Follow-up: 1796-Pattern American Saber

We’ve received a number of questions regarding the American “War of 1812” saber we described in a previous posting.

Several inquiries touched on the valuation of a weapon like this.

We dug up a few references…

—by J. Christoph Amberger

When it comes to the valuation of antique edged weapons, there’s one crucial word you’ve got to keep in mind:


No, not the ultra-absorbent geriatric undergarment. The value depends on:

* who’s selling it

* who’s buying it

* what condition it’s in

In other words, it depends.

For “desirable” historical periods during which limited but substantial amounts of clearly identifiable weapons were produced—say, the Third Reich or the American Civil War—there are established collectors markets specializing in those categories. Since weapons change hands in sufficient numbers, certain categories trigger a certain “stamp-collector” necessity to fill empty spots in a catalog. You can typically allocate a certain market value to a weapon based on condition, rarity, and subcategory. The same is true for many British swords.

Weapons from an earlier period have even better established historical valuations attached, with relatively current valuations based on recent auction records.

For historical “niche” weapons, such as our poor American 1796 pattern saber, there is no defined market and no defined literature that could help in determining a value. Sure, weapons like this change hands on eBay and in more obscure auctions. But good luck to you finding those records when you want to sell. All you can do is trawl the web to try and find similar weapons for sale.

For the weapon we described, we found several price ranges. “Attic” condition weapons without scabbard have recently sold for between $400 and $900. That’s in line with the lower valuation range of British 1796 Light Cavalry sabers in similar condition.

As soon as you can offer a contemporary scabbard with your weapon, the prices go up. We found a specimen with its original leather scabbard, without price (but we’d assume a retail price of anywhere between $1,200 and $1,800.)

Another one, in far better shape due to the protection of the iron scabbard, is priced at $1,150, which to me seems like a pretty good deal, everything considering.

Of course, the mere fact that a weapon has a certain sticker price doesn’t mean it’ll ever sell for it: Over the years, we’ve come to rely on many an enthusiastically priced weapon or book for a predictable chuckle. But a fair offer is better than a dead piece of inventory—so don’t be shy making an offer.

Just don’t be insulting.


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