Selling History-Cohen and Sons of New Orleans

I love New Orleans. The food, the culture, the history and the food keep me coming back year after year. Somewhere between eating oysters and po boys and drinking sazeracs and chicory coffee, I always find the time to stop by James H. Cohen and Sons to drool over their impressive shop full of antique firearms and collectables. My last trip was no different and I was able to talk to Steve and Barry Cohen about some of the items they had for sale and some of the history of this cool, funky shop on Royal Street in the French Quarter.

 The History of Selling History

Guns on the walls, coins in the cases. They sell antique maps too.

Guns on the walls, coins in the cases. They sell antique maps too.

James H. Cohen and Sons has been a family business since 1898. It was started by William Feldman and passed to the current owner, his grandson James, in 1958. Today the shop is run by James’ son Steve and his son Barry, making for 5 generations of family operation. The shop originally dealt in all sorts of antiques (including furniture, carpets and jewelry,) but today they mostly deal in rare antique weapons, coins and currency.

No FFL

You will not find any modern guns in Cohen’s shop. They do not have an FFL and do not plan on getting one. Steve told me it was just too much of a hassle, since there would only be a few items they would be interested in. He related that when the NFA was passed in 1968 they did have a few guns in the store that were made after 1889. They sold them before the act went into effect and haven’t had anything “modern” since. I asked what they did had in 1968 that they had to get rid of, “oh, some World War I things like broom handed Mausers.”

"Sunkmanitu Tanka Owaci!"

“Sunkmanitu Tanka Owaci!”

Always Have a Henry

When I was talking to Barry, I asked if there has been any advice passed down through the generations. He said his grandmother always said to keep a Henry in stock. “Henry’s do sell well,” he said. They didn’t have one in when I was there. Steve said they sell pretty quickly when they do have one, and with the value continuing to go up, they are getting harder and harder to keep around.

They did have a Henry in stock at a very opportune time. Kevin Costner was in New Orleans filming the Oliver Stone movie JFK right across the street from the Cohen’s shop. Steve was able to get a note to the actor asking him to stop by and check out an original Henry like Costner had used in Dances With Wolves. Kevin and a friend stopped by shortly after the store had closed one afternoon. A retired NOPD officer providing security almost didn’t let them in thinking the guy was full of it, but once things were sorted out the star spent an hour or two checking out historic guns. “He really got a kick out of holding some originals like he had used in the movies. He was smiling and giddy like a kid. I just wish he had bought them all!”

Costner did pose for some pictures with Barry and his brother (who were around 10 at the time). They both cherish the photos and keep them prominently displayed.

This is the coin that was once in the Cohen's store.  It will be auctioned in March by Stack's.

This is the coin that was once in the Cohen’s store. It will be auctioned in March by Stack’s.

Coins and The Confederate Half Dollar

Guns are only part of what you will find in the Cohen’s shop. They have a lot of coins. They also had for a short time one of the most sought after coins in existence, a Confederate Half Dollar. There are only 4 known to exist. They were minted just a short distance from the Cohen’s shop in the New Orleans Mint in 1861. About a 100 years later, James Cohen traded one for about $10,000 worth of other coins. “I wish we could get that coin back. But when dad traded it, the money he made from selling the other coins kept this shop going”. The half dollar that was once in the Cohen’s shop is going up for auction this March. The last one that sold at auction went for over $600,000 in 2003.

Not a Museum

There are some awesome museum quality pieces in the Cohen’s shop. But this is not a museum; it is a store. They are more than happy to have people in who are just looking around, but if you aren’t serious about making a purchase then you probably won’t get to handle anything. Of course, you don’t typically get to touch the stuff in a museum either!

I will let the photos do the rest of the talking about James H. Cohen and Sons. If you are ever in New Orleans, you really should stop in to the store. It is easy to find, just across from the Louisiana Supreme Court Building on Royal Street in the French Quarter.

1866 Winchester Musket in the Cohen's shop.  This one was used in a local battle during reconstruction.

1866 Winchester Musket in the Cohen’s shop. This one was used in a local battle during reconstruction.

"LSM" The Louisiana State Militia used this 1866 Winchester Musket during reconstruction.

“LSM” The Louisiana State Militia used this 1866 Winchester Musket during reconstruction.

1866 Winchester Musket.  It is not everyday that you see a bayonet on a Winchester!

1866 Winchester Musket. It is not everyday that you see a bayonet on a Winchester!

Some of the rifles in the Cohen's shop.  Two "Mississippi" Rifles on the bottom.  Also the trapdoor with the saddle holster is rare.

Some of the rifles in the Cohen’s shop. Two “Mississippi” Rifles on the bottom. Also the trapdoor with the saddle holster is rare.

A Spencer, two Trapdoors and an early Marlin.

A Spencer, two Trapdoors and an early Marlin.

Old Guns!

Old Guns!

Some "Guns That Won the West" and two Colt Lightnings, a big frame and a small.

Some “Guns That Won the West” and two Colt Lightnings, a big frame and a small.

Barry Cohen holds an 1800 dated Brown Bess.

Barry Cohen holds an 1800 dated Brown Bess.

Brown Bess lock.

Brown Bess lock.

The date stamp on the Brown Bess.

The date stamp on the Brown Bess.

Strange double barreled knife pistol. Bang, bang, stab, stab.

Strange double barreled knife pistol. Bang, bang, stab, stab.

This is a funky little guy!  3 barreled flint lock pistol.

This is a funky little guy! 3 barreled flint lock pistol.

The lever by my thumb turns to let expose the touch hole for the different barrels.  They don't all three go off at once... in theory at least.

The lever by my thumb turns to expose the touch hole for the different barrels. They don’t all three go off at once… in theory at least.

3 barrels.  For when you are seeing triple.  One for all of you.

3 barrels. For when you are seeing triple. One for all of you.

Starr Carbine used during the Civil War.

Starr Carbine used during the Civil War.

Starr Carbine used by the 1st Arkansas (Union) during the Civil War.

Starr Carbine used by the 1st Arkansas (Union) during the Civil War.

Lock on the Starr Carbine

Lock on the Starr Carbine

A Civil War Surgeon's kit.  Ole Sawbones.

A Civil War Surgeon’s kit. Ole Sawbones.

If these things could talk... they would probably scream.

If these things could talk… they would probably scream.

Nice checkering on the bone saw.  Probably helped the doctor hold on when it was covered in blood.

Nice checkering on the bone saw. Probably helped the doctor hold on when it was covered in blood.

The New Orleans 10 dollar bill.  Also called a Dix for the French word for ten. Dix.... Dixie. Yep, that is the story of where the name Dixie came from.

The New Orleans 10 dollar bill. Also called a Dix for the French word for ten. Dix…. Dixie. Yep, that is the story of where the name Dixie came from.

Where Dixie got her name.

Where Dixie got her name.

Uncut sheet of 4 "Dixies".  Barry said his grandfather sold these for $20 in the 1960s.  A single goes for around $1,200 today.

Uncut sheet of 4 “Dixies”. Barry said his grandfather sold these for $20 in the 1960s. A single goes for around $1,200 today.

 

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • shelly February 23, 2015, 6:50 pm

    I own an 1860 DIX note, identical to the ones u have. Where would i be able to sell it?

  • Stacy Cole January 22, 2015, 11:29 pm

    I’m not a Math Major or anything, but isn’t that a sheet of 4 uncut “Dixies”?

    • Sam Trisler January 22, 2015, 11:51 pm

      whoops.

  • Edward Drumeller January 19, 2015, 12:52 pm

    I thought that Dixie stood for all of the country south of the Mason & Dixon Line. (railroad)

  • sasnak1 January 19, 2015, 7:02 am

    What a place to visit,it blows my mind

    • mike January 19, 2015, 8:53 pm

      what a place, didnt even know it was there, will visit next time im there

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