18th-Century North African Flintlock Pistol
Appraised Value: $5,000 - $7,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Translation, Please ...
Ever since she was a girl, the owner of a highly embellished 18th-century pistol wondered what the Arabic engraving on it means
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Appraisal Video: (3:38)
Arms & Militaria
Bonhams & Butterfields, SF
GUEST: Well, my father was a gun collector and bought this gun at a gun show in Ohio. I'd say around 1960. I was about ten years old and fell madly in love with it the minute he walked through the door with it. It's been pure romance to me. It's pirates, Barbary Coast, Lawrence of Arabia. I've just always admired it, and when he passed away, this is the gun that I got out of his collection, and I just love it, but I'd love to know more about it.
APPRAISER: How did you know about the Barbary Coast?
GUEST: I didn't, it just has that look.
APPRAISER: How much did he pay for it?
GUEST: Um, it's on the tag here. It's $350.
APPRAISER: Well, you're correct in this is a North African pistol from the 18th Century. And I would say that it's probably the second half of the 18th Century. And the decoration is composed of these red corals within this silver inlay. Pistols can be made out of horn, ivory, other precious metals, stones, and that's actually what defines this pistol as North African, is the fact that they used... Is that it's coral. It's the red coral.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: And it's got a little bit of gold work on the lock, and it also has a little interesting feature right here, where it appears there's Arabic script on the tang of the barrel. I cannot read Arabic, but I would actually suppose that this is either the maker's name or it's actually a date, so it'd be interesting to find that out. We did notice that on the back here there was some restoration to the pistol, and it looks like it's been polished.
GUEST: You know, my father did have... There were five missing pieces, and I remember when he took it to have it restored, had a couple of these replaced.
APPRAISER: Yeah, because generally it's in very nice condition, and those small little inlays probably won't detract from the value, but cleaning silver detracts from the value.
GUEST: Oh, does it really?
APPRAISER: Yeah. And it's interesting that the pirate story is actually probably very correct in this...
GUEST: Really? Really?
APPRAISER: Yeah, sure. This was probably made for a fairly wealthy North African in the 18th Century, and as you know, in this country, at the end of the 18th Century, once we gained our independence from Britain, we no longer had a navy to protect us, so what had happened is the Barbary Coast pirates trolled the Atlantic Ocean and in many cases pirated American ships and even took prisoners. They're very desirable, these coral-mounted pistols. I estimate that in today's market, this pistol would bring probably about $5,000 to $7,000.
GUEST: That's good-- I can do that, I can do that, yeah, I can do that. (chuckling) That's great. Well, any Hollywood director that wants to borrow it is certainly welcome to. (chuckling)
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