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Old 30-10-2019, 12:13   #1
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Are antique sextants any good?

I can buy a 'working' (and antique) sextant on eBay for <$100 or a modern sextant from a dealer for >$1000. What am I missing by being cheap? Are the 'antiques' just for show or can I use it to at least practice celestial navigation? What must I check before buying one?
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Old 30-10-2019, 12:38   #2
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

Most 'antique' sextants are simply ornaments. They aren't antiques nor do they function as sextants. Typically they'll have a word like 'reproduction' somewhere in the description.
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Old 30-10-2019, 12:49   #3
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

As Grant Mc says, avoid anything like 'antique' or 'vintage' as they are display items. But you can find real sextants for sale. Look for the Celestaire, White, Weems/Plath and similar units. They'll be at at least $100, probably more, but are genuine working tools.

Be prepared to spend a lot of time getting any of these back into shape. Aligning mirrors, checking angles, etc. Very unlikely they will come out of the box and be accurate.
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Old 30-10-2019, 17:40   #4
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

Thank you! Very helpful.
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Old 31-10-2019, 00:02   #5
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

You can find antique sextants on eBay which are authentic. But they will be far more expensive than $100. Most of these will be missing numerous parts such as telescopes and the mirrors will usually be heavily degraded. With some love and attention, they can be brought back from the brink - but it takes a certain amount of knowledge and skill.


Your best bet is to do as others have recommended and get a modern one from Davis, Celestaire, etc. If you find a new passion, then maybe consider getting some books such as The Nautical Sextant by Bill Morris or The Sextant Handbook by Bruce Bauer. These books will give you some idea of what is needed to restore/repair an antique instrument and what to look for.
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Old 31-10-2019, 00:46   #6
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

Depending what country you live in A two second search on the net found a few real sextants on Gumtree & Craigslist.
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Old 31-10-2019, 03:01   #7
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, suiramor.
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Old 31-10-2019, 07:44   #8
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

The main difference between the older sextants and the new ones is that the new ones automatically adjust for daylight savings time.
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Old 31-10-2019, 08:41   #9
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by suiramor View Post
I can buy a 'working' (and antique) sextant on eBay for <$100 or a modern sextant from a dealer for >$1000. What am I missing by being cheap? Are the 'antiques' just for show or can I use it to at least practice celestial navigation? What must I check before buying one?
Echoing the comment that any "antique" sextant you're likely to find on ebay for under a hundred is most likely a crude reproduction that's been antiqued.

If you're interested in learning the sextant, you can get one of the plastic Davis ones for under $300. (I have a model 15) They're complete and good enough to learn the basics on. (but wow, they've jumped in price. I got mine for under $US150, about 4 years ago)

I'm occasionally tempted by the sextants being sold by the Indian ship-breakers, but it's hard to know how good or complete they are.
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Old 31-10-2019, 10:38   #10
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

FYI, I have a Davis Mk 15 for sale in the classified section.

Davis Mark 15 plastic sextant
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Old 31-10-2019, 10:44   #11
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by suiramor View Post
I can buy a 'working' (and antique) sextant on eBay for <$100 or a modern sextant from a dealer for >$1000. What am I missing by being cheap? Are the 'antiques' just for show or can I use it to at least practice celestial navigation? What must I check before buying one?
The so called 'antique' sextants are usually cheap reproductions. Useless exept as an ornament.
Old sextant in good condition cost good dollar...
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Old 31-10-2019, 11:06   #12
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by meirriba View Post
The so called 'antique' sextants are usually cheap reproductions. Useless exept as an ornament.
Old sextant in good condition cost good dollar...
My experience with older reproduction sextants is as follows...
Years ago one of Canada’s courses required for a Mates Certficatio for Coastal and Inland waterways. You used to require a course at Vancouver Vocational Institute which also had a celestial navigation element.
We all assembled down on second beach in Stanley Park to shoot a noon shot and begin working the math through our book of tables.i recall being one of the first to finish and proud as punch I placed us about 400 k northwest of Calgary, AL.
Certainly cut me down to size!
Phil
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Old 31-10-2019, 12:01   #13
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

Just be sure that it is at least 45 years old. Sorry couldn't resist.
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Old 31-10-2019, 12:16   #14
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

All good replies above.

Another drawback of an antique is that they were usually made of bronze, even if they work they are heavy and hard to use on sailboats.

If a plastic one is going for $300 or so, an Astra is well worth the $650. They are Chinese but the reviews have been very good and they are a robust and well made instrument. They sometimes come up for sale in CF classifieds for a lot less like the one below.

ASTRA III PRO SEXTANT - SPLIT HORIZON $300
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Old 31-10-2019, 13:52   #15
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Re: Are antique sextants any good?

Yes they can be good. I had a sextant with a vernier scale dating from the 1850’s. I was doubtful of its accuracy and had it calibrated by a surveyors instrument repairer. He said it was in perfect condition and accurate. The vernier scale is harder to read than the modern ones with a dial so I never used it at sea.
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