Asking Advice: Building a Weapons Collection (Warning: Many Questions)

Joined
Feb 25, 2018
Messages
54
Location
Illinois
#1
Hello everyone!

I have been collecting Civil War artifacts since I was about 10 years old, but only recently have I been able to acquire weapons. I wanted to ask some of your opinions on what I should pursue, what I should look for, etc.

General Collecting Goals:
While I would love to own every single type of longarm, sidearm, and saber that was made, I know that's not possible. Therefore, I was hoping to get the more commonly used weapons to have what an "average" (Union mostly) soldier might have had first. Then, if the budget allows, I would expand and get other pieces. I understand this will take years, and I'm not expecting to have a collection overnight. This is the long-term goal.

Muskets Owned:

1861 Springfield (first Civil War weapon I've ever gotten and still technically the only one I have)
I recently met with a elderly gentleman that is slowly selling off his collection. Through those conversations, I will soon be acquiring:
1863 Springfield
1861 William Mason Taunton contract musket dated 1864
Muskets Desired:
Enfield maybe
Musket Questions:
I definitely want to keep my 1861 Springfield, and I'm planning on having the 1863 with it, but should I keep the contract 1864 model? Or should I parlay it towards something else? Should I get an Enfield? A Lorenz?

Rifles Owned:

None
Rifles Desired:
Spencer Repeating Rifle
Rifle Questions:
I'm really only thinking about getting a Spencer. Is there is another rifle I should consider?

Carbines Owned:
None
Carbines Desired:
Sharps 1859 or 1863
Carbine Questions:
There are a lot of carbines out there. I thought the Sharps because they were the most common. Am I being short-sighting? Should I consider a Joselyn? A Burnside? A Maynard? Something else?

Pistols Owned:

None.
Pistols Desired:
Colt 1851 Navy
Colt 1861 Army
Pistol Questions:
Obviously, I have the Colts because I think they're the most common/what the "average" soldier would have. Should I consider a Remington? A Smith and Wesson? An Adams? A Starr? Something else? If I only get one, what should that be?

Sabers Owned:
None
Sabers Desired:
M1840 or M1860 cavalry saber
Saber Questions:
I'm currently only thinking about cavalry sabers at the moment as opposed to navy cutlasses or field officer swords. Should I get both an 1840 and an 1860? If I only got one, which should it be? Is there another type of saber I'm missing?

Final Thoughts and Questions:
I realize this is a lot that I am thinking about, and I appreciate your willingness to read, answer questions, and discuss. Again, I am hoping to, at least at the start, build a collection of what a typical soldier would have. I am thinking of a collection like this (in an ideal world--who knows if I'll actually get there):
2 muskets (1861 and 1863 Springfields)
1 rifle (Spencer)
1 carbine (Sharps)
2 pistols (1851 and 1861 Colts)
1-2 sabers (1840 and/or 1860 cavalry saber)
Am I off the mark? Am I missing something or have something that wouldn't be normal for a soldier to have? Is there something I should be pursuing more than something else (e.g. find a Sharps carbine first, then go for the Colts)? Suggestions for good shops, shows, etc. to find these items?
Again, thank you so much for your time in reading and responding. I appreciate you helping a fellow collector out!
 

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Joined
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#2
Best of luck in your collecting. Personally I would start by seeking one type of firearm first. The Carbine for example presents a multitude of options as also do each other type. If you don't have them, get yourself some books on the item you decide to start collecting. You will be glad you have them as you progress. Knowledge, Knowing about the item such as what to look for and what to be aware of that is not correct. Money, originals can get very expensive very quickly. Supply, some types are much more difficult to obtain as interest and lack of availability come into play. Are you looking to specialize or shotgun approach collecting? Most soldiers did not have a complete array of weapons at their disposal.
 
Joined
Feb 25, 2018
Messages
54
Location
Illinois
#4
Best of luck in your collecting. Personally I would start by seeking one type of firearm first. The Carbine for example presents a multitude of options as also do each other type. If you don't have them, get yourself some books on the item you decide to start collecting. You will be glad you have them as you progress. Knowledge, Knowing about the item such as what to look for and what to be aware of that is not correct. Money, originals can get very expensive very quickly. Supply, some types are much more difficult to obtain as interest and lack of availability come into play. Are you looking to specialize or shotgun approach collecting? Most soldiers did not have a complete array of weapons at their disposal.
I've definitely worked on reading up, and I know that I have more to do. Just wanted to see if anyone had some advice for a guy starting out. I know I'm jumping down a massive rabbit hole, which is why I was trying to limit my collecting to more common items that most soldiers would have.

I don't anticipate specializing too much. I guess shotgun approach is fair. I want to have a variety of things in order to have a semi-fleshed out collection rather than 20 different types/revisions/models of carbine or something like that.

I am fully aware that most soldiers didn't have a complete arsenal at their disposal. I'm more thinking about, if a soldier had a musket, what musket would he have? If he had a rifle/carbine/pistol/saber, what kind would it be? Does that make sense?
 
Joined
Feb 14, 2016
Messages
250
Location
Pacific Northwest
#5
Don't be in a hurry and buy books, books, and more books to learn from. Prices on Civil War weapons have come down in recent years with older collectors selling off their collections. Some dealers are still asking yesterday's prices but if you wait and look at a number of weapons you will eventually find what you want at a reasonable price. Remember that quality trumps quantity every time.

Don't settle for something that is incomplete or in just so-so condition because in the future you will want and be able to afford a better one and you'll have a hard time selling off the poorer quality specimen. It is better to buy one quality item while paying the price for it than to buy three poorer quality weapons. Watch Ebay on CW swords/sabers and you'll see that poorer condition items don't sell but early dated complete ones do sell and are desirable with many bidders. That tells you something with regard to what is collectible and what is not. It also gives you an idea of what you'll have to pay for a good specimen. It would be better to travel to a quality CW show where you can look over a number of items and compare prices and select something you will be happy with. That way too you'll be able to really examine what you are buying and not surprised by something bought over the Internet that has a flaw that didn't show up in photos. Some great items are sold on the Internet but you really have to know what you are buying before you bid or buy. I live in an area where there are no good CW shows but have been able to find some great items on the Internet but I've also spent thousands of dollars on books over a lifetime and known a lot of advanced collectors that I learned from and shared information with. I've spent a lot of time looking over their collections and traveled a long way to do so!

Then too, sometimes you can get a good item from someone who is selling off their collection at a show due to age or health and they just want to sell off everything and are willing to do so at prices that are far less than a dealer who is in business to make a profit.

If you go to shows, meet and learn from an older respected collector who can act like a "mentor." In this way, you'll have an expert opinion to go on when you find something you are considering buying. I started collecting in 1952 at the age of 8 and would save money for an entire year to buy one antique gun but jumped all over the field of antique guns without a specific field in mind. There were antique gun shops and just a few dealers with catalogs then so I made mistakes as I bought guns from the 1700's through WWII and it wasn't until later that I chose a field to specialize in. I should have specialized from the start.
 

Larryh86GT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jan 20, 2018
Messages
1,908
Location
Near sunny Buffalo New York
#6
I have just recently started my CW collection. No rhyme or reason to it except
I like the looks of the cavalry sabers so I now have 3 and I don't think I will
ever regret getting them. I also like the looks of the CW musket rifles of which
there are so many to choose from. I have 2 so far that I also will never regret
buying. So I guess what works for me is collecting what I like. It's impossible
for me to tell you what you will like. And it also looks like you are really doing
OK. Gotta love the hunt eh?
 
Joined
Feb 25, 2018
Messages
54
Location
Illinois
#7
Don't be in a hurry and buy books, books, and more books to learn from. Prices on Civil War weapons have come down in recent years with older collectors selling off their collections. Some dealers are still asking yesterday's prices but if you wait and look at a number of weapons you will eventually find what you want at a reasonable price. Remember that quality trumps quantity every time.

Don't settle for something that is incomplete or in just so-so condition because in the future you will want and be able to afford a better one and you'll have a hard time selling off the poorer quality specimen. It is better to buy one quality item while paying the price for it than to buy three poorer quality weapons. Watch Ebay on CW swords/sabers and you'll see that poorer condition items don't sell but early dated complete ones do sell and are desirable with many bidders. That tells you something with regard to what is collectible and what is not. It also gives you an idea of what you'll have to pay for a good specimen. It would be better to travel to a quality CW show where you can look over a number of items and compare prices and select something you will be happy with. That way too you'll be able to really examine what you are buying and not surprised by something bought over the Internet that has a flaw that didn't show up in photos. Some great items are sold on the Internet but you really have to know what you are buying before you bid or buy. I live in an area where there are no good CW shows but have been able to find some great items on the Internet but I've also spent thousands of dollars on books over a lifetime and known a lot of advanced collectors that I learned from and shared information with. I've spent a lot of time looking over their collections and traveled a long way to do so!

Then too, sometimes you can get a good item from someone who is selling off their collection at a show due to age or health and they just want to sell off everything and are willing to do so at prices that are far less than a dealer who is in business to make a profit.

If you go to shows, meet and learn from an older respected collector who can act like a "mentor." In this way, you'll have an expert opinion to go on when you find something you are considering buying. I started collecting in 1952 at the age of 8 and would save money for an entire year to buy one antique gun but jumped all over the field of antique guns without a specific field in mind. There were antique gun shops and just a few dealers with catalogs then so I made mistakes as I bought guns from the 1700's through WWII and it wasn't until later that I chose a field to specialize in. I should have specialized from the start.
Thanks for the advice. I know quality over quantity is key. I also realize this will take a while. I guess I wanted help getting started in the right direction. I've dreamed of owning Civil War weapons since elementary school, and it was only reinforced during a high school visit to Gettysburg and seeing the weapons in the shops there. Now I'm old enough to save up and be able to slowly acquire these weapons, so I wanted to make sure I had some good bearings moving forward. I've been reading and will continue to do so. I am focused on Civil War weapons, so that helps the range. I just want to be making wise decisions as I work to build my collection.
 

Larryh86GT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jan 20, 2018
Messages
1,908
Location
Near sunny Buffalo New York
#8
I know what you mean about quality vs quantity. For me it's a little different as I have collected
NY state license plates for some time now and a little rust on them never bothered me. Which
meant a few dents and dings on my CW items didn't put me off too much. It means more to
me to see signs of them being used than having that like new look. Good luck in your collection.
It's nice to get to a point in life where you can indulge yourself with some disposable income.
I know it is for me.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 4, 2015
Messages
2,143
Location
Boonville, MO
#9
I see you live in Illinois. I might suggest something a little out-of-the-box to help your collecting.
Go to the North-South Skirmish Association site and look up where they'll have a skirmish in Illinois that's close to you-then go to the skirmish. While the vast majority of the weapons they'll be shooting are reproductions, you might find that you would like to concentrate first on carbines or pistols by watching them shoot. I'm pretty sure some of them would let you handle their guns and maybe let you shoot them, and it could put you in contact with locals in the gun collecting community. Most of these guys are shooters, but some of them are probably collectors, or know someone locally to you that is.

I have an original Smith carbine that is a great shooter, but wouldn't have as much value to a collector as the front sight has been modified and the barrel re-lined. But to a shooter, it would have a a high value.

I guess what I'm trying to advise you, (and I'm not a collector), is to specialize first on one particular weapon and after you have gained expertise in that area, you can branch out.

I wish you good luck in your collecting.
 

James N.

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#10
... General Collecting Goals:
While I would love to own every single type of longarm, sidearm, and saber that was made, I know that's not possible. Therefore, I was hoping to get the more commonly used weapons to have what an "average" (Union mostly) soldier might have had first. Then, if the budget allows, I would expand and get other pieces. I understand this will take years, and I'm not expecting to have a collection overnight. This is the long-term goal.
My sentiments exactly! Like yourself, I started collecting a LONG time ago, but only relatively recently have I thought about acquiring a more complete representative collection of the more affordable Union-manufactured and used arms. Previously I'd acquired 3 muskets, M.1816/22, M.1840, and M.1842, all in percussion; a M.1861 Special Model rifle; and a beautiful M.1841 Mississippi Rifle. The last 2 were stolen now many years ago in a burglary, leaving me with only the muskets. Lately, however, I've added another M.1822 conversion (shown in my avatar), a M.1861 contract rifle, and am currently purchasing a M.1863 Springfield.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 25, 2018
Messages
54
Location
Illinois
#11
I know what you mean about quality vs quantity. For me it's a little different as I have collected
NY state license plates for some time now and a little rust on them never bothered me. Which
meant a few dents and dings on my CW items didn't put me off too much. It means more to
me to see signs of them being used than having that like new look.
Good luck in your collection.
It's nice to get to a point in life where you can indulge yourself with some disposable income.
I know it is for me.
Absolutely. I don't need anything pristine, by any means, but I don't want junk. I love a little character.
 
Joined
Feb 25, 2018
Messages
54
Location
Illinois
#12
I see you live in Illinois. I might suggest something a little out-of-the-box to help your collecting.
Go to the North-South Skirmish Association site and look up where they'll have a skirmish in Illinois that's close to you-then go to the skirmish. While the vast majority of the weapons they'll be shooting are reproductions, you might find that you would like to concentrate first on carbines or pistols by watching them shoot. I'm pretty sure some of them would let you handle their guns and maybe let you shoot them, and it could put you in contact with locals in the gun collecting community. Most of these guys are shooters, but some of them are probably collectors, or know someone locally to you that is.

I have an original Smith carbine that is a great shooter, but wouldn't have as much value to a collector as the front sight has been modified and the barrel re-lined. But to a shooter, it would have a a high value.

I guess what I'm trying to advise you, (and I'm not a collector), is to specialize first on one particular weapon and after you have gained expertise in that area, you can branch out.

I wish you good luck in your collecting.
I've only just heard about these guys. I'll certainly need to check them out.
 

James N.

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#13
...Carbines Owned:
None...
Pistols Owned:

None.
Pistols Desired:
Colt 1851 Navy
Colt 1861 Army
Pistol Questions:
Obviously, I have the Colts because I think they're the most common/what the "average" soldier would have.
Should I consider a Remington? A Smith and Wesson? An Adams? A Starr? Something else? If I only get one, what should that be?
Like yourself, I've never owned a carbine but would be satisfied with any of the common makes and models. Recently a member of the forums posted that he was selling 3 of his, one of which was a respectable Burnside. I seriously considered it, but finally decided against it because it was a 4th Model and therefore had almost NO chance of actually having seen service during the war as they weren't delivered to the government until 1865. Pistols however are another matter! I was energized by finding a mediocre condition M.1849 Colt Pocket Model at a flea market last fall and since have added a better one and also a M.1860 Army. Since there were something like 120,000 Colt Armys purchased by the government they are by far the most common pistol used so I'd vote for that. The others would certainly be nice and "icing on the cake!"

DSC05373.JPG
 

James N.

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#14
... Sabers Owned:
None
Sabers Desired:
M1840 or M1860 cavalry saber
Saber Questions:

I'm currently only thinking about cavalry sabers at the moment as opposed to navy cutlasses or field officer swords. Should I get both an 1840 and an 1860? If I only got one, which should it be? Is there another type of saber I'm missing?
Here I seriously deviate from you - since I couldn't afford guns I early on turned my attention to swords and sabers so at times variously amassed a large number of all principal styles both officer and enlisted, probably a dozen of which I still own. At one time I probably owned a half-dozen M.1860's by various makers but finally decided to keep only my Ames M.1840 and M.1860. Either would be appropriate, although late-dated 1860's are probably the most commonly available in the best condition, like the 4th Model Burnside have lesser chances of seeing actual wartime use; conversely, since all the 1840's were imminently available they must have all seen some use, and by both sides.

DSC02960.JPG


Good luck with your hunting!
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 25, 2018
Messages
54
Location
Illinois
#15
Like yourself, I've never owned a carbine but would be satisfied with any of the common makes and models. Recently a member of the forums posted that he was selling 3 of his, one of which was a respectable Burnside. I seriously considered it, but finally decided against it because it was a 4th Model and therefore had almost NO chance of actually having seen service during the war as they weren't delivered to the government until 1865. Pistols however are another matter! I was energized by finding a mediocre condition M.1849 Colt Pocket Model at a flea market last fall and since have added a better one and also a M.1860 Army. Since there were something like 120,000 Colt Armys purchased by the government they are by far the most common pistol used so I'd vote for that. The others would certainly be nice and "icing on the cake!"

View attachment 178879
Beautiful pistols! Yeah. I'd love to have the wartime use items. That's the whole point! The M.1860 Army was definitely on my list, I just wasn't sure about the M.1851 Navy, since I know there were hundreds of thousands made, from what I know.

Here I seriously deviate from you - since I couldn't afford guns I early on turned my attention to swords and sabers so at times variously amassed a large number of all principal styles both officer and enlisted, probably a dozen of which I still own. At one time I probably owned a half-dozen M.1860's by various makers but finally decided to keep only my Ames M.1840 and M.1860. Either would be appropriate, although late-dated 1860's are probably the most commonly available in the best condition, like the 4th Model Burnside have lesser chances of seeing actual wartime use; conversely, since all the 1840's were imminently available they must have all seen some use, and by both sides.

View attachment 178882

Good luck with your hunting!
Those sabers are great. I never looked at sabers until recently, since I had set my heart on an M.1861 Springfield first. I had decided that would be my first Civil War weapon from the time I was a teenager and had actually been able to look at and appreciate what I was seeing. Now, I think I'd like both an M.1840 and an M.1860, but I wasn't sure if I should just get one since I'm looking for more expensive firearms.
 

kevikens

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Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Messages
3,187
Location
New Jersey
#16
First thing, check your state's gun laws on how firearms are defined. Most states accept the federal definition which allows a collector to purchase most arms actually used in the Civil War. Some states require some kind of firearms purchasing card and I think Illinois may be one so check to see if you need one to purchase those kinds of weapons.
 

Specster

Sergeant Major
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Messages
2,011
Location
Mass.
#17
First and foremost as many others above have advised be patient and dont buy on a whim that you need an 1861 Springfield so you buy the 1st one you see. Do you due diligence - there are a ton of fakes (people and artifacts), especially at shows that will be here today and gone tomorrow. Go to secondary markets - like a woman who lost her husband and wants to sell his collection. Buying a phoney is a great lesson but it is costly as well - learn your lessons from others and books

Best regards
 

ucvrelics

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Location
Alabama
#18
Ive been an amateur archeologist and collector for over 45 years. I prefer the dug items but thats just me. I would rather have this Remington New Model 44 that I dug at the Battle Of Franklin then a non-dug mint condition one. Anyway just do your homework and the first money I would spend would be on books for the item you are looking for and learn as you go. The MAIN thing is enjoy, learn and collect what appeals to you.
DSCN9451.JPG
 
Joined
Feb 25, 2018
Messages
54
Location
Illinois
#19
First thing, check your state's gun laws on how firearms are defined. Most states accept the federal definition which allows a collector to purchase most arms actually used in the Civil War. Some states require some kind of firearms purchasing card and I think Illinois may be one so check to see if you need one to purchase those kinds of weapons.
Yeesh... I didn't know that there were different standards. I figured they were all fine. Thanks for the heads up!

First and foremost as many others above have advised be patient and dont buy on a whim that you need an 1861 Springfield so you buy the 1st one you see. Do you due diligence - there are a ton of fakes (people and artifacts), especially at shows that will be here today and gone tomorrow. Go to secondary markets - like a woman who lost her husband and wants to sell his collection. Buying a phoney is a great lesson but it is costly as well - learn your lessons from others and books

Best regards
Absolutely! I know it takes time, and I don't plan on pulling the trigger on a whim. I want to be happy with my purchase at the time and in the long run.

Ive been an amateur archeologist and collector for over 45 years. I prefer the dug items but thats just me. I would rather have this Remington New Model 44 that I dug at the Battle Of Franklin then a non-dug mint condition one. Anyway just do your homework and the first money I would spend would be on books for the item you are looking for and learn as you go. The MAIN thing is enjoy, learn and collect what appeals to you.
View attachment 178918
I definitely plan on enjoying my collection! I love it so far, humble as it may be! And, big bonus, my wife enjoys it too!
 

Michael W.

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 19, 2015
Messages
1,258
Location
The Hoosier State
#20
Ive been an amateur archeologist and collector for over 45 years. I prefer the dug items but thats just me. I would rather have this Remington New Model 44 that I dug at the Battle Of Franklin then a non-dug mint condition one. Anyway just do your homework and the first money I would spend would be on books for the item you are looking for and learn as you go. The MAIN thing is enjoy, learn and collect what appeals to you.
View attachment 178918
YES. For me, I like weapons that TELL A STORY. Anything recovered from Franklin is screaming with history.
 



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