I got a call one day and it was this guy, and he was telling me his father had passed away and he was cleaning out his Father’s house. His father had a lot of old Civil War stuff, like a musket and some other things. This guy didn’t believe in having guns in his house, so he didn’t want it. He packed a lot of it up to bring to a museum in Ohio, but he had a couple of pieces left over he didn’t think they would want. So he asked if I would like to see it, and of course I said yes.
So at first he brings me in a Handel lamp. That’s the brand of the lamp, Handel, but the lamp doesn’t doesn’t say Handel on it. So you know, it’s an old 1920s stained-glass lamp, so I bought it.
So then I said, “If you’ve got anything else, let me know.”
He said, “Well, I got some Civil War junk, but it’s really junk.”
So I told him I’d take a look at it. He brought me a musket, he brought me a pistol, and brought in two swords, all from the Civil War! He also brought me an old cherub lamp from the 1920s, a nice big one, and an old wooden clock. But it was the Civil War stuff that was the most exciting to me. I love history.
So then he says to me, “Well, I gotta get five for everything.” And in my head I was like “Five? I don’t know if I can go $5,000!”
So I said to him, “I’m not sure what the history of this stuff is or anything yet. Can you do any better than five?”
He says, “Well, I’ll take $400.” And I realized I had misheard him.
So I said, “Oh, $400, I’ll tell you what, you got more stuff home?”
He said, “Yeah, I packed it up already. But yeah, why?”
I said, “Well, I give you $700 for everything, which is $300 more than you’re looking for, if you have some other antiques to sell me.”
Of course he was like, “Oh, okay. I’ll bring you more stuff.” But he never did. But it was ok anyway because I got the musket, and that was one of the most important pieces of history I felt.
The musket was pretty dirty, so I put it up on the counter and my employee and I were cleaning it because I needed to get some more information about it. You know, I wanted to find out what the brand name of the musket was. It’s a smooth bore musket from the 1840s or 1850s. It was manufactured before there were guns that had the rifling in the barrel. And it was a black-powder cap, which was good. It wasn’t a flintlock, that would have been from the Revolutionary War, but it was a black-powder cap which is important.
My employee started cleaning off the area that had the brand name and she starts reading it to me, “H… A… R… P…”
I said, “Wait a minute, that’s not a manufacturer.”
And she said, “That’s what’s on here.”
I said, “Is it Harper’s? Tell me it says Harper’s honestly!”
She said, “Yeah, that’s it.”
So I said is the name under it Ferry?”
She said, “Yeah, it looks like it could be Ferry. Yes it says Harper’s Ferry musket.”
I was so excited. I said, “No way! You gotta be kidding me?!” And she asked me why and I said, “Because the battle at Harper’s Ferry is what started the Civil War!”
Like I’ve said, I’m a huge history buff, it’s one of the reasons I love the antiques business. I told her this musket was in the armory at Harper’s Ferry. Back then the armory stamped everything with the armory’s name on it. And you know, there is a U.S. government seal on there proving it is a military weapon.
I said, “Oh my god, I can’t believe it’s a Harper’s Ferry musket!
Harper’s Ferry, Virginia was best known for the attack on the U.S. armory there on October 16, 1859, by the abolitionist John Brown who led a group of 22 men in a raid on the arsenal. Five of the men were black: three free black men, one freed slave, and one fugitive slave. Brown attacked and captured several buildings, hoping to secure the weapons depot and arm the slaves to start a revolt across the South. It was a failed attempt and Brown was hung for treason for it. However, Harper’s Ferry was a key location fought over and changing hands from the North to the South and back again throughout the entire Civil War as well.
Sal says, “I was excited that the musket actually had Harper’s Ferry on it, and it turned out the pistol was also from there. It was, you know, dirty and had some rust on it, so at first I couldn’t read the name. So I asked Brenda to clean up the name, and I knew it had to be a Navy pistol because of the type of trigger guard on it.”
It turned out to be a nice Navy pistol with black powder cap made between 1800-1830s or 1840s. Brenda started cleaning off the name and she starts spelling out Colt. It’s a Colt naval pistol. If it was in mint condition, it would be worth a lot of money. Unfortunately the condition of it was not great. But I’m still looking into the value of it. Back then the state of the art was a black powder pistol cap, back then it was very, very big deal.
Finally we took at a look at the sword I got from the guy. It is a brass-handled sword and it’s an Ames, which was the biggest sword manufacturers we have in this country, located in Massachusetts. So I was sort of brush off the guard on it and it says U.S.N on it, the United States Navy. So it’s a 1840s-1850s sword, and the coolest part about it is the deep grooves in that blade. The guy who owned it, was using that sword to defend himself. He was fighting for his life with that sword, because you can see the deep grooves in the blade, where it was hit with another sword. So even though the blade is not perfect, the historical significance of a sword that was actually used in battle is important, and even more important was that it was obviously used during the Civil War.
What’s the moral to this story? It’s the same as we always tell you, because you know, the man who brought Sal these Civil War weapons was getting ready to just throw them out. He had no idea of the historical significance or monetary value of these items his father had collected. And that’s often true for people who’ve inherited items from a family member who was a collector. The moral is. . . Don’t throw cash in the trash. Bring your supposed “junk” to Sal at Judy’s Jewelry and Antiques, and find out what it’s really worth.