Mid-19th C. Louis Hoffman Derringer-Style Pistol
Appraised Value: $8,500 - $9,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (2:34)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: This has been in my family on my father's side, and it had at one time been used in a duel. There's a notch in the handle, and they said it had killed a man during a duel fight. But I don't know anything about it, really.
APPRAISER: Well, what type of pistol do you think it is?
GUEST: Someone had told us they thought it was a Derringer.
APPRAISER: Okay. It's a Derringer style. There's a maker by the name of Henry Derringer from Philadelphia, who came out with this style of little small single-shot pistol. It's the type of gun a gentleman who's coming down or up the river gambling might stop off in a river town and buy, keep in his pocket to protect himself. Or when the war starts, a Union soldier or a Confederate soldier-- he might purchase a gun like this to carry in his pockets or in his belt as just a little extra protection, because they are only a single-shot. The interesting thing about this gun, though, is it's not made by Henry Derringer. It's actually made in Vicksburg, Mississippi, by a gentleman by the name of Louis Hoffman. This gun's probably anywhere from 1840 up to about 1860, '61. There are a few features with this gun that are indicative of only guns made in Mississippi and in Tennessee. If we turn it upside down, if you see this little raised ridge here, this is something that you'll only see from Mississippi and Tennessee. This little screw that's set right in here-- you only find that in guns that are made in Mississippi and Tennessee. There's a small swale that comes up underneath the nipple here. That, again, you will never see on a Derringer. And then obviously the key to it all is if we look, you can see right here it says "Louis Hoffman, Vicksburg."
APPRAISER: They're fascinating pistols.The ones that are made in the South-- they're few and far between. There's a maker in Nashville by the name of Bitterlick, and they think he may have made most of these parts and then sold them throughout Mississippi and Tennessee, because you also see these style of parts on guns made in Memphis. But we're not sure. Nobody really knows that, and as far as the value, right now that's not a concern. I can tell you if this were made by Henry Derringer, in the condition that it's in, it would be a gun that... you know, $1,500 or something like that. I think if this gun were in a really solid retail sale-- maybe $8,500, maybe $9,000. That's how big a difference it is between a Derringer, because it is made in the South and more than likely made in Vicksburg by Louis Hoffman.
GUEST: Well, thank you-- that's good to know.
APPRAISER: It's a fantastic pistol, and it's actually in very, very nice condition.
GUEST: Well, it hadn't had a lot of use lately.
APPRAISER: I think you told me your father fired this thing one time.
GUEST: He fired it in about 1918, but the blast sent him over backwards onto the ground and he got in a lot of trouble.
APPRAISER: That's the last time anybody's shot it, huh?
GUEST: That's the last time anyone shot it.
APPRAISER: It's a very, very nice pistol.
GUEST: Thank you.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.