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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (04/2003) AMP (03/2003) AMP (05/2003)   Vol. 37 April 2003 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the April 2003 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question While relic hunting in a village founded in the 1790s and abandoned in the 1800s, I unearthed this ornate "mystery" object. Made of gilt brass, it is 1-1/4" high, 7/8" wide at the middle, and 7/8" wide at the base. Hopefully, you can identify it for me.

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Answer Your find is a Victorian gentleman's fob seal. Worn on watch-chains, they were supposedly kept handy to impress sealing wax on letters and other documents, but in fact they were often just jewelry. Some weren't even true seals, as the matrix (stone inset at the bottom) wasn't engraved with the owner's initials, family arms, or any design at all. Gilt fob seals were fairly common, but there were solid gold ones, too- anywhere from 9K to 18K. The matrix was usually either glass or a hard semiprecious stone such as agate, citrine, or chalcedony. Undamaged, with a nice finish, a fob like yours could fetch $100-150.


Question Mark, I dug this "Newsboys - 264 - City of San Diego" badge in Yuma, Arizona. The back is marked "E. W. Lane" (or possibly "Land") and the pin is missing. Actual size is 1-1/2" x 2". Any background or history on it would be appreciated.

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Answer American newsboys began wearing badges in the late 1800s. In some cases this was a city requirement, intended to encourage education and curb truancy and juvenile delinquency. To qualify for badges, boys had to be enrolled in school and off the streets at specified hours. Other badges were issued by newsboy unions. Although your badge is undated, there are a couple of clues to its age. Apparently, San Diego's "paper tigers" were already well organized by 1915, when they participated in boxing exhibitions and other official events at the city's Panama-California Exposition. The name on the back of the badge is most likely Lane rather than Land, as there was a Lane Stamp Company of San Diego supplying pins, buttons, and badges at least as early as the 1930s. Newsboy badges are highly collectable, often bringing $50-100; and while the missing pin definitely doesn't help, this one's still not far from that range.


Question I've been told that this brass token, which I found at an old homesite in Norman, Oklahoma, is rare and possibly valuable. It's slightly larger than a quarter, and one side says, "Electra-Oklahoma Bridge Company"; the other, "Good for 25¢ in Trade." What can you tell me about it?

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Answer It's evidently from a series of denominations, as a $1 variety has been previously reported. I'm not sure just when they were issued, but I believe they're from the late 1920s or '30s. Located just north of Electra, Texas, the Electra-Oklahoma Bridge spans the Red River between the two states, Traditionally, these have been listed as transportation/toll tokens; but some collectors feel, and I agree, that they were probably issued to bridge construction workers. There are several reasons why, but perhaps the most obvious is the phrase "Good for __ in Trade"... rather improbable for a bridge toll token (trade for what?) , but exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to find on workers' wage tokens intended for use at company owned or authorized stores. As for value, the $1 token has been cataloged at $75 and may now be worth more. I can't find any price for your 25¢ one, so it's either unlisted or extremely scarce, and a fair estimate would be $100+, retail.

Special thanks to Texas tokens specialist Travis Roberts for his help on this one!


Question I've subscribed to W&ET for many years, and during that time you've helped me evaluate several detector finds. Now I'm hoping you can do it again, with this "Fort Smith Prison, Ark." lock. It's in excellent condition, with the original key, and still works. What's the verdict?

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Answer Guilty! It's a modern fantasy item worth maybe $20. Locks of the same style also exist with these inscriptions: Alcatraz, San Francisco; Colorado State Penitentiary; Huntsville, Texas State Prison; Leavenworth Prison; San Quentin, Death Row; and Yuma Territorial Prison. Some have been fabricated from unmarked older padlocks, but many (including yours) seem to be of identical size and style; and it's rumored that these locks, either unmarked or with applied stamped-brass plates, are of foreign manufacture (India, Pakistan, China., etc.). Unfortunately, it's all too easy to "age" them by chemical methods &/or exposure to the elements, and when unsuspecting collectors cross paths with unscrupulous vendors... watch out!


Question This watch fob, a coinshooting find from a Chicago park, has a man's portrait on the front, with the name "W. D. Hoard." The back reads, "Official Badge of the Hoard's Dairyman Juniors Club." Please identify and price it. Thanks!

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Answer William Dempster Hoard, a 19th century Wisconsin newspaper editor, has been called the "Father of American Dairying." He founded a dairymen's association in 1871, and in 1885 began publishing Hoard's Dairyman, a periodical which today remains a leader in its field. In 1915, he introduced the first page dedicated to dairy farm youngsters, and soon Hoard's Juniors Cub- a forerunner of such farm-related youth organizations as 4-H and the FFA- boasted 75,000 members. The fob must have been produced within the first few years of the organization's existence and either sold for a nominal fee or given to new members/subscribers. I saw one of these auctioned for $15 a while back, but that seems a bit low; so, let's call it $20+.


Question It's been about 60 years since I found this item in northeastern Colorado, but I've never managed to find out much about it. So, any information you can offer would be welcome.

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Answer A lot of other folks have been searching for details about it, too, but to little avail. It's called a "Radiant Eagle" game counter, and over 20 varieties have been reported. Some are as small as a dime; others, a little larger than a silver dollar. Denominations include 2-1/2 ( or 250), 5, 10, 20, 50, and 1.00. They exist in brass, gilt brass, silver-gilt brass, gilt pewter, and aluminum. Some are coin-like; some have watch-stem loops, like yours. They're called "game counters" because they were used in much the same manner as poker chips or play money. When they first appeared is anybody's guess, but at least the aluminum ones can't be much over 100 years old. Value? $15-20.


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