Appraisal Video: (3:13)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: These belonged to Captain George R. Head. He was from Leesburg, Virginia, and he was my husband's great-great-grandfather, and he was a captain in the Confederate Army, 17th, Virginia.
APPRAISER: You had several documents that you brought in, and we pulled one out because it will plainly show it. It says "Captain George Head, 17th Virginia Regiment." Over here what we have is his belt that he would have worn as a captain. It's a wonderful thing-- they very rarely survive with the leather. It has the Virginia state seal on the buckle. It's a special thing to find it all together. These are the hangers for the sword, they come around. Those are often torn off, you know, kind of separated from the belt. Do you have any idea what a belt like that could be worth?
APPRAISER: That's a fantastic belt. We're not talking about the provenance yet, but on its own, just as an item, that's $7,500.
GUEST: This is?
APPRAISER: Yes, ma'am, that's correct. It's a wonderful, wonderful belt. You never find them where they survive in condition like that. The other thing I was really kind of excited about was this little, tin canteen which, on it's own, doesn't look like very much. I see where there used to be a paper tag on it, but it's fallen off. And I said to my colleague, "Boy, it's a shame the tag is gone," because if it mentioned his name or the Confederacy, we could settle an argument that's been among collectors for a long time. A lot of sophisticated collectors have often thought that these canteens were for the New England militia, prewar, that they had nothing to do with the Confederacy. While several people from the South always believed these could have be used by Confederates. Well, here today, we have an answer, because when we turn this canteen over-- this is fantastic, by the way-- we see the state seal of Virginia. Right on the top we have Virginia, at the bottom we have Sic Semper Tyrannis. There can be no question that this canteen was carried by Captain Head when he was a captain of the 17th Virginia Regiment. There's an answer to a question that we've always had. We don't know if they were made in the Confederacy, but there can never be a doubt again whether these canteens were used by Confederate soldiers. I'm happy to see it, I've always liked them, I collect them. It's the only one that's known, and we really do...
GUEST: It's the only one?
APPRAISER: It's the only one that's known that has a stencil that shows the regiment. We really know. This is worth about $5,000, and with the $7,500 on the belt, you were like, "Oh." But the truth is, to me, this is the more exciting item that came in today. It's fantastic, and it really lays to rest an age-old question that we've always had. Put the two items together with your documents, they're $12,500 for items, I think, historically... you know, we tie the provenance in, it's solid, it's pat, maybe $15,000, $16,000 as a group. They're great, and that's why I want you handle them a lot more gingerly than you did when you brought them in.
GUEST: You're kidding. Well, how do you take care of them?
APPRAISER: Really, by doing nothing. It just needs to be left alone, but we don't want anything rubbing against the surface. Because every time this is rubbed against, we lose a little bit of the stencil. With the belt, don't put leather care on it. It's in a wonderful state of preservation. It just needs to be left alone, laid out flat where the hangers are allowed to set, where they don't have binds, and it will take care of itself.