Revolutionary War Sword & Letter

Value (2006) | $8,000 Retail$12,000 Retail

GUEST:
Well, this is a sword which dates to pre American Revolutionary days and was owned by a gentleman in Philadelphia by the name of John Light, an ancestor of mine, and he was an adjutant in Washington's adjutant corps, or General Washington, and served in the Revolutionary War. Later in life, he passed this on to his grandson, who was John Light, too, and was a physician, and the tradition has continued that the sword be passed from grandfather to grandson, with the father in between being the custodian. But I'm actually the owner, 'cause my father was the custodian.

APPRAISER:
But let me give you a little information about what you do have here. You're right, it's a sword that's pre-revolutionary period. It's more than likely circa 1750. It's a silver-hilted sword, being that the entire hilt is cast from silver and then hand-tooled, hand-finished, very elaborate. It's got a three-sided blade. It's called a colichemarde blade. Very typical of the blade of that time. It's flat-sided on three areas and then it terminates down into a smaller section of the blade and then runs down through the very tip. This type of sword is referred to as a small sword or a hanger. The blade is engraved as we'll typically see on swords of that time. Another thing about the sword that's really unusual is that it still has its complete scabbard, the full length. You know, you're talking about a sword that's about 250 years old, and for it to have the entire leather scabbard with the fittings is very unusual, and it's in beautiful, supple condition. Now, the thing that really excited me the most when you brought this in was this letter. Now, this is a letter from John Light himself, correct?

GUEST:
Yeah, right.

APPRAISER:
And this is bequeathing the sword to his grandson. The letter's dated 1832.

GUEST:
And this letter hung with two other letters with the sword.

APPRAISER:
Okay. And it's also saying that he carried the sword in the war the Revolutionary War.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
I've done a little research. I called a very, very knowledgeable source on Revolutionary War items who has all the records of officers that served. We don't find him listed in the Continental Army. So it's possible that he was a Pennsylvania militiaman, maybe attached with Washington, something to that effect.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
The sword as it is, without any touch marks, any maker's mark, just as a Revolutionary War period with this wonderful provenance and history...

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
At a retail level by a dealer, it would have a value of approximately $8,000-$12,000. If it could be nailed down to be made from a particular American maker, you could double that. $20,000, $25,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And this letter is priceless. That's what makes everything, ties the history together, and gives it this wonderful edge-- not to pun a word about a sword. But we really thank you for bringing it in. It's a... brilliant piece.

GUEST:
Thank you very much.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Grenadier Military Antiques Auctions
Santa Monica, California
Appraised value (2006)
$8,000 Retail$12,000 Retail
Event
Milwaukee, WI (July 29, 2006)
Period
18th Century
Form
Ledger, Sword
Material
Leather, Paper, Silver

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.