TagTown M.M. Buck Page

A few of these tags a kicking around. More than claiming them to be real or fake I want more evidence of either position before making any final decision. I will provide the evidence and let you guys tell me what (1) you know and (2) what you think. I once believed these to be definitely fake, however, when a Civl War digger finds one buried under a tree, I will rethink my position.

Some Background:
A. Two of these tags were for sale at Gaithersburg in 1999. I was looking them over when a voice came from behind me saying, "You're not gonna buy those, are you?" We had a lengthy discussion

B. I have been asked my opinion on one of these tags by a reputable Railroadiana dealer. I said I didn't like them based on what is in the "Bad" section that follows.

C. A Civil War digger contacted my in early 2001 asking for information on these tags. He found the tag below buried under a tree.

The Bad side - The 1999 Gaithersburg "discussion"
1. The very experienced tag tag collector and I discussed these at length. He didn't like them because of the casting itself (they have to be cast, the letters and numbers are raised). If you have ever held a fake cast lock next to a genuine one, the fakes are always obvious.

2. I didn't like them because of a four digit number that was cast. The idea of M.M. Buck making 5,000 to 12,000 castings for the Iron Mountain alone is inconceivable to me. It is possible that earlier numbers of pairs of "Local" tags were already in circulation and that these were an "experiment" or something along those lines.

3. Outside of builders plates suppliers rarely cast markings for individual pieces. Remember that baggage tags were ordered by the gross (that's 144 for you young fells). Stamped id tags were definitely applied to tin ware, lanterns, etc.

The Good side
1. Because these are "Locals" and not interline, the number produced would be under 20,000 total for any road that would have ordered them.

2. I have no reason to not believe the Civil War digger. It doesn't make sense for someone to "plant" one of these under a tree for this guy to find it years later.

If anyone out there has nay M.M. Buck cast tags please let me know the following:
  1. road name / initials /number(s)
  2. shape / size
  3. bag or duplicate (bag won't have DUPL.)
  4. when purchased/found
  5. where purchased/found
  6. any image(s)

email me with any information on this maker

What follows is a chronological listing of Buck tag information (most recent first)

12/2001 update

Where I was once 95% sure these tags were "no good". I have changed my feeling on this to a 60% feeling that they are "no good". The controversy will rage on. This is good for the hobby. Question everything you see! I am skeptical by nature. Twenty years in the High Tech industry has trained me to be critical of everything. Again, send any information on additional roads that have this cast style to me. I will be more than happy to post all legitimate replies. I really want some confirmation on the manufacturing process of these tags. 

At the November, 2001 Gaithersburg show (biggest Railroadiana show in the country) I saw yet another Buck style tag. This was a Monon (CI&L RR). I didn't record the number, however, it was just like the rounded rectangle Iron Mountains below. Elmer (MR. Monon) had this in a case of "display" items. He said that he purchased it years ago.

9/26/2001 update

I have received additional information on more existing Buck Tags. It seems as though there are more examples that have been in collections for 20+ years. In addition Steve Spaulding scored an A&PRR tag that is round, but similar to the Iron Mountain tags that are known to exist. One very interesting observation is that on both styles, there is a reinforcement between the top of the tag and the strap opening.

Jerry Hickman has also done a lot of running down to get additional information from other collectors. So far, at least 5 Iron Mountain tags have turned up.

I wish I wasn't so skeptical in general, however, I still have some reservations on how hard it would have been to cast this many tags in a 19th century production environment. Somebody please explain to me how Buck would change dies (for each number pair) and cast these sets as a money making proposition! Were they a money losing promotion by the roads that ordered them (similar to dining car losses)? Did Buck offer these as a special to valued customers (Iron Mountain and A&P)?

I still have some reservations with the castings themselves. There is some surface roughness to each image that I have seen. I believe that most 19th century brass castings were done with real craftsmanship and have a very smooth finish.

I want ot be a believer. I wanna say "Yes, they are great", but I am still on the fence.
Please, please, please... keep em coming and I'll post all images and stories I receive.
M.M. Buck A&P Example

Note that the image has been enlarged for clarity.

The strap opening size and shape are correct.

The LOCAL. designation and small star  mean passenger receipt for a tag that would not leave the "home road"

Note that all letters and numbers shown are raised (they had to be cast) 

June/2001 original post

I will be more than happy to post a running log of all reported tags.
Any other thoughts on casting and manufacturing processes in the 1880s would also be appreciated.
M.M. Buck Iron Mountain Example

The strap opening size and shape are correct.

The DUPL. designation is for "duplicate" meaning passenger receipt in 1800s baggage speak.
The reported makers hallmark was M.M. Puck, however, The ones I have seen were clearly M.M. Buck..

Note that all letters and numbers shown are raised (they had to be cast) 

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