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San Francisco Earthquake/Fire HK-340 thru HK-343a

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HK-340a clocktower variety that I recently acquired

343 is

I have been working on trying to determine if 340 (silver) and 340a (silver-plated) really exist, or if all 340s are actually silver plated. To start the analysis, 340 and 340a are almost always the clock tower variety. Jeff owns one 340 that is the non-clock tower version as pictured in H&K. I examined that one piece (the only one Jeff has seen) before it was slabbed and it had a specific gravity in the 9.1 or 9.2 range, too high for copper, so I suspect it is something like 40% or 50% silver. I have a silver-plated piece with clear signs of the underlying copper medal. I have a piece slabbed by NGC as 340, the silver version. I broke it out of the slab for further study. I also bought one nearly black medal, clearly silver-plated or silver given the black toning. All three pieces weigh the same (i.e. within a few .1 or .2 grams) and all have specific gravities just below that of pure copper. Dan Carr recently examined the silver piece and found traces of copper showing through on the tops of a few letters. The black piece has patches of copper showing through in the right light. All my pieces are the clock tower variety. I recently had the opportunity to run the three pieces through an analyzer. One should note that the analyzer is set at a few microns depth. The analyzers are used by coin dealers and bullion dealers to evaluate gold and silver items to determine what to pay for them. The results: My 340 was reported to be 98.06% silver. (20.01 gms, 9.01 specific gravity) My 340a with patches of copper showing through on the worn high spots (but dings and scratches on the surface show silver) scanned as 88.44%. (19.93 gms, 8.86 specific gravity) My black 340a scanned as 53.1% silver. (19.16 gms, 8.79 specific gravity) The specific gravity of copper is 8.96. Brass and bronze would come in a little below that depending on the alloy. The specific gravity of silver is 10.5. If a medal were 50% pure copper and 50% pure silver, then its specific gravity would be (.5 x 8.96) + (.5 x 10.5) or 9.73. So, I'm looking for a 340 that weighs something along the lines of 21 or 22 gms before I can conclude that 340 actually exists.

This nice HK-343a NGC MS-64 piece went for $700 in a recent auction. Congrats to the new owner!

Billy's Disaster version of the earthquake medal has intrigued me for sometime. So too did an earthquake watch fob I saw years ago before I started collecting the earthquake material. I finally found another one without realizing that it was the Disaster version until I showed it to Jeff. So, here is the full fob. I have not finished studying it carefully, but I believe it is not a Joseph Mayer piece. The style of the state seal reminds me of Schwaab medals. Perhaps it is a Schwaab knock-off of a J. Mayer design.

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