Samuel Bell Bowie Knife, 1860
Appraised Value: $60,000 - $70,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (3:36)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: This is a belt knife that belonged to my great-great-great-grandfather, Sterling Clack Robertson. Sterling was in the... fought with Sam Houston at the battle of San Jacinto in 1836. And the sword he carried during that battle, he made into two belt knives. And this is one of the two belt knives.
APPRAISER: So family tradition has always been that he really liked the sword and liked the idea of turning it into something that he could continue on and wear.
GUEST: That's right.
APPRAISER: Well, this is a very interesting knife. It's made by a maker named Samuel Bell. He worked in Knoxville, Tennessee, up until 1851. In 1851, he found himself in dire financial straits, and from then he moved to San Antonio. He was much more successful when he got to Texas. I know there's a family lore that blades were made from a sword that belonged to this Mr. Robertson, Sterling.
APPRAISER: And that he had the knife made for himself. But there's a couple of things about this knife that make me think it was made in San Antonio. And in order for it to be made in San Antonio, it would have been made after he had passed away. Because he passed away in 1842.
APPRAISER: If we take the knife up off the stand, and we look at the blade, I just want to point out the fact that this is very typical of a bowie knife blade made by Samuel Bell himself. And also that the knife and the form of this knife are more consistent with knives made in San Antonio. I think that more than likely what we have is a knife that was made for... And you could correct me if I'm wrong, but is this his son?
GUEST: Yes, that's correct.
APPRAISER: E. Robertson.
GUEST: Right, Elijah, right.
APPRAISER: Elijah Robertson, and in 1862.
APPRAISER: See, Bell continues to work well into the 1880s. Now, these are just great knives to look at. I mean just awfully pretty, all solid silver. If you look we have these nice little designs here. A little bit of flowers, we have a hunter's horn or a military trumpet. You'd like to allude to this star maybe represents Texas because obviously, everybody knows the star is kind of a Texas theme. That's hard to say, but I think you could go with that if you wanted to. Now, we're not going to turn this knife over, but when you do, on the other side there is a mark that says "S. Bell." And the reason that we're not going to show that is there are only two or three examples of this knife that I know of or that are known. And that particular marking has always been something that people in the trade or in the real, true heart collectors, they know that that's the correct mark. Whereas if we showed that mark or if the collectors allowed that mark to be photographed, you... It would almost immediately begin to be reproduced and faked.
APPRAISER: And that marking adds a tremendous amount of value to your knife. Now, did you ever have the knife looked at, or evaluated, or appraised before?
GUEST: Well, my wife has contacted some people in Nashville, but we never really followed up on it.
APPRAISER: Because Bell is so unique and you actually have a marked one, it hasn't suffered the price drop that many of the other bowie knives have. It's a really great form, it's a classic Bell knife, it's nice that it's marked. It's nice that it has some Texas history with it. And then obviously now, it's just moved down through the line in your family, which I think is a nice thing. This is a knife that retail I would expect to sell between $60,000 and $70,000.
GUEST: Well, that's great to know. I appreciate that.
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