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Guns, Glasses, Knives And Armor
( Orginally published 1962 )
When a man becomes a collector of the old and the rare, he usually becomes more of a fanatic about it than any woman with her antique furniture or her antique glass. And, when he becomes a fanatic, he becomes a buyer of anything old and rare that you can find.
The gentleman collector takes pride in the walls of his den, which are decorated with antique Colts, Smith and Wessons, dueling pistols, and perhaps a curio or two. Gleaming amongst the array of firearms there might also be a circlet of antique daggers from all nations and all centuries.
Even the paintings on the walls will reflect his taste, for they will be of the early days of our old West, and if he is lucky enough he will count a Remington among them.
Perhaps, draped gracefully on one wall, might be a horse trapping and perhaps, if he is fortunate, it might be as lovely a horse trapping as the one which belonged to Lorenzo de Medici-a trapping with embroidered figures of silver thread on a background of blue velvet.
Perhaps there will also be one or two nineteenth-century decoys. Decoys, worth perhaps not more than $30 or $40, but dear to the male collector's heart.
Perhaps the gentleman will make himself more comfortable by removing his boots on a $25 or $30 bootjack of a kind that goes begging in most second-hand stores.
He will perhaps walk to the mantel, where he displays his collection of Early American snuffboxes. If he is very wealthy, there might be one or two made of precious metals and encrusted with fine gems, or perhaps they will be of shell or exotic woods.
And, if he continues with the collection of items connected with man's desire far snuff and tobacco, he might have books, manuscripts or letters scattered tastefully around the room, all of them connected with the history of the growing of tobacco. If he is lucky enough, he might even have documents equal in historical importance to the first printed accounts of the first bringing of West Indian tobacco seeds into Virginia, such as were on display at the Virginia and Tobacco Show, part of the Arents Collections of the New York Library. Or he might have letters similar to those signed by Elizabeth I of England, which were also a part of the same display.
If he is interested in every aspect of the male animal rather than just his tobacco habit, he might have a collection of shaving mugs, some of them worth forty or fifty dollars apiece. Or, perhaps, if he is very, very lucky, he will have found one particular shaving mug which, as far as we know, is still missing.
The existence of this mug can be deduced from a Currier and Ives print which shows that fabulous showman P. T. Barnum. The same print shows a shaving mug, a mug which would be very valuable if it could be found.
Or he might be more interested in games of chance and have on display cribbage boxes worth around $30 apiece. Or antique playing cards!
Perhaps he will be more interested in the fine old art of drinking, and all along one wall he will have a collection of things connected with this greatest of all indoor sports.
The flag bottles will be displayed a little sideways, so that the viewer can easily see that on one side of the bottle is an American flag with thirteen stars and on the other side the words, "New Granite Glass Works, Stoddard, N.H."
There will be glass flasks from the eighteen hundreds worth from $30 to $40 apiece; fox and fish-head stirrup cups worth sometimes a hundred dollars apiece; very old drinking steins; nineteenth-century Toby jugs worth sometimes a hundred dollars each; or even old pewter tankards worth several hundred dollars apiece.
He might even own an oliphant, a very old drinking horn; some of them date from the Middle Ages.
Perhaps his friends will arrive, and, not only to impress them with his collection, but because they become very gay, he will bring out his matched set of firing glasses, very old glasses made in England during the middle seventeen hundreds.
He will bring out a very old bottle of wine and fill the glasses, remarking on the heavy bases of the glasses, commenting that today most wine glasses are such fragile things.
He will explain carefully that these heavy bases are this way for a reason, a very particular reason. The thing to do first, he explains, is for someone to propose a toast-to the evening, the company, or even perhaps a lovely lady of their acquaintance. A toast is proposed and he raps the table with the heavy base of the glass, telling his guests to follow suit. Shortly, throughout the room, as more and more of the glass bases hit the table, there is a loud and deafening noise similar in sound to the firing of guns-for these are the firing glasses of England, the collector's delight.
But anything this man owns is a delight, for he is a collector. And it is to such men as this that the treasure hunter must cater, for it is to them that he must sell his wares.
Whether it is a gun, a dagger, a snuffbox or a drinking glassthis man will buy it, if you can find it.
IF you can find a Colt Model 1847 ( Whitneyville-Walker ) revolver that is in good condition, you can collect anything up to $5,000 for it.
Only about a hundred of these guns are extant today. They are the rarest of the guns produced by Samuel Colt, the American whose name is almost synonymous with firearms, and they are worth up to $5,000 apiece if you can find one in good condition.
Any old gun, if it is rare enough and in good enough condition, is worth something on the collectors' market. One of these guns about which we hear so much-in every legend, every movie, every story of the old West-is the Smith and Wesson .44 caliber American revolver. This is the gun that opened up the frontier. All the way west to California, the Smith and Wesson forged a pathway for the settlers to follow. For this reason alone the gun has great historical value, but it also has a monetary value if you can find one in good condition.
Most of the examples of this gun are in very poor condition, because they were used so much. They were part of the frontiersman's standard equipment. Most of them found today are very much beaten and battered, but find one in good condition and it becomes a collector's item.
Watch for any old gun. There is one type of flintlock which is worth twice its weight in gold-and it weighs four pounds three ounces. This is the United States Model 1799 flintlock pistol. Find one in mint condition, and double its weight in terms of gold.,/P>
Strangely enough there were some two thousand of these pistols made; yet today there are less than a dozen known to exist. Everyday arithmetic shows that this leaves one thousand nine hundred and eighty-eight pistols which have not as yet found their way into the hands of the collectors.
True, some, perhaps most, of them will have been destroyed or damaged, but there should be many left which are of great valueto be exact, twice their weight in gold.
Even the old-time blunderbuss can be worth a couple of hundred dollars if it is in fine enough condition. Any kind of old gun is worth investigation, because they are all worth something. A matched pair of dueling pistols is worth a couple of hundred dollars, and such oddities as a lady's muff pistol can be worth $70 or $80, depending, of course, upon condition.
Condition is the prime factor in determining the value of a gun, but historical importance can also be a determining factor. Of late years collectors have been, more and more, demanding the guns of the frontiersmen and the outlaws of the early west. Find a gun that belonged to a famous outlaw, authenticate it, and you have a collector's item.
When you hear that a collector has a gun that belonged to a certain lawman or outlaw-do not stop looking for the guns of this particular man. These men used many guns during their lifetime, and any of their guns is a collector's item-if you can find it.
Try, however, to authenticate the ownership of the gun as much as possible, since this raises the value of the weapon. Authentication, of course, is not always easy, but it is desirable. And guns are not the only things that have an authenticated history in back of them. For example, R. R. Riss II of New York owns the famous tomahawk that belonged to Daniel Boone, and, equally important, he has affidavits concerning this tomahawk dating back to the year 1898.
The Boone Tomahawk was made by Robert Beaty, and it would be well to remember this name. For anything made by Beaty, who was the first to make edged weapons in the United States, is a rarity.
There are all kinds of daggers and knives which are collectors' items-if you can find them. There are knives of the sixteen hundreds which were decorated with gold and silver and ivory. These are rarities. Very few of these early knives are around today. Probably one of the finest of these early knives still extant is the knife of Louis Le Bon. It is decorated with silver gilt and enamels.
Any knife from the Middle Ages is a collector's item. The knights had knives which they used for battle-their table knives were luxury items. The handles of these table knives were decorated in many different ways, some of them indicating the season of the year, with ivory handles for Easter and ebony handles for Lent.
These knives of the Middle Ages are, of course, becoming more and more scarce as time goes on-and therefore more valuable. Anything from this period should be watched for. As, for example, any of the armor of this time.
Armor of the Middle Ages is getting more rare with every passing year, and every piece of it which you can find in good condition is a collector's item. It is getting so scarce of late that not even antique dealers see suits of armor for long periods of time.
If you can find any of these items-the guns, the knives, the armor-the market is wide open, since collectors are becoming more numerous every year. The collecting of arms and armor, of course, has been popular for centuries. In the early fifteen hundreds, Louis XII collected arms and armor. In more recent days, one man, William Henry Riggs, collected more than two thousand five hundred separate pieces.
The market, as stated, is wide open. Your only problem is to find a rare item in good condition. Then you can start collecting what may very well turn out to be a small fortune.