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Friday, June 3, 2016

Top Guns: 2016 April Premiere

By now many of you have already heard the news. It has been seen in Maxim magazine, the Washington Times, American Rifleman, GunsAmerica, TheFirearmBlog, ABC News, and a myriad of other media sources. Bringing to market "The Geronimo Gun," as it is becoming known, and selling it for a world record $1.26 million dollars is the runaway story of the auction. However, there is more than one interesting story and trend to come out of this sale. For one, it was the most successful auction in RIAC history posting a sales total of more than $17.5 million dollars. As usual, we're here to break it down for you and show you some of the top performers, rising stars, and most popular items of the sale. Also, this is a friendly reminder that these items are not cherry-picked what-so-ever. These are not intentionally selected in any way, but instead are solely determined by the numbers in an attempt to give a honest reflection of what is happening in the collecting market.

Most Popular

Lot 878: Fully Automatic Class III/NFA Auto Ordnance Corp M1 Thompson Receiver Only
Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000
Realized Price: $13,800
Number of Sealed Bidders: 50+
Number of Live Phone Bidders: 24

It might not look like much, but to a savvy gun collector, this is a tremendous investment. This is the receiver for an M1 Tommy Gun. A complete, run-of-the-mill Thompson machine gun can sell for $30,000 - $60,000 and up. However, these are the federally registered, "fully automatic" part of the gun. Plug this into a readily available surplus parts kit, and you've got yourself a lot of fun for relatively little cash. It was this possibility of owning a Thompson at less than half the cost that raised an incredible amount of interest in the piece. There were 35+ sealed bids on it before it ever crossed the podium, plus 25 live phone bidders also ready to throw their hat in the ring. The bidding was fast and furious, and it took little time for the receiver to end up at its $13,800 realized price. The previous lot 877, was a barreled receiver, that likewise had 25+ sealed bids and 19 live phone bidders. That's a lot of interest in owning a "shooter" Thompson at a great price!

Top Dollar

Lot 1025: Historic Winchester Model 1886 Rifle Serial Number 1 and Pocket Watch Presented to Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Captain Henry W. Lawton, Noted Captor, following the Surrender of Chiricahua Apache Leader Geronimo
Estimate: $500,000 - $750,000
Realized Price: $1,265,000

This 1886 Winchester set a world record for the most expensive single firearm ever sold at auction, so it's no surprise that it takes the honor of "Top Dollar" for this auction. What a humbling and exciting experience to have this gun entrusted to RIAC, to educate the collector community about it, and finally to place it with a steward who will keep it in just as pristine condition as it has been the last 130 years.  If you haven't read both parts of the remarkable story behind this rifle, you may do so at our blog.

Highest Performing Item Overall

Lot 1246: Historic Gold-Quartz Inset Gold Headed Walking Stick with 1856 San Francisco Inscription and Jeweler Marking
Estimate: $8,500 - $13,000
Realized Price: $46,000
% over Low Estimate: 541.1%

There were three canes decorated with quartz and gold in this sale, but the two that heralded from San Francisco in the mid-1800s took the cake. Undoubtedly created in the prosperity stemming from the 1849 gold rush, these walking sticks are finely sculpted, inscribed with historical context, and this particular example depicts several panel scenes of a prospector mining for gold. It's an absolutely stunning time capsule of a significant event in the American west.

Highest Performing Genre: German Broomhandle Pistols

Lot 3273: Excellent Presentation Quality Engraved Mauser Bolo Broomhandle with Inlaid Grips, as Seen in "System Mauser" by Breathed and Schroeder
Average Percentage Over Low Estimate: 168%

In the interest of full disclosure, there were a handful of other genres, such as canons and Bowie knives, with higher performances than German Broomhandles. However, they offered too small a sample size and don't really give a good indication of a strong performance for an entire genre, which is rather the point of this section. German broomhandles performed remarkably well this auction as a whole. Many sold within their estimates, but several more  obviously surpassed those figures to make this a fine time to be selling a C96.

Highest Selling Colt

Lot 1222: Spectacular Historic Presentation Cased Factory Engraved Colt Model 1849 Pocket Percussion Revolver Inscribed to Latter Day Saint Leader and Utah Territory Governor Brigham Young
Estimate: $550,000 - $850,000
Realized Price: $632,500

Simply an incredible piece of history, this Colt 1849 Pocket was consigned to Rock Island Auction Company from the direct descendants of Brigham Young, to whom the revolver is inscribed. The second leader of the Mormon Church and the first governor of Utah, he played an immense role in the settling of the Utah territory. He influenced an entire state during the days of the Old West when a young country was expanding her borders every year. Had this revolver achieved this price in 2013, it would've tied for RIAC's most expensive gun ever sold. Our records may have gone upward since then, but this is still an extremely handsome price for a wonderful piece of history.

Highest Selling Winchester

It was also the top dollar item of the entire auction, so we won't cover it again here (no matter how much we'd like to). However, if you'd like to know about the runner-up, a Model 1876 One of One Thousand consigned to us all the way from Australia, then please view our YouTube video on it. You can also see what we had to go through to get it here in a mini travelogue filmed by our own Rick Henley. The One of One Thousand realized $207,000!

Highest Selling Civil War Arm

Lot 1109: Original, Rare and Desirable Civil War Dated Ames Manufacturing Co. Model 1841 Mountain Howitzer
Estimate: $45,000 - $65,000
Realized Price: $48,875

Big firepower in a small package made these howitzers a prize possession on the battlefields of the Civil War. The same reasons, and their use by cavalry troops, make them highly collectible today. This particular gun was manufactured in 1863, at the height of the Civil War and all but ensuring it saw use in combat. While this is the highest priced Civil War item, the best performance in the genre belongs to an extraordinary Warner carbine in lot 1072, that trounced its $8,500 low estimate to sell for $17,250.

Lot 1072: Scarce and Extraordinary Warner Carbine

Highest Selling German Arm

Lot 1540: Extraordinarily Rare Prototype Walther "Armee-Pistole" with Matching Serialized Combination Shoulder Stock/Holster and Magazines
Estimate: $75,000 - $110,000
Realized Price: $149,500

The vaunted Bretherton Collection had more than its share of outstanding German and European military arms, so it was a true mystery which one would take the bragging rights of the highest price tag. In a bit of a surprise, the prototype Walther "Armee-Pistole" in lot 1540 claimed the top spot, despite not having the top estimate for the genre. The highest estimate of $160,000 belonged to a historic and ornate engraved and gold finished Walther PP in lot 1452. Fortunately for this Walther AP, its incredible condition, matching accessories, and significance in the development of the P38, gave it the edge and placed a world-class collectible into the hands of one very pleased and dedicated collector.

There you have it, folks. The top guns in their respective genres and small glimpse into what people want most as measured by their participation or by the bids they were willing to make. Keep on eye on these post-auction columns and see if you can start noticing any trends on your own. You can make some very savvy buys and avoid paying too much by knowing what the market supports and by making educated guesses on where it might go. Please be sure to browse and search the catalog for our upcoming 2016 June Regional Firearms Auction. I guarantee you'll find some promising prospects in its over 3,400 lots and nearly 6,800 firearms.

-Written by Joel R. Kolander


  1. Everytime I use search, I cannot go back and scroll. Also my log in has not worked for the last three auctions

    1. Anon-

      Please give us a call on Monday and we'll get you taken care of. 800-238-8022. A real person will answer the phone.

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