5+ TREASURES AT SMOKY MOUNTAIN RELIC ROOM
Buy a piece of history at the Smoky Mountain Relic Room, located inside Sevierville, Tennessee’s Smoky Mountain Knife Works.
As Notre Dame burned, people flooded Facebook with photos of themselves visiting the cathedral. It was an understandable reaction: Selfies snapped as mementos suddenly felt like historic records. Artifacts like photos are a tangible way to remember, connect with, preserve, and understand the past.
You can own a piece of whichever historic era most holds your interest. The Smoky Mountain Relic Room www.therelicroom.com in Sevierville, Tennessee is packed with 3.4 billion years of history that you can see, touch and even buy.
Tucked inside Smoky Mountain Knife Works, “the world’s largest knife showplace,” the Relic Room is one department of the store where every bit of history on display is for sale. “It’s a whole bunch of awesomeness,” says Chase Pipes, co-owner and operator. “It’s the greatest diversity of history you can find anywhere, from literally the oldest fossil known to science to the oldest tools used by prehistoric upright-walking hominids to old stuff from the Romans, Vikings, Native Americans, World War I, the Civil War, and much more.”
Hundreds of thousands of fossils and artifacts represent every period of geological and human history and the authenticity of every item is guaranteed. Pipes’ main goal is to bring history to life. “When you hold an artifact in your hand—a bone from a species that doesn’t exist anymore, an arrowhead from Rome—it’s a way to connect to the past. It’s more impactful.”
These treasures are among the thousands currently available.
The largest shark ever documented, the megalodon, went extinct millions of years ago,
but its massive teeth are not uncommon—according to Live Science the ancient sharks’
fossilized teeth can be found around the world and are almost three times the size of great
white sharks’ teeth. “Sharks shed teeth that fall to the ocean floor,” says Pipes. “Fossils
are not rare; knowing where to find them is what’s hard.” The megalodon teeth at the Relic Room
date back four to seven million years and were found in the Hawthorn Formation in South Carolina.
“Geologic formations are like layers in a cake and the fossils in a layer describe what life
existed at that time,” says Pipes. With a selection that ranges from two to six inches and from
broken to pristine condition, there’s a megalodon tooth for every budget at the Relic Room: Prices start at $10 and climb to $400.
Hungry for more? The Relic Room also sells whale vertebrae fossils, the megalodon’s prey.
Civil War Soldier Tintypes
A tintype was the Civil War-era equivalent of a Polaroid: Taken by a professional photographer at a studio or even open air carnival, a photo could be developed quickly and given to the customer within a few minutes. Several Civil War soldier tintypes dating from 1859 to 1865 are available in the Relic Room. “We can tell they’re Civil War soldiers because of the pins and buttons on their uniforms,” says Pipes. “Some of these things were only made during war years; the U.S. military changed garb after the Civil War.” The majority of Civil War soldier tintypes feature Union soldiers; “it’s about a seven to one ratio,” says Pipes. Tintypes in various states of condition that range from one to three inches are priced from $100 to $400. The current selection includes one pre-War tintype, one possible Confederate from a Virginia estate, and one of Private Joel M. Barcus of the 31st Indiana Infantry along with his discharge papers. “We’ll do research to bring an artifact to life,” says Pipes. “We know this particular soldier fought in lots of battles including Chickamauga and Kennesaw Mountain, among others. He started fighting in Grant’s army before Grant was a General. He was discharged in Texas. He died at age 73 in 1916.” Private Barcus’ tintype and history is priced at $375.
Early Man Hand Axe
“We have some of the very first tools made by a species of upright walking hominids that are in the human family tree but not directly related to us,” says Pipes. Think Cro-Magnons, Neanderthals. “These are the oldest human artifacts that we have!” Dated 850,000 to 35,000 years old, the stone tools are reminiscent of arrowheads with a teardrop shape but range in size from about three to eleven inches in height and from about two to five inches wide. “When early man needed to be able to cut meat, vegetable, plant materials, these are the tools used,” says Pipes. “They’re very distinctive and you don’t see them for sale many places—few museums have them on display.” Discovered in mainland Europe and Africa, these are from the Acheulean and Mousterian periods and range from $15 to $600, depending on size, condition, and place of origin.
Own a piece of a space rock. “We’ve got samples from 37 different meteors—every major one that’s known and recorded to have fallen to earth,” says Pipes, including the Chelyabinsk meteor that entered Earth’s atmosphere over Russia in 2013. “The chemical composition of the rocks is how we know they’re meteors,” he says, adding that experts can also determine whether the meteors share traits with the moon or Mars. Some meteor samples are cut and soaked in acid to reveal the crystalline structure that Pipes describes as “beautiful, like snowflakes.” With sizes that range from pinheads to beach balls, meteorite prices range from $5 to $5,000. Dig more? Authenticated pinhead-sized pieces of moon rock are available for $30.
Minerals are the Relic Room’s best sellers. Among them, sardonyx is especially popular thanks to a mention in the Book of Revelation (21:20) and its reputed metaphysical properties. At least 30 million years old, it’s suggested that these “Biblical Agates” ground energy, absorb negativity, stimulate activity, and promote integrity. Ranging in size from about a nickel to a ping pong ball, sardonyx globes range from $12 to $35. “It takes a long time for agates to form!” says Pipes. “Hollow space in the earth is filled with gas or water and over time minerals leech into the pocket; different colors grow depending on the minerals.” Sardonyx is relatively rare.
Visit the Relic Room and it’s easy to get lost in discovery. Whatever your budget,
you can find something of interest. Love dinosaurs? Eighteen bones from a duckbill
dinosaur arm that was discovered in Montana are fully mounted on a five-foot steel frame.
Own it for $17,500.
Meanwhile, glow-in-the-dark dinosaur bones from Southern Utah are priced at $1 each. Because they were located near a large concentration of natural uranium, the authentic bones are radioactive (at levels safe for humans and pets) and glow red, green, and/or yellow.
Pipes strives to ensure that history is accessible to all. “An equal obsession for me is to make this stuff affordable,” he says; indeed, your loose change may be enough to buy some treasures. Browsing is always free.
Visit the Relic Room at Smoky Mountain Knifeworks, 2320 Winfield Dunn Parkway in Sevierville, Tennessee or call 800-251-9306. You can also check out “Chasing History” on YouTube for insights into how Relic Room items are sourced and authenticated. Chase Pipes also hosts the podcast, “Chasing History Radio.”