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Thread: I was hoping for a bargain, but...

  1. #1
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    I was hoping for a bargain, but...

    I have a special interest in the M1861 Navy cutlass, so I always skim the listings for them even though I already own a batch - never can tell when something unusual will show up. I was quite surprised, however, when I saw this photo a couple days ago while going through the eBay listings:

    Name:  Army Cutlass ebay Aug 17 1 comp.jpg
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    I immediately noticed this was no ordinary M1861 Navy, but rather one of the 300 cutlasses ordered by the Army in 1864. These cutlasses did not have serial numbers and were marked on the obverse ricasso “U.S./A.D.K./1864”. “A.D.K.” is Army inspector A. D. King. These Army cutlasses were issued to Col. William A. Howard’s New York Volunteer Artillery Regiment’s “marine artillery” units manning gun boats used on the James River and other streams. There was nothing in the listing to suggest there was anything special about this sword, so I was hoping no one else would notice. As we went into the final minute, bidding stood at $272, so I had my fingers crossed. Well, no big surprise, I obviously wasn't the only one - last minute snipers ran the price up to almost a thousand. Although not the bargain I had hoped for, it still wasn't a bad price for such a rare, historically significant item. Mainly, though, it is something I have wanted for some time. Here are a couple more photos.

    Name:  Army Cutlass ebay Aug 17 13.jpg
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  2. #2
    Well done Richard! I can't help but feeling a little jealous that eBay allows the trading of antique edged weapons in the United States, but chooses to penalise the GB collectors market....by refraining from allowing such trading. I despair of eBay sometimes...
    Enjoy your new acquistion...
    Nick

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by nick peterken View Post
    Well done Richard! I can't help but feeling a little jealous that eBay allows the trading of antique edged weapons in the United States, but chooses to penalise the GB collectors market....by refraining from allowing such trading. I despair of eBay sometimes...
    Enjoy your new acquistion...
    Nick
    Thanks to Julia Bradbury of the B.B.C.

  4. #4
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    I guess I don't get it. You guys can by swords at dealers in town and I occasionally buy a sword at British auction also dealers in Great British and even some on ebay but you guys cannot?
    The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." --- Tench Coxe

  5. #5
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    In general swords can be legally bought and kept here in Britain. It is just eBay who refuse to allow ads for them on their site in the UK. We can see swords for sale in other countries on eBay but cannot purchase unless someone in the country receives and re-ships for us.

    All due to public hysteria after some incidents with fake Japanese swords, always known in the media as "Samurai Swords".

    No problem buying from online auction houses, dealers and private sellers though. Just eBay.

    Alan

  6. #6
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    I'd be happy to do the transshipping, if you don't have an American ebay name.

  7. #7
    I was in the mix and also surprised at the bidding. Congrats.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by GC Roxbury View Post
    I was in the mix and also surprised at the bidding. Congrats.
    I presume you were one of the folks who recognized this cutlass for what it is. It is really quite rare. Currently, including the present example, I think there are only 7 known, and three of those are in the Springfield Armory collection. Rare, of course, doesn't mean valuable. That depends on how many people are interested, and I suspect we are among the few. Rock Island Auctions sold one in Dec 2014 for about $1050 if I recall, and that one had a scabbard. The Horse Soldier in Philadelphia had one with very worn markings listed for $1450 for quite a while. I believe it sold at a discount, but I'm not sure how much. I agree with the conventional wisdom that any sword is worth whatever a knowledgeable buyer is willing to pay, so I guess, since we had more than one knowledgeable bidder, the price was about right.

  9. #9
    I think the Man at Arms article awhile back on these spurred the interest. Looks like I'll have to wait to add one to my collection.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  10. #10
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    Nice group, nice display. Do you have any unusual varieties?

    I have 11 M1861 cutlasses, but I'm still missing some, i.e. the 1861 prototype, the various officers' models, and a Tiffany-made example. Given their scarcity and the prices they command, I doubt I will be filling these gaps any time soon. One minor variation I do still hope to find is an 1864-made example with the arched Ames address. These are rare, but don't command much of a premium when they come up for sale.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Schenk View Post
    Nice group, nice display. Do you have any unusual varieties?

    I have 11 M1861 cutlasses, but I'm still missing some, i.e. the 1861 prototype, the various officers' models, and a Tiffany-made example. Given their scarcity and the prices they command, I doubt I will be filling these gaps any time soon. One minor variation I do still hope to find is an 1864-made example with the arched Ames address. These are rare, but don't command much of a premium when they come up for sale.
    Here are the marks on my 7 cutlasses, the 1864 dated one has the block Ames address and it has no serial numbers. I have seen about 6 of these over the years and none have serials. Name:  1.jpg
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Size:  18.8 KBName:  7.1.jpg
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  12. #12
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    Thanks for the photos. You have a couple interesting markings. The anchor and just a “P” and no inspector initials, is unusual, especially the one with the “P” off to the side rather than immediately below the anchor. I wonder who the inspector was and why he didn’t use his initials? The “Ordnance Instructions for the United States Navy” which the Navy issued in conjunction with the requirement for the post-CW reinspection of small arms, directed cutlasses be marked “On the blade, immediately below the guard, with an anchor; and the letter P over the initials of the Inspector.…All arms in store or returned from ships will be stamped with the anchor before being issued.” I can see some arms slipping through without reinspection and/or marking, but it’s hard to envision that they were put through the process including marking, but then someone forgot the required initials. Although unusual, these are not really rare, so it wasn’t a one-of occurrence. I would guess the inspector wasn’t Cdr Gansevoort since his marks are always perpendicular to the edge. It could have been Capt Goldsborough, who did orient his markings parallel to the edge, but I suspect it was some third party who, for some reason, wasn’t issued a set of stamps as required by the Ordnance Instruction.
    Your 1864 is interesting with a deeply struck “D” and no “R” nor any sign one was ever there. I thought both initials were on a single punch, in which case it is hard to see such a well struck “D” could be made with no trace of an “R”. Is the pommel inspector marked?
    The fact your 1864 has no serial number is interesting, and that you have seen 6 other 1864s without numbers is even more interesting. The Revenue Cutter Service made a rather substantial buy of these Ames cutlasses in 1864. I believe Charlie Pate said it was about 600 swords. Charlie was of the opinion the RCS cutlasses were not numbered. I disagreed, believing if that many non-serial numbered swords had been made, you would see them come to market from time-to-time. I also thought the RCS purchases would help explain why the serial numbers run into the high 25 thousands when Navy records show only about 22,000 were delivered. If you have seen 7 examples, however, maybe I should reconsider my position!
    Finally your “N.J”-surcharged example: Could you tell me the serial number and date on this cutlass? I have been trying track these. To date I have data on 13 examples. Did you see my article in Man at Arms where I discussed these “N.J”-marked swords?

  13. #13
    The 1864 does not have a pommel mark. It would be nice if it turned out to be the RCS cutlass. I did save a picture of another one that was on ebay some time ago.Name:  img_1511[1].jpg
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Size:  39.1 KBName:  2cc2_1[1].jpg
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Size:  14.4 KBName:  img_1544[1].jpg
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Size:  73.0 KBName:  img_1547[1].jpg
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Size:  54.6 KB The NJ is dated what I believe to be 1862 but the 2 is very weak. Serial # is 16M930. I did see your article. I like your two theories and both do make sense. I do agree with CW use due the to surcharge markings. By the way it has the variant scabbard with the brass band at the frog stud and tip. I'm guessing these were done at yards to repair broken or weak scabbards.

  14. #14
    Pictures did not definitively Name:  img_1520[1].jpg
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Size:  80.0 KBshow serial or lack of however in this view it does not look like there is one.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by GC Roxbury View Post
    The NJ is dated what I believe to be 1862 but the 2 is very weak. Serial # is 16M930. I did see your article. I like your two theories and both do make sense. I do agree with CW use due the to surcharge markings. By the way it has the variant scabbard with the brass band at the frog stud and tip. I'm guessing these were done at yards to repair broken or weak scabbards.
    Thanks for the info on the "N.J" cutlass. Since you didn't mention it, I take it your N.J has no "U.S.N./D.R." or other inspector marks.

    Ref your comment on the scabbards with the brass band and chape, i.e. "I'm guessing these were done at yards to repair broken or weak scabbards", I don't think this is quite right. There are quite a few of these around, and the design is uniform, not something that would appear to be a field or even Yard-level repair. I think it is more likely these were the replacement scabbards made by Ames in response to this 8 December 1863 letter from the Navy “Sir, the Bureau desires you to furnish the New York Navy Yard one hundred (100) cutlass scabbards. As these have been somewhat modified, a sample will forwarded to you by the Ordnance Officer at New York.” I've not found anything which further expounds on what the "somewhat modified" might entail, but I suspect this is it. I have also heard the theory this was a modification made during the Spanish-American War to strengthen the scabbards, but I have seen no evidence to support it.

  16. #16
    Here are marks on the NJ. It is inspected. Name:  6.jpg
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Size:  23.7 KB I like the idea that the scabbards are "official" modifications.

  17. #17
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    Another example of the 1864 Army cutlass was posted on the "Civil War Talk" site. It appears to be a previously unknown example. I checked with Charlie Pate and he confirmed it was not one he had seen before. This would bring the total of known survivoras to 8 or 9, depending on whether you count the questionable example recently sold by Rock Island Auctions in May 2019. If fact, the owner said this was the second example he had owned, so possibly it could be the 9th or 10th. Here is a photo of the new example:

    Name:  Bob in Mass CWT 5.jpg
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  18. #18
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    Couple larger shots:

    Name:  Bob in Mass CWT 1.jpg
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    Name:  Bob in Mass CWT 3.jpg
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    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 07-21-2019 at 10:41 AM.

  19. #19
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    At the gun show here in Hoover AL, I passed on a PGG example, they would not give me a price...I like the Gert Gansevort marked cutlasses from the Brooklyn Navy Yard..

    Dale

  20. #20
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    Cdr Gansevoort was one of the individuals who was responsible for the inventory and reinspection of Navy arms in 1866. His mark, (anchor)/P/G.G., was applied at 90 degree to the original inspector marks. Another officer conducting the re-inspections was Capt John R. Goldsborough whose mark was (anchor)/P/J.R.G.". Whereas most, but not all, the Gansevoort-marked cutlasses I have seen also have the Daniel Reynold's mark, none of the Goldsborough ones do. It almost seems as if Goldsborough only marked swords which did not already have inspector marks. He applied his mark in the same direction as the original markings. There are a lot of blades with just an anchor an P stamped above their original markings. I wonder if these were perhaps Goldsborough-inspected pieces on which, for whatever reason, he did not mark with his initials? I have absolutely no evidence to support this theory - its just my speculation.

    A typical Gansevoort mark:

    Name:  G.G. Over D.R..jpg
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    A Gansevoort with no Reynolds mark:

    Name:  14M20 Anchor P GG 1862.jpg
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    A Goldsborough mark:

    Name:  J.R.C..png
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    An anchor P mark:

    Name:  Anc P U.S.N. D.R. 1862.jpg
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