Digest>Archives> May 2003

Collecting Nautical Antiques

Life Saving Service Insignia?

By Jim Claflin


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As with most antiques and artifacts of this and other services, the key to building a good collection relies on a bit of research and a good eye for detail. However, with the increased interest in the subject there has been an influx of replica insignia on the market in an effort to capitalize on the growing market.

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We have discussed this subject before but I feel that the caution bears repeating. I have shown a few of the recent entrances on the scene, all purported to be authentic Life Saving Service insignia. None of these particular examples are authentic and I urge you to use caution, as many sell in the hundreds of dollars. In the last few years we have seen 40 or more designs of what are represented as Life-Saving Service or Lighthouse Service cap or uniform insignia on the market, though in fact there were no more than a few in use over the services’ long history. Though there was some variation over the years depending on the manufacturer, the basic design and materials remained consistent.

Remember, in all of your purchases of lighthouse antiques, keep one thing in mind: items produced by or for the Lighthouse Establishment and Life Saving Service were always of the highest quality and made from the very best materials. Most of today’s fakes are made overseas and of questionable quality. Original insignia were absolutely uniform in shape and design and were gold plated sterling or embroidered in the finest bullion threads. If you are looking at a possible insignia and see any defects in workmanship, solder joints, or an insignia that just doesn’t look uniform or professional, seek further information before you buy.

In future columns we will talk more about back-marks and dating insignia, other questionable designs, replicas, and more. Next month we will take a look at Revenue Cutter Service china.

Please continue to send in your questions on the subject or a photograph of an object that you need help dating or identifying. We will include the answer to a selected inquiry as a regular feature each month in our column.

Jim Claflin is a recognized authority on antiques of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service, Revenue Cutter Service and early Coast Guard. He may be contacted by writing to him at 1227 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or by calling 508-792-6627. You may also contact him by email: jclaflin@lighthouseantiques.net or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net

This story appeared in the May 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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