DENVER, Pa. – Wars have woven a continual thread throughout recorded history, and as nations have risen or fallen in defeat, their historical artifacts have been lost or severely depleted. A desire to own and preserve relics that played a role in critical conflicts is why so many history buffs worldwide collect weaponry and militaria. A preferred source for collectors of superior-quality antique objects of war is Morphy Auctions, whose next Edged Weapons, Armor & Militaria sale is slated for Dec. 10. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
Fine swords and sabers with distinguished provenance will be in plentiful supply. An extremely rare U.S. Model 1840 officer’s sword (above) was originally issued to a member of the small, elite Corps of Engineers, which drew top graduates from West Point. They played a key role in the country’s security, building forts and undertaking public projects, as well as mapping the country’s westward expansion. “There were only 39 engineer officers at the time of this sword’s production, so it was a scarce item from day one,” said Dan Morphy, founder and president of Morphy Auctions. Its 31¾-inch blade is etched N.P. Ames/Cutler/Springfield and U.S. Corps of Engineers, along with trophy arms and a U.S. flag. Formerly in the collection of George M. Rapport, it comes to auction with a $15,000-$20,000 estimate.
Similar in objective but a separate organization from the Engineers Corps, the respected Topographical Engineers claimed among their alumni the Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan. An Ames Topographical Civil War saber, whose pattern was a modification of the 1833 Dragoon Officer’s saber (below), is etched on its blade with the Topographical Engineers’ name, several American symbols, and acorn and oak-leaf scrolls. It will be offered at Morphy’s with a $15,000-$25,000 estimate.
Ames’ U.S. Model 1840 cavalry officer’s saber is a type that was used in the Mexican War and early Indian Wars on the plains but also was preferred by some Civil War cavalry officers for its heavier blade and construction. Profusely etched with military, floral, US and other motifs – including the image of an American Indian with a raised tomahawk – an example of this versatile edged weapon is entered in Morphy’s sale with a $10,000-$20,000 estimate.
Among the many remarkable pieces of headgear, perhaps none is more of a curiosity than the Maximilian-type closed helmet in the style of 1540. Its design incorporates a finely fluted one-piece skull and forged and pierced visor. Possibly of the period and similar to helmets seen in museums through the U.S. and Europe, it is estimated at $5,000-$8,000.
Grandly embellished, a Prussian artillery general’s helmet known as a “kugelhelm” has a black leather body with gold-tone fittings and a dominant spread-winged eagle with sword and Prussian Garde star at its front. The helmet’s design is notable for the distinctive knob-form finial at its crest. Auction estimate: $6,500-$9,000.
Two rare and important Confederate flags are expected to land in the top ten. One of them, an 1862 Army of Tennessee Confederate battle flag, was discovered some years ago in Bristol, Virginia. Seven flags of its type are thought to exist from the original 132 that were produced. Of those seven, five are held in institutional collections. Only two remain in private hands, the example in Morphy’s sale being one of them. Experts believe it could command $40,000-$60,000 on auction day.
The second banner of special note is a Washington Light Artillery presentation Confederate battle flag whose provenance states that it was made by “the ladies of Augusta (Ga.)” in the second year of the Civil War for presentation to Lt. John Henry Neibling by his unit. Georgia post-Civil-War banners are extremely rare, and only a couple of survivors are known to exist. Significant and very well provenanced, the flag will be offered with a $30,000-$50,000 estimate.
The highlight of the Armor section is a 19th-century Scottish 3-pounder bronze naval cannon on its original exhibition carriage. Cast by Miller and Pearce, Glasgow, it measures 51.5 inches long and was previously displayed at the entrance to Dr. Jack Strassman’s residence in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Dr. Strassman’s distinguished firearms collection was auctioned at Christie’s East in May 1986. The cannon will cross the auction block at Morphy’s with a $6,000-$12,000 estimate.
Morphy’s Dec. 10, 2019 Edged Weapons, Armor & Militaria Auction will start at 9 a.m. Eastern Time at the company’s gallery. Questions: call 877-968-8880 or email email@example.com. Online: www.morphyauctions.com.