After our auctions we've been writing articles to let you know what the top dollar guns are in their respective genres, as well as other information like the best performing guns, best performing genre, etc. As I was looking at the highest estimates in our upcoming 2015 June Regional sale, I realized that a good number of them are Winchesters or pre-Winchester lever guns, and by "a good number," I mean 7 of the top 10 highest estimates. Go a little further and it turns into 14 of the top 20. With numbers like those it's easy to see that this auction is headlined by Winchesters and its predecessors, but which will be the top performers when the smoke clears? This is one of my favorite parts about an auction! Will the "big dog" bring in the price it's slated to? Will it be edged out by a close competitor that has been driven to a higher price by two determined collectors? Will a dark horse swoop in a steal the show completely? These are all very real possibilities, and in the end only one can claim the crown. Which of these Winchesters and Henrys do YOU think will bring the top sale price? Let us know in the comment section below.
-Written by Joel Kolander
Estimate: $27,500 - $35,000
If another rifle plans on unseating this Henry as the top gun in the auction, it's got its work cut out for it. Henry rifles are always desirable, especially when they're finely engraved, such as this model. Combine that with some gorgeous wood and you've got yourself a true contender.
Estimate: $18,000 - $25,000
Special order Winchesters are getting rarer all the time. Not only because some are inevitably lost each year to time, housefires, theft, rust, and the like, but because those that are available are snatched up by collectors and generally not seen for years thereafter. The more special order features on one gun the better. That would have resulted in a high original purchase price after it was manufactured, and that high price made rifles with many special order features rare from the get go. This Winchester is no exception. It's the lone Model 1873 in our list and has plenty to show off: deluxe, "fancy" walnut stock, checkered grip and forearm, casehardening, 26" round barrel, and set trigger. Can it make up the ground and take up the spot as the #1 lever gun?
Estimate: $18,000 - $25,000
Not only does this rifle enjoy a "pre-Winchester" heritage, but some Civil War provenance as well. It bears military inspection marks of "CGC" for government inspector Charles G. Chapman, and is in the correct serial range for the 1,731 Henry rifles purchased by the Union. Considering most Henry rifles that saw use in the war were purchased personally by soldiers for their own use, a government bought Henry would have almost certainly seen service. Both the 1st Maine and the 1st District of Columbia cavalry regiments are documented as having been issued the famous repeater.
Estimate: $16,000 - $25,000
Now how could a Henry rifle without a known Civil War history have a nearly identical estimate to one with said history? One word: condition. This Henry's slightly superior condition draw it nearly even to the prior contender. Which do you think will win out and more importantly, which would you rather have in your collection?
Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
Here's a Henry that has lived a tougher life than the previous two, so what would make anyone think that it could outprice them? Well, many historians believe that the majority of the Henry rifles manufactured during the Civil War were privately purchased by individual Federal soldiers willing to pay for the firepower provided by a 15-shot, lever action, repeating rifle. Often using their enlistment bonus to purchase the rifle, these soldiers believed the rapid firing rifle could save their lives on the battlefield. With that information, many collectors see guns with honest wear as more likely to have been actually used in battle, making the item an even more valuable piece of history. It can also be seen as "more authentic" than pristine versions, since the items showing wear would have been actually used and taken part in the history that so many find fascinating.
Estimate: $8,000 - $12,000
Finally we get to a Winchester 1866 on the list! The first gun to be produced under the Winchester name will always hold a special spot with collectors, and I'm sure the improvements over the Henry such as the sealed magazine tube, new fore stock, and loading gate (a.k.a. "King's Improvement") were deeply appreciated by those who depended on it. This particular rifle was shipped in 1876 according to its factory letter and is in the desirable "saddle ring carbine" (SRC) configuration. It remains in better condition than others on this list, but can it overcome the Henry's rarity? Approximately only 14,000 Henry rifles were produced, while SRCs accounted for 127,000 of the roughly 170,000 Winchester 1866 rifles ever made. Perhaps this rifle's biggest advantage is time. Right now could be the perfect time to buy a Model 1866, before next year's almost certain rush to snatch up the rifles during their sesquicentennial anniversary. Luckily, there are 14 total 1866 rifles in the the June 2015 Regional Auction.
Collector friends, those are the top 6 highest estimated Winchesters and pre-Winchesters in the upcoming sale. Which do you think will receive the warmest welcome? Are there other things you think will affect the value that I failed to mention? Something else entirely you think will run away with it all? Please feel free to use the comment section to tell me how absolutely right or miserably wrong I am. I look forward to hearing from you!
-Written by Joel Kolander