The Rock Island Auction Company is well known in gun circles for interesting old, unique, and rare firearms that are auctioned off to private collectors. Established in 1933 by Pat Hogan, RIAC sought to specialize in collectors’ firearms, and militaria, and pairing that auction with its associated pedigree so that its new owner can appreciate it as much as the original if not more. Since its opening in 1933, RIAC has showcased some of the most expensive firearms to ever be auctioned off in the United States and they are still going strong in 2022 with several auctions each year and three different types of auctions that cater to different types of collectors at different levels. Suffice it to say, the Rock Island Auction Company has been insanely successful and they are not showing any time of stopping. Rock Island Auction Company recently shared with us 15 of the most expensive guns that they’ve ever sold, and today we’ll be going over the top 4 most expensive firearms the Rock Island Auction Company has ever sold.
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The 4 Most Expensive Firearms Rock Island Auctions Has Ever Sold
#4. The Millikin Dragoon – $1,667,500
A 44 caliber percussion single-action revolver, the Millikin Dragoon was highly sought after for its combination of master engraving done by Gustave Young, great preservation of both the bore and exterior and its heavy ties to Civil War history in the United States. The Millikin Dragoon was originally owned by Colonel John Minor Milliken Jr. (misspelled on the revolver by the engraver) a heroic Union Army officer who was killed in action while leading a saber charge against Confederate forces at Stones River near Murfreesboro TN.
The revolver was assessed to have a 97% original barrel condition, 90% of its original polished blue finish, 95% of its original color case hardening, and 97% of its original silver plating. The revolver was sold at auction along with its relined case, bullet mold, and powder flask all of which are in immaculate condition for a revolver of this age. The Millikin Dragoon revolver was sold as one of RIAC’s 5 most expensive firearms and fetched a realized price of $1,667,500 in May of 2019.
#3. The “Danish Sea Captain” Civilian Colt Walker – $1,840,000
The Danish Sea Captain is another percussion revolver but this time it’s one with a bit more rarity attached to it. The Danish Sea Captain Colt Walker is the only known cased original civilian of its kind and includes an original bill of sale from Samuel Colt himself. The revolver made its way across the Atlantic and into Denmark where it remained for a century before it finally made its way into the Rober M. Lee collection. In April of 2020 the Danish Sea Captain Walker revolver sold at auction for $1,840,000 and was at the time, the highest-priced single firearm ever sold at auction.
#2. Napoleon Presentation Garniture of Six Arms from Boutet – $2,875,000
If you don’t know who Napoleon Bonaparte is then you’re probably either still not able to legally own a firearm in the United States, or you failed all of your history classes in school. This collection of six different weapons includes five relief carved firearms plus a gilt dress sword. The presentation was given to the Duke of Abrantes, Marshall Junot, by Napoleon and the duke kept these weapons in his possession until his death. After this, the Dutchess of Abrantes eventually sold the weapons to an officer who was serving under Napoleon and from there the entire set eventually made its way back to its original manufacturer, Boutet, for reconditioning before they went on display in London in 1816 after the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. The entire set sold at auction in December of 2021 for $2,875,000 making it the second most expensive lot in RIAC’s history.
#1. General Ulysses S. Grant’s Cased Remington New Model Army Revolvers – $5,170,000
Fabled to have been presented to General Grant after he captured Vicksburg on the 4th of July in 1863, this pair of New Model Remington Army revolvers are arguably the most significant finds from the Civil War era. The revolvers spent much of their time after the civil war shrouded in mystery until 2018 when they found themselves being displayed at the Las Vegas Antique Arms Show.
Featuring engraving from L.D. Nimschke, one of the most renowned master engravers of the 19th century, grips carved with the visage of Grant himself, and of course, a matching case, powder funnel, and bullet mold, this pair of revolvers fetch a whopping $5.17 Million dollars at auction shattering previous RIAC records in May of 2022.
Items owned by Grant are among the most desirable 19th century American artifacts, particularly artifacts presented to, owned by, or used by General Grant during the Civil War,” said Kevin Hogan, President of Rock Island Auction Company. “They’re significant works of American art, a powerful piece of American history, and completely fresh to market. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a fine arms collector.
A Price To Preserve History
These firearms are all now largely in private collectors’ hands. There are probably many out there screaming that these types of firearms and militaria should be stored in a museum somewhere (Indiana Jones eat your heart out). However, there is nothing to stop these private purchasers from loading these treasured historical items to a local or national museum, and as such, we can always hold out the slim hope that some of these items might make their way into places like the Cody Firearms Museum where there are already thousands of historical firearms on display that help document and contextualize our rich history in this country – faults and all.
Let us know what you found interesting from this list of Rock Island Auction Company’s top 4 most expensive firearms. If you were a discerning potential collector and had the money, would any of these top four items interest you as a collector’s item? Also, be sure to check out the remainder of Rock Island Auction Company’s top-selling items here!
All photos and information gleaned from the Rock Island Auction website with permission.