Confederate Belt Buckle, ca. 1861

Value (2004) | $4,500 Retail

GUEST:
Well, I found it about 40 years ago in my great-grandfather's house in an old trunk up in the attic. It was broken, and I didn't figure it was worth a whole lot.

APPRAISER:
Well, what it is, is a Confederate States belt buckle-- Confederate, Civil War buckle. We have the letters "CS" on the front of the buckle. And did he serve North or South?

GUEST:
He served in the North.

APPRAISER:
Well, surprisingly, that happens fairly often. The soldiers would want something to take home as the spoils of war that you hear about. And you mentioned that it was broken. Uh, and on the back of the buckle it has two of the original three hooks. The buckle is made of stamped brass, which is a very quick way to manufacture buckles. They had to have these buckles in the field. They didn't have time to nicely finish every corner, and what they did, they took the scraps of brass left over from stamping the buckles and they'd make the hooks. If you notice that the two hooks that we have are made of that scrap brass. The Union buckles, you have the stamped face, but they went in and they lead-filled that back to make it more sturdy, last longer; but these-- necessity overran craftsmanship. This is the style that's actually called the regulation style-- a simple border around it made of the stamped brass. Have you ever had anybody give you a value on it?

GUEST:
No, I don't figure it's worth a whole lot, because it is broken.

APPRAISER:
What would you guess?

GUEST:
Well, I figured, you know, stretching it, maybe $50.

APPRAISER:
Even with the hook being gone, it would still probably bring about $4,500.

GUEST:
Oh, jeez! Excuse me.

APPRAISER:
Because condition is everything when you get to that price level. With the other hook, this buckle would easily bring $6,000 to $6,500. But it's a beautiful belt buckle and it's one that any Civil War collector, North or South, would love to have in their collection.

GUEST:
Goodness. I shouldn't polish it, then?

APPRAISER:
No. I love this color. It's nice and rich. You've got 140 years worth of history on it, and every time you clean a piece, you take that history off of it. So leave it just like that.

GUEST:
The kids are going to have trouble deciding who's going to get it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Shiloh Civil War Relics
Savannah, Tennessee
Appraised value (2004)
$4,500 Retail
Event
Memphis, TN (July 31, 2004)
Material
Brass

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.