Field Trip: Antique Pirate Book
HOST: The star-shaped Castillo de San Marcos is a stunning jewel on the coast of Florida. Originally built by the Spanish empire, it's North America's oldest surviving masonry fort. At over 300 years old, it has withstood the test of time and numerous adversaries. ROADSHOW took a trip to the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum to dive deep into the role of scoundrels and plunderers and learn more about some of Spanish Florida's most fearsome foes. HOST: We think of pirates and all that goes on, it's the stuff of fantasy, out of the movies, but in fact, it was happening in this part of the world. What was going on?
Well, the New World was set up as basically a Spanish-dominated area. They had control of all the gold, all the silver, pretty much all the goods that were coming out of the Americas and going to Europe. Everyone in Europe wanted a piece of this action: the French, the English, the Dutch, everybody. So that's what gave rise to privateers, pirates and buccaneers. A privateer is somebody who's given what is called a letter of mark, and it's sort of a "get out of jail free" card issued by a government giving an individual permission to attack the vessels and forts of an enemy country, whereas pirates are people that answer to no one. HOST: Lawless.
Lawless, criminal, and can be caught and hung if they don't have these letters of mark. HOST: And then finally, a buccaneer, where do they fall in?
A buccaneer is kind of in the middle. They're sort of a gun for hire-- somebody who can sign on with privateers if they want more legitimacy. They can sign on with pirates if they want to take their chances and be punished as a criminal. This is a really great book. It's called The Bucaniers of America, and this is the first English edition of it that was published in 1684. It's considered one of only four or five eyewitness accounts of true sort of swashbuckling behavior of privateers, pirates in the 17th century. Captain Morgan, incredibly famous figure featured throughout the book, but there are also barbarous other pirates in here, great illustrated plates, battle plans, harbor scenes, ship plates. There's one guy, a captain named Pierre Lolonois, and there's a story about him using his cutlass to carve out a Spaniard's heart and take a bite out of it and say, "Hey, this is what's going to happen if you don't follow me." These are all copper plate engravings that were done for affluent people, published first in Dutch in 1678. Gets published in Spanish, French, German and English in 1684. It's a very hard book to find. HOST: So we have this copy of the book in English here, and if we were to find a similar version of this book, a copy of the English version of this book, what would be the value today?
The value at auction for a similar copy of this book would probably be somewhere between $18,000 and $22,000. HOST: And if we could find the original in Dutch, what would be the value of that if it even exists? If you could uncover that kind of buried treasure in your library, you would probably be talking maybe about $150,000 to $200,000. The last one I found at auction was 1945. HOST: Well, it is great to see this book here and hear some of the lore of Captain Morgan and other pirates. Thanks so much, Stuart.
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.