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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (12/2013) AMP (10/2013) AMP (02/2014)   Vol. 47 December 2013 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the December 2013 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Mark, I'm a little hesitant to send you this indistinct button... so, if you can't do anything with it, no problem. However, it does have several distinguishing features, including an eagle with rays behind it and a prominent spear. There is an illegible banner or ribbon at the top, another curving across the center, and one ending with the word CADETS at the bottom. The backmark is clearly TREBLE GILT. Can you identify it?

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Answer Get your hands on a copy of Alphaeus H. Albert's Record of American Uniform and Historical Buttons- Every relic hunter should!- and you'll find it listed in the Massachusetts section as #MS 60A1 - Independent Corps of Cadets. Formed in 1741 as the Governor's Company of Cadets, they had undergone ten name changes by 1874, when they were finally designated the First Corps of Cadets. Serving as the governor's official bodyguard, as well as in a number of wars, they were also widely recognized for the large number of officers who rose from within their ranks, many of them Harvard graduates from distinguished and wealthy families. As for the button, the banner at the upper border bears the corps' motto, Montstrat Viam- "It Points the Way." At center is the familiar Latin legend E Pluribus Unum; and at the lower border, Independent Cadets, the name by which the unit was known from 1803 until 1840. An uncommon variety dating from the early 1800s, it can retail for up to $500 in choice condition. However, as found, yours would bring less than half that amount.


Question This unusual disc or coin, found on a New Jersey beach last summer, has really piqued my curiosity. It's very thin, 7/8" in diameter, and I'm pretty sure it's silver. Do you have any idea what it might be?

Betty Sullivan
Morrisville, PA

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Answer I do... and what it might have been, too. What you've got is a vintage faux coin, likely produced for use in jewelry and intended to resemble a Netherlands gold trade ducat. Since 1586, the design of these coins has remained much the same. Here's an example from 1758 for comparison:

Image courtesy of
Heritage Auction Galleries

The obverse depicts an armored knight holding a bundle arrows, symbolizing the solidarity of the provinces which formed the Union of Utrecht in 1579, declaring their independence from Spain. The surrounding Latin lettering, CONCORDIA RES PAR: CRES: for Concordia Res Parvae Crescunt - "By concord small things increase," is followed by an abbreviation of the province in, or for, which the coin was issued- TRA. for Traiectum (Utrecht), HOL. for Hollandiae (Holland), etc. The ornate tablet on the reverse reads MO:ORD: PROVIN: FOEDER: BELG.AD LEG.IMP., for Moneta Ordinum Provinciarum Foederatarum Belgii Ad Legem Imperii - "A coin of the provinces of the Belgian Federation [i.e., United Netherlands or Dutch Republic] by imperial decree." The coin's fineness and weight of gold have remained the same as well: .986 and 3.51 grams, respectively. A genuine ducat similar to the one shown above could command $450-500. Your little silver pretender, utterly artless but oddly appealing, is probably a $20 find.


Question I found this brass eagle's head, along with an 1830 large cent, in an old local lawn. Any idea what it might be?

Jerry Suter
Pandora, OH

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Answer You'll find the answer you're after in the photo below:

As you can see, it's the pommel of a c. 1830s-60s officer's saddle. A privately purchased item, the fancy eagle-motif saddle also featured contrasting feather-pattern stitching on the leather. Saddles of this type saw service in both the Mexican War and Civil War. Later, some of these same brass birds were repurposed as handles on knives, canes, and umbrellas, resulting in more than a few unfortunate misattributions. They have occasionally been misidentified as flag staff finials as well. Value? It's not unusual for them to fetch as much as $150, although with relics you never know. In fact, one got snapped up for a $20 bill on eBay earlier this year.

Image courtesy of
Cowan's Auctions


Question This medallion was recovered on the grounds of a pre-Revolutionary War home in New Jersey. It is in terrible shape, but looking closely you can see bust portraits of a king and queen, facing right, and the word QUEEN at the upper right. The reverse has a coat of arms, but it is very difficult to make out or photograph. Would you know what this is?

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Answer If ever the phrase "environmental damage," of which certain numismatic purists seem so fond, demanded to be used, that time is now. Struck in white metal alloy, notoriously vulnerable to corrosion, this is a medal depicting King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of Great Britain, following his coronation in 1902. Here's how it would have appeared before time and the elements took their toll:

Image courtesy of
Alexandra Park, Oldham

Edward became king upon the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, on January 22, 1901, and was formally crowned some months later on August 9, 1902. At the time, he was recovering from appendicitis surgery, further delaying his coronation procession until October 25 of that year. The same obverse die was used on a number of different medals, most issued to commemorate the royal couple's visits to various localities, with the reverse bearing the arms of the issuing borough or city: Coventry, Dartmouth, Sunderland, etc. Generic inscriptions are also seen: "The Coronation of their Majesties, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra," etc. Usually, the medals were suspended from red, white & blue ribbons &/or pinback hangers in the form of tiny gilt crowns. Obviously, without a photo of the reverse of your find, it's impossible to identify it more precisely. In Very Fine or better condition, Edward & Alexandra medals of this type are often tagged at $25-50.


Question I found this item at an old farm site down South. It's copper, approximately 2-1/4" in diameter, and stamped CHARLESTON 245 CARPENTER 1804. I've not found anything exactly like this before. Can you tell me more about it, and its value?

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Answer Your find is- or rather, purports to be- a slave tag or slave hire badge, occupation "Carpenter," issued in Charleston, South Carolina in 1804. Unfortunately, in my opinion certain details leave little doubt that it is, in fact, inauthentic and of relatively recent origin. While it does replicate features of genuine tags of the period, I have never seen, either firsthand or published in any reliable source, an authenticated slave tag dated 1804. A number of longtime dealers and collectors, and at least one well-known text, have made similar comments. On the other hand, other 1804 tags (all fake) have recently appeared... one, a diamond-shaped "Porter" tag numbered 253, turning up the same week that yours was reported. The real giveaway is the 245. On c. 1800-1810 tags slave tags the number typically was preceded by No, often struck in a little rectangular cartouche and punctuated with a period. More importantly, the numerals' style or font is unlike that on any known period tags: very thin and uniform, rendered with machinelike precision, and suspiciously similar to that of modern stamp sets- in other words, just plain wrong. The exact same 2 and 5 appear on the discredited 1804 "Porter" tag. How the tag ended up where you found it is anybody's guess. Of course, if it were genuine it would be worth thousands, and for that reason you'll probably want to seek a second opinion or even several from recognized experts in the field. And if their verdict proves to be the same as my own? Replica tags are offered by reputable dealers for as much as $20, so it's still a keeper.


Question Could you possibly help identify this metal item that I found at a beach in Santa Barbara, California? The back is stamped, "C. R. Harris. Pat. Dec. 22, 1886." Your ideas are most appreciated.

Stephanie Patterson

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Answer Well, not unanimously, perhaps... but I'm glad you like 'em! Your whatsit is a suspender clasp designed by Charles R. Harris of the Harris Suspender Co. (originally founded as the Wire Buckle Suspender Co.) in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Harris, a prolific inventor, was granted a number of patents for such devices in the 1880s-90s. As a matter of fact, he designed the World's Columbian Exposition suspender clip featured in this column back in February of this year. In addition to helping uphold gents' sartorial elegance, Harris also specialized in fire safety devices: escapes and ladders, nozzles and extinguishers, mechanized gongs and other alarms, etc. He was also involved in the Cygnet Cycle Co., which manufactured bicycles in Williamsport around the same time. Another venture, an automobile body design which looked more like an open sleigh, seems to have met with less success. The Harris Suspender Co. later relocated to New York City in 1897, marketing its products under such nifty brand names as Whiz and Kazoo. Despite its colorful associations, the clip has little or no value... although at the time of its loss, the hapless chap who was wearing it might have strongly disagreed!


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