Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Marine Sergeants' Swords in Auction

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Annandale, VA
    Posts
    836

    Marine Sergeants' Swords in Auction

    A major auction house recently sold two examples of the Horstmann M1859 Marine sergeants’ sword. The two swords were the exact same variant with all the same markings. One of the swords was in better condition than the other, but aside from that they were identical. The hammer prices, however, differed greatly. The reason for the disparity appears to lay entirely in how they were packaged and described in the catalog.

    The first lot consisted of just the one sword. It had a nice looking, but incorrect, metal Army M1850 mounted infantry scabbard and an incorrect gold Navy sword knot. The headline was “Rare Civil War USMC Officer’s Sword of Foot Officer Pattern”. This was followed by an extended description concluding with the statement that CW Marine officers’ swords are extreme rare.

    Name:  Morphy 1.JPG
Views: 134
Size:  48.4 KBName:  Morphy 6.jpg
Views: 136
Size:  109.2 KBName:  Morphy 5.jpg
Views: 135
Size:  107.1 KB

    The other sword was bundled with second sword, a nice example of the Horstmann Army M1840 NCO sword. This lot was headlined with a simple title “Lot of 2 American Civil War Era Swords”. Overall it was in much better condition than the first sword but had no scabbard. If you read the detailed description, you would see the blade was marked U.S.M.C..

    Name:  Lot 1378 Morphy 1.JPG
Views: 136
Size:  62.2 KBName:  Lot 1378 Morphy 4.JPG
Views: 134
Size:  51.6 KBName:  Lot 1378 Morphy 12.JPG
Views: 136
Size:  91.8 KB

    The attributions in both descriptions were totally wrong. These were not CW swords, and were certainly not officers’ swords. The officers’ swords differed from the sergeants’ swords in that the grip was norally shagreen vice leather covered, the hilt and scabbard mounts were gilt rather than plain brass, and the blade was etched, not plain polished steel like the initial sergeants’ swords. The most visually evident difference was that the officers’ sword scabbards had three mounts with carrying rings for wear with a sling, whereas the sergeants’ swords had two mounts with a stud for wear with a frog. Neither sword is CW era. This is a post-was variant probably adopted in the 1870s. Unlike the CW sergeants’ sword, this variant had etching similar to that found on officers’ swords, but with the initials “U.S.M.C.” in place of the “U.S.”. There were also minor modifications to the hilt design, i.e. laurel leaves replaced the oak leaves on the pommel and rosettes were added to the foliage between the knuckle guard and the outer band.

    The first lot fetched $4920 including buyer’s premium. The second lot fetched $553 for both swords. I find the first lot to have been ludicrously over-priced and the second to have been a real bargain. The fact there could be a 10-fold difference in price for the same sword in the same auction shows the importance of the description. If I ever sell my swords at auction, I will certainly want to review how they are described in the catalog.
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 06-12-2019 at 07:07 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
    Posts
    3,256
    Richard were you lucky enough to buy the second lot? Knowledge is valuable as this proves. Still deals to be had even with current internet searches.
    Swords or whatever you collect tend to fetch lower prices when in the wrong type of auction. Misidentification of a sword can help but eagle eyes usually find even these.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Annandale, VA
    Posts
    836
    Will. yes I was. What might make the deal even better is the second sword may be a Marine sword as well. In 1859 the Marines adopted the Horstmann Army M1840 NCO sword for the musicians of the Corps. It is impossible to distinguish the Marine swords by themselves from the Army swords because they are identical. However the Army NCOs normally carried their swords in a black frog, whereas Marine musicians usually used a white frog. My sword comes with a white frog. From the slight indentation and discoloration on the face of the frog where it encountered the counterguard, it appears they have been together for some time. If the frog turns out to be of the period, it would be a good indication this particular sword was used by the Marines.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Annandale, VA
    Posts
    836
    I just received the two swords I discussed above. I couldn't be happier. Both swords are in outstanding condition. The sergeant's sword seems almost mint, the only flaw being a nickel-sized area on the obverse side of the blade about 10" from the tip with cleaned corrosion/pitting. The remainder of the blade is smooth bright surface with clear etching and no nicks or dings. The hilt seems flawless.

    The M1840 Army NCO/M1859 USMC musician sword is in similarly excellent condition. The blade retains its original polish including the cross brushing on the top of the blade. The markings are clear and well struck. The scabbard has a few scuffs and slight dent on the drag, but is solid and in much better condition than usual. The real prize, however, is the frog. I was afraid it would turn out to be a modern frog, but now that I have had a chance to examine it in person, it seems clearly of age with the sword. This is important since it strongly implies this is a Marine-used sword. As I noted above, Army NCOs generally used a black frog whereas Marine musicians used white.

    By the time I paid all the postage, handling fees, etc, the lot ended up costing me slightly over $600 which I still consider a real bargain. Although the catalog description was problematic, I would have thought some more knowledgeable bidders would have looked at the photos or the swords themselves and recognized them for what they were. Didn't seem to happen, however, so I got a good deal.
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 06-19-2019 at 07:28 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
    Posts
    3,256
    Still good to know one can still get a bargain regardless of the internet. May misidentified sword continue to be listed. Several factors must have come together to let you have these swords at a low price, the gods must be pleased with you.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •