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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (03/2003) AMP (02/2003) AMP (04/2003)   Vol. 37 March 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the March 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question Found at a construction site, this George Washington Inaugural button is the pattern listed in Albert's book as WI 5, "'GW' with Salient Border"; however, instead of either 23 or 24 rays ( WI 5A and WI 5B, respectively), it has only 22. How rare &/or valuable do you think it might be?

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Answer Even in its listed varieties, this is a very scarce button. Back in 1976, Albert rated it R6 (only 3-5 known to exist), and apparently that's still the status quo. More importantly, as far as I can determine, no other 22-mark specimen has ever been reported. At the very least that makes your find incredibly rare, if not unique, and one certain to be coveted by any serious collector. Whether, or to what extent, its rather heavily oxidized surfaces could affect its value is hard to say; but if it were non-dug, we'd easily be into $5,000+ territory.


Question Can you tell me what this eagle insignia is? It's brass, about 1-1/8" x 1-3/8", and has marks on the back where two bars used to be. Fellow relic hunters here in New Hampshire haven't been able to identify it, so I thought I'd "Ask Mark Parker."

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Answer I'll bet a number of readers took one look at the photo and thought, "Early 19th century Militia cap plate"- that is, until they realized its actual size! While there is a strong resemblance, both in outline and overall design, it's obviously 'way too small for a cap device. What you've got, in fact, is a c. 1820s-30s Militia sword belt hanger adjustment. The same eagle & shield insignia was also used on waist belt plates of the period. An interesting and uncommon little relic, it's probably worth around $50.


Question This unusual token was found among a small stash in a home in Phoenix, Arizona. Dated 1863, it shows an American flag surrounded by stars and the words, "The Flag of Our Union." On the center of the other side is "DIX" encircled by, "If Anyone Attempts to Tear It Down, Shoot Him on the Spot." What's its history?

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Answer During the Civil War, hoarding resulted in a severe shortage of coinage. As a result, merchants began using small cent-size tokens instead. Some had "store cards" custom-made with their name, location, and trade message. Others opted for less expensive "stock" tokens, many of which bore patriotic designs and inscriptions. Yours is one of the best known in that category. Over the years, various explanations have been offered for it: that Dix is simply French for ten... that Dix is an abbreviation of Dixie, etc. However, the real story involves a dispatch sent on January 29, 1861 by John Adams Dix, then Secretary of the Treasury, to a revenue officer in New Orleans, ordering, "If anyone attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot!" There are quite a few varieties of the token, including an error which boldly declares, "Shoot Him on the Spoot." (Ouch!) Eventually, the federal government decided that all those millions of privately issued Civil War tokens posed a problem, and they were outlawed by an act of Congress on April 22, 1864. Today, most of the Dix tokens catalog for $15-25 in Fine condition.


Question I found this Prudential Insurance Co. Silver Anniversary 1875-1900 medal near a picnic grove in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It is approximately 1-1/8" in diameter, 1/16" thick, and made of silver. Any information you can give me will be appreciated.

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Answer t's the main portion of a commemorative badge/medal and originally was suspended from a pin-back bar inscribed "Souvenir Award"- a curious combination of words which makes it unclear just how and to whom these were distributed. No doubt you're familiar with Prudential's long usage of the Rock of Gibraltar as a trademark; and the edifice depicted on the medal is, I believe, the old Prudential Building erected in Newark, New Jersey in 1891. Prudential was first known as the Widows & Orphans Friendly Society, a life insurance company authorized by an act of the New Jersey state legislature in 1873. However, when it actually began conducting business a couple of years later, it was renamed the Prudential Friendly Society. After another two years the name was changed once again, and it 1877 it officially became the Prudential Insurance Company of America. As found, this piece would likely retail for $25-30, and $10-20 more with the hanger bar intact.


Question While hunting at a college housing complex in Alabama, I dug this 2-1/2" medallion. It's heavy brass, with a blue enamel border, and reads, "Fisher Body Corporation / Detroit, Mich. / Aeroplane / Division." In the center, there is a biplane with clouds in the background, and underneath is a wide shield stamped "J1 22498." I believe this to be an ID plate off a WWI airplane. Am I right?

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Answer Only 100%! In 1917, Fisher Body Corporation, best known as a manufacturer of auto bodies, was granted a contract to supply airplanes to the U.S. Army. The J-1 was a two-seat training airplane, and Fisher Body met the challenge of supplying 400 of them during the first four months of 1918. Later, they switched to production of the Liberty fighter plane, an American version of the British DeHaviland 4, and between August and December of 1918 they delivered 1,600 of them. In all, they built 2,005 planes, including five Italian-designed Caproni biplane bombers. I discussed your find with appraisers of both aviation memorabilia and WWI militaria, and they estimate its value at $100-125- unless research of the serial number reveals something about that particular plane which would further enhance its value. By the way, as with practically everything else, replicas of this medallion (serial # unstamped) are now available.


Question My hunting buddy says I couldn't even draw flies, and I guess this "masterpiece" proves it! (Actually, I think it's supposed to be a bee.) Anyway, we came across some stone foundations back in the woods while deer hunting, and at one of them we found a piece of broken pottery with this "W. T. Copeland & Sons" mark on it. We haven't been able to get back there yet with our detectors, but we thought maybe the pottery mark could be used to date the site. What do you think?

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Answer Well, it all depends. A mark can give you the age of an item, all right... but how do you know when the item reached the site? Nevertheless, let's give it a shot. William T. Copeland & Sons, of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, is a pottery firm founded in 1847. A couple of decades later Copeland's four sons joined him in the business, and thus "& Sons" was added to the company name. They were major manufacturers of fine porcelain and earthenware, and this particular mark was reportedly used on their earthenware products between 1867 and 1890. Again, the site could be older, or no older, than that; but at least now you know the time frame for the fragment you found.


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