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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (03/2008) AMP (01/2008) AMP (05/2008)   Vol. 42 March 2008 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the March 2008 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question My wife located this token or medal in southeastern New York. It is 1-1/8" in diameter, and the metal is bronze. Although it shows little wear, some portions are weakly struck, and there is no date. The obverse Latin inscription translates as, "Louis XIII, by the grace of God, King of France and Navarre." Our research leads us to believe that this may be a jeton struck sometime between 1610 and 1643. We hope that you can transform our speculation into documentation.

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Answer Our thanks to Michel Prieur of Compagnie Generale de Bourse- - a professional numismatist who specializes in jetons, or counting tokens. His comments follow:

"It was quite difficult to sort this jeton out. Because we have never had an example, it was missing in our databases; so, I had to search in the old books. Indeed, it was struck under Louis XIII, engraved by Nicolas Briot, and the partially illegible text, with date, is INDVCVNT SIDERA CASVS 1610. Reference number is Feuardent 11940." (F. Feuardent, Collection Feuardent, Jetons et Méreaux.)

Nicolas (or Nicholas) Briot, c. 1579 - c. 1646, was a celebrated French coin engraver, medallist, and inventor of minting machinery. After holding the post of engraver-general at the Paris mint, in 1625 he moved to Great Britain, where he became the principal engraver at the Royal Mint and later served as master of the mint in Edinburgh. M. Prieur did not suggest a value for the jeton, nor could I find any listings for it.


Question Can you tell me what this is, Mark? I found it in Goldfield, Nevada.

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Answer Well, if there's at least a touch of the New Age in you, your life may be about to get really interesting! What you've got is an occult medal bearing a talismanic design known as the Fourth Pentacle of Venus, or Venus Love Pentacle, taken from the Key of Solomon or one of the magical grimoires derived in part from it. The various characters represent the name IHVH (God) and those of the Spirits of Venus, along with a passage from Genesis 2: 23-24: "This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. And they two were one." According to ancient lore, "[The pentacle] is of great power, since it compels the Spirits of Venus to obey, and to force on the instant any person thou wishest to come unto thee." All righty, then... you have been warned! Seriously, it's an interesting and unusual find, and similar medallic talismans of brass, bronze, or pewter retail anywhere from $7-12 on up.


Question I'd like your evaluation of this railroad tag or fob that I dug in an old orchard in Washington State. The front reads, "The Old Reliable / Conductors / Excursion, Oct. 4, 1885 / Chicago / - and - / Denver, Col. / 136 / via C. & N. W. & U. P. / Rys." The back is marked, "Compliments of W. W. Wilcox, Chicago."

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Answer What at first blush would seem to be some sort of baggage tag is in fact a souvenir fob issued for an 1885 event held by the Old Reliable Conductors - a union which represented railroad conductors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was also an insurance-benefit organization, and is sometimes listed as the Old Reliable Conductors' Life Insurance Association of the United States and Canada. The initials are the reporting marks of the Chicago & Northwestern and Union Pacific Railways. W. W. Wilcox, who made and donated the item, was a major manufacturer of baggage tags in that era. Jack Lucas, a leading railroadiana collector who examined the photo of your find, told me, "I would estimate the value at $100-125 since it's marked for the Union Pacific Railway. I'm not familiar with the event, but it must not be common. I've never seen this kind of tag before."


Question This old padlock turned up on the beach off Cape Henlope, Delaware. It's about 1-1/4" x 1-3/8" and is made of brass, but has no markings indicating the manufacturer or country of origin. Can you tell me anything about it from the design?

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Answer Your warded brass padlock was made a little over a century ago by the E. T. Fraim Lock Co. of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When new, they sold for about 25¢ apiece or $2.50/dozen. One price guide puts the current value at $15, and recent auction results range from $5 to $23.


Question I found this star buckle in an old Ohio farmhouse by scanning the floorboards with my detector. I've been told by others that it may be a Confederate Texas or Mississippi buckle, but they're not sure if it's genuine or a fake.

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Answer Unfortunately, I know you'll be sadder to learn it's the latter. The spotty patina alone is more than enough to raise doubts about its authenticity, but the real giveaway is the back of the plate. The hooks are the wrong type, the construction is solid cast rather than die-stamped with lead backfill, and as for the "1862" within a series of rings... well, there are no Confederate plates bearing a date or that type of detailing. As a replica or fantasy, it's worth maybe $20. If it were the real deal? Hey, let's not even go there. (Oh, okay... $8,500+.


Question Would you have any information on this "Cap Grenade" made by the Callen Mfg. Corp, Melrose Park, IL"? There is also a patent number on it, but only a few numbers can be read: "2 6 ... 2 9."

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Answer On November 4, 1952, Harry Callen of Chicago, Illinois was granted U.S. Patent #2616219, assigned to the Callen Manufacturing Corporation, then of Maywood, Illinois, for a "toy bomb." Harry's dandy little detonating dart was later marketed under the only slightly less ominous name "cap grenade." (Luckily, our moms didn't express much distress about such toy-store ordnance back in those days.) Surprisingly, cap bombs, grenades, or darts are still around, selling for a couple of bucks now instead of a quarter. However, not long ago I saw an original Callen like yours tagged at $9.98 on eBay. As Emeril Lagasse would say... Bam!


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