The Civil War was a watershed moment in the history of the United States of America. Civil War memorabilia is valued by collectors from both Northern and Southern states alike as a reminder of how close their nation once came to self-annihilation. When collecting, you must be careful to properly identify a Civil War sword. Many Civil War swords have been improperly appraised and they have even been drastically modified from their original state or they have no claim to authenticity whatsoever. The following guide will help you in being able to identify an authentic Civil War sword.
Observe Authentic Swords Firsthand in Military Museums. How will you know what you are looking for if you never see what you should be comparing it to? Some people who buy Civil War swords make just this mistake. Remember that you are in no rush to buy a Civil War sword. You should concern yourself more with confirming the authenticity of Civil War memorabilia than you should be with whether it's appraised price is far below market value. You are not trying to get the bargain of the century. Rather, proceed with caution. If in a museum, speak with the custodian of this memorabilia and question how the museum authenticates its swords.
Find a Trustworthy Dealer/Appraiser. Disreputable weapons dealers tend to go out of business quickly. However, with the advent of Ebay, many of these sort of dealers are trafficking their false Civil War memorabilia to unsuspecting buyers who are lured by low prices to buy these items. Since most of these buyers will never go to the extra expense of having their Civil War swords appraised, many are never even aware that the Civil War sword they have paid for is not real. Don't make the same mistake. Search for a dealer who has developed a long-standing reputation in his community. If he is not able to properly appraise the type of item you seek, he will invite an expert to confirm the authenticity of the Civil War sword in question. Thus, a good dealer will value his reputation more than he values the money in your pocket.
Be Suspicious of Marks of Perfection. Civil War swords have suffered nearly 150 years of aging. Furthermore, when you see a Civil War sword, you should remember that it was probably used in battle. Thus, just as with comparably more brittle Civil War memorabilia such as letters, photographs or even uniforms, these swords were not forged yesterday. Question the authenticity of any sword that appears flawless. Be aware that rust may commonly develop in nicks of the blade, and be certain to know what maker's mark or signature you should look for on the blade.
Know How to Tell the Difference Between a Movie Sword from a Real Sword. This may seem like a no-brainer, but as a media-driven culture we've become accustomed to viewing the Civil War in terms of its value as an entertaining spectacle. Ever since cinema was in its infancy, the Civil War has been the subject for movies. While we don't exactly depend on these romanticized visions of history for their authenticity, we have been influenced by the way they have portrayed events. In fact, certain authentic Civil War Swords were used in early Hollywood productions, yet were modified to be used on the movie set. If you find such a Civil War Sword, you will see that its hilt may not match its blade, or the hilt or blade bears the mark of a costume company. Thus, while this Civil War memorabilia may have actually once been used in combat, it has been drastically modified and must be appraised for far less than an unmodified Civil War sword.
Don't Buy a Sword Sold Without a Guarantee. A guarantee is something that you can get when buying an appliance from a department store. Guarantees imply that products in question have been appraised to be an agreement with any claims made in their advertising. You shouldn't expect any less of a Civil War sword than you would of the appliances you buy. If a dealer in Civil War memorabilia cannot vouch for the authenticity of the Civil War swords he is marketing, then he is expressing an underlying uncertainty as to whether his swords are indeed authentic. If you cannot purchase a guarantee when you purchase your sword, then you should search for a new market from which to acquire items for your collection.
Items you will need
To Research Swords of the Period
To Confirm Your Research With an Expert's Appraisal
If the maker's marks on a blade are easy to scratch away with a sharp knife tip, you are probably not dealing with an authentic Civil War sword.
While reputation is an indicator of honesty, beware of how reputations are judged. In 2001, two dealers from the P.B.S. television show the Antiques Roadshow were charged by a grand jury of staging phony appraisals to enhance their reputations as rare weapons dealers. While the television & internet are media outlets that are also frequented by reputable dealers, certain frauds abuse these outlets to gain good "feedback" and build their reputations.