Appraisal Video: (3:40)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: Well, it's something we found on our property about ten years ago. When I found it, I didn't realize it was a cannon. I thought it was a piece of old junk, plastic pipe, and I kind of ignored it. And when I went to pick it up off the ground, I realized that it wasn't a piece of plastic pipe, it was so darn heavy. So I thought I'd sell it for junk. I just knew it was brass. I thought it was a part off a piece of mining equipment. Then I thought it was a trailer hitch of some kind because of the round ball on it. It didn't really register until I started cleaning the mud off of it, which was about three months after I had it.
APPRAISER: Okay, okay.
GUEST: And when I cleaned the mud off it, I was pouring water down the barrel, and the water came out this little hole, and that's when the lights went on, and I realized it was a cannon.
GUEST: Found some markings on it, did a little research. I couldn't find a whole lot. I know that it was made in Boston, and I found the name of the company. The initials are on there. And I know the date it was manufactured, and that's about all I know about it.
APPRAISER: Okay, well, I'll tell you a couple of things that I know about it. It's a mountain howitzer. It's a wonderful gun. It's made by Cyrus Alger, okay, in Boston, as you said. The 464 that we see right here-- that's the 464th gun made by Cyrus Alger. If we turn it around and we take a look at the muzzle, we'll see there's a number 87 right here. Well, that's the 87th mountain howitzer made by Cyrus Alger. And then down here on the bottom-- those are the initials of the government inspector. His name was Louis Wallbach. And what he did is, he tested the gun, found it of quality that the government would want to use, and then he arranged to have it stamped with a large "U.S." for approval. Now, if we look right here, we have the date of 1853, and Louis Wallbach only inspected for the government in the year of 1853.
GUEST: Oh, just one year.
APPRAISER: And then we have, if we flip it around a little bit more, on the back, we have the number 224. Well, the 224 is the weight. This gun weighs 224 pounds.
GUEST: Oh, I thought it weighed more.
APPRAISER: Well, that's why it's a mountain howitzer. The idea behind this gun is the weight. Instead of carrying around such a large, unwieldy artillery piece, this is something that could be put into action very fast. As you can tell when we put it up here, two men can pick it up and move it and transport it. These were very popular with the cavalry. I know you had said that you found it in California. These are the type of cannons that would have been used throughout the mountainous area here. It's in wonderful condition. The bore is very good. That's of paramount importance to a guy who likes to fire them. The vent is still in nice shape. It's got this wonderful patina. I know that you had said maybe you'd scrap it for the brass, but this is actually bronze. It's a harder material. These guns have gotten so popular, and the prices have started going through the roof. I mean, do you have any idea what this might bring on today's market?
GUEST: I haven't the slightest idea. All I know is that a reproduction of it was at around $10,000 when I checked it...
APPRAISER: Around $10,000.
GUEST: That's right. Quite few years ago.
APPRAISER: On today's market, a cannon like this would retail between $35,000 and $40,000.
GUEST: Holy mackerel.
APPRAISER: l Yeah, they're very popular. They're very easy to sell.
GUEST: That's a shocker to me.
APPRAISER: Now, I have to tell you, a lot of artillery pieces actually belong to the federal government, and they've gone missing. There's a serial number list that they go by. Your gun will be a missing gun if you indeed found it in your yard, but not necessarily from the government. It may not be on their roll. It may be yours to sell, but it is something that you would want to investigate, you know, to make sure that you had free and clear title. But I'm glad you brought it. They're unique pieces, and they're just fascinating.
GUEST: Thank you very much.
APPRAISER: Oh, you're quite welcome.