Need help valuing collection of items

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I'll also note that more than once I've seen museums with a table or two of items for sale at major Civil War Shows, with all their sale offerings still having museum ID numbers painted on them, and offered for sale so the proceeds could fund some museum project or expense.
When an aquisitioned (catalogued in) item is disposed of, there is a procedure that is followed: first, it is offered back to the original donor (or heirs); failing that--or if the original donor or heirs--aren't interested--it is offered to another museum or institution where it is more appropriate; if all else fails, it may be sold. We are careful to remove the ID number for the very reason that you give: someone will spot it and immediately assume that it has been yanked off the shelves; sometimes some museums mighn't be as careful. BTW I can think of mighty few times this has happened.
Fairfield responded: "...I couldn't disagree with you more"
It is an absolutely true statement--I do disagree 100%.

The nature of your argument reminds me of one of my husband's students: he said that when he graduated, he was going to become a college professor because all they did was walk into a room and talk. 🙄 No idea as to what was involved, no clue as to the years of preparation or of lesson plans. Unless you have personally worked in a museum and witnessed all these egregious goings-on, you are at a disadvantage.
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
When an aquisitioned (catalogued in) item is disposed of, there is a procedure that is followed: first, it is offered back to the original donor (or heirs); failing that--or if the original donor or heirs--aren't interested--it is offered to another museum or institution where it is more appropriate; if all else fails, it may be sold. We are careful to remove the ID number for the very reason that you give: someone will spot it and immediately assume that it has been yanked off the shelves; sometimes some museums mighn't be as careful. BTW I can think of mighty few times this has happened.

It is an absolutely true statement--I do disagree 100%.

The nature of your argument reminds me of one of my husband's students: he said that when he graduated, he was going to become a college professor because all they did was walk into a room and talk. 🙄 No idea as to what was involved, no clue as to the years of preparation or of lesson plans. Unless you have personally worked in a museum and witnessed all these egregious goings-on, you are at a disadvantage.

The same OCD traits that make me a careful collector also mean that when I read your "100% disagree" statement, I tend to look carefully, and ask myself "Does this person disagree with the original statements that
  • Many are underfunded.
  • If you donate you need to read all the paperwork they put in front of you.
  • Exceptions .... If the museum is specifically asking for something."
I suspect you would not disagree 100% with those quotes from the earlier poster.

You show enthusiasm and an understanding of how historical societies should work and that's to be commended!
 

1950lemans

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 23, 2013
Location
Connecticut
I'm afraid that I couldn't disagree with you more.

Museums don't accept items out of keeping with existing collections and putting something that fits into basement storage is counterproductive. That a museum would sell off objects in order to pay bills is absolutely out of the question: museums have strict guidelines about this sort of thing.

You may have had personal experience to the contrary--and there is a marketing rule that one's singular experience tends to become seen as general. I'm very sorry about that. However, as someone who has spent years with heritage organizations (and who has donated myself), I must say that I have never encountered what you suggest.
I respect your view but naturally don't fully agree with it. I did mention exceptions. There are exceptions to pretty much everything.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
I'm afraid that I couldn't disagree with you more.

Museums don't accept items out of keeping with existing collections and putting something that fits into basement storage is counterproductive. That a museum would sell off objects in order to pay bills is absolutely out of the question: museums have strict guidelines about this sort of thing.

You may have had personal experience to the contrary--and there is a marketing rule that one's singular experience tends to become seen as general. I'm very sorry about that. However, as someone who has spent years with heritage organizations (and who has donated myself), I must say that I have never encountered what you suggest.

Depends on the museum. Unfortunately I have witnessed several trends with poorly run museums (both large and small) selling collections objects to pay bills, or just to satisfy a board-member's interests. Professional/Smithsonian level museum ethics might state it is unethical for museums to accept objects in the public trust, and then sell them for funding anything other than object conservation; but many museums do not follow such guidelines or are unaware of them.

Also, they come and go. In Tampa Bay (Pinellas County) two military history museums shuttered in the last several years; their collections being sold off/dispersed.
 

OldSarge79

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 12, 2017
Location
Pisgah Forest, North Carolina
I don’t see any markings on the bayonet. Is there a particular spot they are usually located?
Sorry, your question seems to have slipped through the cracks.

Markings on your bayonet should be on the inside of the blade near the base. British bayonets are stamped there with the maker marks as well as inspector marks (a small crown over a number).
American bayonets are marked in the same area.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Professional/Smithsonian level museum ethics might state it is unethical for museums to accept objects in the public trust, and then sell them for funding anything other than object conservation; but many museums do not follow such guidelines or are unaware of them.
Perhaps this is true--but, if so, it is unusual. Personally, I don't know of any. Just as in other areas, museums and historical societies network with each other. What I have witnessed are staffs of dedicated and decent people.

In rehoming one's treasures, there are many appropriate venues and the choice made depends on the individual situation. Sometimes collectors are the way (I myself have collections): when money is an issue, when the object is unusual enough that museums decline it. Sometimes museums are the way (when sharing is important); remember that a museum is little more than a public collection.

Just received an email from our overseeing body about an upcoming workshop specifically on the subject of museum ethics. Yes, this sort of thing is monitored.

I've said all I intend to on the subject. There is a lot of misinformation being spread in many fields and I certainly don't want people to believe that museums are in it for the money or are unable to care for objects in their keeping. But I don't want to get into a tit-for-tat debate over what happened to Aunt Tizzy's ivory whats-it-not.
 
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Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Many years ago, my daughter in law decided that her firstborn (and my first grandchild) was so beautiful that this baby should compete in a beautiful child contest. Mother and I, grandfather, both considered this the most beautiful baby born in the 20th Century, if I had tried to tell her that I didn't think that this child would win a cash prize and a baby modeling contract, that would have been attacking HER and HER BABY.

Fairfield, you are obviously proud of YOUR particular institution and your experience in this field.

I don't think anyone meant to attack you or the facility with which you are connected.

No one knows your institution, so far as I know.

But in my county, Franklin County, Ohio, there are three institutions what have militaria collections:

The largest and oldest is the Ohio Historical Society, a solid institution, but always short of funds and sometimes running on fumes (they fired all the craftsman in their Ohio Village, a civil war village on the grounds and closed it for a time some years ago). The Ohio Historical Society would likely accept these items, but I doubt would display them; they have a hundred years of donated stuff in storage, much more than they can display. I well remember a display they had about 30 years ago called something like "From Our Attic" and it displayed items donated many years ago, odds and ends such as a pebble brought back from the shore of the Dead Sea in the Holy Land, a stuffed monkey, a sliver of wood from some Civil War battlefield rail fence - the Society didn't know which), a piece of barbed wire supposedly cut during some Old West range war in Colorado, a short length of rope used to hang some notorious person (perhaps John Brown, the abolitionist), and so on - the type of stuff you might find in a gentleman's library on a shelf of curiosities. The point of the display is that this is the sort of stuff museums gathered in the past before they became more focused in their collections and displays. I am sure the Society has more muskets than they need. Donate to them, and the items would be stored away - think of that warehouse scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The middle aged one is Motts Military Museum. Mott (his son was a Gettysburg guide for years, and now heads the Adams County (Gettysburg) historical society) displays most of what he has and Motts especially likes items connected to a particular soldier. He would likely display these, and I believe he takes good care of items (he took good care of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian Army Tank for several years before Arnold came to pick it up).

The newest is a military museum located in a nearby town of 500 or so, located (I think) in a closed gasoline service station building. I have no clue about this place, but I see plenty of nicely made signs and this place seems to be savvy about getting publicity.

There are at least a half dozen other "historical societies" in the County, mostly volunteer groups, and who knows what they accept or do with the items they have.

But if I were wondering what to do with great-uncle's musket, that publicity being garnered by the newest military museum might make me think that would be a good place to donate.

The various "cautions" posted may not apply to you (or your " beautiful baby") but they sure do apply to hundreds of local "historical societies" across the country.
 

Package4

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
I'm afraid that I couldn't disagree with you more.

Museums don't accept items out of keeping with existing collections and putting something that fits into basement storage is counterproductive. That a museum would sell off objects in order to pay bills is absolutely out of the question: museums have strict guidelines about this sort of thing.

You may have had personal experience to the contrary--and there is a marketing rule that one's singular experience tends to become seen as general. I'm very sorry about that. However, as someone who has spent years with heritage organizations (and who has donated myself), I must say that I have never encountered what you suggest.
With all due respect, that is certainly not my experience, with Gettysburg NPS, Maryland Historical Society, Museum of the Confederacy, American Civil War Museum, The Kernstown Battlefield Museum, the St. Michaels Maritime Museum and the Maryland State Archives.

  • Gettysburg-The collection is vast and 3/4 of the collection are "in the basement". My research has been down there entirely.
  • Maryland Historical Society-The collection is one of the finest in the country, due to the Confederate Soldiers Home located in Pikesville, MD. The collection is rarely displayed, stored improperly and uncatalogued, I have helped out on numerous occasions, but the collection is vast.
  • Museum of the Confederacy-Could only display 10% of their collection. The head curator at the time that my group helped to restore a flag, took us to the basement. There were items in every corner and cubbyhole of the facility. She complained that they kept getting donations of Confederate items with nowhere to put them.
  • American Civil War Museum-A complete joke and I fear for the items that were once in the MOC, they have a political agenda.
  • The Kernstown Battlefield Museum-Donor is out his collection as it was stolen from the museum in 2018. I was going to lend some headgear from the battle to that museum, glad I did not. https://www.localdvm.com/news/virginia/kernstown-battlefield-staff-reeling-from-robbery/1495502066/
  • St. Michaels Maritime Museum-A friend loaned some extremely rare nautical items and prints to the museum, when he asked for their return, received copies of the prints and only one of two punt guns. Ongoing legal battle.
  • Maryland State Archives-Absolutely no interest in the Civil War, group I am in offered to help restore items in their collection that are in badly need of conservation; Crickets. Invaluable artifacts continue to deteriorate.
So pardon me when I hear that items should be donated, a tea set maybe, but Civil War material is toxic to major museum donors, in many instances.
 
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Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
Hello all,

I have been cleaning out my fathers house. There are 2 civil war era guns, an Enfield rifle and a Lorenz carbine, and had them looked at by a local antique gun collector. He said he would pay $1200 for them and a early 1900's air dart gun. I had no idea of where they came from or why we had them. My father was not a gun collector.

I just came across an envelope of items that goes with them. It turns out they were from my great uncle's, uncle, who fought in the civil war. There is his enlistment papers, discharge papers, a couple of medals, his marriage certificate and his paperwork for his apprenticeship.

At this point, I do not want these items to be sold separately as they all belong together to tell they story of part of this mans life. What kind of value would all of these items have together?

Back to the OP's original questions.

The carbine is a Muster [model] 1851 Austrian Army Kammerkarabiner [rifled cavalry carbine]. It was originally manufactured in System Augustin tubelock and was transformed by the Austrians to caplock percussion. Colonel George Schuyler purchased 10,000 of them in 1861 in several different configurations for the Federal Army. In Austrian service the cavalry trooper carried his ramrod separately from the carbine, and this one was drilled for carriage of a ramrod under the barrel - probably in Liege, Belgium - while in transit to the United States. Since your ancestor appears to have been an infantryman he would not have been issued one of these carbines while he was in service. The surviving weapons were sold as surplus by the U.S. Army's New York Ordnance Agency circa 1880 to Schuyler, Hartley, and Graham and to Francis Bannerman, although Bannerman converted his to flintlock for sale in the African trade. I would suspect that your ancestor obtained it after those sales. Condition is everything, with a retail price of the carbine being in a range of $600 to $1,000. I would expect that a reputable dealer would charge you approximately 25% of the final sales price if it was placed for consignment.

Regards,
Don Dixon
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
After overcoming that gut feeling of responding, excellent write up, @Don Dixon. Thank you.
And yes, I did learn from the awkward shifting to the right and left as the gut-feeling passed.
It was exceptionally informative @Package4. Thank you too.
Lubliner.
 

MRB1863

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Location
Lemoyne, PA (35 miles N. of Gettysburg)
IMHO...if I was lucky enough to have items that belonged to my gggrandfather or gguncles from the Civil War, they would be priceless to me. Nothwithstanding the market value, each item would be a prized posession and I would instill upcoming generations' interest to pass them down through the family. To me, sometimes the $ is not as important. But then, that is just my feeling.
 
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