Civil War Button, Bible & Letter

Value (2010) | $10,000 Insurance
Watch  

GUEST:
I brought in some items that were in my grandmother's trunk, and she died in 1983 at 101 years old. This Bible, letter and button were in a little box, and they were given to her in 1895 from an aunt.

APPRAISER:
And who did they belong to originally?

GUEST:
Gaston Baldwin was in the Fifth North Carolina Cavalry, and when he left for the war, his sister gave him this little testament. And he was in the same regiment with his cousin. Well, he was killed at Goodall's Tavern and his cousin retrieved the Bible and mailed it back to his sister with the letter, and that's about all I know.

APPRAISER:
And Goodall's Tavern was a battle in Northern Virginia. Paper was in short supply, and rather than having a separate envelope, they actually folded the letter up and wrote the address on part of the letter itself, and it has the Richmond, Virginia, postmark as well as the Jefferson Davis Confederate stamp. The letter almost brings tears to your eyes when you read it. It's about what?

GUEST:
It's about his death, and it's consoling his sister.

APPRAISER:
Right.

GUEST:
It tells about the Bible and it tells where he was buried. He was buried in Dr. Goodall's garden, and then it was written, apparently, on the battlefield, because he states at the end of the letter that "the bugle is sounded to saddle," and "I must cut this short."

APPRAISER:
And there's a couple of lines in the letter that really strike home. It says, "I have his testament, "which was in his breast pocket at the time he was wounded. "The ball struck the edge of the book, and on the book is some of his precious blood." And if we actually look at the side of the Bible, you can see not only the crimson from his blood, but you can see the damage from the bullet as it struck the Bible. And you can tell by the tone of his voice when you read the letter that he had lost one of his best friends. These letters were what the family dreaded to hear, but at least you knew what happened to him. In the box there was this little button. What do you know about the button?

GUEST:
I don't know if it was from his uniform, but they were kept together all these years.

APPRAISER:
When you look at that button, it has a sunburst, and that's a very popular button from the state of North Carolina. And on the back, all they did was solder on the brass shank.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
That's great, if all you're worried about is making the button. The button's survival, it didn't help it at all. Because you can imagine it wouldn't take much at all to pop that little brass shank out.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
Therefore, the survival rate on the buttons is small to have the shank. This one is extremely rare.

GUEST:
Oh, really?

APPRAISER:
Most of the cadet buttons that you see, 99% of them that were used by cadets from Southern institutions were made before the war and lost during the war. This is the rarest of both worlds. It's a cadet button that was actually Southern made and used by a Southern cadet school. This button today, even in a down economy-- and the button market is way down-- that button alone would retail for at least $5,000.

GUEST:
Steep price for a button. (clears his throat)

APPRAISER:
The letter and the Bible, they're both wonderful pieces, and because they're family, they're priceless. For the three pieces, I would insure the group for $10,000.

GUEST:
Well, I sure do appreciate it, and I am amazed at the value of it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Shiloh Civil War Relics
Savannah, Tennessee
Appraised value (2010)
$10,000 Insurance
Event
Washington, DC (August 21, 2010)
Form
Book, Button, Letter
Material
Brass, Metal, Paper
July 18, 2011: After the August 2010 taping of this segment in Washington, D.C., appraiser Rafael Eledge conducted further research and discovered that the button in this Civil War collection is even rarer than he had initially thought. "As best I can find," Eledge noted, "it is the only non-battlefield-excavated [button] surviving in that size."

In light of that fact, Rafael said, "Today, I think [the button] could hit above $10,000," and considering the improvement in the market since he first appraised it, Rafael said that he would now recommend insuring the group of items for $15,000.

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