Fantasy brass tags of the old westBy

Fantasy brass tags of the old west

A variety of new brass tags are available with names of various places, events, activities and companies associated with America's old west. All of the tags seen so far have been fantasy pieces, items created solely for the reproduction market. No old counterparts to these items ever existed.

Three of the new tags are shown here: two are "body tags" marked Wells Fargo; one is a Bureau of Indian Affairs "corpse tag." Although these and similar new tags are offered at shows, malls, outdoor markets and other venues, they are particularly common on internet auction sites. Some are honestly offered as new products in auctions, but most are offered with very ambiguous descriptions which deliberately leaves the age in doubt.

The following is a typical description seen in one auction. "Here is a nice unused Wells Fargo body tag. Interested bidders may email me with any questions or to request additional pictures. No history on this item, sold AS-IS."

More often then not, sellers using vague or misleading language in their descriptions conduct private auctions–auctions in which the names of bidders are not revealed during the auction. Not revealing bidders' names prevents knowledgeable third parties from contacting prospective buyers to warn them the items are new.

Searching the results of concluded auctions shows new tags are bringing $35-$75. Similar new stamped brass items–such as sheriffs badges, Titanic "souvenirs," and railroad items–typically wholesale for $3-$5.

The stamped words can be changed with very little effort. It's hard to predict what other fantasy tags might be out there in the market. If you're interested in these types of items, you need to maintain a healthy skepticism. Have you seen similar items in the collections of friends or museums? Can you locate identical items in respected reference books? Will the seller clearly state the approximate age of production? Consider the answers before deciding to buy or bid.

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Fig. 1 New brass tag; about 3½ inches long, about 1¾ inches wide. Stamped with "Bureau of Indian Affairs, Wyoming Territory, Corpse No." There is an empty box next to Corpse No.

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Fig. 2 New brass tag. Stamped with, "Wells Fargo Exp. Co., Human Body." Then there are spaces to be filled in next to the words "Date" and "Bonded #."

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Fig. 3Another version of a new brass Wells Fargo body tag. This one is 3 inches by 1½ inches. It is stamped, "PD Property Wells Fargo Express Corpse No."