+.


Question I found several of these cardboard discs in a box with some coins and tokens. They are a little over 1-1/2" in diameter. The “ONE” has a blue border; the “FIVE” has an orange border. The Missouri state seal is printed in the same colors underneath the black lettering in the center. The back is blank. What are they, exactly, and are they worth anything?

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Answer During the Depression, penny-pinching was a priority, and the good people of Missouri rightly resented having to hand over an extra cent on small purchases simply because there was no other way for the merchant to collect the required sales tax. The solution? In 1935 the state began issuing fractional coins or tokens like these, denominated in mills (1/10¢), an idea that proved hugely unpopular with stores and customers alike. They were often called “milk-tops” - among other things!- and for good reason: they were printed by the National Mfg. Co. of Kansas City, on the same cardboard stock used by that company to make lids or stoppers for milk bottles. Some were even embossed SANITARY on the back. “Mintages” were enormous, in the tens of millions. Once the system was in place, a tax of one mill was collected on purchases of 1-14¢; two mills on 15-24¢, etc., on up to nine mills for 85-94¢; and at 95¢, a full 1¢ tax kicked in. In 1937, they were phased out in favor of tokens minted in good ol’ Missouri zinc. Later, during WWII, plastic tokens replaced the metal ones. Common “milk-tops” are worth $1-2, er, tops.


Question I located what I think is a squirt gun at an old Pennsylvania tavern site. There is no manufacturer’s name or mark on it, and it’s 3" long and about 1-1/4" high. Can you identify and date it for me?

Jeff Botterbusch
Farmington, PA

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Answer Your find is indeed a vintage squirt gun and originally had an egg-shaped rubber bulb “grip.” Water-weapons of this sort have been soaking the unsuspecting since the late 1800s, but it’s unclear when this particular version first appeared. Very similar, if not identical little pistols were offered in novelty catalogs of the 1920s-30s. There’s also a later version, with “M & L” added on the side, said to have been made by the M & L Toy Co. of Union City, New Jersey, c. 1947-48. Since this one doesn’t have that mark, I’d guess that it’s around 80-90 years old. A while back, an intact, original squirt gun like yours sold for a surprising (at least, to me) $105. Others, with a decomposed or missing bulb, have brought $15-20 or less, and that would be a realistic, if not optimistic, price range for this one. Anything higher, without at least a functional replacement bulb, just wouldn’t hold water.


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