The Auction Insider

Being an appraiser on the PBS series The Antique Roadshow has its perks. But, I never dreamed it would lead to a collection of Civil War rifles, guns, uniforms and memorabilia to net our seller more than $400,000.
The call came from Monterey, CA, to Witherell’s headquarters in Sacramento. The woman remembered watching me do appraisals on the Antiques Roadshow and wondered if I’d be interested in a cache of more than 100 Civil War Era guns and countless other items left to her in her father’s estate. She needed to clear out his house quickly and suggested I bring a truck. The collection was, she assured me, very impressive.

A Long Drive Based on Mutual Trust

Let me say here, that this is not how appraisals normally proceed. We examine first, verify authenticity and do lots of due diligence before wrapping up a relationship with a customer. However, as the woman and I talked I became convinced of her sincerity and honesty. She, in turn, expressed her trust in Witherell’s Antiques and my own personal integrity. I commissioned our in-state trucker and we headed to the California Coast.

It was a thrilling and daunting moment when I arrived to discover the breadth of the collection she inherited. Civil War rifles, guns, the worn uniforms of soldiers and their personal artifacts. There were also purchases made by her father in the 1960s that had not yet been unwrapped. The lifetime collection would take weeks for me to appraise and sort out. The client and I sealed our new relationship with an expression of mutual trust and I loaded up the truck brimming with the ghosts of America’s Civil War soldiers, their handprints left on wood and metal and the buttons of their battlefield jackets.

Another Last Minute Surprise

But wait, she had one more curious object – a log I might find interesting. I thought, a soldier or commanders log? Memories of the war? But what I found in the living room of her father’s home was Mother Nature’s log – a hefty branch of a tree from the Battle of Spotsylvania bearing bullets and cannon balls – the scars of war. Later, I found an original bill of sale to my client’s father, indicating the log might be worth between $5000 and $10,000. To everyone’s satisfaction, this memorial of battlefield action sold for $16,200. Furthermore, the online auction of the entire collection of 224 lots commanded $400,000 and, once again, circulated the precious artifacts of the Civil War for avid collectors to appreciate and treasure.

Happy Hunting for your own Fab Finds
Brian Witherell