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Thread: M1870 Cavalry - Think I Got a Real Bargain

  1. #1
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    M1870 Cavalry - Think I Got a Real Bargain

    I just won an auction for a Springfield M1872 Cavalry saber for less than $250. This would be a decent price for a run-of-the mill Springfield cavalry, but this one is what Kellerstadt characterized as the heavy variant and Farrington identified as the original M1872 Cavalry sword which was replaced by the lighter and slightly modified Cavalry and Field Officer's pattern 1880 sword.

    The M1872 and 1880 were very similar, but there are differences. Aside from the weight difference, the most obvious difference is the M1872 has a wide stopped fuller whereas the 1880 has an unstopped fuller. The hilt of the M1872 is somewhat larger and the knuckle guard is slightly wider, especially at the top which makes the knuckleguard more perfectly D-shaped. The real M1872 cavalry sabers are quite rare - only a total of 106 were made, nearly all of them in 1876.

    I believe the major reason the sword went so cheaply is that it was described simply as a "1872 US Officer's Sword" with no mention in either the title or the description that it was a cavalry sword made by Springfield, much less that it was the rare heavy variant. I was probably the only one who really looked at it closely enough to recognize it for what it was.

    Unfortunately the sword has condition issues, primarily the fact that the blade etching is light and heavily worn. This is a bit odd given the hilt is still in pretty good condition. I wonder if this sword was used for ceremonial purposes with the blade being repeatedly polished, thus eroding the etching. Just speculation - no way to really know. Here are some of the seller's photos:

    Name:  M1872 Springfield Cavalry Donley 1.jpg
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    Here is a Springfield 1880 pattern for comparrison. Note the unstopped fuller.

    Name:  m1872 1880 Springfield Cav 1.jpg
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Size:  28.1 KBName:  m1872 1880 Springfield Cav Hilt comp.jpg
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    p.s. Sorry for the typo in the title. It should be "M1872 Cavlary", not "M1870 Cavalry".
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 02-18-2017 at 08:07 PM.

  2. #2
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    It is that little bit of knowledge that allows us collectors to spot a rarity. Even with the lightly etched blade it is in very nice condition.

    Congrats!
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  3. #3
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    Loooks like a significant difference in blade width as well.

  4. #4
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    Excellent find!

    I have a blade that has lost its furniture and scabbard, hopefully one day I can get a complete example...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glen C. View Post
    Loooks like a significant difference in blade width as well.
    Actually it's only about 1/8th inch wider, but it looks a lot more than that. Farrington explains it's a bit of an optical illusion caused by the straight line of of the fuller stop on the '72 drawing the eye to the blade width, while the shape of the unstopped fuller on the '80 draws the eye to the length.
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 02-19-2017 at 04:56 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Scott View Post
    Excellent find!

    I have a blade that has lost its furniture and scabbard, hopefully one day I can get a complete example...
    Thanks. This is only the second one I have seen for sale. The other was on eBay a few years ago, and it too was not identified as the heavy variant. Unfortunately that time I was not the only one to recognize it and was outbid. I'm still kickig myself for not bidding higher. I'm curious what the market value for a properly identified example would be. I know rarity is no sure guide to value, and I'm not sure enough people care about such varieties to create much demand. I guess I will have to wait until one shows up on Horse Soldier or a similar site to find out.

  7. #7
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    Well I finally got my Springfield M1872 cavalry officer sword today. I really like it. Like Glen said above, it looks and feels a lot more substantial than the 1880 Field and Cavalry version. It may, as Farrington says, just be an illusion, but if so, it is a good one. For the most part it is in very good condition. there are three rather substantial dents in the scabbard, but aside from that, the only problem is the weak etching. It's all there, but hard to see and harder to photograph. I suspect the etching was weak in the first place. I have noticed this etching problem with early Springfield blades before, specifically with M1860/72 S&F swords with "GGS" inspector marks. The etching on these are often quite light; I once saw one in near mint condition on which the etching was virtually invisible. I often wondered why George G. Saunders would pass these blades, but I suspect the sword blades were inspected before they were sent to the contractor for etching. (Farrington offers convincing evidence that Springfield contracted out the etching.) Here are a couple more photos:

    Name:  M1872 Cav Springfield 1 comp.jpg
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Size:  20.6 KBName:  M1872 Cav Springfield 2 comp.jpg
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Size:  44.0 KBName:  M1872 Cav Springfield 3 comp.jpg
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    A question for Sean and other Forum members who focus on Cavalry swords: Every maker/retailer in the business had their versions of the M1872/80 Field and Cavalry saber. Did Ames, Horstmann, or any other firm also make or sell the early heavy M1872 Cavalry variant? Thinking back, I don't recall ever seeing one. If not, why didn't they? It seems with other models up to and including the M1902 the various companies got out their versions as soon or maybe even faster than Springfield.
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 03-03-2017 at 07:58 PM.

  8. #8
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    Just noticed J&J Militaria has a Springfield M1872 "heavy variant" for sale. This makes the third example I have seen. It appears to be in slightly better condition than mine, primarily the scabbard which appears undented. I note the etching, especially the Armory name, like on my example, seems quite light. Is this characteristic of the etching on this series? Sean, you state you have an unmounted blade. Is the etching on your blade light as well? Here are a couple shots of Jason's example:

    Name:  Springfield M1872 Cavalry Heavy Kaplan 6.jpg
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Size:  82.0 KBName:  Springfield M1872 Cavalry Heavy Kaplan 9 (2).jpg
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    I had wondered what the market value of this rare sword might be. I don't know if the asking price for this sword is realistic or not. Sure hope it is - it's about 200 times what I paid for mine!

  9. #9
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    Hi, Richard!

    The etching quality on my unmounted blade is about equal to that found on the early "sans serif US" M1880 sabers in my collection, and almost exactly the same design.

    As to your earlier question of nearly three years ago (sorry, didn't see it), I have a couple of the so-called "short" Horstmann M1840 officer blades mounted with M1872 furniture. It may have been a mule design soaking up spare parts, or it may have been an effort at a civilian M1872 offering. No idea. But the furniture is that of the M1872...thicker guard and thicker rim around the pommel.

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