[SOLVED] Civil War Belt Buckle
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Thread: Civil War Belt Buckle

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  1. #1
    us
    Oct 2018
    Mercer County, PA
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    Civil War Belt Buckle

    I bought this at an estate sale for $5, and I'm pretty sure it's a reproduction, but I figured I may as well ask to be sure. I also want to know what I should do about mounting it on a belt, supposing it is a reproduction, because it looks cool enougjh that I would wear it.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    us
    Dec 2012
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    Repro. You simply need a 2" wide belt with two slits for the arrow hooks and an oblong hole for the prong. I wore an original for forty years, still have it but the leather wore out.
    Ya won't find nuthin' if ya don't hunt

  3. #3
    us
    Oct 2018
    Mercer County, PA
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    Quote Originally Posted by gunsil View Post
    Repro. You simply need a 2" wide belt with two slits for the arrow hooks and an oblong hole for the prong. I wore an original for forty years, still have it but the leather wore out.
    Wow, I'd be way too scared to wear an original. If I damaged it I'd be pretty upset. Can you buy a belt like that at the store or is that more of a specialty item?

  4. #4
    If it is a repro, it's a darn good one. The hooks and tongue are correct and the lead is not overfilled.
    3cylbill and GaRebel1861 like this.
    It is best as one grows older to strip oneself of possessions, to shed oneself downward like a tree, to be almost wholly earth before one dies.

  5. #5
    us
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    Quote Originally Posted by creskol View Post
    If it is a repro, it's a darn good one. The hooks and tongue are correct and the lead is not overfilled.
    So it could be an original? Is there any detail I should look for?

  6. #6
    Educator

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    Creskol is correct... that Oval US buckle is definitely an Original one (manufactured during the civil war years), not a modernday reproduction.

    EnvoyToTheMolepeople asked:
    > Is there any detail I should look for?

    1- As Creskol mentioned, the "lead" filler in the back is not over-filled. Lead overfilling is common on most (but not all) repro Oval US buckles. (I'll attach a photo showing "overfilling," below.)
    2- Many people incorrectly call the buckle's filler metal lead, but it is actually solder. Lead tends to develop a white-ish oxidation ("patina") and solder does not. That is why you NEVER see milk-white lead patina on the back of an Original civil war US buckle, boxplate, or breastplate.
    3- Your buckle shows some "chipping" on the edge of the filler metal, in several places. Lead does not chip, but excavated solder is brittle and thus sometimes does show chipping (and tiny cracks, which you also never see in actual lead).
    4- Almost all of the reproduction Oval US buckles have "arrowhead hooks." Many of the Original ones also have arrowhead hooks. Here's how to tell the difference. The repro arrowhead hooks have sharp edges, because they are cheaply stamp-cut (like a cookie-cutter does) out of thick brass sheetmetal. But the arrowhead hooks on Original buckles have "beveled" edges, to prevent the hooks from cutting the leather belt or the soldier's fingers. The closeup photo of your buckle's back shows its arrowhead hooks have beveled edges. See the super-closeup photo below, showing the arrowhead's beveled edges (made by using a metal-press to crimp/flatten the sharp edges).

    The other photo shows what we call "lead overfill" on a reproduction buckle. Notice that the edges of the lead are rounded, like the edge of a droplet of water on a flat piece of glass. Solder doesn't "puddle" like that. The original buckles used solder as the filler metal, and the reproductions use pure lead (because it's much cheaper than solder). While you are looking at the photo showing "overfilling" in the repro buckle, please also notice the sharp edges on the arrowhead hooks... they aren't beveled at all.

    Historical sidenote:
    The manufacturers of the Original buckles knew that Solder sticks to brass much better than lead, so that is why they used Solder as the filler metal. Some modernday civil war battle re-enactor users of repro buckles can tell you that sometimes the pure-lead filler comes loose and falls out of the back of the buckle.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by TheCannonballGuy; Aug 01, 2020 at 03:27 PM.
    "Let The Christ be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out."

  7. #7
    us
    Dec 2012
    lower hudson valley, N.Y.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EnvoyToTheMolePeople View Post
    Wow, I'd be way too scared to wear an original. If I damaged it I'd be pretty upset. Can you buy a belt like that at the store or is that more of a specialty item?
    I paid a whole $3.00 dollars for that original (dug) back in 1960. I once had over forty of them, by 1974 I was paying about 30-35 for good dug or non dug ones. I just went to Tandy Leather and bought a 2" wide belt blank, dyed it black, cut to size and made the necessary holes, easy enough. The buckle in question has a flat brass prong (not the arrows) and none of my over forty had a flat prong, they were thicker than the arrow hooks. They have been making repros since the 1960s and some were better than others. The raised lip around the outside face doesn't look that good either. I had one of the best CW belt plate collections in the NE, all the northern state militias, a bunch of southern state militias, a bunch of Union officer variations, and a good selection of Confederate enlisted and officers plates along with some earlier militia plates. Damn burglars got all except that first one I paid three bucks for in 1975. Damn near killed me to lose all those, I'd be a rich man today if I still had those and kept collecting but my heart was broken and I was given a few as presents but never bought another one.
    Ya won't find nuthin' if ya don't hunt

  8. #8
    Charter Member
    us
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    Quote Originally Posted by EnvoyToTheMolePeople View Post
    I bought this at an estate sale for $5, and I'm pretty sure it's a reproduction, but I figured I may as well ask to be sure. I also want to know what I should do about mounting it on a belt, supposing it is a reproduction, because it looks cool enougjh that I would wear it.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2020-08-01 14.57.39.jpg 
Views:	140 
Size:	2.42 MB 
ID:	1853299Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2020-08-01 14.57.13.jpg 
Views:	124 
Size:	2.22 MB 
ID:	1853300
    I’ll double your money for it!

  9. #9
    us
    Oct 2018
    Mercer County, PA
    Ace 400
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    177 times
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCannonballGuy View Post
    Creskol is correct... that Oval US buckle is definitely an Original one (manufactured during the civil war years), not a modernday reproduction.

    EnvoyToTheMolepeople asked:
    > Is there any detail I should look for?

    1- As Creskol mentioned, the "lead" filler in the back is not over-filled. Lead overfilling is common on most (but not all) repro Oval US buckles. (I'll attach a photo showing "overfilling," below.)
    2- Many people incorrectly call the buckle's filler metal lead, but it is actually solder. Lead tends to develop a white-ish oxidation ("patina") and solder does not. That is why you NEVER see milk-white lead patina on the back of an Original civil war US buckle, boxplate, or breastplate.
    3- Your buckle shows some "chipping" on the edge of the filler metal, in several places. Lead does not chip, but excavated solder is brittle and thus sometimes does show chipping (and tiny cracks, which you also never see in actual lead).
    4- Almost all of the reproduction Oval US buckles have "arrowhead hooks." Many of the Original ones also have arrowhead hooks. Here's how to tell the difference. The repro arrowhead hooks have sharp edges, because they are cheaply stamp-cut (like a cookie-cutter does) out of thick brass sheetmetal. But the arrowhead hooks on Original buckles have "beveled" edges, to prevent the hooks from cutting the leather belt or the soldier's fingers. The closeup photo of your buckle's back shows its arrowhead hooks have beveled edges. See the super-closeup photo below, showing the arrowhead's beveled edges (made by using a metal-press to crimp/flatten the sharp edges).

    The other photo shows what we call "lead overfill" on a reproduction buckle. Notice that the edges of the lead are rounded, like the edge of a droplet of water on a flat piece of glass. Solder doesn't "puddle" like that. The original buckles used solder as the filler metal, and the reproductions use pure lead (because it's much cheaper than solder). While you are looking at the photo showing "overfilling" in the repro buckle, please also notice the sharp edges on the arrowhead hooks... they aren't beveled at all.

    Historical sidenote:
    The manufacturers of the Original buckles knew that Solder sticks to brass much better than lead, so that is why they used Solder as the filler metal. Some modernday civil war battle re-enactor users of repro buckles can tell you that sometimes the pure-lead filler comes loose and falls out of the back of the buckle.
    Wait, so I bought a legitimate civil war artifact for $5?
    creskol, Fullstock and Tnmountains like this.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by EnvoyToTheMolePeople View Post
    Wait, so I bought a legitimate civil war artifact for $5?
    Indeed you did!
    Tnmountains likes this.
    It is best as one grows older to strip oneself of possessions, to shed oneself downward like a tree, to be almost wholly earth before one dies.

  11. #11
    us
    Oct 2018
    Mercer County, PA
    Ace 400
    126
    177 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Quote Originally Posted by gunsil View Post
    I paid a whole $3.00 dollars for that original (dug) back in 1960. I once had over forty of them, by 1974 I was paying about 30-35 for good dug or non dug ones. I just went to Tandy Leather and bought a 2" wide belt blank, dyed it black, cut to size and made the necessary holes, easy enough. The buckle in question has a flat brass prong (not the arrows) and none of my over forty had a flat prong, they were thicker than the arrow hooks. They have been making repros since the 1960s and some were better than others. The raised lip around the outside face doesn't look that good either. I had one of the best CW belt plate collections in the NE, all the northern state militias, a bunch of southern state militias, a bunch of Union officer variations, and a good selection of Confederate enlisted and officers plates along with some earlier militia plates. Damn burglars got all except that first one I paid three bucks for in 1975. Damn near killed me to lose all those, I'd be a rich man today if I still had those and kept collecting but my heart was broken and I was given a few as presents but never bought another one.
    Sorry to hear about your collection getting snatched. That's why I keep everything scattered around my desk so it just looks like garbage. That and I'm too lazy to make myself an actual display.

  12. #12
    us
    Oct 2018
    Mercer County, PA
    Ace 400
    126
    177 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Quote Originally Posted by creskol View Post
    Indeed you did!
    Today is a good day. I get my AT MAX tomorrow, so this is probably going to be a very good week. Thanks for the help.
    GaRebel1861 likes this.

  13. #13
    Charter Member
    us
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    Yes, you did. I was "suspicious" of it being a repro due to the way the filling on the back was. SO GREAT GOING! You sometimes never know.

  14. #14
    us
    groundhog Tom

    Jun 2020
    West Va
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    Im fairly sure you have an original. On many of the Buckle's I dug, the lead (or solder) backing has the same imperfect look and the seperation around the edges looks about right, accounting for sometimes digging plate "skins". There were several manufacturers and several sytles of the backing, the size of "arrows" the most common, however some were different spacing and then there were the "puppy paws" back. Quite possible a battlefield pickup, non dug or an ancestors.
    I don't have a PHD, I got somethig better, a DD 214

  15. #15
    us
    Spec-Ops: We Own The Night

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    Belts can be had for cheap and you can find them on Ebay. Think I paid $7.00 for this belt a couple years back, and it's a large one, so I can grow into it as needed......

    Click image for larger version. 

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