The Case of the Civil War Rifled Musket

By Ryan Paveza | May 16, 2017

Enservio Select was recently called in to determine the retail replacement value of a claimed Remington conversion rifle. The insured stated the claimed musket was built in 1812 by Remington Arms Co. and used in the Civil War (1861-1865) by a Union soldier who had made carvings in the wooden stock.

What is a conversion rifle, or rifled musket?

Musket Photo credit Romaine_Wikimedia Commons

Early standard muskets were designed with a “smoothbore” barrel; meaning they lacked rifling grooves in the barrel that causes the bullet to spin. Far from today’s standards, muskets are not accurate due to their lack of rifling. Due to this lack of precision, soldiers were not expected to shoot straight but rather to blindly deliver a mass of musket balls into enemy territory.

The musket was shipped back to Remington to be modified with the Maynard tape primer conversion, which enabled faster reloading. Early flintlock rifles misfired often and did not function well in poor weather. While percussion cap systems were more reliable, they were still slow to reload. The Maynard conversion proved successful in ideal conditions; however, in realistic field conditions with poor weather and moisture, it was ultimately unreliable, leading the converted rifles to be phased out by the Union army during the Civil War. Modifications may typically affect the value of an item, but not in this case.

Allegedly in pristine condition, the policyholder stated he spoke to a professional arms dealer prior to the loss who told him, sight unseen, the 1812 muzzle-loaded conversion rifle would be worth approximately $40,000 to $50,000.

The policyholder claimed the musket was purchased from an estate sale about 20 years prior. The claimant was unable to verify the seller’s name or cite the price he had paid for the rifle. There were no images, invoice or supporting documentation presented.

The Enservio Select team did not have the benefit of personally examining the claimed item and relied on the information submitted at claim intake, as well as subsequent correspondence with the insured. The Select team dug through all of the insured’s submitted images pertaining to the claim and located a photograph of the claimed rifle hanging on a fireplace mantel.

Based on the information provided, Enservio valued the claimed item as a Civil War Remington Maynard Tape Primer Conversion Musket with provenance to a Union solider.

Throughout the course of research conducted on vintage comparable firearms of like, kind and quality (LKQ) in the retail marketplace as well as in review of recent realized auction sales, the amount of $5,300 was determined to be a reasonable vintage retail replacement value as supported by a Heritage Auctions lot for a Model 1816 .69 Caliber percussion rifled musket with Remington Maynard Tape Conversion identified to Pvt. John W. Plummer, of the 114th Illinois Infantry, which sold in June 2013.

Paveza is an Antiques & Collectibles specialist at Enservio Select (www.enservio.com). He received his Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Science degrees and worked at the Art Institute of Chicago as a collection manager and research assistant for seven years. Paveza is a member of the Appraisers Society of America and has taken and passed the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. For more information visit http://www.enservio.com/products-services/select-for-specialty-valuation.