At the beginning of last month, we took a look at some of the rarest and most obscure firearms consigned to the Spring 2020 Poulin Firearms Auction. Initially planned to be held in April, this auction was postponed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and took place in mid-June 2020. Like other auction houses, Poulin also publishes the list of prices realized shortly after the end of each auction. And as usual, we used that list to find out which lots contained the most valuable firearms. In this installment of our article series dedicated to the firearms sold in major American auction houses, we’ll take a look at the top 5 most expensive guns that went under the hammer at Spring 2020 Poulin Firearms Auction.
Our list goes in the price ascendancy order with the most expensive lot being the number one and shown at the end of the article. Titles of the lots are linked to the corresponding Poulin Auction catalog pages where you can find more pictures and more detailed descriptions of the firearms.
#5 – $52,875
The M1906/08 is one of the rarest Mauser handguns as less than 100 of these pistols were ever made. The pistol utilizes a flapper locked short barrel recoil mechanism of operation. It is chambered in 9mm Mauser and fed from detachable box magazines. This one is consigned with a 20-round magazine however lower capacity magazines were also made for this handgun. The gun has a last round bolt hold open mechanism with an automatic bolt release – the bolt automatically drops and chambers a round when a loaded magazine is inserted. The controls of this pistol are also interesting. What looks to be a magazine release button on the left side of the gun, behind the trigger guard (see the picture below) is actually a release button for the safety lever located above it. So instead of moving the lever up to deactivate the safety, the shooter needs to push that button in and the spring-loaded safety lever will automatically pivot up making the gun ready to fire. The magazine release is the small lever on the right sight of the gun, right behind the magazine well (see the picture above).
Besides being an extremely rare model, this particular sample is also in a virtually new condition which makes it even more valuable. For example, it retains 95% of the original blued finish.
#4 – $65,800
This .36 caliber Rigdon & Ansley percussion revolver is a very rare specimen of a Confederate wheelgun. What makes this firearm especially valuable in the eyes of collectors are small details like the different front sight pattern seen only on this gun or the “C.H. Rigdon” marking that set it apart from other versions of Rigdon revolvers. This particular one is also in a completely original condition and has matching serial numbers on all parts.
The overall appearance and silhouette of this revolver probably look familiar to you as it’s basically a copy of a Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver. One interesting design element of this revolver that you won’t see on an 1851 Navy is the existence of 12 external notches on the six-shot cylinder. The notches inbetween the cylinder alignment stops are safety notches allowing to rest the hammer between the chambers.
By selling this revolver for $65,800 Poulin Auction set a world record for a Rigdon revolver sold at an auction house.
#3 – $105,750
In the middle of our list is another rare Confederate revolver with only two samples known to exist. The Cofer patent revolver also has quite an interesting design. It uses a .36 caliber metallic cased cartridge that instead of a primer has a percussion cap nipple at the base. The cylinder has a two-piece design that allows retaining the cartridges inside it by capturing the cartridge rim between the two halves. When the gun is loaded, the nipples protrude from the rear of the cylinder allowing the hammer to hit the caps and fire the gun. That’s a really interesting hybrid of percussion and cartridge revolver designs, isn’t it?
Presumably, the Confederate government purchased 17 of these revolvers which were issued to the 5th Virginia Cavalry. Interestingly, this is the only Confederate revolver ever patented. Patent #9 was granted to Thomas W. Cofer of Portsmouth, Virginia on August 12, 1861.
#2 – $117,500
The history behind Colt Walker revolvers and their rarity make them extremely desirable and highly sought after collector items. There were only 1000 Colt Walkers made for the government and 100 for civilian market sales. Many of these revolvers saw extensive use during the Mexican War and haven’t survived to our days. Many of those that survived are in a shape that leaves a lot to be desired and have a number of repaired or replaced non-original parts. So a Colt Walker in a good condition like this one is extremely hard to come by.
The Colt Walker revolver is one of the most important firearms in the history of Colt because the order of 1000 revolvers placed by Texas Ranger Captain Samuel H. Walker is basically what allowed Samuel Colt’s venture to avoid bankruptcy and become one of the most iconic American firearm brands. Besides the Colt history, most of these revolvers also have their own unique history associated with the person they were issued to or owned by. The “ANDRES S. VIESCA” inscription on the trigger guard (hidden under the grip) of this Colt Walker revolver indicates that it belonged to Mexican General Andres Saturnino Viesca. However, how exactly General Viesca got his hands on this gun is unknown. If this gun could talk, I bet it would tell a story worth making a movie.
Each of the Companies A, B, C and D of Mounted Texas Rifle Regiment was issued 220 (110 pairs) Colt Walker revolvers, and the E Company received 120 revolvers. This particular one is B Company 102.
#1 – $176,250
Winchester “1 of 1000” rifles were some of the highest quality and most expensive firearms the company produced. The prices of these rifles were roughly three times higher than the list prices of their regular counterparts. What “1 of 1000” means is that each of these guns was built with the best quality barrel hand selected from 1000 barrels. Here is how the barrel selection is described by Poulin Auction: “Oliver Winchester marketed these superior rifles by saying that of every 100 barrels manufactured, proved and tested for accuracy, the best 1 of 100 would be put aside. Once 10 superior barrels were gleaned, they would be tested for accuracy and the best of these would be marked “one of one thousand” and the other 9 barrels “one of one hundred.”“.
This “1 of 1000″ Winchester Model 1873 is chambered in .44-40 Winchester. The gun features a 28″ octagonal barrel with “One of One Thousand” engraved on the top flat surface, platinum band at the muzzle and gold plated front sight. It has two rear sights – barrel-mounted semi-buckhorn sight and a 4” tang sight. The rifle is in its original condition and has all matching serial numbers. This 1873 was displayed at the recent Grand Opening of Cody Firearms Museum.
And that was the list of most expensive firearms sold in Spring 2020 Poulin Firearms Auction. The 2,218 auctioned lots generated $5.5 million. Interestingly, although the most expensive firearm sold in the auction was the Winchester Model 1873 “1 of 1000” lever-action rifle, it was not the most expensive lot. The lot that was sold at the highest price ($235,000) was a Confederate flag.