W. Butcher "Arkansas Toothpick" Bowie Knife, ca. 1836
Appraised Value: $20,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (2:57)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: My dad told me it belonged to my great-great-great-grandfather. And the story was that he would build a flat boat, buy all the goods up around the Green or Portsmouth area, travel down to the Mississippi to New Orleans, sell everything, including the flat boat, and buy a mule, come back up, sell the mule, and start all over again.
APPRAISER: Build a new flat boat, and head right back down the river again.
GUEST: I don't know, I think he only did that for a little while.
APPRAISER: Right. Well, I think the story's great, and it's kind of neat to me because the knife fits into the whole pattern. What we have is a bowie knife, after Jim Bowie. But you have a very particular knife that collectors would be fascinated by. And one of the main reasons is if we look right here on the blade, you're going to see where it says Arkansas Toothpick.
APPRAISER: And knives that have etched blades and have patterns and mottos, those are very, very collectible. If we look towards the back here, we're going to see where this says W. Butcher Sheffield. That's the maker. And they're building knives in Sheffield, England, in the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s. One of the ways that we can date this knife, there's a crown and a letter W, and the letter R, and that's for William. It's William Rex. So William dies in 1837. Now the knife can still be made into the early '40s. I mean, that's a royal warrant. But Arkansas becomes a state in 1836.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: So it does kind of help us put an idea of when this knife was manufactured. We have this really exotic hardwood grip. I think it's probably rosewood, and this was expensive to use to build the knife. And if you look here, you have what in the collector field is often referred to as a little Spanish clip or a Spanish notch. I don't know terribly how necessarily useful that is, but I believe the idea behind it is to catch another blade. We have this kind of pressed paper scabbard with a little bit of cover of red morocco. And over here we have this...
GUEST: I didn't do that, my father did that.
APPRAISER: Okay, we'll refer to it as the repair.
GUEST: (laughing) Okay.
APPRAISER: Well, the knife itself is in wonderful condition. The blade, we still have all this floral-like engraving. We have the etched motto that's easy to read. We have this really nice grip. We have German silver escutcheon on it, where someone could have applied a name. But this one never had anything put on it. But the knife, the handle and all are in great shape. This is such a wonderful knife, I could see this thing in a retail environment bringing $20,000.
GUEST: You're kidding.
APPRAISER: No, absolutely.
GUEST: Great. Wow.
APPRAISER: No, it's the type of thing that a person like myself, even as a dealer, this is such a nice...I'm going to have a hard time parting with it myself.
GUEST: I think I'm just in awe right now.
APPRAISER: It's a really great knife.
GUEST: Well, I noticed it was so heavy to hold, that the weight, it just seemed like it would be so easy to use.
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