How to Authenticate Civil War Relics Found Metal Detecting

Published by Carolyn Yohannes on 07/06/17

Many detectorists have a passion for hunting and finding Civil War relics. They do their homework, search prime spots, and if they’re lucky, they find some fantastic historical artifacts. If you live in an area of the country where Civil War soldiers went – roads they traveled, sites where they camped, battlefields where they fought – and you love metal detecting, then searching those sites is a must.

Of course, anytime you find a historical relic, you will want to know exactly what it is and what it’s worth.

Civil War Relics You Might Find

When you’re hunting on Civil War sites, you come across common finds like bullets, buttons and buckles from soldiers’ uniforms, along with pieces of their equipment. But if you do your research, and with some luck, you could find major treasure like canteens, rifles, and even bayonets.

Authenticating Your Civil War Finds

Authenticate Your Finds

When you’re hunting a site and you find something that might be a Civil War relic, how do you authenticate it? You have a few options available to you.

  • Your own research – This is a good place to start. Using Civil War artifact books or doing a Google search may help you figure out what your item is. Keep in mind that what you find may only be a piece of a larger item. For example, one thing that you might find is a knapsack hook. Without seeing the whole knapsack, the hook may be hard to identify.
  • Other detectorists – One of the most valuable sources you have is other detectorists. Metal detecting clubs usually have one or more members who are authorities on Civil War relics. This method of authenticating is really useful because you are able to show the item in person. If the other detectorist is able to identify the item as a genuine Civil War relic, he will likely know where you can take it to have it authenticated.
  • Civil War museums – Museums that display artifacts from the Civil War will likely be able to help you identify what your item is. They often have a historian on site who you will be able to talk to and show your item. You can also ask where they have their artifacts authenticated.
  • Civil War Antiques Preservation Society – You can get information straight from the horse’s mouth. The Civil War Antiques Preservation Society has authenticators on staff who will look at your item and provide you with their feedback. It’s as easy as sending them an email (be sure to send several photos of your item, from different angles). They will email or call you to discuss the item within three days.

If you plan on keeping your Civil War finds for you own personal collection, you may not care whether they are authenticated or not. It will take some time to do it and in some cases, there may be expenses associated with authentication. However, if you plan to sell your item, it’s a smart thing to do.

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