Military Aeronaut Wing, ca. 1920
I brought in a wing that used to belong to my great-uncle. I just know that he was in World War I, and that he was on the aero squad in the balloon company, 19th Balloon Company. And he was the youngest pilot at the time that he passed away.
Under what circumstance did he lose his life?
It was in service. It was at Langley Field. And he was parachuting at the same time that they were dropping bombs. And unfortunately, when he landed in the water, they didn't know if it was a bomb or a person, because the wind blew him off-course, and it was a canvas parachute, so he drowned underneath the parachute before they could row out to pick him up.
When did that happen?
There were not that many individuals who were authorized to wear balloon wings. And the whole point of that is to get elevated above the battlefield, figure out what's going on, and then direct artillery fire and get other information back to command. This particular pattern wing, some people call it "a balloon pilot wing." I believe the technical term, it's a military aeronaut wing. It was introduced in 1919. These were only around until 1921. And on the back here, there's even more information. That marking is indicative of the very first batch of those that was made at the Philadelphia Mint. The rumor around the campfire is that there were about 100 of them made, but we really don't know. Such a small little sliver of time and such a very limited number of them that were manufactured conspire to make it very rare and rather valuable. It's our feeling that a solid retail figure on this today would be between $2,500 and $3,000.
Oh, my God, are you kidding me?
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