Appraisal Video: (4:04)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: The Will & Finck here I purchased from a dealer in Jackson 15 years ago. Didn't know much about him, did a little bit of research on it. If it's an original, it was a fair value. I paid somewhere around $300, I think. He had two of them, and I didn't buy the other one because I didn't think it was... it didn't look quite right. The bowie, a friend of mine. I had a shop for 20-some years selling knives in retail, jewelry and different things, and a friend of mine brought the bowie in one day and said, "Put it in my collection," and just handed it to me and said it had been in the family and had seen some use. That's really all I know about it; he didn't elaborate too much on it.
APPRAISER: Okay, the knife on the bottom you purchased, the knife on the top was a gift from a friend. Yes. Okay, well, let's start with the Will & Finck. Will & Finck is very famous cutlers. You know, they're one of California's most celebrated knife makers. They actually made some cutlery for the queen. You have all of these guys that are out in California really wanting to look kind of fancy, kind of dandy. Their quality is known to be just excellent. They did dabble around in making knives with silver scabbards. They liked to use mother-of-pearl sometimes. They would also use abalone. But the issue here is the fact that they are known for their quality and the appearance of the way this scabbard is made and the way that it fits, it's just not up to what you would expect to see from a Will & Finck product. There was a time, probably back in the '60s, maybe even in the '50s, where it became real popular to try to fabricate these knives. They had already started to become valuable, so what happens when we find value? People start to fake them, and unfortunately, that's what we have here.
APPRAISER: And one of the things that we'll notice, if you look over on the knife where it's marked "Will & Finck," just below that, it says, "Sterling." You wouldn't expect to see that on a knife that's made in the mid-19th century or in the 1840s, when this one is purported to be made. Now, as far as value goes, you said you thought maybe you had paid $300 for it. You know, on a secondary market today, just as a curiosity, it would cost that to make this knife, so I'm assuming $300 retail is probably quite reasonable. If that knife was authentic, if it was that quality and a Will & Finck product, it would have been about $15,000 retail.
GUEST: Yeah, I knew that.
APPRAISER: But we can move on from the bad news to the good news. The one that was given to you as a gift is a big Confederate-made knife, you know, and obviously being a Confederate-made knife made in the South, it's made sometime during the American Civil War, so between 1861 and 1865. It's a D-guard. If we look out on the end of the handle, we're going to notice it has this D-shaped guard to protect your hands. I like the way the scabbard is embossed, has this little cross-hatching that's going on in it, sets it above from just a plain leather scabbard just another notch. If we turn it over, we'll also notice that there's a reinforcing bar coming down the back, which makes it very practical to use this if you take it out of the scabbard. Instead of the leather just flapping and flopping in the wind, this is kind of giving it some support. That's a special feature that you don't normally see. You still have your belt hook on here. You can imagine how easy it is for something like that to fall off. So all in all, we really do have a very, very nice made Confederate D-guard bowie knife, and knife collectors love Confederate knives, Southern collectors love Confederate knives, so it helps us with value. Moving away from what we had with the situation with the Will & Finck, now we're back to a better place. So this knife that your friend was thoughtful enough to give you as a gift, this knife today is worth about $5,000 retail.
APPRAISER: This is just a really, really great knife, a great Confederate knife. I sure do appreciate you bringing it in.
GUEST: You bet, thank you.