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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Colt Lightnings & Thunderers



Click here to see all the Colt 1877s in this incredible auction!


For those not familiar, Rock Island Auction Company sent out a series of emails containing some of the highlights in our May 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction. These messages covered a number of popular genres and gave a first look at some firearms that are bound to attract the attention of some of the world's foremost collectors and investors. This blog, and the ones to follow, are a reprint of those emails for those who do not receive that type of communication. As an added bonus, these blogs will also include many photos that did not appear in the original emails in order to keep them at a reasonable size. We hope you enjoy these collectible firearms and their multitude of photos!

If you like what you see below, be sure to check out our auction highlights in the Photo Preview4-page Sneak Preview, or our full 16-page mailer. To search our entire auction listing please visit www.rockislandauction.com/search.
 




Well, friends this is it. The last article of our 9-part series that shows off the exciting, historic, spectacular, and beautiful firearms that have come to Rock Island Auction Company and will highlight our May 2014 Premiere Auction. The good news is, these are far from being alone in their excellence. Having the enormous quantity of world-class guns that we do in this single auction is a thrill that never loses its kick.  Today's firearms are a model that has been requested by several collectors whose interests have been piqued by items they've seen in our Photo Preview. This email will focus on the impressive selection of Colt Model 1877 Lightnings and Thunderers that will be appearing in our May 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction.  As always, we appreciate all your interest in Rock Island Auction Company.


Many times, when we see a fancy antique gun, we might wonder who it was made for. Some past baron of industry? A beloved sheriff? A politician or head of state? Maybe just someone who was well-to-do? This next revolver is just the type to instigate such questions, but is also gracious enough to provide us with a rather exciting answer.



This exceptional, factory engraved, nickel-plated Colt 1877 has been so well preserved it still has its original factory picture carton. The nickel plating is in remarkable condition and the factory engraving, a "Style 2" or "B" engraving, is likely that of Cuno A. Helfricht, chief Colt engraver in 1889, or possibly his staff. This engraving and nickel finish are accented by fiery blue accents from the ejector rod head, frame screws, trigger, and hammer top. But who would own such a fine and decorated revolver?



That answer comes from the factory letter, which lists the caliber, barrel length, finish, type of stocks, factory engraving, and also that it was shipped to "F.F. Knous, Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Mfg. Company, Hartford, Connecticut" on May 31, 1889. It specifies further that "Mr. Knous was Superintendent of the Colt Company during this time period." Knous began working for Colt in 1861 and by 1890 was recognized by some as one of Colt's most valued artisans and one of the best all around master mechanics in the country, as testified to by the many ordnance officers who had the pleasure of working with him.

Along with the box, which bears a large black and white "ENGRAVED" label, are a pink label glued to the inside of the carton lid entitled "DIRECTIONS for using COLT's .38 in & .41 in cal RELOADING TOOLS," the original tissue paper instruction sheet, a wire cleaning brush, and copies of patents issued to Franklin F. Knous. It's yet another gun that provides a powerful combination of enticing traits for collectors: excellent condition, factory engraving, desirable make and model, original box, special finish, and an impressive provenance - a direct link to a valued and important employee at the Colt factory with a tenure extending nearly three decades.



Our next look will be at this outstanding, Gustave Young Master Engraved, gold and nickel-plated Colt Model 1877 Sheriff's Model 1877 Lightning double action ejectorless revolver. The gold covers the cylinder, hammer, trigger, and cylinder pin and the nickel-plating covers the barrel, frame, trigger guard, and backstrap. All of the visible serial numbers match on this rare two-finish Colt which enjoys Gustave Young's American style scrollwork factory engraving, equivalent to Colt "B." The two-piece, black, hard rubber, bird's head grips are checkered and in excellent shape. Manufactured in 1878, this revolver shows that it has been impeccably kept for the last 136 years.






This 1877 revolver was manufactured in 1895 and has profuse Nimschke engraving covering its surface in a wondrously well done floral scroll pattern. This Sheriff's Model 1877 in addition to the master engraving that covers 95% of the gun, has a nitre blue hammer top, a checkered, one-piece walnut grip, and a lanyard ring mounted on the bird head grip.



This gun, unlike our first gun, does not do us the favor of telling us its former owner, though this handsome engraved monogram at the top of the checkered backstrap does give us quite a clue. It is touches like this and the scalloped border around the caliber designation on the barrel that make an already alluring gun all the more so.



The final gun we'll look at today, though not the final 1877 in this auction, is yet another excellent chance to own a rare combination finish Colt! This documented, gold and nickel-plated, factory engraved, etched panel, pearl handled Lightning double action reads like a checklist for everything collectors want.


In addition to all the special features listed above, the revolver is further embellished with nitre blue trigger and back of its hammer, a 'bulls eye' head ejector rod, and bordered knurling on the hammer spur. All of the visible serial numbers match. Given the timeframe, this gun's American style scrollwork and punchdot background is another likely candidate as the work of Master Engraver Cuno A. Helfricht or his shop.







There you have it Colt 1877 collectors! Ask and you shall receive. We hope that these 4 choice examples have whetted your appetite to see the remaining 1877 revolvers in this sale as well as the 530+ other Colts appearing in this auction! We'll have everything from Walkers and Patersons to Gatling guns and a remarkable selection of M1911/A1 pistols, including every wartime manufacturer. This amazing selection will also include Single Action Army revolvers, Armys, Navys, Gustave Young engravings, Tiffany grips, rare long arms, fluted cylinders, special finishes, historic provenances, Dragoons, 1849 Pockets, gorgeous grips, known military histories, and so much more. Stay tuned for future announcements. You'll be glad you did.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Luxurious Le Page Shotguns




For those not familiar, Rock Island Auction Company sent out a series of emails containing some of the highlights in our May 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction. These messages covered a number of popular genres and gave a first look at some firearms that are bound to attract the attention of some of the world's foremost collectors and investors. This blog, and the ones to follow, are a reprint of those emails for those who do not receive that type of communication. As an added bonus, these blogs will also include many photos that did not appear in the original emails in order to keep them at a reasonable size. We hope you enjoy these collectible firearms and their multitude of photos!

If you like what you see below, be sure to check out our auction highlights in the Photo Preview4-page Sneak Preview, or our full 16-page mailer. To search our entire auction listing please visit www.rockislandauction.com/search.
 



Collector friends, you are in for a treat today. We have for you two spectacular shotguns from Parisian gunsmith Le Page. These are two of the most ornate, artistic, and technique-laden firearms you will ever see. This may sound like a large expectation to meet, but after we show you the photos of these marvelous arms, we believe they meet those expectations.

The first is the cased, exhibition quality, relief carved Le Page double barrel percussion shotgun with an elaborately carved stock.


Every square inch of this shotgun is covered in extraordinary detail and ornament. To look at pictures of the gun, one finds that looking a second time invariably reveals tiny details that were missed on the first passage. Pierre Le Page was a French gun maker who came to renown by earning the business of the aristocratic crowd in the 18th century. He would eventually become the firearms maker for Maréchal Marice de Saxe as well as the House of Orleans, and would even deliver a gun to King Louis XV. The business would be handed down several times (as it was to him originally) through the Le Page family. The business eventually became the arquebusier et fourbisseur of the House of Orleans, King Louis XVI, Emperor Napoleon I, & King Louis the XVII. They would become famous for their pistols, long arms, and swords and were in direct competition with also distinguished Versailles-based gun maker Nicolas-Nöel Boutet.

The elaborate and pain-stakingly engraved barrel.

This particular shotgun was presented in 1879 by M. Paul Jules Grevy, Fourth President of France, as a gift to Don Manuel Gonzalez, President of Mexico. When this gun was residing in the second floor at Harolds Club in Reno, Nevada, once one of the most prolific collections of Western Americana, it was examined by Shreve and Company, an established jeweler considered to be the oldest commercial establishment in San Francisco, which stated,

"...there is no person living today capable of executing such metal carving. If such a person could be found, it would unquestionably take him 5 to 10 years to complete such a job."

The amount of ebony carving and steel chiseling on the gun is simply boggling and a fitting gift from one head of state to another. Even the forestock has been paid an unequaled amount of attention by depicting in carved steel the portrait of the French President Grevy.


Being an armorer to royalty had its privileges and for Le Page it brought a clientele list that sounds unimaginable - filled with dukes, barons, marshalls, generals, presidents, and even a famous perfume maker. Le Page weapons would win many awards in the mid to late 1800s at the Paris Exhibitions, London exhibitions, and one held in Vienna. With the detail and skill exhibited in the firearms shown, it's easy to see why.



The above shot perhaps best captures nearly all the separate elements of this gun: the carved steel percussion hammers shaped like a dog pouncing on a fox that serves as the percussion cap holder, said fox hiding within the scrollwork, the sideplate depicting a lion winning a battle against a snake, the grape vine pattern that covers the barrels, the deeply carved ebony stocks, and the ornate trigger guard that reveals a pheasant eating the same grapes depicted on the barrel.

A close-up of the dog-shaped carved steel hammer, the percussion cap holder fox, and the breech.

The trigger guard with a another carved animal, this time a pheasant eating grapes

The above picture gives us our first glimpse of the carved ebony of the piece and it does not disappoint. One immediately sees grape vines and grapes that swirl around nesting birds and even cherubs. The buttplate even depicts a running dog on this side and a large cat on the other. Also notice the small three dimensional rabbit holding the end of the trigger guard extension. The image below is further evidence that not a single surface went to waste as even the narrow ends of the buttplate were used for engraved scenes, this one depicting three hounds killing a wild boar.


This gun could easily warrant another dozen photos to capture its detail from every angle. However, in the interest of brevity we shall move on to the next Le Page arm in our May 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction.



While the previous firearm was an exercise in engraving and carving, the next firearms seeks to provide the same experience with inlaid materials. Utilizing both gold and pearl, the artisan who created this beautiful shotgun uses delicate floral pattern inlays as well as deep engraving to build this beautiful long arm.




The Damascus barrels, with a gold inlaid band at the muzzle, become more ornate toward the breech with gold inlaid text on the rib, and each barrel ending in a 5 inch section of wondrously executed, deep relief, flora,l scroll pattern engraving outlined and accented with gold. That floral pattern extends to the lockplates and even up each of the hammers. The trigger guard is ornamented in its own way appears to be one of the most work intensive sections of the whole gun.






The stock inlays involve the same contrast of bold and delicate design that was shown in the engraving. A pronounced, intertwining pearl border fences in a garden of floral gold and pearl vinous inlays. The buttplate received much the same deep relief engraving treatment as other areas of the gun, but the design is more similar to that of the trigger guard than that of sideplates and breech.






These two guns are so extraordinary that they were an easy choice to go on the back cover our upcoming 16-page Premiere Auction Mailer as well as the front cover of Volume II of this catalog and the inside cover of Volume III. Guns with this high level of aesthetics and craftsmanship are just one more reason you have to see the immense selection of high end, investment quality, historic, and one-of-a-kind firearms at our May 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction.  We hope you enjoy these great photos and appreciate you taking the time to view all these great collector firearms.