Swordfish Swords & Plaque

Value (2015) | $5,000 Auction$6,000 Auction

These are swords from, originally, Gloucester, Massachusetts. They were made there by my grandfather. He was a fisherman out of the port of Gloucester after immigrating to this country from Sweden. Grandfather would catch the swordfish when they would be out doing their regular fishing routes. And then he had a little pen knife about this big that he carried with him always. And when he was not busy with the fishing, he would take the swords and scrape them down until he got down to the pure bone.

And this theme...

Grandfather carried a theme with it. That's typical of the centerpiece that he made, and this is carved from one single piece of wood.

And the theme being?

The theme being faith, hope, and love. And it's carved in every oneof the swords. And he also puts a swordfish himself on every one of his swords. Out of respect.

Out of respect for the fish that this bone comes from.

In 1908, shortly after my father was born, he was lost at sea, and he was missing for three months. And they found out later that his dory got lost in the storm from the mother ship, and he floated for three weeks on the open sea, and the dory floated up to Newfoundland, and a colony of people there found him. They only spoke French, and he only knew Swedish and a little bit of English. They found him with his hands frozen to the oars, and they had to cut off the oars here in order to release him from the dory. They literally had to thaw him out. They did such a good job of taking care of his frostbite that he only lost one thumb up to this knuckle, and then came back and later carved these swords.

So he showed up at his wife's doorstep presumably after she thought he had died?

Right, and after the memorial service had been held.


And then she opened the door one day and there he stood.

Well, he was a gifted artist, and these folk art pieces are extraordinary in their quality, their design and color. This is by far the best one of its type that I've ever seen. As far as value is concerned, it's a little tough to come up with a value on these pieces, but this particular piece I would think would be worth, easily, let's say $2,500. This one being slightly less ambitious but none-the-less beautiful, and not quite as early, a bit less. And this, again, coming up with dollar prices on these things is a little tough, but let's say for the sake of discussion, perhaps $1,500, $2,000. These are such beautiful objects, but more importantly, the story is just superb.

He was a wonderful man. Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Update (2015)
$5,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Appraised value (2000)
$5,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Sacramento, CA (July 15, 2000)
Folk Art

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.