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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gun Ads from Christmases Past

Christmas sure has changed over the years and so have Christmas ads.  While Santa has changed from a saintly philanthropist to an surly curmudgeon, and eventually into the "jolly old elf" that we know today, gun ads have been equally varied throughout the decades.  Some are written for women to buy firearms for the sportsman in their life, others encourage a wholesome family activity, and other cut straight to brass tacks to utilize children themselves as little salespeople to mom and dad.

Here are some gun ads that revolve around Christmas and while some are well done, some border on downright silly in their approach.  Take a look and see if one of your childhood guns appears in the ads below, and when you're done leave a comment on your first gun and who gave it to you.

Hi-Standard made a very bright a colorful ad that sure got the point across and catches the eye.  OK, they convinced me, I'll go get one right now.  This is the best ad of the bunch.

As much as it may seem like a great idea to teach each kid some responsibility according to their age/ability, this looks like the makings of a temper tantrum.  That kid is only happy with that bow and arrow set until he turns and sees his brother with a sweet new .22 rifle.  Then the water works start.  Johnny was always their favorite, kid.  Learn to live with it.  At least you both got pajamas that make you look like escaped inmates.

My wife would hate this Christmas ad.  As if I needed any additional excuses to do some Christmas shopping for myself.  It's almost like Colt has been eavesdropping on my personal shopping habits, which I'm surprisingly OK with if they keep making ads that help me justify firearms purchases.

First of all, no kid cares why you're giving them a gun and they don't need a paragraph explaining it.  No child's first thoughts are, "Oh boy!  Now I can go build up my strength, health, resourcefulness, and independence!"  All they see is blued steel, wood, while envisioning endless punched out bull's-eyes.  I promise that the only part of this ad any kid ever took in was the picture of the kid wearing a smoking jacket holding his own rifle, and the list of rifles below for them to select their favorite.

You have to love an ad directly addressing children, how they can acquire what is being sold, and where they can send for additional sales materials so they can sell the idea to their parents even more.  Oh, don't worry, see that fine print underneath the rifle butt?  That's in case the parents actually read this ad for themselves.  I guess Red Ryder knows what side his bread is buttered on!

This headline says it all.  Though this is another ad that has your attention, has you reading it, and then says there's not enough space to tell you about the gun so you should probably request a "circular" so they can sell you on it further.  This is apparently the norm for gun ads in this period.  Also was it the norm for young boys to wear highway patrolman leather coats?  Or maybe he's a motorcycle cop and the dog helps him fight crime?  The ad doesn't say, but I'm sure they clear that up in the circular.

The National Archives lists this as a 1942 creation of the War Production Board, a sub-office of the Office for Emergency Management.  So it's not so much an ad, but it is really weird.

It somehow manages to combine M1 carbines, a Christmas advertisement, a World War II propaganda poster, and Santa Claus.  Am I supposed to make more M1 carbines after seeing this?  Was it only hung in M1 producing factories?  Should I try to buy one?  Because I'm pretty sure they're all going to a higher cause at this point in history.  There's just no call to action, accept that Santa has left to fight in some cold European theater battle and we should somehow make sure that he is well armed.

 If I was a kid that read that "Santa Claus has gone to War!" I would immediately start weeping.  What if Santa takes some shrapnel and is lying in a war hospital in France when he's supposed to be delivering my new BB gun?  Or worse!  Perhaps I shouldn't worry as much because Old Saint Nick appears as jolly and ruddy-cheeked as ever as he tightly grips his longarm and waves farewell to his loved ones just outside the scene.  It's like people making this just saw stuff around them in their office and decided to make an ad from it.

With all the subtlety of a jet engine, this ad screams at kids to "GET THIS COWBOY CARBINE WITH YOUR CHRISTMAS MONEY!"  After all that's how Bill got his, never mind if Bill is even someone we'd should consider as a role model for financial behavior.  Although I do enjoy the inset comic which depicts a boy, departing from his parents, counting a fistful of cash even though the rifle shown largest in the ad only sells for $2.95, sprinting to a retailer presumably to throw the money directly at a store clerk, and then sprinting back with his new Red Ryder to his group of peers to show Bill he's not such hot stuff after all.  I assume the horse Red Ryder is depicted riding used to be Bill's high horse, because Bill won't be needing it anymore.

Well, that's weird.  This is a firearms ad that's not speaking directly to boys.  It is, however, speaking to anyone that might be buying a gift for a male.  Also, for a color Christmas ad, this is pretty terrible.  It might as well be in black and white, and while they talk about "giving" the only mentions of Christmas are the pine tree needles making a cameo in the upper left hand corner.  That might be forgivable as at least its not three different fonts all screaming at me to spend my Christmas money, but its drab, boring nature is something I cannot look past.  Check that, everyone probably looked past it and on to a catalog or magazine page that didn't make you feel like taking a nap.

Speaking of seizure-inducing colors, here's another ad from Daisy and Red Ryder.  While their depiction of Native Americans leaves much to be desired from today's point of view, I do have to give them credit for trying to get kids to memorize TEN rules of firearm safety.  The rules are to the left of the red dividing line and to the right, they include the following stern message (all emphasis appears in the original ad):

"Learn and follow the Sportsman's SAFETY Code - explained here in Little Beaver's language - printed in complete form inside the famous Daisy Handbook!  If you do not obey the Code or otherwise abuse the privilege of Daisy ownership - your parents or police should take your Daisy away from you.  Show this message to your folks.  Tell them you'll shoot safely with a Daisy - the fun gun MILLIONS of American DADS shot safely when they were boys!"

On top of the rules and a stern message, they also offer a 128-page safety handbook in the right hand inset.  Good on you Red Ryder.  Now for the criticism (besides Little Beaver).

1.  I'm not sure about anyone else, but shouldn't Red Ryder be shooting a Red Ryder BB gun?  Take a look at the carbine he is holding.  I don't know about you, but my Red Ryder BB gun never had a loading gate or a hammer on it.

2.  While rule three describes an aspect of trigger discipline, apparently the finer points of it had not yet been developed or explained to Red Ryder when this ad was written.

3.  Why on earth does Little Beaver have a quiver full of arrows and a BB gun?  It's pretty much the worst weapon set-up choices possible!  What's he going to do, give someone a welt before heaving an arrow at them?  Without a rifle like Red Ryder or a bow, I feel that Little Beaver's time left on this earth is remarkably short.

Ah, the mid-20th century - when freckled, tussle-headed, red haired little boys were the darling of ad agencies everywhere.  While this one looks slightly manic, the ad does a good job of playing toward a father's desire to make his boy happy and help him grow into a responsible man.  Though, admittedly, I'm not sure how dressing him like a candy cane moves toward those goals.

I'd say something bad about this ad, but at least the parents aren't dressing their kids like prison inmates or candy canes.  Plus everybody got a gun and no one was stuck with a crummy bow and arrow.  Good work, Daisy!

Red Ryder is getting pretty pushy.  Although, I'm sure that if I were an 8-year old that wanted his first BB gun, there could be no greater ally in the siege against mom and dad's patience.  According to the hand-written note at the top of the ad, this pledge by Red Ryder appeared in 1940 again offering a color palette that requires sunglasses and a promise to send you a "FREE Christmas Reminder Kit," undoubtedly filled with Red Ryder propaganda to "casually leave" where your parents will find it.  I'm inclined to think that if a kid actually sent in for all these kits and pamphlets that the house would look like an Allied warplane had just air-drop blanketed it with leaflets.

Remington, not to be outdone in the "leaving less than subtle hints for your parents to find" game, made this little ad with clip-out sections you could place somewhere for your parents to find or, heaven forbid, give it to them outright.  Just kidding, they would never want a kid to do something so straight forward.  Instead they give some recommendations on where you should leave these little "hints."  Plus, you didn't have to mail in for anything.  Take that Red Ryder!  The headline implies that this is some sneaky tactic, but I'm pretty sure leaving a note with a color picture and full product details, is not exactly CIA grade "sneakiness."

OK, last one here, and yes I'm aware it's not a "Christmas gun ad" in the way that the others are, but based on its content, I not only had to include it, but also save it for last.  Apparently at one time, this was an acceptable form of snow removal.  Please note that this is listed as the "English" flame gun, not that boorish American model (despite the stars and stripes border).  Also according to the ad, this model is "4 times more effective than the standard model!  Burns longer.."  Looks like those boots she has on aren't just for show, but also double as a heat shield against third degree burns.  I doubt they covered that in the verbiage.  What is covered in the verbiage?  Well, it is apparently, "perfectly safe and easy to use."  In that case, I'll let my four-year old have at it.  It is also usable

"come summer and this super flame gun is your friend.  What a quick way to destroy weeds.  This flame gun is so great... it doesn't stop at weeds.  It virtually burns up into smoke old tree stumps..."

Also great for burning down your neighbor's house, your own house, charring your siding, or turning your car into a rolling fireball.  "Keep it in your car and you will never get stuck again."  They never offer a solution for how to safely store it IN your car after you use it, so hopefully your Ford Pinto came with that asbestos interior.

That's all for today gang.  I hope you enjoyed a little lighter-hearted article than we usually write.  If you liked looking at all these old ads, click here to look at a whole lot more gun ads, both old and new, on our Pinterest page.  If you did not enjoy this at all, don't worry.  We'll soon be returning to our usual articles on beautiful firearms and fascinating histories.  Hope everyone's Christmases were merry and your New Years are safe and cause for celebration.

- Written by Joel R. Kolander

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Interesting Facts from the December 2014 Premiere Sale

Our December 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction had a few surprises for us.  Sure, it was as successful as ever with its realized total of $11.4 million, but that success came from some interesting places.  Some of the "old reliables" maintained the grip of their popularity, other genres and models experienced a surge of renewed interest, and some were way out of left field.  Today, we'll take a look at a few of the pieces that livened up the auction and whose results may not have been entirely expected.

Highest Performing Item Overall (Based on Highest Percentage Over Estimate)

Lot 1799: Colt Python Double Action Revolver
Low Estimate: $1,200
Realized Price: $11,500

"Highest Performing," for the purposes of this article, means the item that sold the highest percentage over its low estimate.

Colt Pythons have really enjoyed upswings in both popularity and price in the last several years.  The love for these high quality, fat-gripped wheel guns has carried over to other Colt "Snake Guns" and even into large Smith & Wesson revolvers for those unable to afford the reptilian revolvers.  This particular revolver remained in near perfect condition and was manufactured in 1956, making this a second-year production.  That early production also means it bears the remarkably low serial number of 543.  Perhaps even more staggering is that this isn't even the highest price brought by a Python in this auction, a honor belonging to lot 1795, which sold for a princely $14,950.

Highest Performing Antique

Lot 175: Custom Engraved Civil War Colt Model 1860 Army Percussion Revolver with Factory Letter Shipped to the New York Arsenal
Low Estimate: $3,000
Realized Price: $19,550

This classic Colt percussion revolver enjoyed a little more attention than usual thanks to its attractive customization, but moreso because of details in its factory letter.  First off, the letter details the gun as having a "blue/brass" finish and wood grips.  It's easy to see that the grips have been replaced with antique ivory that bear a carved eagle clutching an American-style shield in its talons.  In closer-up photos, one can also tell that the revolver has been custom engraved and that the front sight is made from German silver.

While those changes will appeal to some collectors, certainly its shipping destination will endear it to a larger number.  The factory letter lists that this revolver was sold to the "United States Government" and shipped to the "Commanding Officer" at the New York Arsenal on Governor's Island, New York on June 18, 1863.  That's a pretty intriguing history on a model of revolver that already has cemented its place in U.S. military firearms lore as the primary cavalry handgun from its adoption until the introduction of the legendary Model 1873.  The combination of looks, history, and a classic arm was too good to ignore.

Most Popular Item

Lot 3787: Colt Python Double Action Revolver

This is a tricky title to give, as we're measuring it by the amount of bids an item received.  The amount of pre-auction sealed bids go a long way into consideration and are easy to calculate, but how do you measure live participation?  Numerous buyers can raise their card for one bid, but the auctioneer can only take one, so it's difficult to measure how many bids an item truly received.  Not to mention the online participation, where the same scenario could unfold and you'd never even have the chance to see additional bidders.

That said, and with some wiggle room figured in, we claim a four-way tie between four lots of Colt snake guns!  Lots 1799 (the highest performing item overall), 1797, 3787, and 3790 all averaged around 50 bidders each!  That makes these three lots of Pythons, and one containing an Anaconda and a King Cobra, the most sought after items in the auction!  The best part is, we didn't need to look at the numbers to know it.  The bids were pouring in the minute these guns crossed the block and every single phone line was occupied with a bidder waiting for a chance to win one of these revolvers.  The buzz in the auction hall told this story before the numbers ever could.

Oldest Gun Sold

Lot 3093: Highly Ornately Gold, Silver, Pearl, Coral and Bone Inlaid Ottoman Miquelet Rifle
Low Estimate: $1,400
Realized Price: $3,162

There are many that feel these ornate antique guns are greatly underappreciated.  The high level of craftsmanship, the luxurious materials, and the aesthetics are often found far under the price of what it would cost to produce such a firearm today.  This gun is a prime example of such an argument thanks to its intricate inlays of gold, silver, pearl, coral, and bone.  It is simply mystifying what people could do with what we would consider "primitive tools" by today's standards.

While we can't always determine an exact year for many of the firearms in our auctions, we can come pretty close based on several helpful factors.  This is the oldest gun I could uncover after some in-depth searching.  Our describers estimate that this Ottoman rifle likely dates to the late 17th or early 18th century.  While that qualifies it for the oldest gun in the auction, it is not the oldest item.  That honor belongs to the 16th Century Italian style, swept-hilt rapier in lot 120.

Highest Selling Colt

Lot 1270: Impeccably Documented Captain Walker's C Company Colt Walker U.S. Model 1847 Revolver
Realized Price: $172,500

Believe it or not, that six-figure price is actually a great find for the lucky buyer.  Also in the "believe it or not" category is that the contest for highest selling Colt was far from a landslide.  May other phenomenal Colt firearms were also in the running like the presentation grade, recently discovered Model 1855 revolving shotgun, a 'D Company' Colt Walker, and a Squareback Texas No. 5 Paterson with its original holster.  By the way, many companies will go years without the privilege of selling a Colt Walker - they are ridiculously rare and sought after.  To have two in one auction, and another in each of our previous two auctions, is border-line impossible.  Well, impossible for most auction houses.  For those keeping track, that's four Walkers in 2014, 2 in 201`3, and another 4 in 2012!

Highest Selling Winchester

Lot 1043: Magnificent, Deluxe, Documented Special Order, Winchester Third Model 1873 with Casehardened Frame and Factory Letter
Realized Price: $149,500

Besides being completely gorgeous thanks to its iridescent case hardening and wood that seems to glint like a tiger's eye gemstone, this gun is also extremely rare.  Just like today, if you wanted to order a gun with custom features, you were going to have to pay for it.  Also just like today, not everybody wants to spend that kind of money, instead preferring a cheaper firearm for a life of service.  This makes special order Winchesters rare and it makes Winchesters with a combination of features increasingly more rare as their list of features increases.  This particular rifle has no shortage of special order features: 1/2 octagon barrel, set trigger, deluxe 3X fancy grain walnut stock, "Style H" checkering, pistol grip (the bottom of which has an ebony inlay), gold washed beach folding front sight, rare folding 62-B rear peep sight, and the casehardened forearm cap, receiver, hammer, lever, and crescent buttplate.  It is very much deserving of its sale price.

Highest Selling Luger

Lot 1446: Extraordinary Finest Known DWM Model 1906 Russian Military Contract Semi-Automatic Luger Pistol
Realized Price: $46,000

Those pistols made for a Russian contract are the rarest of all military contract Lugers.  Distinct with their Cyrillic text and crossed "Mosin-Nagant rifles" marking over the chamber area, these Lugers easily catch the eye of discerning collectors.  This gun's rarity and "excellent" condition grade are made even more valuable by remaining all original, and having all matching numbers, with the exception of its original, nickel plated, wood base commercial magazine.

Highest Selling Civil War Item

Lot  1269: Extraordinary Deluxe Gustave Young Panel Scene Engraved, Presentation First Model Maynard Breechloading Carbine

Realized Price: $37,375

One might not associate a gun so finely decorated to be a "Civil War firearm," but over 20,000 Maynard Second Model carbines were made for Union cavalry units.  The one shown above is a First Model.  It has a fancy grain, walnut stock with a patchbox and an inlaid and inscribed silver plate.  It is in exceptional condition, and most notably exhibits delicate and flawlessly executed European  style scroll work and panel scene engraving.  The work, while not documented, was almost certainly performed by the legendary Master Engraver Gustave Young.

Highest Selling Non-Firearm

Lot 1601: Two Inscribed United States Marine Corps Mameluke Officer Swords with Scabbards, Documented to Two Navy Cross Winners

Realized Price: $4,312

The swords themselves are attractive and fascinating pieces of U.S. military history.  They have brass cross guards, brass fitted/nickel finished sheaths, etching in a Marine Corps motif, and even the rig necessary to wear the swords properly.  The history of the swords is even more impressive than their decor.

One of the swords was issued to one Col. Miles R. Thatcher.  A man who started out as a 2nd LT in 1905 and by 1946 had retired as a full Colonel.  In his tenure with the USMC he earned quite a few medals to pin to his chest: the Navy Cross, the Nicaraguan Medal of Merit, the Haitian Medialle Militiare, the Mexican Campaign Medal, and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal.  The Navy Cross is the second-highest military award for valor eligible to the Navy, USMC, and Coast Guard.

The other was issued to a Gilbert Durnell Hatfield, a Marine enlistee in 1915 who would eventually retire as a Lieutenant Colonel.  Hatfield earned his Navy Cross for his "coolness and military way of handling the situation."  What situation, you ask?  He was serving in Nicaragua when Augusto Sandino, a bandit and later namesake of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, launched a pre-dawn raid on his camp with a 5:1 troop advantage.  When Sandino sent a messenger to Hatfield requesting his surrender, Hatfield replied, "Marines don't surrender.  Go to hell."  Well put, Marine.

Well, there you have it.  Whether people spoke en masse or with their wallets, those were some of the most desirable items in the auction.  Far from an exhaustive list of items that performed well, we thought it would be interesting to show some items that you made into highlights.  This list wasn't created by RIAC, it was created by enthusiastic and passionate collectors and investors,  If you'd like to see this type of lists after other auctions, leave us a comment below and let us know.  Also, if you have an idea for a "highlight" you'd like to see after subsequent auctions, feel free to put that in a comment as well.  We can't thank you all enough for a fantastic 2014!  See you all in February for our first ever FOUR DAY AUCTION taking place February 19, 20, 21, & 22, 2015.  Stay tuned to this blog and our social media pages for more details as they develop.