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    Follow the Stories | Louisville, Kentucky (2008)

    Civil War Belt Buckles


    • Appraiser Rafael Eledge's authentic example (left) is worth around $300-$350, a relatively modest value due to the fact that the North was able to manufacture so many of these buckles. The 20th-century example on the right was manufactured as a reproduction by S&S Firearms. A keen-eyed collector should notice that the "S" on the reproduction is different from the original.

    • On the back of these buckles Ridgeway points out that the reproduction hooks are flatter than on the authentic Civil War-era buckle.

    • "There are several different versions of this one out there that are fake," Ridgeway says. Fake Confederate buckles are generally harder to spot because so many of them were made by amateur metalworkers in the South, thus there's a lot of variation in their size and details.

    • Ridgeway knew this example was a fake from the inauthentic look of its hooks.

    • This pewter rectangle variety of Confederate buckle is not commonly faked, according to Ridgeway. The main clues in the fake shown here are its inauthentic beveled edge, and the metal it's made from, which isn't actually pewter.

    • Ridgeway says in this case the clumsy-looking hooks on the fake are quite accurate, since these buckles were typically made by amateurs.

    • According to Ridgeway, these buckles were typically very poorly made to begin with, meaning the fakes are even harder to confirm. Ridgeway admits he once mistakenly sold the fake buckle on the right as an authentic Haiman, (but later undid the deal when the error was discovered).

    • Ridgeway learned that a previous owner of this buckle claimed to have dug it up in Georgia, whereupon he knew it must be fake since Haiman buckles were only worn by Confederate soldiers in the Civil War's western theater.

    • Authentic examples of this officer's sword buckle are exceedingly rare: Rafael Eledge's prized example (left) is worth about $35,000. It is an assumption in the trade that practically no unknown examples exist, so if one suddenly pops up that raises a red flag automatically.

    • Ridgeway found this fake for sale online with no authentication papers by an unknown seller — sure signs that such an exceptional historical treasure was too good to be true. See the related article.
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