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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (02/2015) AMP (12/2014) AMP (04/2015)   Vol. 49 February 2015 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the February 2015 edition of W&ET Magazine
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR FINDS

KNOCKOUT KNOCKOFF


Question A friend of mine found this silver piece under the subfloor of a house that he was remodeling. On the obverse a double-headed eagle is surrounded by the inscription “4 FEB. 1577. NECESSITATE.” The reverse is blank. Can you tell us what it might be?

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Answer It might be a rare silver klippe from the 1577 Siege of Groningen during the Dutch War of Independence, or Eighty Years’ War, against Spain- but in fact it bears every evidence of being a modern replica of one. A klippe is a square, rectangular, or lozenge-shaped coin, usually issued during a state of emergency. Because of the circumstances under which they were made, the cut planchets can be slightly irregular in shape, and the dies used to produce the coins were frequently fairly crude, too. Weak and off-center strikes were common, as were cracks and edge splits. As a result, rarely would any two be exactly alike- and that’s why the knockoffs are easy to spot, due to their cookie-cutter uniformity. Your friend’s find is virtually identical to countless others in shape or outline, design details and lettering (noticeably different, by the way, from those of genuine examples), die placement, etc. Some of these silver-plated or silver-colored copies were issued in numismatic novelty sets, while others were given away in advertising promotions, and there are also accounts of tourists purchasing them in Europe at least as early as the 1970s. Nevertheless, even when honestly listed as imitations, they often bring anywhere from $10-15 on up to $40-50 or more... presumably from buyers convinced that the seller has no clue what a prize he possesses.


MYSTERIOUS RE-MARK


Question This stamped “I G” token (?) came out of a Colonial era site in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. It’s roughly the size of a large cent, and as a matter of fact I found an 1801 large cent nearby. Do you have any information about it?

image 2
Answer What you’ve got is a countermarked coin. Although the practice dates back to ancient times, countermarking became particularly widespread in the U.S. in the early to mid 19th century, as merchants began striking their initials, names, &/or commercial messages onto coins, tokens, and sometimes blank disks in order to create their own trade tokens. Often the “host” coins were either foreign pieces or heavily worn/damaged domestic coppers, but there were quite a few silver ones as well. (Check closely for any remaining evidence that the host was indeed a coin, as that can enhance the value. Countermarks struck on plain disks are of less interest to collectors.) The first big surge in American countermarking seems to have coincided with the Hard Times of the 1830s, and your find might very well date from that era. Based on its size and composition, the host could have been a large cent or a British halfpenny coin or token. Unfortunately, this “I. G.” mark- perhaps actually representing “J. G.”- is unlisted in Gregory G. Brunk’s definitive reference, Merchant and Privately Countermarked Coins, and attributing it would be a long shot at best. However, Rich Hartzog of World Exonumia- www.exonumia.com- publisher of the Brunk book, points out that incuse bar-stamp marks like this one often denote some sort of smith: goldsmith, silversmith, tinsmith, blacksmith, redsmith (copper), etc. So, with an enormous amount of patience and at least as much luck, you might be able to identify the enigmatic “I. G.” after all. Until then, though, yours is a $20-30 find.


OFF THE HEIR


Question I discovered this “S V” belt plate in the barway of a pasture in the old Quaboag Plantation of Massachusetts, a property dating back to around 1790. Actual size of the plate is 1-3/4'' x 3''. So far, I haven’t been able to find out what the initials stand for. I wondered if it might be related to the State of Vermont, but that didn’t check out. Do you know?

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Answer How about “Sons of Veterans”? The emblem in the center is the star of the GAR, or Grand Army of the Republic. In 1881, those Union veterans of the Civil War prepared for their heirs to carry on the GAR traditions, founding the Sons of Veterans of the United States of America, or SV. In its early days the SV was an active military organization, serving with state militia in the Spanish-American War. However, by 1900 the emphasis had shifted to patriotic, commemorative, and educational activities. The SV was later renamed the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War in 1925, and was granted a federal charter in 1954. During the late 19th century, fraternal regalia suppliers such as the Ames Sword Co. offered SV belt plates in both plain and gilt brass versions, in at least three belt-width sizes (1-1/2'', 1-3/4'', and 2''), priced at $6-8/doz. Today, nice non-dug, early ones on the original leather can be worth $100-150. As found, solidly oxidized and missing its clip-on keeper, yours would likely fetch $50 or less.


SMELTER SWELTERER


Question I found this brass or copper tag in a local lawn. One side reads, “Cons. Kansas City Smelting & Refining. -II- No 191. Argentine, Kan.”; and the other, “ Payroll Check. No Payment Unless This Check Is Presented by Proper Person.” What is the story behind it, and does it have any collector value?

Gene Espenschied
Slater, MO


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Answer The Consolidated Kansas City Smelting & Refining Co. began operations in Argentine, Kansas in 1880, processing ore shipped in from mines in Colorado and Mexico. The 10-acre facility was the largest of its kind in the world at that time, employing 400 men to run eight enormous blast funaces, and earning Argentine the nickname, “Silver Refining Capital of the World.” In 1898 alone, it produced 7.9 million ounces of silver, valued at nearly $5 million; 242,736 ounces of gold, over $5 million; and nearly 40,000 tons of lead, not to mention massive amounts of zinc and copper, and about 10 million tons of blue vitriol (hydrated copper sulfate). By 1901, however, the smelter had closed, as operations were relocated to more cost-effective locations. As indicated by its markings, your find is a worker’s identification tag which had to be presented to a payroll clerk or other company official in order to receive wages. No tag... no pay. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a reliable price listing for it, but it’s well over a century old and has some fascinating history behind it. Also, in 1889 the company issued large commemorative medals in aluminum, copper, and silver that are eagerly sought by exonumists specializing in such “so-called dollars,” and a related item like this tag ought to have plenty of appeal. In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone offered $50 for it, and if you can get a couple of collectors competing for it, the amount might really mount up.


LITTLE EGYPT


Question This piece of jewelry, dug here in Eugene, Oregon, looks Egyptian to me. I’m assuming it’s silver because of the way it registered on my detector’s target ID, and it just looks like silver. There are marks on the back, but they’re like nothing I’ve ever seen before! What do they mean?

Neil McElroy
Eugene, OR


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Answer Your find is silver, all right, and not merely Egyptian-motif but genuinely Egyptian. As for the marks, on the left what looks like an inverted V followed by two small diamonds is the Eastern Arabic numeral version of “800,” indicating .800 fine silver. (By way of comparison, sterling silver is .925.) The mark above is that of the assay office at Alexandria, Egypt. On the right is the date mark, which I believe represents 1948/9. The figure depicted on the cut-out pendant is probably the goddess Isis, although several other Egyptian deities wore the same sort of vulture headdress. The winged disk is also a familiar ancient Egyptian icon, representing deity, royalty, power, protection, etc. Obviously, all these images are used here mainly for decorative effect rather than any actual symbolic significance. Other silver pendants of the same fineness, age, and origin have recently retailed for $25-35, and occasionally as much as $50.


SAUR LOSERS


Question I unearthed these critters while detecting in western New York. They’re probably not very valuable, but I just find them fascinating! Do you know when they were made and who made them? I’ve been trying to find out about them for months now, and if you have any information, it would be greatly appreciated.

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Answer It’s a tale of the good, the bad, and the Og-ly! The kid who lost these little dinosaurs 80 years ago couldn’t just crack open his piggy bank and head off to the dime store for a couple more. Made by the Lincoln Logs toy company, these coveted pot-metal monsters could be obtained only as premiums from Libby Foods, sponsor of a CBS Radio series called Og, Son of Fire in 1934-35; “Think how grand it will be to have all of them standing in line on your radio, or on the bureau or desk in your room!” Og was a cave boy who first made his appearance in a series of stories in the Scouting magazine Boys’ Life, beginning in late 1921. Joining Og in his adventures were a pugnacious pal named Ru and an even more primitive character called Big Tooth. In the original stories they also had a sidekick called Tao, but the radio series decided that Og needed a cave girlfriend, Nada, instead. And as an anachronistic flourish, they figured why not dump a dinosaur or two into the mix? One of these, Rex, was the towering tyranno-terror known as Stalking Death. Another, Three Horn, waddled along as a spiky pet to the teenage troglodytes. “Attractive statuettes” of each of the series characters, including the dinosaurs, were available separately through Libby promotions. If undamaged, your Rex and Three Horn would easily go for $50-60 apiece, and in fine condition could command $125-150+.





HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR FINDS



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