Today I am introducing to our readers another installment from our series of articles about most expensive firearms sold in the major US auction houses. Last month, we discussed some of the most interesting, rare and unique lots consigned to the Rock Island December 2018 Premiere Firearms Auction. In this article, we’ll take a look at the five most expensive firearms sold during this auction.
Just like in our previous articles, the prices of the lots are the “prices realized” which include the hammer price plus 15% buyer’s premium. The latter is the auction house’s fee. Our list goes in price ascendancy order where the least expensive (#5) lot is shown first and the most expensive (#1) is shown at the end of the article. The firearm names link to corresponding RIAC pages where you can read more detailed descriptions and find more images of the guns. Without further ado, let’s see what guns were valued the most this time.
#5 – $241,500
This is one the four special order Colt firearms engraved by William Gough for Colt’s New York agent Albert Foster Jr. who presented the guns to his attorney James Bowen (hence the JB initials on the grip safety and top of the slide). The other three firearms include a Flattop Target Single Action Army Revolver, Officer’s Model Target Revolver, and New Service Target Revolver. This set of four matching firearms is documented in R.L. Wilson’s “The Colt Engraving Book, Vol. II”. This pistol is was manufactured in 1912 and has a serial number C5 which according to Rock Island Auction Company, makes it a first-day production gun. As you can see, this handgun is almost completely covered with engravings. Even the magazine base, barrel bushing face, and grip screw heads are engraved.
#4 – $471,500
This 28 caliber percussion revolver was manufactured in 1842 by John Ehlers with Colt Paterson #1 parts after the bankruptcy of the Colt’s Patent Arms Manufacturing Company. Estimated 500 of these revolvers were ever made and very few survive to our days especially in such an excellent condition and accompanied by the loading accessories and a velvet lined mahogany case.
#3 – $540,500
The engravings and wood carvings of this gun are really exceptional. Add to that the pedigree and the perfect condition of this Savage model 1899 lever-action rifle and you’ll see why it was sold for more than half a million dollars. This Monarch Grade rifle was made in 1903 and factory engraved by Savage Master Engraver Enoch Tue. The attention to details is also amazing. Besides the gold inlaid animal figures and beautiful overall engraving theme, attention to the small details like the hand stapled barrel rib, jeweled and stapled bolt, engraved and gold plated screw and pin heads and the gold-inlaid serial number is what makes this rifle a perfection. You can tell that this is truly a unique firearm when you read the following in the RIAC description: “Pound for pound I feel it is perhaps the finest single firearm we at RIAC have had the privileged to handle“.
#2 – $586,500
Another wonderful American firearm which is engraved to the level of becoming a true work of art. One doesn’t even have to be a firearms enthusiast to appreciate the beauty of masterpieces like this John Ulrich engraved Winchester Model 1886 takedown lever action rifle. This rifle was made to introduce the company at shows, exhibitions and special events. The engraving includes detailed gold inlaid animal scenes and figures, grape leaf scroll engravings with platinum inlaid borders and carved stock with a similar motif.
#1 – $805,000
Compared to the previous two lots, THE most expensive firearm sold during the Rock Island December 2018 Premiere Firearms Auction looks rather simple. Nevertheless, there is a reason why someone paid over 800,000 dollars for this gun. And that reason is the rarity of this Winchester Model 1873 lever action rifle. This was the last of six known “One of One Hundred” Winchester Model 1873 rifles from the eight rifles ever sold. This rifle is also attributed to Robert Hopewell Hepburn and probably was carried by him during Collins exploratory expedition to the Amazon and Madeira Rivers of South America in 1878.
If you want to learn more about this rifle, watch the Rock Island Auction Company’s video where Kevin Hogan, the president of RIAC, demonstrates this gun and describes the features that are so highly valued by the collectors.
The total sum of money generated from the sales during this auction was $18.3 million. The combined price of the guns in our top five list is $2,645,000 which is about 14.5% of all the prices realized. Note that all the guns of our list are American firearms made from the mid-19th to early 20th century. This was the last RIAC auction of 2018 and Rock Island Auction Company sat a new industry world record of guns sold during a calendar year at an auction house. They managed to sell firearms worth $75.5 million during 2018. By the way, they broke their own record of 2017.
Images courtesy of Rock Island Auction Company, www.rockislandauction.com