Rock Island Auction Company is proud and deeply honored to have been chosen to market at auction the legendary Robert “The Bear” Bretherton Collection. The Robert Bretherton Collection houses European and American automatic pistols, classic European high art arms, American and European sporting rifles and swords, incredible Colt revolvers, Winchester rifles of the West and their competitors, plus combat and prototype arms of the Allied and Axis powers; representing an epic feat in the field of fine arms collecting. Aside from its tremendous size and high condition are the unforgettable rarities that span more than four centuries of technological advances, design, and craftsmanship. Even with all these tremendous accolades, the most appealing aspect of the collection is its unmistakable freshness, having never been viewed by a single collector in its entirety.
Born in 1925, Robert “The Bear” Bretherton had an insatiable appetite for fine arms even at an early age, acquiring his first gun by his sixth birthday. Over the next 80 years he hunted and pursued fine firearms across the globe on an unprecedented scale. After viewing the collection, President and CEO of Rock Island Auction Company Patrick Hogan commented, “It was quite clear to me even at first glance, the level of scholarship and passion Mr. Bretherton had when building his collection. He understood rarity and condition, the difference between good and great, and had an obvious adoration for the history behind the firearms, as was exhibited by the collection’s vast range from classical European wheelocks to 20th century military arms."
“Having been in this business for nearly 25 years, I have examined collections in almost every state and throughout Europe. In all my experience, I have never encountered a group of arms equal to the supreme quality and quantity as what is represented within the Bretherton Collection. To say his collection is a lifetime achievement would only be scratching the surface,” said Hogan. “It is simply magnificent.” Many times when a collection of this size is amassed by an individual and that person passes, that collection can fall into neglect. Thankfully, in this case the caretaker was an outstanding curator who ensured all items were well cared for and cherished.
Rock Island Auction Company is coming off the heels of the most successful year to date for any firearms auction house or firearms division, posting the unprecedented sum of over $51 million in sales for 2015. This cemented their 12th consecutive year as the world’s number one firearms auction house. “We are extremely proud of what our team was able to do in 2015 and equally thankful to our customers, both consignors and buyers,” said Laurence Thomson, Executive Director of Operations at RIAC. “We have a company culture that is never satisfied with average and pushes to be exceptional each and every year, one auction at a time. Over the last four years we have averaged $48 million annually. No other firearms auction house has ever hit $40 million! We are beyond excited for 2016 to announce the acquisition of the Bretherton Collection. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for our firm and for collectors everywhere.”