What's It Worth? Artifacts From The Civil War And Earlier
It seems like everyone enjoys stories from back in the day (or stories where I lose money). So today, we are writing about a house call we made in 1991. It involves an ad we ran for Confederate currency. Most people think that this currency is worthless, but in reality, one Confederate dollar can be worth between $5 and $100, and a $20 bill can be worth between $10-$300, and sometimes $1,000 or more.
A woman called and said she had a chest full of Confederate currency. She lived in an old established neighborhood, where she had lived since her birth in 1908. Her grandparents were bigwigs in the Confederacy; and she had her grandfather’s original mustering certificate, which noted he was the Surgeon General of the Confederacy. She also had a scrapbook her great grandfather kept during the peace talks when the North won the war. It was signed by Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, along with about 40 other people. She also had a table that belonged to Robert E. Lee that her grandfather had obtained directly. It had identifying marks that proved it.
She shared a childhood memory of an occasion they went to a museum, and that museum wouldn’t acknowledge that her grandfather owned this table; the museum tried to claim ownership. Her grandfather went home, retrieved the original agreement, returned to the museum and took the table home with him.
We purchased the whole lot, including some coin silver flatware engraved with the name of the Surgeon General and a myriad of amazing, historical collectibles that her father had saved. I sold everything except the flatware to a Clearwater industrialist for $55,000; the flatware sold at an antique show for $1,260. I kept one memento from this important and memorable purchase. Pictured is a 200-year-old wineglass; its stem has broken off. The chess piece, which once belonged to Benjamin Franklin, is embedded in the glass.
While we have no doubt this is Benjamin Franklin’s chess piece, verification has proved difficult. The glass, cork, decorations and chess piece are indeed consistent with the period.
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