Blades Gun Collectors Should Love
By Joel Kolander
It may be the understatement of the year to say that Rock Island Auction Company sells a few guns, and if there’s one thing that gun collectors like almost more than anything, it’s one with real history. Something with a story to tell, that’s not just a story – having the proof to back it up is paramount.
For this reason, we are always pleased to offer a wide assortment of swords and other bladed weapons in our world-class auctions. The history and artisan work on these blades should endear them to many a firearms collector, who certainly appreciates the same qualities in their guns. They vary from the battle tested sabers of the Civil War era, to the finest, gilded and sculpted presentation swords for men of great military prowess. Here are some selections from this auction that self professed gun guys should have no trouble appreciating. In fact, I bet we have a blade for almost every area of gun collecting.
For the High End Gun Collector
Since last week’s article detailing the hunting knife of Teddy Roosevelt was more than enough to satisfy this section of the article, this week we’ll show you something different. This lavishly decorated sword and hilts were once presented by none other than Queen Victoria herself to Don Rafael Carrera. Who was he? Oh, just a passionate revolutionary, the hero of the Battle of La Aranda, and the first President of Guatemala. His whole story is incredible to read and this sword is a fitting gift for such a remarkable life. It is a truly a piece of high art and a testament to 19th century master craftsmanship. This historic and beautiful piece would be at home in the most regal of sword collections or even on display in a fine museum.
For the Sporting Arms Enthusiast or Hunter
If there’s one thing that hunters or sporting arms enthusiasts always require of their equipment, it’s that it works how it’s supposed to when called upon. Such reliability requires a certain level of quality, and these unbelievable blades have far exceeded any such threshold. This is a collection of 11 Robert Loveless custom knives from the middle of last century. To the untrained eye, they may look little different than your standard Buck knife, but their quality, rarity, and design significance make them a horse of a different color.
Those who know knives need no introduction to Bob Loveless. For those unacquainted with his significance, an apt description comes from our official catalog description.
“Entering the knife making field in 1953, Bob Loveless is one of the grand names in 20th century American knifemaking, credited as the godfather of the hollow ground drop point blade (now virtually the de-facto standard utility and multi-purpose knife blade at home and abroad), the innovator of using 154CM and ATS-34 steel for blademaking, a founding member and early supporter of the Knifemaker’s Guild and a blade designer for Gerber and Schrade…
According to legend, one of the first things that spurred then-sailor Loveless into making knives professionally was being told by an A&F [Abercrombie & Fitch] clerk at their New York store that he’d have to get on a nine month waiting list for a Randall Made knife (the current waiting list for a Randall is just shy of 4 years), and responding by making a knife himself good enough for the retailer…”
Any of these knives would be worthy of an advanced knife collection, but a gathering such as this is for the most accomplished collectors or those who wish to join such ranks.
For the Cowboy
You love the Wild West. The idea of “prairie justice,” right besting wrong, a cool head and a hot barrel. A simpler time appeals to you, and you probably wouldn’t mind a ride on a horse if it was offered to you. You likely have more than one Colt six-shooter in your collection and a few lever guns to boot. For you we have this English & Huber clip-point Bowie knife. Based in Philadelphia during the 1830s and 1840s, James English and Henry Huber Jr. got their start marketing a “Sheffield Works” knife, borrowing on the name of the well known English knife-making area. Thankfully, their knives lived up to the sturdy reputation, and the pair went on to enjoy success. English & Huber are also credited as the first American smiths to produce a proper clip-point Bowie knife and were reported by some sources as a supplier of knives to Jim Bowie himself. If you’re after a product from the maker of James Bowie’s bowie knives, then this is clearly the lot for you.
For the History Lover
This sword’s aesthetics alone are enough to make it desirable to military collectors, but it becomes truly special when one discovers all of the documented history that accompanies this beautiful blade.
There are more embellishments on the scabbard, guard, and blade than can be readily recounted here, so please click this link to view more photos of this exceptional sword. In brief, the scabbard is silver plated and features highly detailed and gilded mounts with a large American shield covering its lower half. The blade is adorned to match with intricate engraving, abundant gold wash, and precise acid etching.
Regarding its tremendous history, the most readily available information comes from the scabbard which reads, “Presented to Capt. Jacob W. Clark by the members of the 59th Regt N.Y.V.” His service history, time in a Confederate POW camp, and life after the Civil War are all detailed in period documents or subsequent archival research done on the man who received his remarkable gift from the members of his veterans volunteer unit. From the “Bloody Angle” to “Camp Asylum” his story is one that any history buff can dive right into and find tremendously fascinating.
For the WWI Buff
Trench warfare, enfilading fire, poison gas, and the advent of military dogfights are all in your wheelhouse. Giant battleships, submarine warfare, and early tanks aren’t far behind. You’ve studied World War I, knows its ins and outs, and likely subscribe to The Great War YouTube Channel (and if you don’t, you should).
For you we have this stunning pair of savage trench daggers. This simple device was effective for the up close and personal fighting demanded by the trenches. It was also a fine psychological tool to have something so mean and barbaric in one’s possession. These two D-guard Model 1917 trench knives are arguably the nicest we’ve come across, and you’d be hard pressed to find others in a higher condition. If you’re assembling as “as-issued” collection of U.S. gear from WWI, these brutal. stiletto-bladed, Hun-stabbers are just the trick.
For the WWII Historian
By WWI, swords were all but entirely obsolete in combat, relegating their duties to ceremony and uniform purposes. That said, there are still some outstanding edged weapons to be found up through WWII (the next section on German military blades illustrates this nicely). This sword is that of a Russian shashka, used by the few Soviet Cossack regiments still maintained throughout the World War II. A note that accompanies this sword (and Mosin Nagant bayonet) states that it was acquired to pay off a gambling debt from a man who “picked the sword up” as a merchant marine in the 1940s.
For the German Military Collector
For many, this knife is what comes to mind when they think of Nazi daggers, even though Nazi Germany had different daggers for the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, SS, and even the Hitler Youth. This dagger is an “SA” dagger, as indicated by the roundel on the handle which bears the SA letters on a red background. SA stands for “Sturmabteilung,” a paramilitary wing of the early Nazi Party known as “Brown Shirts” for obvious reasons.
Hitler formed this group with Ernst Röhm, who led the group. It initially served as brutish protection at early Nazi rallies, but eventually began committing violence against other political parties, while harassing and intimidating groups they viewed as undesirable. They are largely responsible for quashing other political parties in the early 1930s and helping the Nazi party’s rise to power. They numbered over 3 million members at one time and Röhm saw them as taking over the role of Germany’s national army.
The army, then the Reichswehr, was obviously concerned about this. So they convinced Himmler, Goering, and Reinhard Heydrich, to conspire against Röhm and the radical SA. They constantly fed Hitler false stories and evidence to increase his suspicions. Eventually Hitler acted against the SA to preserve his own power after he was threatened with martial law by President von Hindenburg. The result was the now infamous “Night of the Long Knives,” where 150-200 senior members of the SA were killed, after which their power and influence was greatly diminished.
This dagger is in “as issued” condition and very few will surpass it – a fine addition to any German military collection. As would either of the following:
For the Japanese Military Student
This sword could do double-duty in a Japanese military collection OR a U.S. military collection as it is accompanied by its 1945-dated bring back papers. It also comes with some fascinating research completed by the previous owner,such as a mark on the sword which may indicate a successful test of cutting through a cadaver torso just below the pectorals.
Civil War: For the Union Supporter
For all you Yankees out there, this is one stunning piece of steel. The engraving, the gold, the carved handle, the acid etching, are all bathed in a staggering level of expertly applied details. To interest you further, it is a presentation blade given to “Col. T. Sullivan By the 48th Regt. N.G., November 21st, 1871.” Colonel Sullivan has a lengthy military career that concluded at the rank of Brigadier General. He was clearly an accomplished military man to have earned such a high quality, and richly embellished sword such as this from swordsmith W. Clauberg.
As if that weren’t enough to make it appealing to the Union supporter, the script on the blade reads, “For the Union and the Constitution.”
Civil War: For the Confederate Son/Daughter
Don’t you worry Johnny Reb, we’ve got something for you too. For starters, this rare and authentic James Conning sword. It shows some particularly impressive design work on the brass hilt, especially considering the lack of resources and optimum conditions the South endured during the war. The lines of the sword are also long and elegant, which the hilt, handle, and handguard compliment nicely. As most collectors of Confederate items know, any goods that were manufactured for the war were used and used hard. To find this sword and its scabbard in this condition still make it a solid representative example of a scarce and desirable piece.
For the Curio Collector
A curio collector, eh? We like you. You’ve probably got the type of collection that people don’t need to know anything as a prerequisite to gawking at it for hours. Besides being appealing to “regular” firearms collectors, your items also appeal to those who know little to nothing about guns, and that makes you an important ambassador to the public. You didn’t ask for the job, but sometimes it comes with the territory. Remind us to buy you a drink sometime. Here are a few other lots you may enjoy.
After all, what curio collection would be complete with out at least one Apache revolver? With iron frames, brass frames, engraved, plain, pinfire, rimfire, and several different configurations, the intimidating little revolvers are essentially a collection in themselves.
How deeply someone dives into their particular genre can be an indicator of how seriously they take the hobby. Many of these knives, swords, and daggers are a perfect compliment to weapons that many collectors already own. Such blades add depth to a collection. They add details, history, and help to paint a more vivid and complete picture of the men who carried them and their related firearms. You’ll find these and plenty more in our 2016 September Premiere Auction, or any auction for that matter. Edged weapons are a mainstay here at Rock Island Auction Company, and just as these blades have been present for centuries, they show no signs of fading away anytime soon from the minds of collectors.