Worthology works both ways, by Jim Sturgill

It’s every collector’s dream: Rediscovering something in the attic that will fetch a year’s salary, or learning that the baseball card collection your Dad started for you now will pay for a year of your own child’s college tuition.

Not all antiques are as they appear, however. The Worthologists at WorthPoint often reveal unexpected treasures. But where they really earn their keep is protecting us from scams and fakes. It’s never easy to tell someone that their cherished collectible is worthless, but it might be the most important part of the Worthologist’s job because it demonstrates the integrity of our shared online community and protects the value of our truly rare objects.

This is true, even when I happen to be the unlucky collector.

Twelve years ago, I purchased a 19th century handgun for $3,000 from a reliable and honest dealer who has been my friend for 35 years. He had acquired the weapon from an estate sale in Frederick, MD.

The handgun was a .36 caliber Schneider & Glassick. Those two gunsmiths formed a company in Memphis, TN in 1861. This particular piece resembled the Colt Navy. The company manufactured approximately 50 of the handguns before the Yanks invaded in 1861-62. Mine was number 24; there were three others that were known to still exist.

According to Fladerman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms & Their Values, it had a value of $5,000 to $15,000 when I purchased it. The latest publication places the value at $65,000 to $125,000. So I decided to sell.

I wanted a good appraisal of the handgun before accepting offers, so I contacted WorthPoint¹s chief Worthologist, Thom Pattie. He took pictures of the handgun and sent them to Cliff Sophia, who is the Worthologist for antique firearms.

Cliff reported that the handgun was a fake! I took the gun to an expert in Gettysburg, PA for a personal inspection, and he verified that it indeed is a fake. It is an assembly of parts from the 1850-60 timeframe.

My dealer friend is embarrassed and asking himself why he and many others did not spot it long ago. He’ll reimburse my original purchase price the next time I visit his shop.

Of course, I am disappointed the handgun is a counterfeit, and with that determination goes the profit I had been expecting. But my many years of working with clients building their businesses, only to see the value
sometimes disappear due to downturns, competition or bad luck keeps me from becoming too upset. I just keep going and try to do better. Life is too short to dwell. And, I am so glad that I discovered its fraudulent nature before trying to sell it.

The lesson learned: Worthology works both ways at WorthPoint.

– Jim Sturgill is a director of WorthPoint and Founding Partner of Sturgill & Associates LLP, a DC and Baltimore area CPA firm.