Frankenau Purse Revolver, ca. 1880
Appraised Value: $3,000 - $5,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (2:26)
Arms & Militaria
Bonhams & Butterfields, SF
GUEST: I thought it was a purse when I first found it. And it turns out it's a wallet pistol. And that's about all I know about it.
APPRAISER: It is a change purse, as you see. And then when we turn it this way... and open it up, this side reveals a pistol. So, where'd you get it?
GUEST: I was renovating a house down in Essex, a circa 1800 center-chimney Cape, and it was in one of the side compartments behind the fireplace tucked away in the back. And when I first found it, I thought it was just a change purse and was hoping there was some old money in it.
APPRAISER: So you didn't find any money.
GUEST: No money.
APPRAISER: But you found a gun.
GUEST: But I finally opened the other side and found the pistol.
APPRAISER: Right here on the side is a button, and if you push the button, it will reveal the barrel. And, also, underneath, a folding trigger will come out. The concept behind the pistol was that as a robber came up to you and trying to take your money from you, as it appears that you're fumbling with your purse, you're actually preparing to shoot. Because what you have inside is a six-shot revolver. It's based on a pin-fire system, and right here at the base there's these little holes, and a little pin would stick out of a back of a cartridge, and when you pulled the trigger, this hammer would come and hit the pin and it would discharge the projectile through the end here.
APPRAISER: This was designed by Oscar Frankenau from Nuremberg, Germany. And he took out a U.S. patent for this idea in November of 1877. So this pistol and this change purse comes from around late 1870s, probably made in Germany. This little thing here, also, after you fired the weapon, you could eject the cartridges with using this little rod here. In the late 19th century, there was a lot of interest in all sorts of different types of concealed firearms, and this is just one variation on the theme. They were not necessarily that popular, so they're fairly scarce on the marketplace. The only issue I have is that there appears to be a repair. Underneath here is a spring and somebody tied it down together. I wouldn't put any stock into having that repaired. It wouldn't add any value in the long run.
APPRAISER: I think that if this was to appear at auction, it would bring somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.
APPRAISER: So, that's just as good as finding money, right?
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2013 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.