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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    Default 1817 Common Rifle Value Question

    I'm looking at a Common Rifle selling at an auction tomorrow. Its an 1835 dated Starr rifle and in my estimation 80% condition or better. Its a really nice rifle and the history around this early American period is something I'm also interested in. I haven't seen one of these sell before and did some internet searches to try and place a value on it.

    The only issue is that it has been "re-converted" to a flintlock at some time.

    I know this was done to enhance the value by making a percussion rifle appear original.

    How much of a deal killer is this?

    As collectors we strive for originality and condition....this one fails in one of the important categories, but its still a neat piece.

    I'd appreciate some guidance here. I'm afraid my desire is over-powering my better judgment.
    foudufoot's offical stalker

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Assuming that all cartouches, proofs, etc. are present and it is a reconversion, I'd place its value at slightly above that of a standard percussion conversion, which would be in the neighborhood of $1,000. A fine example as described would be priced in the $1,250 - $1,500 range.


    Wanted for rig: Two Dems with Peterbilt T-shirts to replace worn-out mud flaps. Must have strong grip and be willing to travel.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    Default

    I guess I was thinking since the reconversion wasn't military, but civilian, it would lower the value.



    Thanks Stammtish. I appreciate the help.
    foudufoot's offical stalker

  4. #4
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    For me, the reconversion would in fact lower its value, and I am by no means a purist. I would much rather have an honest conversion than a modern reconversion. They look pretty if done right, but you will always know. Probably why the seller is selling it.

  5. #5
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    Glad to help, Mike. The military didn't reconvert any of these to my knowledge. Anyway, the arsenal doing the initial percussion conversion would have test fired the rifle and added another proof which would still be visible after the reconversion. I've encountered these reconversions that were so well done that the only sure way of telling was by removing the breechblock. At least this one isn't being misrepresented.

  6. #6
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    Dec 1969
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    Rural Iowa
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    No, I'll grant that the auction house isn't misrepresenting the rifle.

    These rifles are fairly uncommon, the Starr production run isn't represented by the greatest numbers either. My (albeit limited) research spent on these rifles say that Starr only made some 10,000 rifles. After their rather long service history and the attrition of time....how many could be left?

    That's the issue I'm wrestling with....the likelihood of not getting another chance at a correct example or going with this one which isn't original.

    Damnit. Normally, these things are obvious to me, but this rifle has me twisted.
    foudufoot's offical stalker

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Western NC
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    126

    Default

    Of course you could get this one, then when/if a better one comes along buy it and sell this one.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    Default

    Common Rifles aren't all that uncommon, although that is probably effected by the part of the country you're in. They are probably a lot more scarce in Rural Iowa than here in New England. I know that there are always a dozen or more at the Baltimore Show. Prices range from about $850 (for a converted example) to several thousand in "original flint" (or claiming such) although they have never been a "hot" collector's item. Its a big mistake to take high asking prices too seriously... some of those guns have been on the same table for years. Most were converted so a good proportion of the "original flint" guns are really reconversions.

    For me at least, reconversion is a deal killer regardless of the price. Keep in mind that there were two basic types of conversions done. If done after the flintlock guns were sold off as obsolete, they were always "drum & nipple" conversions. If done at the Armory, they were the "Belgian" conversions.* These were done by drilling the nipple seat into the breech of the barrel and making a special conversion hammer that hit it squarely. I have seen these "re-converted" by welding up the hole... and regard these as pipe bombs waiting to go off. I don't know if you have any interest in shooting a Common Rifle... I have an 1821 Johnson (with Armory conversion for the Massachusetts Militia) that I shot quite regularly, back when I had the time to go shooting, but I wouldn't take a chance on shooting a reconversion for the obvious reason that you have no way of knowing what was there first. This sort of money-driven vandalism is, to my mind, one of the real embarrassments of collecting. I can't help but wonder why any group of people that purports to be interested in history would countenance the alteration of historical artifacts for monetary gain.

    *I'm a little rusty on this, but I think some were also done by cutting off the breech and fitting a bolster. These are very difficult, if not impossible to reconvert. I believe the late Deringer Common Rifles were made as percussion.
    Last edited by JV Puleo; 09-30-2013 at 07:08 PM.

  9. #9

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    To add to what Joe said above, there were also Federal conversions using a new breach with an integral bolster. I have seen more of those than the Belgian conversions.

    I have to agree with what Joe said about the reconversion, and add that I personally feel that they are pure vandalism, no matter how well done. Now, why do I say that? Years ago at a well known shop in Northern Virginia there was a beautiful, unissued condition bolster conversion M1817 Common Rifle that had been surplussed out of Benecia Arsenal in California. It was selling for the then high price of $450 (it was 1975) and I couldn't afford it so left it sitting. It was later purchased by a collector who had it converted by grinding/machining off the arsenal done bolster (of course leaving the threaded breech section), welding up the flame vent and then replacing the hammer, frizzen, pan and frizzen spring with originals. It was well done but the collecting world lost an original, mint gun. A real shame but that's the way things were 40 years ago, the buyer felt that he had improved it and, given the thought at the time, maybe he did.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    TP, Thats an interesting note on the bolster conversions, but unlike you, I've hardly ever seen one while I've seen a number of the "Belgian" conversions. One of the most egregious acts of reconversion vandalism I remember was very similar, although the gun was an 1808 Jenks contract musket converted by Colt (with a special hammer marked "Colt's Pat. Firearms Mfg Co"), one of 250 done for the RI Militia during the Dorr War. Not only did the clown reconvert it... he threw the hammer away!
    Being in New England, I wonder if Common Rifles I'm seeing are mostly local and done at the Watertown Arsenal. I'm pretty certain mine was, as it also has the forend cut back and a bayonet lug added. I have the bayonet too, although I got the years earlier than the rifle. Watertown did something like 500 of these for the Massachusetts Militia around 1852. I think that the bolster conversions were done by private contractors for the government at the very beginning of the CW.

    Cheers,

    jp
    Last edited by JV Puleo; 10-01-2013 at 10:14 AM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    The 1817 is a graceful musket and reasonably easy to sell. My last one in high condition sold to a Florida congresman who collected those specifically and knew a lot about them. Honest, untampered-with examples have never been plentiful.

    During the late 1950's I learned a tragic lesson about reconversions. Two friends were reconverting what I remember to be a US 1816. They had the musket secured in a wood vice with rags around it and one was unscrewing the bolster while the other steadied the muzzle end. Unfortunately, neither had checked to see if it was loaded. The young man securing the muzzle would have been 73 this year. Especially when appraising a muzzle loader in private hands, I do the ramrod test and find that these have frequently been left charged for generations without the family's knowledge.

  12. #12
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    I re-learned that lesson last week. An 85 year old man sold me his father's old rifle, a Model 1861 Norfolk (made in 1862) that was sporterized in the 1800s. Probably by Bannermans. The rifle had nice finish under all the grunge. It had not been cleaned since before at least WWII, since his father had gone off to war and was killed on Christmas Eve, 1943. After gently rubbing it by hand with just plain old Bore Butter, the Erskine Allen cartouche showed up plain as day, as did all the other markings and original wood finish. I was so happy with my handiwork that I thought about shooting it. Just for the heck of it, I dropped the ramrod down the bore, and it kind of went "thunk" rather than the sound it should have made. Hmmm, also it stuck out of the barrel too far. Yep, it was loaded. I pulled the ball, emptied out the powder (and mouse trash), and properly cleaned out the inside of the barrel. On Sunday it "spoke" for the first time in at least 70 years. I am taking it hunting on Saturday.

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