Appraisal Video: (3:19)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: My great-grandfather brought it from West Point, Mississippi, when they moved to Oklahoma. He gave it to my father. And I was always told that it was a Civil War knife. I mean, when I was a kid it was a sword, but now it's just a big knife.
APPRAISER: Well it is, it's called a Bowie knife, and it's very typically Southern, and I'm not surprised to hear that it belonged to or may have been made in Mississippi. There's a couple of unique features about it that really point to us that it's Confederate. If we look back here on the guard, we're going to notice there's this big "D" shape that comes out, and then you've got the crossguard going here. And they call these a D-Guard, or a D-Guard Bowie knife. Typically, when you see a Confederate knife like this, the D-Guard actually comes across from the bottom, but this is an unusual feature that you don't often encounter, and it's actually kind of a desirable trait that collectors of Bowie knives look for. It has this great, huge size to it. The knife itself is over 18 inches long. The whole idea behind these just giant knives is that I think, when the war starts, every Confederate soldier just really wants this big knife and maybe he wants a bigger knife than even his friend has. And it's a series of very famous photographs, early on, where you'll see them holding this knife like this.
APPRAISER: Showing off the size and the fact that they have this, you know, amazing knife that they're going to take off to the war. And then often in this hand there'll be a placard that would say something along the lines of, maybe even "Jeff Davis in the South," you know, a very patriotic motif for a Southern soldier. The blade itself is a typical form. You come down here, and this is actually referred to as a clip point. So that's where they cut the blade down to make it more of a piercing knife where you have a double edge. You don't have a double edge here, but that's just because of the sheer size of the knife. One of the interesting features about the blade itself is that the clip comes all the way back, way further back on the knife, and that's a very desirable feature to a Bowie knife collector. Here, we see it says "Jackson." It's possible that that could be the maker, who would undoubtedly be a blacksmith, but I don't think so. It could be the owner, but again I don't think so. I think probably this was a huge saw blade, and Jackson was the manufacturer of the saw blade, and when they created the knife out of it, this name was just left. Now, if we come down to the scabbard, there is a unique feature to it. It's not uncommon to see a Confederate scabbard made of leather. It's not uncommon to see a Confederate scabbard made of tin. But what they've done with this one is they've actually gone in and put a wood sleeve to reinforce the scabbard itself, then they stretched the leather over it and then sewn it. Recently, in the Confederate knife market, you've seen a decline in value. I know you said you used to play with it a little bit when you were a child, but you never struck it up against anything.
APPRAISER: And that's good, because we don't have big nicks and dings in the blade. Most Confederate-style knives, even with little scabbards, like I said, today, because of the kind of fluctuation in the market, they're trading in the $2,500 range for retail, up to $3,000 for retail. But because you have all these unique features, this is a knife that today would still hold its value comparable to what the market was before the recession. So I think retail price for this knife would be around $8,000.
GUEST: Oh, wow. I can't believe it's worth that much.