Zane Ziegler is often on eBay looking for items of police memorabilia, particularly badges.
Two months ago, when the retired Champaign police officer saw a six-pointed star with the words Police and Champaign and the number 7 on it, he knew he'd hit the historical jackpot.
It was the badge of slain officer Thomas Dodsworth, one of two Champaign patrolmen killed while on the job. Dodsworth died July 6, 1913, in a shootout with a bootlegger for whom he had an arrest warrant.
(The only other officer killed on duty was Robert Tatman, 27. He was found shot to death on Nov. 25, 1967, with his own service revolver on West Church Street near Mattis Avenue. His murder remains unsolved.)
"The Dodsworth thing was a fluke," Ziegler said. "I saw it on there in the middle of September. It looked different than anything I'd ever seen," he said, referring to the larger size. "This is three-and-a-quarter inches across, a six-point star. That would have been a coat badge."
Ziegler said some of the larger badges were referred to as "pie plates" because they were big enough to turn over and eat a piece of pie off of them.
"That particular badge number was a Chicago third issue, produced between 1889 and 1905. It could have been worn by somebody before Dodsworth, who came on in 1905. But it had to have been his badge. When he was killed in 1913, that badge would not have been issued again," Ziegler said.
"At some point between then and now, it left the department. We don't know exactly how and I don't want to speculate. Back in that time, it was up to whoever was in charge to do whatever they wanted to with stuff. Things disappeared — guns, whatever. Things aren't that way today."
Ziegler said he and his wife put a high bid on the badge and asked other bidders with similar interests to back off, explaining the badge's significance to the Champaign Police Department.
"The Dodsworth badge went to $355. I didn't think that was too bad. I think it was $359 with shipping. It came from a coin dealer in Sacramento, Calif. He said he got it with a large number of badges from a badge dealer. That's about all he would say. I suspect at one time, because of the listings he had, many of the badges were from the Chicago area.
"I saw Chicago pie plates and the same kind of plates for other towns around Chicago. Everybody copied the larger cities. I suspect it came from a collection out of Chicago, maybe an officer's estate. We have no idea," he said.
Police Chief Anthony Cobb said several people around the department dug into their pockets to help Ziegler defray the cost of that treasure.