During a February 2012 episode (season 16) of Antiques Roadshow on PBS, appraiser Rafael Eledge (of Shilo Relics) sat down with a man who brought two vintage U.S. military uniform pieces for appraisal. The man described the two uniform pieces as belonging to his great, great grandfather and that they were worn by his ancestor during his service.
One piece, a beautiful dark blue officers’ frock coat was shown to be in fantastic condition, sporting shoulder rank devices complete with colonel bullion eagles affixed to a (somewhat faded) light blue background, indicating that this man served with an infantry regiment. Eledge went through his usual brief yet direct description of the frock pointing out the various attributes and features on the way to his $5-6000 appraised retail value.
The soldier, Colonel Edward O’Brien who was a field/staff officer, served with the 134th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. This regiment was organized in July of 1862, seeing action in Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville before the members were mustered out in May of the following year as the single-year enlistments were set to expire.
The 134th Pennsylvania Volunteers were like most of the early regiments, composed primarily of citizens lacking any form of military experience. However, a few of the soldiers were veterans of the Mexican war (1846-1848) which segues this post to the other Roadshow appraisal item.
The second uniform item, a clear departure from the large and lengthy Civil War frock, was high-waisted and had significantly fewer appointments. Made of a light blue wool, the attached sleeve rank (that of a private) was enhanced with red, indicating that the soldier was part of an artillery unit. The owner of the coat mentioned that his great, great grandfather, Private Edward O’Brien, wore the coatee when he was part of the “Irish Greens” some 14 years earlier. Eledge describes the coat as not being a “true regulation” piece, adding that it was “more of a state contract; the local tailor would have made it.”
After describing the Mexican War coatee’s attributes, he appraised the uniform piece with a retail value of $7-10,000. But that’s not where this story ends. Fellow Antiques Roadshow appraiser, Wes Cowan of Cowan’s Auctions recently listed (then) Private Edward O’Brien’s coatee with a pre-auction estimate that was inline with Eledge’s appraisal. This listing was part of a very large Historic Firearms and Militaria auction being held over a two-day period, May 2-3, 2012.
It seems that collectors were quite eager to get their hands on the coatee as the winning bid was nearly double the appraised value. I have often wondered how the show’s appraisals aligned with reality and in this case, reality is exceedingly better!
See the Antiques Roadshow segment.