West Point Archive, ca. 1861

Value (2011) | $16,000 Auction$40,000 Insurance
Watch  

GUEST:
My great-grandfather went to West Point, and he graduated in the class of 1861, which was the beginning of the Civil War, and so, part of his class went to the North, and part of it went to the South.

APPRAISER:
The Class of 1861 was probably one of the most famous of classes to ever graduate at West Point because of the schism, and many of the generals and lieutenants that served on both sides of the conflict came out of that class. What you've got for us today is fascinating, because it's really an archive about your great-grandfather's time at West Point. It also, to some extent, tells something of a historical story. Your great grandfather was Eugene Carter, is that correct?

GUEST:
That's correct.

APPRAISER:
The letters you have here are from Eugene Carter while he was at West Point.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And it's a fascinating trove of material, dating, we believe, earliest letters are about 1857 through 1860.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Over 100 letters written back to the family describing the experience of being at West Point and their interactions with other members of the academy. Now you also have the appointment that was given to your great-grandfather and signed by Abraham Lincoln, countersigned by Edwin Stanton. The class of 1861 actually graduated in two groups. There was a group in May, and a group in June, where your great-grandfather graduated. There were 34 people in the second class. Among those was General Custer. And this book is, I think, is the pièce de résistance of your collection. It's the class book, 1861, of West Point, and it includes a series of photographs of, first of all, the professors at the college, and their description, and as annotated by your great-grandfather as to what happened to them. This one says, "Killed at Gettysburg". We have a picture of your great-grandfather, Carter, and his description.

GUEST:
Does he look like me?

APPRAISER:
He looks a little bit like you. I think there's a great resemblance. But also quite fascinatingly, we have a picture of General George Armstrong Custer in his graduating clothes. It also has a brief description of his exploits after the war. This book is really fascinating because it shows Custer in his West Point outfit at the beginning of the conflict. It's a very rare portrait. Have you ever had any of this material appraised or examined by scholars?

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
This piece... the signed appointments we see quite frequently by Lincoln. They generally sell between $5,000 and $7,000 at auction. Because of the appointment, it might be a little bit more like $6,000 to $8,000. This group of letters, the content of which gives us background on West Point, but is not necessarily written by a famous person in itself, maybe more, at auction, $2,000 to $3,000 on its own. This book however, because it exists in only about 50 copies, for graduates of the class, and having the original picture of Custer and other of the graduates of West Point, would probably have an auction estimate of between $8,000 and $12,000.

GUEST:
Oh, wow!

APPRAISER:
So as a group, as an auction estimate, $16,000 to $23,000. I would suggest you consider an insurance valuation on the package of $40,000.

GUEST:
(gasps)

APPRAISER:
It's a wonderful evocation here in the 150th anniversary year, and I'm thrilled to bring it to the Roadshow

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
and thank you so much for coming in today.

GUEST:
Oh, well, that's a shock.

APPRAISER:
Glad to hear it.

GUEST:
Thank you very much. I'm glad to hear it, too. This is where I'm fainting. I had no idea you would say that.

APPRAISER:
Yeah.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Bonhams, DC
Washington, DC
Appraised value (2011)
$16,000 Auction$40,000 Insurance
Event
Eugene, OR (June 04, 2011)
Form
Archive

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.