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Old 09-10-2019, 12:15 PM
Patbar Patbar is offline
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Default Engraved Smith & Wesson

I have three engraved S&W. Could you tell me what could be their approximate value if I wanted to sell them (which will never happen !).

I heard that factory engraved .38 SA S&W were pretty few. But are mine factory engraved...
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Old 09-10-2019, 01:25 PM
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Hello Pat, beautiful trio of S&Ws. Verification of factory engraving
requires a hands on examination by an expert in that narrow field of knowledge.
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Old 09-10-2019, 03:02 PM
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Default Factory or Distributor engraving?

Hey Patbar,
Nice collection.
Extremely difficult to distinguish New York style engraving from authentic factory engraving from the 1870’s.
I can comment on the model 2 SA 38? That era factory engraved style was very unique. But that’s just one engraver. There were a few engravers working at that time at the factory. "That is a quote from Mr. Jinks in a letter on one of my Factory engraved Smiths". I’ll post a photo of a confirmed style. I have a few in my collection that letter to this style engraving.

Murph

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Patbar, The below photos confirm factory engraved Smith and Wesson 38 cal revolvers. I have three with identical engraving style and all three letter. One is a single action model two and the others are double action model 3’s all in 38 caliber.
I also have a double action model 2. 38 caliber with New York engraving and pearl grips but no letter.
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Last edited by BMur; 09-10-2019 at 07:33 PM.
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Old 09-10-2019, 09:40 PM
mmaher94087 mmaher94087 is offline
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Engraving usually leaves me in the dust. I'd give the third one a CHANCE of being factory but I believe all three are New York engraving.
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Old 09-10-2019, 10:37 PM
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Default Question on the 1 1/2?

Say Patbar,
The 1 1/2? On the flip side? On the barrel, right in the middle, does it have an oval engraved? Almost looks like a picture window?

Murph
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Old 09-11-2019, 03:09 AM
Patbar Patbar is offline
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No Murph, it doesn't have that kind of oval.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:28 AM
mrcvs mrcvs is offline
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Unless you have a factory letter confirming factory engraving, there is no way to otherwise confirm as such.

All three appear to be "New York" engraved but, as already mentioned, the third revolver pictured displays the best executed engraving.
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Old 09-11-2019, 11:07 AM
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Just to add to this ...

Guns that are truly "factory engraved" are fairly scarce, but it's worth defining this term more specifically since there's some grey area here.

It's possible to have two identical Smith & Wesson guns, both with correct period engraving from a notable like Gustav Young or Louis Nimschke. The only difference would be that one gun would have had the engraving commissioned by the factory before it was shipped to the wholesaler, and the other would have had the same engraving commissioned by the wholesaler (or by the retail establishment, or by the end consumer). To the customer buying the guns they would appear to be identical (and they indeed would be), but only one will show up in the books as "factory engraved."

As others have said, it's impossible to ascertain whether a gun was "factory engraved" without a historical letter.

But -- if the gun isn't factory engraved, it doesn't mean that it wasn't engraved by one of the notable engravers of the time. And that's a much more difficult thing to ascertain, since many of these guns weren't signed and it means that someone really knowledgeable about this stuff (I can think of maybe a half-dozen people in the world) who would have to really study the gun to develop an opinion.

And with that said, welcome to the murky waters of engraved guns. :-)

... and I agree with the consensus that these guns are all engraved in the New York style, but only the third shows anything resembling the level of detail that I'd expect to see from one of the notable New York engravers. I'd need to put the gun under my stereoscope to develop any more accurate opinion than "maybe."

Mike
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Old 09-11-2019, 12:33 PM
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Default Rock Island results

Patbar,
Check out my post on Rock Island Auction results. You will get a better idea of value on your engraved Smiths.

Murph
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Old 09-15-2019, 07:13 PM
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Just one comment about "factory engraved" guns. As mentioned above by "first-model", a factory engraved gun is one commissioned by S&W vs. a dealer or distributor. But not only could those non factory commissioned guns be done by the same engravers, but they could easily be done at the same bench.
The factories had engravers they contracted with, but in almost every instance none of those "in house engravers" actually worked in the various factories. They worked out of their own shop and the guns were either picked up or delivered to the engraver's shop where the work was done.
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Old 09-15-2019, 09:08 PM
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What little knowledge I have on the subject is a focus on the specific style of engraving that is proven to be so called "Factory engraved"? It is most definitely unique, elaborate, and a "chosen design" by Smith & Wesson at that time to be representative and unique "only" to Smith & Wessons of a special order gun "from the Factory".

That to me says it all and that is where the value comes into play. It also represents exactly what collectors are trying to identify. What the Op is trying to accomplish in fact. Is my gun "Factory Engraved"? In other words contracted by the factory not only to be engraved but to have a very unique style of engraving that is "specific" to a Smith & Wesson at that time in History.

I personally don't see the significance of where the gun was cut. Only that it was part of a special order by a preferred engravers style.

I could definitely see the significance if the styles are undistinguishable? Between say a New York contract engraved gun and a"Factory" special order with special engraving design, but there is a definite difference in the style that is specific to Factory orders only! At least that's been my experience. It's almost like a signature of sorts that is unique to one engraver or to a special order.

Mr. Jinks in one of my factory letters says that he would have to see my gun engraving to be able to tell who in fact engraved the gun. That should tell us something? Obviously the engraving is recognizable as being part of a special order, "Without the letter"!!!!
My comment was pertaining to Mr. Jinks stating that multiple engravers were working at that time. Maybe they weren't "inside" the building but they were working specifically for the factory to meet a special order. So that plus the unique style of engraving is where the real value resides in my opinion.

Murph

Last edited by BMur; 09-15-2019 at 09:21 PM.
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Old 09-16-2019, 03:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMur View Post
What little knowledge I have on the subject is a focus on the specific style of engraving that is proven to be so called "Factory engraved"? It is most definitely unique, elaborate, and a "chosen design" by Smith & Wesson at that time to be representative and unique "only" to Smith & Wessons of a special order gun "from the Factory".
Murph, I've never heard of "factory engraving" being stylistically or thematically different than "non-factory engraving." Each of the engravers -- Gustav Young, Louis Nimschke, etc. -- had their own styles, but I'm not sure that they cared whether something was being commissioned by the factory or a wholesaler or an end buyer.

This assertion is impossible to prove, but I strongly suspect that "factory engraving" is something that only a gun collector -- many years removed from the gun's manufacture -- would ever care about. I don't know that anyone buying a gun in 1865 would have particularly cared about how the gun would be written up in a factory letter or the provenance of the gun's engraving.

One of the dangers of researching history is to make inferences where none exist. If my haunch is correct and the "factory engraving" distinction is only a contemporary concern of gun collectors, then I'm not sure I'd try to read anything into whether the engraving was commissioned by the factory or not.

(in truth, I care most about factory engraving because it makes it easier to document a gun. Absent detailed records from the wholesalers and distributors, it's the best we'll ever get to figuring out who actually engraved a gun, since most of them went unsigned)

Mike
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Old 09-16-2019, 06:37 PM
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If S&W Factory engraving was anything like the other mfg'rs of the time, they were quite strict about what went on a piece as far as a cataloged pattern.
The layout, amt of coverage coverage you recv'd for your pick of a certain # or Letter grade engraving pattern at a standard cost was set.
It was so as the Engraver was allowed just so many hours of time to complete each of those patterns. Small variances in time due to bbl length differences and other small changes from gun to gun that are normal would apply.

But the factorys kept a pretty close handle on the financial end of how much they paid for the services of the Engraver. Didn't matter if they were a Factory in house employee or the piece to be sent out to be engraved.

Many of the old factory patterns still in existance or photos of them will show dollar amts to be paid for the labor and also the time allowed in hours for the engraver if an 'in house' job.

The engraver isn't going to lavish much of their free time on a job for no pay when another paying job is sitting at the end of their bench.
The Factory is only expecting the Factory #-whatever pattern on it,,that's what they got in most instances.

Small differences from that # pattern show up. That's just to be expected as it's a hand done operation. Adding in a touch here or there, making a line or border extend or criss-cross is a couple seconds off the clock.
Some times it's just easier for you to do some small differences with your particular style of cutting than to doggedly follow another persons drawing or pattern.
It breaks the monotony too if you have a stack of these to do, all the same.

Then to all this add the difference that each individual engraver and the way they cut brings to the pattern.

Give ten engravers the same simple scroll pattern to layout and cut.
The result will be 10 examples that look similar but not the same. It's just a natural result of hand movement using the tools and the tools themselves, how each sharpens them, RH or LH, standing or sitting while working, calm settled nerves or a young man or woman,,or the shaking hands of an elder engraver trying to stay in the game. Lots of things to consider.

You may even see 2 examples of the same persons work, one from early in their career and another from late(r) in their working career. Same person and the work looks entirely different.
The Experts may place those two pieces under 2 entirely different persons volumes of work sometimes. They look different..
But people change. They have accidents and illnesses. Eyesight fails, alcohol addiction, they may hate their job. Lots of things play into changes in the look of one persons work which may easily cover 60+ years in the trade.
No one starts out being the MeisterGraver

Not engraving for the Factory, and not being restricted to a set of patterns pre selected and w/time limits, an outsourced engraver doing NY style engraving is freed of alot of restraints.

That style scroll is usually much larger. It's easy to cut, fast to cut and fill in space. Results can be more coverage for less time ($$),
It is easier in most instances to fill in the entire side plate on say the revolver with that larger style scroll and it's large beaded background and liner shading (something you can cut while your mind wanders to other things), than it is to carefully center and cut a partial coverage pattern on the same surface with a smaller scroll more delicate in shape and detail.

In NY Style engraving, the use of wriggle cuts to cover odd shaped spaces here and there are common as well as star burst type brite cuts.
Combining the two is also used.
Colt engraving used this alot.

I think if you look at the factory patterns offered, they are a bit more restrained than the NY style. Less use of any quicky coverage cuts like the wriggle or heavy large open bead dot back ground.

It's not a Black and White sure fire way to tell one from the other of course.
Thats what those factory letters are good for.
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Old 09-16-2019, 06:46 PM
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Default Engraving Style

Yeah Mike,
I hear what you are saying. I read your posts thoroughly and agree with your position from an overall perspective on engraved antique guns.

I suppose folks on this forum want absolutes. I certainly can't provide any absolutes when we talk about engraved antique guns. No way. Too many variables, too many fakes, to many have been engraved "yesterday" by modern engravers.
The subject is Huge and variations are broad. All I'm trying to say is there are "clear" patterns when you study antiques in depth and do your homework. When you cross reference serial numbers (year of manufacture) with the type of engraving you are looking at. Examples that I have been very successful purchasing are:

>Early House pistols by Colt. The factory engraving is very unique to early production. Very similar to the photo posted style on the Smith's, but only seen on the frame and topstrap.

>When I first started collecting I started with Colt Lightnings, Thunderers, Rainmakers. Those also show clear patterns since they were clearly recorded by major auction houses at that time in my collecting saga that associated "Factory letters" with engraved guns. So one could learn the style compared to serial number range.

* Fakers are very good, no doubt in my mind, but they don't know the styles by timeframe at all. The best fakers focus on the high dollar stuff. I stay away from that! Winchesters? Henrys? Dragoons, 51 Navy's, etc. The early vine style with bird heads, dragoon heads,? that type of engraving is commonly faked! If you follow the auctions from years ago, keep the brochures? You will notice that Henrys/Winchesters that were sold at auction in the early 1990's without engraving? Are suddenly found "Engraved" by Gustave Young in 2019! It's a miracle!

I've also stayed away from Cap & Ball early production that lacks factory records to confirm authenticity and also because they are "often faked".

When it came to early cartridge Smiths, once I confirmed a clear pattern, serial number reference, like the photo's I posted on this thread? That pattern I have "never seen" on any other engraved gun that is NOT factory engraved. Can you mistake a recently "FAKED" gun for this type of engraving? Sure, but when you actually put the gun side by side with a confirmed factory engraved gun. It's obvious.

When I would attend the larger shows like Vegas, Tulsa, Baltimore, Reno,. Or even surfing the webs. I rely on clear photo's of my confirmed Factory engraved guns and closely compare. To me it's obvious. Only on cartridge antique guns. NEVER on cap and ball. What a messy subject that is.

To me that's as good as it gets. The factory engraved Smith's that I have did not come with letters. Only the first one that I purchased. That was the SA 38 mod 2.

I applied for the rest of them after purchasing the guns way below market at that time. I was sure that they were indeed factory engraved by the matching pattern on the SA mod 2. I guess I got lucky because so far that pattern has only shown up on Factory engraved guns.

You go with what you know Mike.... Pass on what you don't know... unless you feel lucky.... I'm not lucky... I do my homework.

Now to Patbar's engraved guns? The pattern that I am seeing is clearly New York Style. By that I mean the engraving is vine style that is circular, and "Full Coverage". Very dense engraving that follows probably the most common pattern and style out there. This style is very attractive in my opinion but also extremely difficult to comprehend or differentiate between a factory engraving or contract engraving.
So I can't really help him out except to blindly speculate.

The attached photo style is the only style in antique cartridge Smiths that My studies confirm is a Factory engraved pattern. If you look closely at the pattern it is very unique. All of my lettered Smiths have this exact pattern engraving!

Murph
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Last edited by BMur; 09-16-2019 at 07:03 PM.
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Old 09-18-2019, 09:38 AM
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Now to Patbar's engraved guns? The pattern that I am seeing is clearly New York Style. By that I mean the engraving is vine style that is circular, and "Full Coverage". Very dense engraving that follows probably the most common pattern and style out there. This style is very attractive in my opinion but also extremely difficult to comprehend or differentiate between a factory engraving or contract engraving.
That was my whole point ... trying to ascertain whether a gun was "factory engraved" based on the engraving style alone is going to be fruitless. The question of who commissioned the engraving is an economic question, not an artistic one.

Unless there's factory documentation for Patbar's particular gun, the only real guessing that can be done is whose shop the engraving came out of. And, like many things in the art world, the best we'll able to say is that it exhibits characteristics of Nimschke's shop, or Young's shop, or whomever's shop. Absent, of course, an engraver's signature.

(As an aside ... trained historians are careful not to talk about "proofs" in history. Records, like the people that recorded them, can lie. Historical evidence is always open to interpretation. Etcetera.)

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The attached photo style is the only style in antique cartridge Smiths that My studies confirm is a Factory engraved pattern. If you look closely at the pattern it is very unique. All of my lettered Smiths have this exact pattern engraving!
Pretty gun, but it's not the only one (or the earliest one). I have a Model 1, 2nd Issue that (according to the factory records) was factory engraved (and was *not* shipped through Storrs in New York, to boot). It doesn't have the Nimschke-school design that I'm used to seeing on Model 1's, so it has been something of an enigma for me to research. I know of at least one or two other Model 1's that were factory engraved, and the one specific gun I'm thinking of has yet a different style.

Mike
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