Posted April 2015

If you have a Civil War item that you can't identify or something you want to know the value of, contact John (mail: Box 510, Acworth, GA 30101; email John at with Civil War in the subject line or call 770-329-4984 or 770-974-6495). John needs a good description of the item, condition, manufacturer's marks and any other markings, and photos. Please Note: All questions MUST be accompanied with a Photo, it should not be more than 200k in file size.

I just wanted to get this musket appraised and learn more about it. It was my grandfather’s; he passed it on to my father, who passed away a few years ago, and I was left with it. I plan on mounting it on my wall, but I would like to know the value and the history behind it.

J.S.: Your grandfather's firearm is an Allin conversion of a Civil War muzzle-loading, rifled, musket-to-breech loader (popularly known as a Trapdoor Springfield). There are several variants, and yours appears to be the very first type with the 1865 lock date for .58 caliber rimfire cartridge. The gun was arsenal shortened to a 36-inch barrel from the original 40 inches. This is actually a rare gun with less than 5,000 being made in 40 inches, and 36-inchers being only a fraction of that total.

Condition is key to value. Where a fine, "as found," complete gun might bring $2,000-$3,000, yours does appear unaltered but rough with many stock blemishes and missing a breech latch. It would make a great wall-hanger, but to a collector, it might sell for $1,000.

John, this bag was found in the wall of a house in Wisconsin. It had a picture with it of soldiers in uniform, but the picture is gone. Was wondering what you could tell me about it and its worth? 

JS: It would have been most interesting to see what kind of photographs were inside this cartridge box. This is a standard Civil War cartridge box that an infantryman carried to hold his"40 rounds," usually .58 caliber minie balls and paper wraps. The front flap on this box would also hold a gun tool sometimes and caps. The box plate made of stamped brass, lead-filled with iron-loop books was standard issue to late in the war when box plates were replaced by an embossed "US" on the flap.

Condition is upmost in evaluating this fairly common accoutrement. Your box appears average at best, and similar can be found at Civil War trade shows priced at $300-$400 typically.

Hello, John. I have a Civil War field desk I'd like to know the value of. The desk came from an old home's attic in Gardner, Mass., once owned by a Capt. Smith who fought in the Civil War and is buried in Gardner. I know of no other connection to Smith such as to say, he owned it. Can you please give me any idea of its value?

JS: Your field desk is very similar to identified Civil War field desks sold in the past. I see similar pieces of furniture with no ID or history at Civil War trade shows usually priced at $300-$500. Typically, the value on these items comes with the identification of who used them. The addition of a name and unit painted or stenciled on it would add value. I have seen several good, identified desks sell for a few thousand dollars privately and in auction.

Searching auction sites for similar desks produced only a few sales in the last few years. Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, Texas, sold a similar desk with several hundred documents (lot 52466 June 9, 2012) for $2,250. I'm not sure what the documents were, but no doubt, they brought the bulk of the money. Morphy Auctions in Denver, Penn., sold a desk with similar compartmentalization for $450 (lot 636 February 26, 2010). On a retail level, I feel your field desk will sell for between $300 and $500.

John Sexton is an independent appraiser and expert of Civil War memorabilia. He is an accredited member of various appraiser organizations. He can be contacted at 770-329-4984 or If you have a Civil War item for him to appraise, email a photo and a description to .




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