Antique Odd Fellows: Native American Peace Medal On IOOF Collar

At a recent auction, we purchased a few Native American items from the former museum in Two Harbors, MN. Among them, this seemingly unusual combination: A Native American Peace Medal on an Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) collar.

This was not the only set; there were a total of three of these collar/medal sets. While one doesn’t normally think of Native Americans as Odd Fellows members, apparently it was a popular custom item in this area, anyway,  for Native Americans to wear and display all honors.

The IOOF collar is beautiful in and of itself, with it’s decorated red velvet trimmed in twisted-metal fringe and tassels (one tassel is missing). The collar is secured by three oval chain links. The shape and materials date the fraternal cerimonial collar to the end of the 19th century. But the medal which hangs from the collar’s links is even more rare than the collar.

The medal is an Indian Peace Medals, presentation pieces to Native American or Indian chiefs as a sign of friendship. The series began as an idea in 1786, but were first produced during President Jefferson’s administration in 1801, with Jefferson Peace Medals designed and created by John Reich. Because the medals were given to significant members of tribal parties, the medals became sought after symbols of power and influence within Native American tribes and are commonly seen in Native American portraiture.

Most of the genuine Indian Peace medals awarded by the U.S. Government were made in silver and were issued holed or looped at the top, so the medal could easily be worn. (If a medal is not holed, and shows no sign of being looped, it is most likely a modern copy.) However, the Peace Medals were also struck in other metals, including copper. Starting around 1860, some of these were struck from the same or similar dies, for collectors. These copper pieces are known as “bronzed copper” because they do not look like copper coins. But given the popularity of the medals and the respect they conveyed, the Native Americans and traders also made or commissioned copies, in copper or silver-plated copper, of the Peace Medals too. These pieces are still over a hundred years old, yet even when produced by the US Mint, these medals are not considered “originals” as they were not awarded by the U.S. Government.

This specific Peace Medal is a John Adams Peace Medal, but it was designed and struck after Adams’ presidency. This medal does not appear to be silver, but, based on dimensions and weight, pewter. According to the Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Volume 1, edited by Frederick Webb Hodge (1907), a few of the Adams Peace Medals were struck in “soft metal” and these are “exceedingly rare.”

Our Peace Medal also appears to be the first design issued, as later variations do not have the fabric drape about the bust of the president, nor the year centered beneath the bust. The president’s bust on the obverse was designed by Moritz Furst, but the reverse is the same one the Jefferson medals. (This back design was used until the Millard Fillmore medals in 1850, when the reverse was changed. The reverse was changed again in 1862, during the Lincoln administration.) Interestingly, the Adams Peace Medal with the 1797 date was made later.

I’ve made some inquiries regarding this antique set and will update you as I learn more. Meanwhile, the set is in our case at Exit 55 Antiques.

UPDATE: In trying to find definitive information on this peace medal, I made multiple calls to auction houses and, per their recommendations, to companies which grade coins and other medals. Few seemed to know what I knew, or were willing to divulge what they did know about Native American Peace Medals. So I continued my research and then made a call to Rich Hartzog of AAA Historical Americana, World Exonumia. Rich seems to truly be one of the few people who knows — really knows — about Native American Peace Medals. I’d call him an expert.

During a phone conversation, Rich confirmed the “soft medal” version of this medal, but ours does not seem to be one of those. He clarified regarding the copper medals; while made for collectors, they are considered original peace medals — but are not presentation pieces given to chiefs and other leaders. And, finally, we determined that our peace medal is likely a more modern copy. It wasn’t just that the medal is made of pewter, but the fact that the medal is attached to the IOOF collar or baldric. Seems roughly five or six years ago someone began setting the copies of peace medals on these collars. Such medals still have a modest value; Rich says roughly $20-$40, compared to the hundreds and thousands of dollars originals bring.

While this may be a disappointment to hubby and I, I have learned a lot about peace medals — and learning is a huge part of why I love this business. I don’t mind admitting that I’m unsure of what I’ve found. In fact, I love researching, including asking people who specialize and know more than I do.

Bid On Abraham Lincoln’s Hair

Also part of the Americana Signature Auction, is an antique photographic case containing a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair opposite an albumen portrait of the president.

Upon Lincoln’s death, apparently a number of locks of the President’s hair were removed as mourning keepsakes. This lock of Lincoln’s hair is approximate 3″ long and ranges in width from 1/2 to 1/8 inches. A small black bow has been added and the spine of the embossed leather case has been repaired with black tape. There’s “impressive” provenance for this historical auction offering as well. Heritage Auction’s estimate is $8,000 – $12,000.

The Americana Signature Auction will be held on May 12, 2012, in Dallas; absentee bidding ends May 11, 2012 at 10:00 PM CT.

Antique Smiling G.O.P. Elephant

Heritage’s Americana Signature Auction contains over 700 American history and political artifacts, among them a rare political pinback from the 1908 Taft & Sherman political campaign.

Called a jugate for the two side-by-side portraits of William Howard Taft and his running mate James Sherman, and called “Elephant Ears” for the portrait placement, this 1 and 1/4 inch in diameter celluloid pinback packs a visual-punch with its bright red and vivid yellow graphics.

The Taft & Sherman “Elephant Ears” Jugate, is among the most valuable of all the 1908 Taft-Sherman pins — not only due to age but a low production run. With it’s original Whitehead and Hoag back paper, this jugate has an auction estimate of $6,000 – $7,000.

The Americana Signature Auction will be held on May 12, 2012, in Dallas; absentee bidding ends May 11, 2012 at 10:00 PM CT.

Big Game Hunting In Books

It drives me nuts when appraisers, auctioneers et al. dismiss books (along with magazines and ephemera) as having “little no value” — unless, of course, they are ultra rare first printings of first editions, signed works, manuscripts and journals from historic persons or covering historic events, contain original art, etc. I mean, a-duh! These things are not so much valued for the works themselves, but really are coveted and collected for other reasons; i.e. a signed Hemingway book is collected for the signature, not-so-much the book itself. So at best, I call those works cross-collectibles which benefit from higher prices due to a competitive audience across collecting genres — especially from those non-book collectors.

The sad fact is, the experts are right. Most books, magazines and ephemera have little monetary value because fewer people are collecting them, keeping the prices (the value that matters to most decision makers of popularity) low. This is why you rarely see these items on the collecting shows. *sigh*

I obviously do not agree. Not only with the limited and inaccurate definition of “value” (which is why I started this site), but I believe there is real value in old books, magazines, and other printed works.

What makes me rant about all of this again?

Roosevelt's Thrilling Experiences in the Wilds of Africa Hunting Big Game

I spotted this antique copy of Marshall Everett’s Roosevelt’s Thrilling Experiences in the Wilds of Africa Hunting Big Game up for auction at Heritage Auctions.

The fine folks at Heritage give an auction estimate of $1. One friggin’ dollar! Oh, and a neatly tacked on “- up”, which I presume to mean “and up.” (Though, the “- up” also means the mandatory Buyer’s Premium, 19.5% of the successful bid with minimum $14 per lot.)

It’s not that Heritage Auctions is wrong in their estimate (or their buyer’s premium; it’s their business and someone should get paid for posting info online so people like me can rant). The auction closes in a couple of days and the antique work is still at $1.

But here’s the kicker.

I’ve actually sold a few copies of this book. It pained me to do so each time. Not only because it’s hard for me to let go of things, but because they sold for like $29 to $45 — something I thought rather an insult for such an old, richly illustrated book. I consoled myself then that eBay wasn’t where the really big book collectors and history lovers were; that bigger legitimate auction houses would reach a wider audience, fetch more appropriate — bigger — bids for such books. But if Heritage can’t do it…

I should clarify a few things. For both my peace of mind and accuracy.

I sold my copies of this book (in the exact blue cloth boards with photo inset) on eBay nearly a decade ago; the prices on eBay haven’t changed much though — if the book actually sells, it’s at a higher price than the one at Heritage. (So if you’re interested… *wink*)  And I sold copies I found because then, as now, I sell so that a person just longing for that item can have it, rather than it being less loved and sitting on my shelf.  At least there I succeeded.

If there’s a moral to this little story, it’s this:  Books, magazines, etc. don’t have the monetary value they ought to; but that means those of us with less money can afford to collect and enjoy them.  And, collectors shouldn’t make assumptions that “the big auction houses have higher auction prices.”  Even with the buyer’s premium, the antique Roosevelt hunting in Africa book is 50% cheaper than on eBay.  So whether you’re new to collecting or an old hand at it, include the big auction sites in your hunting and see what killer deals you can make.

From Suffragettes To Grave Robbers: The Grand Magnificence Of Charles Halls Miniature Metal Figures

Since I love all things pertaining to women’s history, from kitschy to suffragette, I’ve become smitten with these eight female figures in a suffragette band:

I’d never seen anything like them before, so here’s what the seller, dahntahntoys, has to say about them:

54 mm solidcast women’s Suffragette Band by Charles Hall, bought in 1970s at the MFCA show. Eight pieces in mint condition. See photos. Colorful Victorian era female musicians and placard carriers for Women’s Right to Vote.

That still didn’t tell me very much, so I began to research Charles Hall.

Information is disappointingly scant. Charles Hall is said to have been a former police officer in Glasgow, Scotland who started his scale miniature toy production with some Scottish regiments figures about the mid 1970s. Eventually, he produced up to 350 different figures.

According to a collector known as Bill The Bandman (who has some Charles Hall band sets and other toy soldier bands available for sale on eBay):

During the 1970’s when Britains where not producing metal band figures;three prolific makers emerged in the English speaking world. They all made complete lines from their own masters and moulds. …The least know was a Scottish maker who named his line after himself CHARLES HALL.

Charles produced two areas of personal interest to himself from 1975 t0 1985 which were German Bands and Salvation Army Bands. In the early 1990’s Hank Anton of the USA bought Halls moulds but never produced very many sets from the line.

Along with the suffragettes, there are Dixieland jazz bands (and other bands with black musicians) and the largest variety of Salvation Army figures ever issued.

But Hall also seems to have specialized in miniature scale versions of many civilian figures, including fictional characters, figures such as Scotland Yard’s finest, Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Hitler, Dracula, the beautifully odd Burke and Hare (Edinburgh’s most infamous grave robbers), and others… Including, perhaps, the most interesting miniature collectible toy pieces: Hitler and oddball Nazi caricatures.

I’d love to hear from collectors or anyone who knows more about Charles Hall and his wonderful scale miniatures!

For further information, collectors recommend Collecting Toy Soldiers, by Richard O’Brien.

Image credits: Charles Hall suffragette band photos via dahntahntoys; Charles Hall of Scotland figures, “listed as Camerons,they look to be Gordons,” via Treefrog Treasures Toy Soldier Forums; Dixieland band set of figures by Charles Hall via Bill The Bandman; Holmes & Watson by Charles Hall, via James H Hillestad’s article on Sherlock Holmes; Charles Hall Edinburgh Scotland “Burke and Hare the Body Snatchers” with Coffin and Corpse, circa 1985, via Live Auctioneers; Adolph Hitler (black overcoat at salute, 1978), S-Trooper Hitler caricature (on a spotted mule) and a caricature of a pregnant Irma Griese (1979), via Bill The Bandman.

Myths & Misinformation About Suffrage Jewelry

Edwardian Brooch

As a proud feminist, the suffrage movement is near and dear to my heart; as a girlie lover of glam, jewelry with stones, especially sparkly stones, appeals to me.  So naturally I am drawn to suffrage jewelry.  However, all that glitters in antique suffragette jewelry isn’t gold — or as bought and sold.

There’s a common misperception or two about women’s suffrage items, in terms of color and purpose — which are entwined and lend themselves to myths and ill-informed purchases of these antique collectible items.

While many folks, including uneducated sellers of such proclaimed items, believe and insist that the official colors of the suffrage movement were green, white, and purple (or violet), it simply isn’t true.

It was, in fact, very popular for the jewelry of the time (Edwardian) to be adorned with amethysts, pearls, and demantoid garnets or emeralds — which easily accounts for the colors. And as cute as the symbolism that these colors (green, white and violet) stood for (G)ive (W)omen the (V)ote is, there was no global suffrage color.  This is in large part due to the many suffrage organizations in both England and America; there was never one official suffrage organization—there were many. And no agreed upon color scheme.

One of the myths is that jewelry and other items served as a “secret color code” among women to identify themselves as members or indicate support of the movement — while being afraid to reveal their sympathies to their husbands, sons, and society as a whole.

This might be a romantic notion to some… But not only is more romantic and impressive for me to recall these women taking the insults, slights, rebuffs and attacks which a suffragette had to endure head-on, it is historically inaccurate — and insulting all over again!

Can you imagine leaders like Katharine Houghton Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn’s mother and president of the Connecticut Women Suffrage Association, even suggesting such a mousy attitude as wearing colors in secret?!

No. The opposite was true: The women who supported the suffrage movement were insistent, loud & proud.

If you don’t believe me, perhaps you will believe the words of Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence, treasurer and co-editor of the weekly newspaper Votes for Women. In the spring 1908 issue of that paper, she explained the symbolism of the colors used by the most prominent suffrage group in England, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) — but before you read it, repeat after me:  These are the colors & reasoning of one such group!

Purple as everyone knows is the royal colour. It stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity…white stands for purity in private and public life…green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring.

The colours enable us to make that appeal to the eye which is so irresistible. The result of our processions is that this movement becomes identified in the mind of the onlooker with colour, gay sound, movement, and beauty.

Again, in this particular case, purple (or violet), white and green were the colors for this group; as you read and learn about the suffrage movement and it’s memorabilia, such as photos, penants, publications etc, it becomes clear that many colors were used. What’s important here to note is that there was no secrecy.

Moreover, there is evidence (Anaconda Standard, Montana, May 3, 1914) that in the US, yellow was a favorite color used by a national women’s suffrage group. There’s obvious evidence of that color as well.

National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention Ribbon 1895

Also, when it comes to jewelry, there’s plenty of evidence that the average “radical” suffragette did not buy jewelry for her cause, but rather sold it for her cause. Evidence from The Washington Post, August 2, 1914:

Suffragettes Sacrifice Jewelry For The Cause

In Iowa’s Bode Bugle, January, 28, 1916, this tidbit bragging about prosperity in the US also provides a clear picture of the economic times in terms of consumerism:

While her sisters in London, Paris, Berlin and Petrograd are discarding their jewels, giving the gold to the common treasury and selling the gems to swell relief funds and keep the wolf from the door, the New York lady is daily acquiring an increased penchant for the finest jewelry that the world produces.

While I’ve no doubt there were some wealthy women, New York or no, who both supported suffrage and bought jewels, I’m certain the average suffragette was more concerned with melting, selling, jewelry etc. than consumerist “lady” acts.

In any case, between the radical acts of melting jewelry to support the cause, the devastating effects of The Great Depression, and just plain old time itself moving on (loss, less appreciation, the stories lost as the pieces were handed down, etc.), finding suffrage jewelry is even more difficult than finding any piece of antique jewelry.

Supposed Suffragette Jewelry

Jewelry in this purple, white & green color scheme is gorgeous, and if authentic antique pieces, even more so desirable, at least to me; but the color alone does not mean it is a suffragette collectible piece.

If you are interested in buying or collecting such jewelry for reasons other than its own beauty, please research suffrage jewelry.  It is better to be safe than sorry!

Even if the information seems to scare you off on a purchase, or make you doubt the ability to find authentic suffrage jewelry, take heart!  It also means that while others are scrambling & bidding up fakes or those items in purple, white & green only, you may have better luck on suffrage jewelry & memorabilia of the political movement in other colors.

I also highly recommend that collectors of women’s suffrage items and/or women’s political issues, feminism, etc. collectibles join the Womens Suffrage and Political Issues Chapter (WSAPIC), a chapter of the American Political Items Collectors (APIC). I’ve personally learned a lot from the issues of The Clarion newsletter and Ronnie Lapinsky-Sax, chapter president, herself.

Image Credits: The image of the yellow suffrage ribbon from the collection of Ronnie Lapinsky-Sax.

Is Your Collection Museum Worthy?

I’ve long compared individual collectors and their collections to the work of professional curators managing museum collections, so I enjoy hearing how “real” museum curators approach their work.

In What Does it Mean to be “Museum-Worthy?” How a Political History Curator Defines the Term, Larry Bird, curator of the campaign collection in the division of political history at the National Museum of American History, shares his thoughts in an interview.

Two things really stand out for me:

What do you collect?

There are things that the campaign gives out that are sort of “officially sanctioned,” that they are using to get their message out, like a button. And then there are things that people make and wear themselves. Typically, I like to try to get something from a person who’s wearing something—it could be a lapel pin, a sign they made or a sign they’re carrying. It’s very difficult to talk that item off of a person and in fact, it’s almost not even fair because if they could just give it to you, would you want it? What you want is what they can’t give you. It means so much to them personally. That’s what you want to collect.  You want to collect the material of activism and engagement.

How do you know it’s “museum worthy?”

“Museum worthy” implies that there’s some kind of aesthetic judgment going on, which there may be, but that’s hardly the first thing that you think of.  The material that we get is so inherently ephemeral; it doesn’t really have any great inherent value. The items can be quite modest and even flawed—they can have rough edges and corners and be duct-taped to a paint paddle or something. I mean for a couple of bucks you can pick up a couple of buttons, but when you get it all together at the end of the year, it really is quite valuable as a record because it doesn’t exist anywhere else.

Along with the reassurance that even professional collecting is subjective (which I admit I still need like to hear), I’m thrilled to hear that curators — at this level, even — are seeking to cultivate a contextual collection based on the rather intimate items of individuals.

Antiques & Vintage Collectibles In Display Case

Is that any different than what we do?

I don’t think so.

They even want the stuff more when it’s hard to get, when people are less likely to give/sell!

We can argue, or, more accurately, belittle the importance of our collections. We can say we “just” have silly little pieces. We can say we don’t have anything of any real significance. But at the end of the day, we are doing the same thing the museum is doing: collecting a segment, preserving a set of objects (maybe even using home security systems like, which when put together are a record or a snapshot of what was.

In related news, Scientists hope to unlock secrets of museum smells, hoping to see if the smell or, more accurately, the air surrounding the objects contains anything that could be used to understand their composition or condition; museums and collectors could then use such technology to assess collections without touching the objects.

Image: Photo of my own case in an antique mall.

A Pair Of Rare Vintage Republican Pinback Buttons

As a (small) dealer at Antiques On Broadway, I have the opportunity to see items as they come in or are waiting to be priced; that’s how I came to discover these funky vintage political pinback buttons.

(I apologize for the poor quality of the photos; I snapped them quickly with my cell.)

The first vintage pin caught my eye with its  simple line drawing of a presumably Republican elephant on a brown background.

I gather the “Trunks up!” phrase is some sort of rally cry.

Elephants with the trunks turned up are supposed to be good luck, as opposed to elephants with the trunks pointing down; many collectors of elephants (figurines, etc.; not the actual animals!) will only collect them with the trunks up. However, I’ve met other collectors who dare to do the opposite. And many collectors who don’t care one way or another.

The second vintage pinback button was far less iconic in its simplicity — but far more intriguing…

A white flower shape on a blue background with “Organized Housewives For Forsythe” printed in the same shade of blue. It begged me to do a little research. (Oh how I love such invitations!)

While I did learn a lot more about political women’s organizations and housewives and social issues in general, the Organized Housewives For Forsythe was a needle in a rich historical haystack.

The only concrete thing I could find was this political advertisement, published in the Austin Daily Herald on November 1, 1966:

In 1966 Walter Mondale would defeat Republican candidate Robert A. Forsythe and retain his Minnesota Senate seat — but it wasn’t with the help of the Organized Housewives.

If you know more about this group, or these pinbacks, please share by leaving a comment.