Civil War Artillery Shell, ca. 1863

Value (2008) | $1,500 Retail

GUEST:
It looks like something that came from a cannon or a gun, but I got it at a yard sale for three dollars. It's used as a doorstop.

APPRAISER:
What it is, is a Civil War cannon projectile.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
It's three inches across,

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
And it fires out of a three-inch rifle cannon.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
They call it an archer shell. And they call it a shell because at the top we have the fuse hole.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
And that's where the powder went inside, and it would have had a wooden plug that seated down inside the hole, and it had

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
a wick that came out of the top,

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
called a time fuse.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
And it would have burned like a wick until it was time for the cannon shell to explode.

GUEST:
Like a firecracker.

APPRAISER:
Exactly. Just like a firecracker.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
If the fuse was still in it,

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
and it was airtight, the powder... would still be live. Recently, there have been a couple of accidents from trying to disarm the pieces manually

GUEST:
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
that have caused serious injury.

GUEST:
I thought gunpowder disintegrates over time.

APPRAISER:
No. And see,

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
that's a common misconception.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
Because if it's airtight, it's still live. The shell itself is made of cast iron. The top part and the middle body is iron.

GUEST:
Uh-huh, uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
This... you know what material that is?

GUEST:
Mm-mm.

APPRAISER:
It's lead. This is what they call a lead sabot, or sabot. This was fired out of an ordinance rifle-- a rifle cannon. And lead is a softer material than the iron of the body of the shell.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
And so when you load the cannon, you have the powder behind the shell here at the bottom.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And when the powder charge explodes, the force from the explosion spreads the lead out,

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
and as it goes down the cannon barrel... it spins, it goes on the lans and grooves of the barrel, causing it to go further and be more accurate.

GUEST:
And does the fact that this is still on it mean it was... means it was never fired?

APPRAISER:
Probably, because we can't see the lans and grooves. This one's in very nice shape. If you had to guess, what's your $3 doorstop worth?

GUEST:
A friend of mine who belongs to the Stone Mountain Historical Society thought maybe $500.

APPRAISER:
Well, he's close. One in this pretty shape, with the sabot, would bring about $1,500.

GUEST:
Oh, okay.

APPRAISER:
But is the door that it's holding a $1,500 door?

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
We need to get it away from that door. (chuckling)

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Shiloh Civil War Relics
Savannah, TN
Appraised value (2008)
$1,500 Retail
Event
Chattanooga, TN (July 19, 2008)
Form
Ammunition
Material
Metal
January 11, 2010: Shortly after this segment broadcast in April 2009, a viewer named J.C. King, who serves with the U.S. Army as Assistant for Munitions and Chemical Matters in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, wrote to ROADSHOW. Mr. King passed along some important advice regarding the safe handling of antique munitions such the Civil War artillery shell appraised by Rafael Eledge in Chattanooga. The guidelines are summarized below.

- All military munitions are dangerous, regardless of their age or how often they have been handled. Mr. King says his office has records of deaths related to souvenir munitions, including Civil War munitions.  

- Observe the "Three R's" of explosives safety:
1) Recognize when you may have encountered a munition.
2) Retreat. Do not touch, move, or disturb it (or keep one in your house as a door stop!).
3) Report. Call 911. The police will arrange for a Department of Defense Explosives Ordnance Disposal team or police bomb squad to address the munition. (Normally, such munitions are taken and destroyed by open detonation at a military range or safe location. If the munition is determined to be inert, the owner will be advised and may retain it.)

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