Civil War Letter & Tintype
I've got a letter that my great-grandfather wrote on the 23rd of May, 1865. He was at a speech that was being given by Major General O.B. Willcox.
What was the importance of that date?
Well, that date was the first day of the Grand Review in the Civil War. And the Grand Review was a two-day celebration in... that was celebrating the Union victory.
It was held in Washington, DC, and the two major Union armies were in attendance. General Meade's army of 80,000 and General Sherman's army fresh from their march across Georgia marched 65,000 soldiers on parade.
The letter is written in German by your ancestor about the Grand Review that was held in Washington.
He wrote the letter in German, but if you notice, when he signed his regiment, that's in English. Because the postman wouldn't be able to read the German. And what about the image that you brought?
Well, the image is a tintype of my great-grandfather in his uniform. It appears to be a backdrop.
The traveling photographers would come around, they'd go into camp, they'd set up their photography studio, they'd have the camera and they had several different patriotic and other motifs that they could put in the backdrop. You could put on anything that you wanted of the camera props. And if you notice, he has everything. He has the knapsack, his hat, his uniform, the bayonet and the Model 1855 rifle. That's a Springfield Model 1855, a .58-caliber rifle, but you don't often see them in Civil War photography. And it's a desirable thing to a photograph collector. Which is going to drive the price of the image up. And it's a quarter plate, a nice larger size, as well. The letter itself is probably a $200 to $400 letter. The image, because it's very clear, it has the Model 1855 rifle in it, a pretty painted backdrop, and we know who it is, it would be about a $1,200 image. I would insure it as a pair for somewhere around the $2,000 range.
I'm kind of flabbergasted that they've got that kind of value for insurance purposes.
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.
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