The Civil War Collector – June 2014

The Civil War Collector - June 2014

The Civil War Collector – June 2014

By John Sexton
Q: I’ve been asked to research this sword to find out if it’s authentic. Can you help?

JS: This particular sword is a foot officer’s pattern sword, most typically associated with Confederate manufacturers in Memphis, Tennessee, and Mobile, Alabama. The reproductions of this particular pattern are extremely convincing.
Your sword, in my opinion, is no doubt original and most likely made by Louis Bissonnet of Mobile, Alabama. This is a fairly common Confederate officer’s pattern sword made or agent-marked by several makers in the Deep South. The scrolls you see on the blade are part of a floral-etched pattern that originally covered the blade for 15 to 18 inches on either side, possibly with maker’s mark and sometimes even the soldier’s name. Unfortunately, in this condition the mirror-like etch will not be discernible to any great detail, but at least it shows us some detail that helps attribute it to this particular Mobile, Alabama, maker.
The hilt on your sword is extremely nice and would be hard to upgrade. It appears all original and typical of other Mobile-made swords with a bulbous-shaped grip.
There is a pristine example of this sword being sold by Bonham’s auction, San Francisco on June 9 from the collection of Joseph Murphy. There could not be a better example with bright, frosted etching and accompanying scabbard. It will probably have a presale estimate minimum of $8,000-$10,000 and bring at least in that range. Your example in auction would probably have a presale estimate of $3,000-$5,000 and sell in that range. It is possible it would bring the high side of this estimate or even more as the hilt has such a fine “as found” attic patina.
Q: I am in possession of what I understand to be the original 1889 Wilder’s Brigade sign-in roster for the 1889 GAR National Convention. The Historical Society in Indianapolis, Indiana, has asked me to bring the roster to them to examine it. Could you give me any idea of what a book/roster like this might be worth? Thank you for your time and consideration.
JS: Wilder’s Brigade was a famous Union fighting unit during the Civil War. The unit is best known for the first use of Spencer rifles in combat (the Battle of Hoover’s Gap), and items associated with this unit are highly collectible. The reunion ribbons and program shown will sell for about $200. The unique 1889 ledger with signatures of surviving members is probably worth $400-$500 in my opinion, but in auction—if Wilder’s brigade collectors compete—it could bring more, but similar items of other units rarely sell for more than a few hundred dollars.
 
Q: I have a book I am interested in getting appraised. Perhaps, you might even know of the best way to find a buyer. It is a handwritten baby book by James B. Duke to his sister Mary Elizabeth Duke. I know he started the Duke University endowment.
JS: Autograph books and scrapbooks of the mid-19th century are quite common and have little value in the antique market, unless associated with prominent personalities or containing valuable laid-in papers, photographs or other memorabilia. This “Floral Album” is typical of this era. I see you did find that the James B. Duke in your album predates the birth of the famous James Buchanan Duke, father of Doris Duke and famous philanthropist who endowed several North Carolina colleges and universities. Even if this album was of this well-known Duke, value would have not been much in the collector’s market, based on the contents.
These albums tell a little piece of history into the common people of the era, especially women and girls who were most likely to possess them. The poetry and impressions of people of the day, before the times of mass media when writing was still done on a daily basis, are typically the contents of these albums. Similar albums sell for a wide range of prices depending on venue, but typically they rarely bring more than $100 or so.
 

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