Collecting America’s Past with Will Gorges

Will Gorges has been actively engaged in the antiques, coins, fine arts and collectibles trade since 1981 and has owned and operated several businesses from New England to North Carolina including T&G Edged Weapons, Nor’East Militaria, Will Gorges Antiques and Battleground Antiques, Inc. As a nationally known specialist in antiques and original American Civil War era Union and Confederate memorabilia, Will has been and is currently an active consultant to the industry from the private collector to national institution levels. He currently is retained by several national museums as an authenticator as well as a certified vendor. The bulk of his private collection, once housed in the New Bern Civil War Museum, formed the basis of the Pamplin Historical Park and The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier collection in Virginia. He is a member of ISA, AOA and a host of antiques and collectibles oriented groups nationwide and has held a Federal Firearms dealer license since 1981.

What are some notable discoveries that have been made recently in your area of expertise?
An original map case issued to General George B. McClellan (1826 – 1885) prior to the Peninsular Campaign of 1862, complete with maps.

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. recently opened an exhibit featuring Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. ‘One Life: Grant and Lee: β€œIt is well that war is so terrible. . .”’explores the rivalry between the Union and Confederate Generals. The special exhibition runs from July 4 through May 31, 2015.

What are your top tips for an aspiring collector in your area of expertise?
Research. Study. Listen. Learn. Lookout for ‘fantasy’ items, pastiches, and fakes.

What should a collector ask to identify an item and avoid common pitfalls?
If you don’t know artifacts, know your dealer. This is particularly important if you are a new collector. Be sure to seek out reputable and well-established dealers.

What questions should a collector ask to determine the fair sale price of an item?
“Fair” is a relevant term–only a collector knows how much they are willing to pay. This isn’t like buying coins as many of the premier goods are one of a kind. Most collectors haven’t a clue about “fair” prices–and there is no set criteria in the advanced market, only the mundane and ordinary one. Collectors should buy and refer to a North South Trader Civil War Price Guide, for starters — but a guide is only a guide, not a catalog to buy from or sell to.

What is selling best in today’s market (which particular makers/styles)?
Identified and well-documented items always sell well. A sound provenance and chain of custody are very important and incredibly useful when purchasing.

What other questions do people ask you most frequently in your area of expertise?
‘Where do you find this stuff!?’