W. Butcher “Arkansas Toothpick” Bowie Knife, ca. 1836

Value (2012) | $20,000
Watch  

GUEST:
My dad told me it belonged to my great-great-great-grandfather. And the story was that he would build a flat boat, buy all the goods up around the Green or Portsmouth area, travel down to the Mississippi to New Orleans, sell everything, including the flat boat, and buy a mule, come back up, sell the mule, and start all over again.

APPRAISER:
Build a new flat boat, and head right back down the river again.

GUEST:
I don't know, I think he only did that for a little while.

APPRAISER:
Right. Well, I think the story's great, and it's kind of neat to me because the knife fits into the whole pattern. What we have is a bowie knife, after Jim Bowie. But you have a very particular knife that collectors would be fascinated by. And one of the main reasons is if we look right here on the blade, you're going to see where it says Arkansas Toothpick.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And knives that have etched blades and have patterns and mottos, those are very, very collectible. If we look towards the back here, we're going to see where this says W. Butcher Sheffield. That's the maker. And they're building knives in Sheffield, England, in the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s. One of the ways that we can date this knife, there's a crown and a letter W, and the letter R, and that's for William. It's William Rex. So William dies in 1837. Now the knife can still be made into the early '40s. I mean, that's a royal warrant. But Arkansas becomes a state in 1836.

GUEST:
Oh, okay.

APPRAISER:
So it does kind of help us put an idea of when this knife was manufactured. We have this really exotic hardwood grip. I think it's probably rosewood, and this was expensive to use to build the knife. And if you look here, you have what in the collector field is often referred to as a little Spanish clip or a Spanish notch. I don't know terribly how necessarily useful that is, but I believe the idea behind it is to catch another blade. We have this kind of pressed paper scabbard with a little bit of cover of red morocco. And over here we have this...

GUEST:
I didn't do that, my father did that.

APPRAISER:
Okay, we'll refer to it as the repair.

GUEST:
(laughing) Okay.

APPRAISER:
Well, the knife itself is in wonderful condition. The blade, we still have all this floral-like engraving. We have the etched motto that's easy to read. We have this really nice grip. We have German silver escutcheon on it, where someone could have applied a name. But this one never had anything put on it. But the knife, the handle and all are in great shape. This is such a wonderful knife, I could see this thing in a retail environment bringing $20,000.

GUEST:
You're kidding.

APPRAISER:
No, absolutely.

GUEST:
Great. Wow.

APPRAISER:
No, it's the type of thing that a person like myself, even as a dealer, this is such a nice...I'm going to have a hard time parting with it myself.

GUEST:
I think I'm just in awe right now.

APPRAISER:
It's a really great knife.

GUEST:
Well, I noticed it was so heavy to hold, that the weight, it just seemed like it would be so easy to use.

Appraisal Details

Appraised value (2012)
$20,000
Event
Cincinnati, OH (July 21, 2012)
Period
19th Century
Form
Knife
Material
Metal, Paper, Wood

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.