Digest>Archives> November 2005

Collecting Nautical Antiques

A Recurring Problem - Marketplace Fakes

By Jim Claflin


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In the last few years, we have seen 30 or more designs of what are represented as Lighthouse Service and Life-Saving Service cap or uniform insignia in the market though, in fact, there were no more than a few in use over the Service's lengthy history. In addition, numerous Coast Guard insignia that have begun to raise questions have appeared as well. Though there was some variation over the years depending on the manufacturer, the basic design and materials remained consistent.

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In recent weeks, we have again seen more creative variations that have been sold at auction for exorbitant prices — up to $600. I have pictured a few of the more striking examples and urge readers to use caution when buying at auctions. Not only are the designs suspect, the materials and construction are far below the high standards used by the Services.

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A recent find that is legitimate

came in the mail this week. As

you know, many of the keeper's implements, including oil cans and measures, dustpan, service basket, lamps and many other items, were manufactured by the craftsmen at the Staten Island Lighthouse Depot Lamp Shop. However, as departments were consolidated and budgets were reduced during the depression years of the 1930s, modern manufacturers in the civilian sector were now able to make fairly good alternatives to the quality cans that keepers were used to. For the standard lamp filling can, it appears

that National Metal Spinning & Stamping Co., NY was contracted to supply such cans. The style and

size were similar to those in use. To properly mark the can, an oval cartouche was soldered to the side by the lamp shop, bearing the standard marking: “U.S.L.H. DEPOT 3. DIST. LAMP SHOP STATEN ISLAND N.Y.” This is a great example of the late Lighthouse Service era as the lamp shop was winding down its work and contracting more and more work to outside companies.

Next time, we will take a look at more uniforms of crew members on lighthouse tenders and, maybe, another recent find.

Like our column?

Have suggestions for future subjects?

Please send in your suggestions and questions, 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. In addition to authoring and publishing a number of books on the subject, Jim is the owner of Kenrick A Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques. Jim has specialized in antiques of this specialty since the early 1990s. 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:


or visit his website at


This story appeared in the November 2005 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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