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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (04/2015) AMP (02/2015) AMP (06/2015)   Vol. 49 April 2015 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the April 2015 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question I found these tokens in a yard in northern New Mexico. Although they differ slightly in size and design, both bear the name Moses Abousleman on one side, with an asterisk-like star in the center. On the other side, the smaller token has “No. 1”; the larger one, “No. 25.” (The quarter is included in the photo only for reference.) Learning of an Abousleman Loop in the tiny hamlet of Jemez Springs, New Mexico, I located some members of that family, but they did not have any information about the tokens. Do you?

Phillip Chappell
Albuquerque, NM

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Answer Some people follow their dreams. Some just count sheep. Moses Abousleman did both, and from all accounts did very well at it indeed. Although it’s unclear exactly when the Syrian-born settler came to New Mexico Territory, a 1900 census there lists him as a 30-year-old retail merchant (general merchandise). His name also appears in directories from 1908 until his death in 1934, and the business continued to be listed under his name until at least 1941. However, a 1912 newspaper article describes him not as a merchant but “a wealthy sheep raiser” and reports that he was seriously injured in a shootout with rustlers in November of that year. (Two deputy sheriffs were killed in the same incident.) So, it seems evident that, even early on, he was much more than a storekeeper. For help with the tokens themselves, W&ET turned to Billy Kiser— — president of the National Token Collectors Association (NTCA), and author of New Mexico Trade Tokens II. Here’s what he had to say:

“These Moses Abousleman tokens are from Jemez Springs, New Mexico, located northwest of Albuquerque near the old Jemez Pueblo. The town was originally called Archuleta in 1888, then Perea beginning in 1894, and finally Jemez Hot Springs beginning in 1907. The tokens are either from his store or from an affiliated sheep shearing operation. There were a lot of sheep shearing tokens from that part of New Mexico, and the majority of those had denominations of ‘No. 1,’ ‘No. 5,’ etc. It is unusual for a store token to have that, as opposed to the almost universally used cent-denominations: 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢. Both tokens, based on their die styles, are from the early 1900s. As for rarity, both are rated R8–R9 (4–8 examples known to exist) in my 2009 New Mexico token book. For New Mexico tokens, that makes them not all that rare, but still very collectible. I would estimate their value at $150-250 each.”


Question I was given your name by a friend who thought that you might be able to help me research this brass tag reading, “IMMIGRATION DEPOT C 602.” I did an online search and got hits concerning the Castle Garden immigration center. Can you confirm this or give me any other information about it?

Jim Arco
Rockford, IL

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Answer Your tag was used as a claim check for the baggage of steerage passengers being transferred from steamers to the U.S. immigration station, and likely was issued by the John E. Moore Co., which had the contract for this transfer service. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the tiny lettering above the bail at the top appears to be “AM. RY. S. CO. N.Y.,” which is one of the marks of the American Railway Supply Co., founded in New York in 1891. They were a major manufacturer of baggage tags, cap badges, and other transportation-related items, and reportedly remained active at least into the 1920s. That date range would seem to rule out Castle Garden, which was the station for immigrants to New York and New Jersey from August 1855 to April 1890. The Barge Office station operated from April 1890 to December 1891. The first Ellis Island station then opened in January 1892, continuing until June 1897, when it was destroyed by fire. At that time the Barge Office station was revived, remaining active until December 1900, when the new Ellis Island station was completed. Obviously, tags like this one would have been issued in large numbers and seen continuous use for years. John E. Moore’s son, William, who was landing agent at Ellis Island for decades, once remarked that he had seen as many as 9,900 immigrants arrive on a single day. The only other clue that I could find to the age of the tag is a reference to one of identical type in a 1907 court case. Oddly, perhaps due to limited collector interest, there seems to be no reliable pricing information for this item. Certain other baggage tags bearing both “Ellis Island” and “Baltimore & Ohio RR” markings have brought $125-150+, but I suspect that your find, interesting though it is, would fetch less.


Question Mark, this picture hung on my uncle’s wall for many years, and I am wondering if you might be able to identify these young men. Could they be famous— or infamous!— and if so, could this be a valuable photo?

David Long
Salem, MO

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Answer First, I am very definitely not an expert on antique photographs. That said, as far as I’ve been able to determine— and after forwarding the photo to a number of specialists in the field— the image is not a famous one, nor can any of the individuals depicted be readily identified. In fact, it looks very similar to late 1800s - early 1900s studio photos I’ve seen, with scenic backdrops, costumes, and props. If you look closely around the feet of the two fellows on the left, you’ll see a bare floor behind the “grass” and a bit of rumpling where the painted cloth meets the floor. While it wasn’t unusual for real-life cowboys and other rugged types to have such photos made, showing off all their fancy duds, guns, and other gear, these lads don’t exactly look like hardened outdoorsmen. Also, note the two on the right. One has his hands crossed over the end of the gun barrel, and the other has his gun pointed back at his friend... not likely the way a serious, experienced hunter or marksman would pose. Of course, that doesn’t mean that one or more of them couldn’t have been, or later become, well known. Did your uncle or other family members leave any journals, diaries, letters, or albums containing other photos that might offer clues to their identity? Even vintage images of unknown persons can be quite collectible, with values varying wildly— anywhere from less than $50 to many times as much. Attractive, colorful, interesting, or unusual people always bring a premium. Other factors affecting price include the type of image (albumen, tintype, CDV, etc.), composition (arrangement of elements in the photo), size, clarity, and overall quality and condition. Of course, you could have it professionally appraised, and an online search should turn up a number of firms offering such fee-based services; but unless you’re confident of its value or the money doesn’t matter, consider that option with caution.


Question While walking around earlier today, I stumbled upon this interesting object. Can you tell me what it is, and what it might be worth?

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Answer It’s one half of a two-piece dress buckle made from a large silver coin known as a Maria Theresa thaler. Originally an Austrian coin, it was later struck by a number of other nations as well, for use as a trade coin. At last count, the estimated total minted was nearly 390 million. All coins struck after 1780 continued to carry that date, which in certain trade regions was considered proof of authenticity. The X following the date indicates that your find was fashioned from one of those later restrikes. Here’s what the coin looked like before it was altered to create the buckle:

The buckle is usually made either by sawing the coin in half edgewise, or planing off one side to the desired thickness. Next, the “field” or background is cut out, silhouetting the main design, and then loops or hooks are attached to the sides of each half. There are also buckles which skip some of these steps, leaving both sides &/or the fields intact. It’s not unusual for complete buckles in nice, wearable condition to retail for $50 or more. One half alone would have a lot less value, of course, but it might still be worn as a faux buckle with a small, thin strap or ribbon threaded through the loops, or as a pendant.


Question Please identify this coin that I found while metal detecting near Whiting. New Jersey.

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Answer Early-day aviators were always vying for any new honor of the skies, and although it seemed that Charles Lindbergh and his Spirit of St. Louis had grabbed the grand prize with a historic transatlantic flight in 1927, others had been quick to recognize an alternate opportunity: how about flying from Europe to America instead? At least ten unsuccessful attempts were made, and seven lives lost before the challenge was taken up by an improbable team of two Germans, Baron Ehrenfried Guenther Freiherr von Huenefeld (a.k.a. “The Crazy Baron”) and Captain Hermann Koehl; and an Irishman, Major James C. Fitzmaurice. Their plane was a German Junkers W33 L, named in honor of the city of Bremen, Germany. Departing from Baldonnel, Ireland, on April 12, 1928, the three were forced to make an emergency landing 36 hours later at Greenly Island, Canada. Fortunately, they escaped injury, but the Bremen was damaged upon landing and unable to fly on to its original destination of Mitchell Field, New York. Nevertheless, they had achieved the first east-to-west transatlantic flight, and became justly famed for it. Your find, a medal heralding the event, was struck by the Whitehead & Hoag Co. of Newark, New Jersey, probably for sale as a souvenir at public appearances by the crew. Value today? Maybe $15-20, in Very Fine condition.


Question Dump digging in Arizona, I came up with a cute little teaspoon. The bowl is plain, but at the top of the handle is a figure of a little girl. Below her on the front is the name “Emilie”; and on the back, “Carleton Silver Plate.” Can you tell me something about it?

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Answer Your spoon is from a set honoring the Dionne quintuplets. Born in 1934, Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie, and Marie Dionne of Ontario, Canada became the first quints to survive infancy. As you can imagine, their unique status made them superstars from the start, and there were countless commemorative and souvenir items featuring the famous fivesome, including several sets of spoons. Your find is from a set produced by Carleton Silver Plate as premiums for the Palmolive Soap Co. The quints appeared in Palmolive’s advertising, and in a special offer celebrating their 6th birthday, five spoons— each featuring a different Dionne— could be purchased for 10¢ apiece, plus two proofs of purchase of Palmolive soap. Today, individual spoons are worth around $7-10. Curiously, complete sets don’t seem to command much extra, and I found several on offer for $35-50.


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