Value sought for children's rewards, WWII battle souvenirs

TERRY MAURER, COLUMNISTOctober 7, 2012 

Educational, early Edwardian ceramics for children and the wartime journey of an Army engineer company are in the spotlight of today's What's It Worth?

First up -- an unusual alphabet plate from England:

Q. I have had this little plate for a long time. It is off-white with raised alphabet on the other rim. On the bottom it has stamped sign language and a picture with two children having a tea party. On the back it is stamped R N 426673 H.Aynsley & Co Longton. What can you tell me about it? --Leanne in Prosser

A. The "RN" number on the back provides us all the who, where and when information.

This delightful small plate dates to 1904, during the reign of King Edward VII, when the design was registered in England. It was made by John Aynsley & Sons at their Portland Works in Longton, a part of the Staffordshire potteries district.

Measuring about 61/4 inches in diameter, the plate features letters of the alphabet embossed around the rim. There is a second alphabet -- in sign language -- inside the well of the plate.

It is transfer printed from a copperplate engraving on a creamy earthenware clay and finished with pearlware glaze.

Plates like this were made as gifts for children as rewards of merit for school work, church attendance and the like. They were used to aid in children's education and moral training, and to encourage their young imaginations.

While not uncommon or particularly hard to find, this design can command a good price. I have seen them for sale for as much as $300. However, the latest record turned up in our research is an identical plate that failed to sell on eBay last week with a price of $295. A similar sign language plate by Aynsley, in Flow Blue colors but with a different decoration, is currently being offered online for $50.

Q. An uncle brought this map back after his service in World War II. It details the campaign of E Company of the U.S. Army's 344th Engineer Regiment. We treasure it in the family and have been told it has value. Can you add some details? -- Scott in Desert Aire

A. What a journey! The 344th Engineers was part of the Army's 6th Corps of Combat Engineers. The regiment, Company E included, moved overseas in July of 1942. First stationed in Scotland and southern England, the men were trained as an engineering combat regiment -- records indicate their initial training in the U.S. had been basic and very limited.

Next shipped to Oran in Algeria in early 1943, they worked on general construction projects there for the following six months.

The map details their journey from Algeria to Italy, through eastern France and into Germany and Austria. They mostly served as engineers for various Army divisions, but also were infantry troops and saw more than their share of action.

Veterans such as your uncle were awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Service ribbon, with battle stars for Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, France, Rhineland and Central Europe. He also was authorized to wear the Bronze Arrowhead for the regiment's initial assault landings on the beaches of southern France.

Highly awarded individually, members of the 344th all received the Meritorious Service Unit plaque. Personnel of the regiment were awarded five Legions of Merit, three silver Stars, seven Bronze Stars, 35 Purple Hearts, 20 Insignias of the First French Regiment of Zouaves and three French Croix de Guerres.

Those who served in the regiment had a unique experience. Initially organized as an engineer's service unit, they later were trained as a combat group. Regimental history notes that, "At times during its operations it has been called upon to serve in every conceivable military engineering capacity."

By the first of November 1945, all the officers and enlisted men had been relieved of duties and had returned to the United States for discharge from service.

The map is the type of souvenir many GIs obtained at the end of, or right after the war as a record of their service.

Framed and in excellent condition, it would have a likely market value between $100 and $200. A specialist military collector might pay more. As a family heirloom it is, of course, a priceless object.

* Terry Maurer, Tri-Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by e-mail to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

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