Q This hand-forged and engraved artifact was found about 40 years ago on the Arkansas River in northern Oklahoma near the Ralston Bridge where a small field on a river terrace was being cleared. Between 1700 and 1750 northern Oklahoma was the site of a French trading post named Ferdinandina that traded with the Indians. When the axe was found it was rusty and corroded. It was wire brushed to reveal intricate engravings on both sides. The pole is round, the actual dimensions are approximately 6 inches by 6? inches and the wire brush marks have softened so the axe has taken on a soft patina. This artifact is most unusual in that it has a broad French blade sweep, a crown that could indicate French royalty or ownership by an important person associated with the crown. Intricate engraving that is now characteristic of most trade artifacts and a size that is smaller than a broad axe add to the curiosity. What can you tell me about this artifact?
– D.C., Stillwater, Okla.
A I did a lot of searching for information on your unique piece but didn’t come up with much. The book, Indian Trade Relics by Lar Hothem (Collector Books) provides a good overview of trade artifacts from the 18th century into the 20th but I found nothing like this piece. The “trade” axes illustrated and described in this reference all have much narrower heads and very little decoration other than perhaps a maker’s mark. Your metal piece is more in the shape of a 16th century halberd, rather than a trade axe. An expert would really have to examine this piece to tell but it seems unlikely that this example is nearly that old. You need good documentation that the background you have is accurate.
Q I bought this vase at an antique shop in 1970. It is 14 inches tall and is marked “Norleans” and “Hand made in Italy” on a paper tag. What can you tell me about it?
– S.M.S., Milwaukee, Wis.
A Your ceramic vase is pretty but I don’t believe it is terribly old. The “Norleans” mark probably does not date before World War II so my guess is that this vase was produced between about 1950 and 1970. It has some decorative value, comparable to what a similar piece might sell for in a better gift shop today.
Q This 12-inch by 12-inch clock keeps perfect time, using a AA battery. Evidently the writing is French, because I can make out the word “Paris” in the last line.
– H.G., Mooresburg, Tenn.
A Although the dial of your wall clock was made to look like an antique French piece, the fact that it is battery-operated tells us that it probably isn’t more than 10-20 years old. It was undoubtedly sold in a decorator shop as an accent piece for a “country French” style interior. The value would be minimal unless you found someone who wanted to decorate with it.
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