Cased Pair of Deringer Pistols, ca. 1845

Value (2011) | $30,000 Retail
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APPRAISER:
I'm really interested in this pair of pistols that you brought in, and I'm wondering what you can tell me about them, what you know of them.

GUEST:
Not very much, that they're Civil War. My father bought them in the early '70s and then gave them to me when my son was born, and they are to go to my son when he turns 18.

APPRAISER:
That's very nice. Do you have any idea at the time what he might have paid for them?

GUEST:
Between $500 and $600.

APPRAISER:
They're called Deringers. These particular guns are made by Henry Deringer in Philadelphia. What you have is a cased set, and that's a little bit unusual. So, in the trade, when you're thinking about someone who collects Deringers, this is what they're looking for. They want the box, they want the case set. And then there's two added features to this particular pair of pistols that would intrigue any collector in my trade. If you look on the top of the barrel, you're going to see that it says, "Wolf & Durringer, Louisville," and that's Louisville, Kentucky, and they're agents. So they're doing business with Henry Deringer himself, and they're selling his really quality product, but they're selling them in Kentucky. And then if we look on this escutcheon, we're going to notice that these have the name of a man named Thompson, and then they say Owensboro, Kentucky. And see, that's very important to a collector, because right now, in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi, there's a tremendous interest in guns that are made, or agent marked, for one of these states. And Kentucky is one of the kingpins. These absolutely could have been carried in the American Civil War by someone in the Confederate Army. They're not really military guns, but it's not to say that somehow they wouldn't be in a baggage train early in the war, but probably not later on. And they're for protection. If you're in a coach, or if you're on a river boat, you find yourself in trouble, this is what you use to get yourself out of trouble. There's a little bit of condition issue. This hammer has been broken, but we have the piece here. If you notice, this hammer was broken and repaired. That's probably sometime contemporary to the use of the gun itself. Looking around the box, there's a little bit of loss to the leather, a little bit of discoloration, but that's the life of the objects and that's to be expected. We have one of the original tools, which is quite nice. Here would have been a screwdriver, which is lost, but that's something that could be found. We have the powder flask, which is very nice and ornate. This is used to clean the gun. This is used to actually make the ball for the pistol. Even with the condition issues that we would have, this is a pair of pistols, for retail, they would probably bring today around $30,000. And that's without knowing who Mr. Thompson is.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
So I think a really important thing to do would be to try to figure out who he is. We know the city he lives in. He's in Owensboro, Kentucky. So if he's a very famous planter, or a very wealthy businessman, if he owned a large home or a large plantation, they could possibly be worth more. And real collectors? They love to see things just like they came out of the woods. Right out of the attic. And that's what you have.

GUEST:
I was not expecting that... at all. Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness.

Appraisal Details

Appraised value (2011)
$30,000 Retail
Event
Pittsburgh, PA (August 13, 2011)
Period
19th Century
Form
Case, Pistol
Material
Metal

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