Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Appraising Antique Knives, Guns and Other Treasures:

From time to time folks will email me, often with photos, asking my opinion on the value of some family heirloom or antique treasure that has come into their possession.  However, before you ask me about the value of your antiques, you need to know that I am mostly a low grade researcher with a strong interest  the history of the fur trade.  I certainly do not have the specialized skills or knowledge to properly value antiques.  In fact I have so little confidence in my ability to discern an antique from a quality reproduction, that when purchasing items of the trade for my collection, I always go for reproductions – that way I have absolute certainty about what I’m getting.  

First of all the value of an antique truly is subjective.  Antiques are subject to “fads” and the value of items can change rapidly depending on what is or isn’t desirable at the moment.  Also, the overall state of the economy plays a role in that demand, and hence values, will be greatly suppressed when folks are worried about their jobs.  Finally, unless an item is in pristine condition, there are too many variables which cannot be conveyed with a written description or even a series of photographs.  

The best way to obtain a reasonably accurate value is to get estimates from three professional appraisers, particularly those that specialize in the type of object that you possess.  This may involve some expense if the object is to be mailed to specialist for examination.  Three appraisals will provide a range of values within which the value of your item should fall.  As a reality check, contact your insurance agent and find out how much they would be willing to cover the object for.  

And no, never having owned an antique, I cannot recommend any appraisers.

Thank You.

Michael Schaubs
aka Malachite