Top 10 Guns of 2018

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By Danielle Hollembaek

2018 has finally come to a close, and it was a HUGE year for Rock Island Auction Company. Throughout the entire year, we offered a number of historic items that reached never-before-seen prices. As we like to do this time of year, let’s take a look back at the biggest and the best that helped make this year so very special. They’re rare. They’re ornate. They’re historic. They’re the Top 10 items sold at Rock Island Auction Company in 2018.

  1. John Garand’s Presentation M1-Garand
    Sold for $287,500

John Garand's M1 Garand rifle

Well Documented, Historic National Treasure One of a Kind U.S. Springfield Armory M1 Garand “Milestone” Serial Number “1,000,000” Presented to the Inventor John C. Garand with Presentation Inscribed Display Case, Plated and Gilt En Bloc Clip and Cartridges and John C. Garand Archive

Around 6.5 million M1-Garand rifles were manufactured, with 5.4 million produced during World War II alone. Of those millions, none are worth as much as the gun owned by its own creator, John Garand. Garand was never paid a cent for his sought-after rifle design, refusing payment by the US government for royalties on the gun. We did a whole video on him and his beloved rifle for YouTube you can check out below. The collector who won our tenth highest priced item of the year took home a new gun, and story for the ages.


  1. TIE. M5A1 Stuart Light Tank
    Sold for $287,500

    M5A1 Stuart Light tank

    Outstanding World War II U.S. M5A1 Stuart Light Tank

    It seems unusual to many to find single firearms selling for as much as an entire tank, and you’d be right. Considering the much higher mechanical complexity and the higher initial cost of a tank, one would think they would find higher prices than firearms (or Mickey Mantle rookie cards, but I digress). This tank was a lot of fun to have on site and to have the rare experience of seeing this World War II machine rumbling around our grounds. That fun and experience now belong to one fortunate private collector, who snagged the rare opportunity to buy a Stuart on the open market.


  1. Buffalo Bill’s Cased Pair of Tiffany Colt Model 1861 Navy Revolvers
    Sold for $402,500

Extensively Documented Historic Cased Pair of Etched, Silver Plated, and Inscribed Colt Model 1861 Navy Percussion Revolvers Presented to William Mathewson, the Original “Buffalo Bill”

Still donning their Tiffany & Co. silver plating and engraving, this pair of Colt 1861 Navy Revolvers first owned by William “Buffalo Bill” Mathewson are a beautiful set with a fantastic story. Gorgeous work covers the revolvers and Mathewson’s name is inscribed on each revolver, making them a historic, unique, and beautiful addition to even the most advanced Colt collections.



  1. Stunning Baby Paterson
    Sold for $471,500

Colt Baby Paterson revolver

Stunning, Factory Cased Colt/Ehlers Pocket Model Paterson Percussion Revolver No.1

Formerly part of The William M. Locke Collection and The Robert M. Lee Collection, this Colt/Ehlers Pocket Model Paterson Revolver is a nothing short of a legendary gun. In excellent condition and accompanied by its factory case, it’s easy to see why this gun took spot the number 8 for our highest selling items this year.

Want to more about learn more on this gun, watch our video on this legend now!



  1.  Exhibition Quality Savage Model 1899 Lever Action Rifle
    Sold for $540,500

Magnificent Finest Known Monarch Grade Factory Relief Engraved, Gold Inlaid and Relief Carved Savage Model 1899 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter from the Legendary Nathaniel Cushing Nash Collection

The Monarch Grade Savage Model 1899, a firearm so exquisite and detailed that it could be argued to be the finest gun Rock Island Auction Company has ever handled. From the meticulously beaded border around the carefully engraved animals, to the fancy grade checkering and highly figured wood, this rifle is unlike any we’d ever sold before.


  1. A Testament to Winchester Artistry
    Sold for $586,500

engraved Winchester Model 1886 takedown rifle

Spectacular and Well-Documented John Ulrich Signed, Factory Grade No. 1 Engraved, Gold and Platinum Inlaid Winchester Model 1886 Takedown Lever Action Rifle with Style “A” Carved Stock and Factory Letter

One of the finest craftsmanship examples of a 19th century Winchester is exhibited in this firearm. Crafted by Master Engraver John Ulrich, this stunning Winchester served as the company’s exhibition piece, showing off the company’s top work. It was even once part of a major international loaned exhibition at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, England. It is every bit deserving of all the superlatives one could heap upon it.


  1. The Finest Winchester Model 1876 Known
    Sold for $747,500

The finest Winchester1886 known

Fresh to the Market, Well-Documented and Extraordinary Factory Engraved Special Order Winchester Model 1876 Deluxe Rifle with Factory Letter: The Finest of Its Type Known

We had the pleasure of auctioning more than one of John Ulrich’s master engraved pieces in 2018, and this special order Winchester Model 1876 has to be one of the highlights. It’s nearly impossible to pull your eyes away from the hypnotizing casehardening. Everything about it is flawless from the delicately engraved wild game panel scenes to the stunning woodwork. Combined with its impeccable condition this is a magnificent, tour de force of a rifle. Best of all, it had never before been publicly sold.

From the utterly magnificent condition of the gun, to its well-documented past, this is one for the books.


  1. The Last of the One of One Hundred Rifles
    Sold for $805,000

1 of 100 Documented Winchester “One of One Hundred” Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter and 1878 Inscription Identified as the Last of the One of One Hundred 1873 Rifles

Documented as the last produced of only eight Winchester “One of One Hundred” Model 1873 rifles, this gun is a supreme rarity. Many collectors know of the Winchester Model 1873 “One of One Thousand” rifles, but the “One of One Hundred” models are even scarcer. This particular gun has documentation of use and, part of its story takes down the Amazon River with a former owner. A firearm like this could tell some yarns.


  1. Winchester One of One Thousand Model 1876
    Sold for $891,250

Winchester One of One Thousand rifle

Ultra-Rare Documented Winchester “One of One Thousand” Deluxe Model 1876 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter


The “One of One Thousand” rifles of the Model 1873 Winchester are a rare prize indeed, but those specially treated Model 1876 examples are scarcer still – only 136 of the former and a scant 54 of the latter were ever produced. Of those manufactured, only 40 Model 1873 versions are thought to exist and TEN Model 1876 versions are still known to collectors. That sort of rarity drives value as clearly shown here. Combined with the fine condition, limited wear, and hailing from the vaunted collection of Robert M. Lee, this rifle brought an appropriately handsome price at auction.


  1. The Finest Known Winchester Model 1886
    Sold for $1.178,750

Finest Known Winchester 1886

Spectacular Documented John Ulrich Signed Factory Grade No. 1 Engraved, Gold and Platinum Inlaid Winchester Model 1886 Takedown .50 Express Lever Action Rifle with Style A Carved Stock with Factory Letter from the Mac McCroskie Collection: The Finest 1886 Winchester Known

The finest known Winchester Model 1886.  What else is there to say?  When you want the best, you have to pay for the best.  This is not only in immaculate condition but displays the absolute peak of 19th and 20th-century factory craftsmanship, never again to be duplicated. It’s also a grocery list of popular features that collectors love such as a takedown model and being chambered in .50 Express, and came courtesy of the well-known Mac McCroskie Collection.


  1. “The Danish Sea Captain Walker”
    Sold for $1,840,000

    Danish Sea Captain Colt Walker

    Extremely Well-Documented, Historic and Iconic Only Known Original Cased Colt Civilian Walker Percussion Revolver, Known as “The Danish Sea Captain Walker”

Drum roll, please! The highest priced item sold at Rock Island Auction Company in 2018 and, setting a world record for a single firearm sale at auction, was Cased Colt Civilian Walker revolver. This is the finest known Civilian Walker and only known cased original Walker that includes an original bill of sale from Samuel Colt himself. Traveling across the Atlantic with one of its owners to take up roots in Denmark, it stayed there for about one hundred years, avoiding the ravages of time and even the Nazis. A supremely rare gun with excellent documentation and pedigree, it is no surprise that it comes from the Robert M. Lee Collection. This was the highest priced item sold in 2018 by RIAC.

Wow, what a year we had. Our total sales for 2018 came in right at $75.5 million for our entire year, breaking our own industry record. It’s always good to end the year on a positive note, and start up next year with a bang!  Our four day, 2019 February Regional Auction is also on the horizon and our catalog is live now. Let’s see what incredible guns 2019 will bring.




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