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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Top Guns: 2015 September Premiere Auction

Here we go again, fellow firearms collectors!  Another successful auction and another recap that shows you the highlights, over achievers and most popular items from that weekend.  If you haven't seen this type of article, we have been writing them after the last several auctions, and like to emphasize that these results are in no way "cherry picked."  The guns, knives, and results shown here are listed solely by virtue of their data regardless of condition, history, embellishment, provenance, or other factors.

Most Popular

Lot 990: Two Cased Smith & Wesson Double Action Revolvers
Estimate: $1,000 - $1,600
Realized Price: $2,587.50
Number of Sealed Bids: 34

With Rock Island Auction's recently developed outbid notifications, the amount of bids on particularly desirable items can escalate quickly.  One might also think it helps eliminate tie bids, but hundreds of items had bids still locked in a dead heat, some as many as a five-way tie!  Those who use these notifications have a huge advantage  to win the lots they want.

That said, the lot that received the most sealed bids (bids placed before the auction took place) is this lot of two cased Smith & Wesson revolvers - one a 29-2 and the other a 27-2.  Looks like Colt Pythons aren't the only wheelguns that collectors want in their safes.

Top Dollar

Lot 1621: Rare and Impressive Krieghoff Second Model FG-42 Fallschirmjaegergewehr Paratrooper Rifle, BATFE Registered Fully Transferrable Machine Gun with Boxed Ammunition
Estimate: $160,000 - $220,000
Realized Price: $322,000

With an FG-42 selling at RIAC in last year's September Premiere Auction for $299,000 perhaps it should come as no surprise that a Krieghoff manufactured version would fetch a higher price.  However, it should signal to the collecting community that last year's price was no fluke or random spike, as these fearsome German machine guns continue to command high prices from some of the world's top collectors.

Even at this high price it was still a close race at the top.  Lot 1657 held an engraved and gold washed Walther PP presentation pistol with an "H. Himmler" signature on its grips, that sold for $287,500.  It also provided the most excitement of the auction as jump bids were being placed in $50,000 increments!  Both of these should also indicate that the German military collectors market is still as strong as ever.

Highest Performing Item Overall

Lot 3114: Two Confederate Style Leather Belts One Dagger and One Holster
Estimate: $1,400 - $2,250
Realized Price: $12,650 

It might not be as pretty as some of the other "top guns" shown in this article, but the historical significance of these Confederate pieces made them more than attractive to more than one collector.  Confederate items remain remarkably desirable even in the wake of popular opinion regarding the Confederacy and the American Civil War.

Highest Performing Genre: German Military - Walther PP/PPK

Lot 3501: Excellent Nazi Party Leader Walther PPK Semi-Automatic Pistol Rig with Party Leader Leather Holster, NSDAP Manual and Post-War Walther Case

Average Percentage Above Low Estimate: 109%

Undoubtedly led by the aforementioned golden "H. Himmler" PP, this dauntless little pistol continues to cement itself as a classic firearm.  Often dwarfed, literally and figuratively, by other beloved military pistols such as the M1911, the C96 Broomhandle, the P08, and the P38, these little pistols still have a hot spot in the collector market and its overachieving performance goes to show exactly that.

Highest Selling Colt

Lot 1232:Phenomenal Deluxe Gustave Young Factory Engraved Colt Model 1855 Sidehammer "Root" Revolver with Incredibly Rare Buhl Presentation Case

Estimate: $85,000 - $130,000
Realized Price: $109,250

The top selling Colt in this action may be up for some discussion as to which one technically takes the crown.  Shown above is the gun I feel should win the award.  It's a Colt Model 1855 Sidehammer "Root" revolver that has been elaborately engraved by Gustave Young and comes in the supremely rare Buhl case.  First off, the pistol features eight punch dots on its hammer, which with Gustave Young engravings indicates the number of days taken to complete the work.  Eight is a large number, especially when the work was done on such a small revolver, and Colt aficionados know this.  The revolver is stunning in and of itself, but the debate arises because arguably the larger portion of the lot's sale price is tied to the case and not the revolver.  Buhl cases  were used by Colt for only the most prestigious of presentations, with examples being presented to Edward Prince of Wales, his father Prince Albert, Queen Victoria, and his ever-important patent attorney, Edward Dickerson.  This particular example is brass bound rosewood and inlaid with antique ivory, silver, brass, and pearl.  The lot was estimated at $85,000 - $130,000.

Challenging this sidehammer's crown is Lot 1329, which holds an amazing pair of Colt Single Action Army revolvers that bear superb factory engraving and opposite, relief carved, steer head grips.  It is "Grade B" engraving performed by Master Engraver Wilbur A Glahn, and the guns themselves remain in excellent condition.  Their estimate was $110,000 - $160,000.

I'm awarding "Highest Selling Colt" to the 1855 Sidehammer based on several factors:
  1. It outperformed its estimate
  2. The price is based on only one gun and a case, not two guns.
One could argue that the Root isn't in as high of a condition as the SAA revolvers, or that each lot had two valuable items so the number of guns shouldn't enter into it.  When it comes right down to it, the lot with the Root has the benefit of being a rarer lot thanks to the Buhl case, and the immeasurable benefit of being something Samuel Colt would've almost certainly had his hands on at some time in his life.  The rarity of the cases and the importance of their individual presentations almost ensures it.

Highest Selling Winchester

Lot 1021: Magnificent John Ulrich Signed Factory Engraved and Big Game Gold Inlaid
Winchester Model 1910 Self-Loading Rifle
Estimate: $100,000 - $180,000
Realized Price: $138,000

Three words to describe this rifle: gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.  It rightly earns its place as the top Winchester in this auction.  It is magnificently master engraved and gold inlaid by John Ulrich, who also signed his work.  I try to keep these sections brief because there is so much good information to cover, so I'll just let the following picture do the talking.  Take a look at the expertly carved stock, the tightly scrollwork on the receiver, and the shading work on the gold inlays.  You can even click on it for a larger view.  It truly is an amazing rifle.

Highest Selling German Arm

Since the top two selling items of the entire auction were German arms and have already been covered, I'll not rehash it here.

Highest Selling Civil War Arm

Lot 3016: Historic Illinois Civil War New Haven Arms Co. Henry Lever Action Rifle
with Cavalry Saber and Documented History

Estimate: $37,500 - $65,000
Realized Price: $57,500

This is one of a select few Henry rifles that come through our doors with a documented history.  It is even accompanied by a British pattern 1821 saber.  Both weapons can be traced to Samuel H. Light (1834 – 1914), a man who can be found on the Illinois Civil War Muster Roll, joined the 7th Illinois Cavalry on September 15, 1861, and re-enlisted on November 4, 1865 as a sergeant.  The family home was located in Edgar County, Illinois, an area known to have raised men for a number of Illinois regiments.  Both items have been passed down through the family for generations before finally ending up at Rock Island Auction Company.  Not only is it the centerpiece of a rich history, but it is absolutely “fresh” to the collector market.  This Henry has resided in an Illinois farmhouse for the last 150 years!  It can’t get much fresher than that.  Both the provenance and the "freshness" of the rifle trumped its "attic" condition to bring a welcome sale price.

Highest Selling Non-Firearm

Lot 3154: Reproduction Confederate Tredegar Iron Works Style Twelve Pound Napoleon Field Gun
with Carriage, Limber and Accoutrements

Estimate: $14,000 - $22,500
Realized Price: $17,250

Our newest auctioneer, Alex, is standing next to this positively massive field gun to give a perspective of its true size.  Our official description lists it as "The massive cannon is just over 11 foot long from the muzzle to the end of the carriage tail and is 5 1/2 feet wide from the outside edges of the wheels which stand 4 feet and 10 inches tall. The bore is 4 1/2 inches at the muzzle..."  These twelve pound "Napoleon" cannons were first used in the U.S. in 1857 and were the most used smoothbore cannon during the Civil War.

Most "light 12-pounders" were made of bronze, but when the Union Army took the Ducktown copper mines near Chattanooga, Tennessee in November 1863, the Confederacy no longer had access to the 1,000 pounds of copper required to make each gun.  They began to make the critically important weapons from cast iron with iron reinforcing bands, but only around 120 could be produced by the South before the end of the war.  Given that this 12-pounder is made from iron and the bore lacks the Union signature swell at the muzzle, it can be safely said that it is a reproduction of a Confederate light 12-pounder as made by the renowned Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia.  It would be quite the eye-catching piece in any Civil War or Confederate weapons collection.  The light 12-pounder was likely used to greater effect on Civil War battlefields (in terms of casualties and fatalities) than any other piece of artillery, so it should come as no surprise that some astute collector made it the top selling non-firearm in this auction.

There you have it, collector friends.  By the numbers, those are the top items from our 2015 September Premiere Firearms Auction. Seeing big revolvers as the most popular was no surprise, but to not see a lever gun in the top Winchester spot certainly was!  Also, two German WWII guns and two Confederate pieces each found their way into top spots.  Even though the users of each took arms against the United States, collectors admirably overlook that in search of the aesthetic, well-engineered, or tangible pieces of history.  It may seem silly to say, but there are many that cannot or choose not to do so.

From an 11-foot long item to one barely the size of a man's hand, these top items truly run the gamut:  military and civilian, royalty and infantrymen, leaping out of planes and riding on horses, and that's just in the top several items!  We hope that you'll come to an auction sometime to see our "rotating museum" of fascinating, historic, and stunning collector firearms.  We promise it's worth the trip!

-Written  by Joel R. Kolander

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