Frankenau Purse Revolver, ca. 1880

Value (2013) | $4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction

I thought it was a purse when I first found it. And it turns out it's a wallet pistol. And that's about all I know about it.

It is a change purse, as you see. And then when we turn it this way and open it up, this side reveals a pistol. So where'd you get it?

I was renovating a house down in Essex, a circa 1800 center-chimney Cape, and it was in one of the side compartments behind the fireplace tucked away in the back. And when I first found it, I was hoping there was some old money in it.

So you didn't find any money.

No money.

But you found a gun.

But I finally opened the other side and found the pistol.

Right here on the side is a button, and if you push the button, it will reveal the barrel. And also, underneath, a folding trigger will come out. The concept behind the pistol was that as a robber came up to you and tried to take your money from you, as it appears that you're fumbling with your purse, you're actually preparing to shoot. It's based on a pin-fire system, and right here at the base, there's these little holes, and a little pin would stick out of a back of a cartridge, and when you pulled the trigger, this hammer would come and hit the pin and it would discharge the projectile through the end here. This was designed by Oscar Frankenau from Nuremberg, Germany. And he took out a U.S. patent for this idea in November of 1877. So this pistol and this change purse comes from around late 1870s, probably made in Germany. In the late 19th century, there was a lot of interest in all sorts of different types of concealed firearms, and this is just one variation on the theme. They were not necessarily that popular, so they're fairly scarce on the marketplace. I think that if this was to appear at auction, it would bring somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.


So that's just as good as finding money, right?


Appraisal Details

Bonhams, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
Value Update (2013)
$4,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Appraised value (2008)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Hartford, CT (August 23, 2008)
19th Century
December 23, 2013: We contacted appraiser Paul Carella for an updated appraisal in today's market.

Current Appraised Value: $4,000 - $6,000 (Increased)

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