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The Collector’s Minute: Fraternal Order Swords

by Mike Wilcox (05/04/10).

This fraternal order sword once belonged to a member of the "Knights of the Globe," a fraternal benefit group founded in Chicago in 1889. In the current market, its value is about $150.

This fraternal order sword once belonged to a member of the "Knights of the Globe," a fraternal benefit group founded in Chicago in 1889. In the current market, its value is about $150.

An item that brings out the little boy in most males is a sword, especially in the USA, where the heart goes all a twitter because often three erroneous assumptions are made. One, because of elaborate decoration, it’s an officer’s presentation sword; two, it’s from the Revolutionary War; or three, it’s from the Civil War. Of the many “Great-Great Grandpa’s Revolutionary War” or “Civil War” swords I’ve looked at over the years, the vast majority did indeed belong to Great-Great Grandpa, but the closest these swords ever got to a war was over who got the last piece of Pecan pie at the local lodge buffet table.

What these elaborate relics often turn out to be are dress swords from some long forgotten fraternal order. Most are decorated with symbols—often only decipherable to members of their own society—covering the hilts, blade and pommel, the unsharpened blades often etched decorated for their entire length, giving the impression of a military officer’s presentation sword they are often mistaken for.

Fraternal organizations such as lodges and secret societies were very common in the U.S. from about 1850 to the1930. At their peak, it is estimated there were more than a thousand such orders in the U.S., most dying out by the Great Depression. The purposes of these groups were many: some were military in origin, supporting veterans, while others were public service organizations, social clubs or part of religious organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus. Most offered financial support to the families of members in the form of early insurance plans, hence their huge popularity.

While these swords look rare and valuable, most fraternal order swords, complete with their original scabbard, generally sell for less than $300. The sword pictured above was made by M.C. Lilley, & Co., of Columbus, Ohio and once belonged to a member of the “Knights of the Globe,” a fraternal benefit group founded in Chicago in 1889. In the current market, a “Knights of the Globe” sword in good condition, complete with its scabbard, would sell in the $150- $200 range.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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One Response to “The Collector’s Minute: Fraternal Order Swords”

  1. Don Logue says:

    I am trying to find out about a Masonic sword that my grand father left me. It is marked The M.C. Lilly & Co., Columbus, OH. INHOCSIGNO VINCES on the blade and scabord and the name John S. Moore is on the blade. How can I find out any info?

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