Since I've got it here in person, I would agree that somebody polished the snot out of it at some point in time. What appears to me as an "08" is a little iffy, and could very easily be the remainder of what was originally "1898". It's definitely plated in something, as it has fingerprints all the heck over it that would have converted themselves into rust spots if it were carbon in the white. I believe I'll return it to my neighbor and tell him that it's an interesting piece, but I can't help him get any real money out of it. Unless anyone has anything else to add, I'm going to call this one case closed. Thanks to all of you for the usual, expert advice!