Hess Fine Art

Fine Art, Auction, Watch and Antique Experts Since 1984.
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What's It Worth? Rare Civil War Memorabilia

What's It Worth? Rare Civil War Memorabilia

Civil war medals and adornments were made in many variations ... and millions of them exist. Not only actual medals of honor – issued between 1862 and 1866 – but also medals (actually ribboned souvenirs) of civil war encampments or reunions that were held routinely (until there were only 19 living vets for the final encampment/reunion, which was held in Indianapolis in 1949).

Most of these GAR/encampment/reunion medals are worth $10-$50, with a few early, rare Confederate examples topping $500 or more.

Katrina and I recently attended an antique jewelry trade show, where over 100 jewelers met to buy and sell. I spied this heavy 1913 medal on a dealer’s table and was dismayed to note that the dealer was asking $1,500 ... nearly double the gold value of $780. However, I had never seen one like it before, so I asked “the boss” if I could gamble on it. (She typically supports my gambles since she is thankful that I seldom really gamble — on the few occasions of poker playing or Vegas travel, my success rate is modest. Okay, that’s not true; let’s say less than modest. Hmmm ... Okay ... I lose – and because my gambles are based on a nerdy historical/antiques skillset.)

When we came home, I did a little research and found that this medal was indeed quite rare. It was made in 1913 for the Gettysburg 50th Reunion, in 10k gold. This encampment was the largest ever held, and in spite of attempting to limit the attendees, over 50,000 former Confederate and Union soldiers attended.

On the medal’s obverse are “kneeling veterans clasping hands, engraving that reads FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG, with American flag as curtain to left.” On the reverse are “clasping hands with the Pennsylvania outline, with REUNION CIVIL WAR VETERANS 1913 and an olive branch wreath.” It is signed by the jeweler, medal maker Whitehead-Hoag. We were only able to find one other ever offered ... at the  prestigious Spink and Son auction house in London. They called  it “unquestionably, very rare.” Katrina then emailed all 3,000 of our former buyers for Civil War items and we were able to achieve a modest profit, with the medal selling for $2,150.
Whether you are a jeweler, dealer, collector or private citizen, we want to bid on your item.

Stop in or call 727.896.0622 for an appointment. 

Comments, questions or suggestions for this column, please send to jeffreyphess@aol.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Hess Fine Art - Fine Art, Auction, Watch and Antique Experts Since 1984

Whats It Worth - Rare Civil War Memorabilia.PDF

Whats It Worth - Rare Civil War Memorabilia.PDF

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Publish Date: 
October, 2017