Top 5 Under $5K
By Joel Kolander
Something we hear quite frequently on social media and at gun shows is something to the tune of, “Oh, I could never afford to bid with RIA.” This is often while looking at the world-class, six-figure items in our Premiere Auctions, and at that point we try to educate collectors about our Regional and Online Only auction formats, which carry any number of collector firearms at much more affordable prices. However, there are also plenty of collectibles in our Premiere Auctions that many a self-described “average” collector would have no trouble putting in their safe. Plenty of lots, over 80% mind you, are available under $5,000 and it’s with that in mind I’ve selected the top five items in our 2017 May Premiere Auction that are under $5,000. This is not a “RIAC endorsed” list, but impressive collectible firearms or genres that I personally found to be a great value. Let’s call it, “The Top 5 under $5K.”
#1 – Machine Guns & Suppressed Arms
With over 100 Class III items in this sale there a lot of fun to be had. Unfortunately, many gun folks, even experienced shooters, have a preconceived notion that machine guns are prohibitively expensive (or even illegal). This is far from the case and this auction proves it in spades. What if we told you that you could own the envy of almost any firing range for around $5,000? The URU submachine gun shown above is estimated between $4,000 – $6,000! Several M11 submachine guns have low estimates of $3,000. Need we go on? Not to mention the plethora of suppressors and suppressed weapons. It’s a whole lot of fun for a minimal investment.
#2 – Lot 691: Scarce Japanese “Baby Nambu” Semi-Automatic Pistol with Matching Magazine
Despite their small production number of approximately 5,900 between 1909 – 1927, Baby Nambu pistols remain one of the most well-known and desirable Japanese firearms. They were never adopted or issued by the Imperial Army thanks to their high cost, but officers would privately purchase them as status symbols. Given that a majority of those produced were carried, or at a minimum, were subjected to an unforgiving tropical climate, those that do survive are seldom in high condition. The example in our May 2017 Premiere Auction remains in very fine condition, with sharp checkering on the grips, and even the original matching numbered magazine. This is an enviable collectible for a relatively low entry cost.
#3 – Lot 2682: U.S. Union Switch & Signal Model 1911A1 Semi-Automatic Pistol
As the name implies, Union Switch & Signal, located in sunny Swissvale, Pennsylvania, manufactured railroad equipment until six months into World War 2 when Uncle Sam came calling. On May 5, 1942 they were issued a contract for 200,000 M1911A1 pistols, of which about 55,000 were produced, making them the rarest of the World War 2 production pistols behind the vaunted Singer M1911A1, of which only a scant 500 were ever made. US&S contributed greatly to the war effort by manufacturing a number of parts critical for essential arms and munitions: artillery and AA shells; receivers, slides and bolts for M1 carbines; mortar fuses, and more.
Being produced so early in the war, US&S pistols were almost guaranteed to see combat, lessening surviving numbers even further and making high condition examples a rare bird. Also desirable to collectors is their reputation for high quality in their build. Of the 55,000 produced, each was test fired 21 times, with zero being rejected by the Ordnance Department and only two pistols failing in a single test after firing full-auto.
Besides maintaining 80% of its original Dulite finish this M1911A1 is mechanically excellent. Astonishingly, it is one of SEVEN Union Switch & Signal pistols in this auction at varying price points, including a rare, documented cutaway model and an extremely scarce EXP marked version.
#4 – Lot 211: Desirable Colt Lightning Large Frame Slide Action Express Rifle
No matter how competitors tried, Colt had the lion’s share of the revolver market in the second half of the 19th century. However, Colt never really succeeded in entering the longarm market until the U.S. Army adopted the venerable M16. The 1855 revolving rifle, shotguns of 1878 & 1883, and the Colt-Burgess rifle all failed to take the market by storm, and are considered rarities by collectors today. However, one more long gun made an appearance in 1884 and it was the Colt Lightning slide action rifle. They came in three different sizes: small, medium, & large frame. The large frame is the rarest of the three with only 6,496 made. Being the most scarce version of an already rare rifle makes these quite a treat to find.
Large frame Lightning rifles are also known as “Express Models,” and were made between 1887 – 1894. They are most often found chambered for .38-55 Winchester, .45-60, and .50-95 Express, which brings us to the first reason that this Colt is so special. First, it is chambered in the unusual “.45-85-285” as is indicated on the barrel. The barrel also is marked with a Longdon black powder proof, which is especially odd since Colt closed his London armory in 1856, long before this gun was even an idea. It also has a German silver blade front sight and 85% of the bright, original, high polish finish.
Not only does it have the distinction of being a Colt long arm, it’s a rare one at that. To further sweeten the deal? This rifle was made in 1888, placing it in the second year of production for Express Models and also making it an antique. Win this at auction and you can take this high condition example home the same day.
#5 – Lot 903: Engraved Krieghoff Model 32 Over Under Shotgun with Two Additional Barrel Sets
Krieghoff firearms are renowned internationally for their high quality and they are priced accordingly. One of their double rifles can easily find 5-figures, while their shotgun line can find similar prices. Their K-80 shotgun frequently provides the base for their elaborate custom work, exhibiting breath-taking relief engraving, life-like panel scenes, and precious metal inlays. We haven’t even begun to discuss their quality, but knowing that U.S. Olympic athlete Corey Cogdell Unrein used a K-80 in last year’s summer games to win her second bronze medal in Women’s Trap is a pretty good indicator.
The good news is, you don’t have to hold your wallet hostage to take an engraved Krieghoff. This Model 32 in our May auction is wonderfully engraved, features handsome stocks, and comes with two additional barrel sets! You think that won’t cost you a premium if you buy from a Krieghoff retailer? The best part is that there are nine Krieghoff long arms in this sale, meaning that opportunities abound for those who want to add some quality to their collection or their hunts. Want even more good news? This Krieghoff is only one example of dozens of affordable sporting arms with high quality and a look to match.
It’s not difficult to find some amazing firearms in this auction at reasonable prices. In fact, a quick search of our online catalog will show that, even in a Premiere Auction, there are hundreds of items to be had with estimates lower than those shown. Not only can they be had at a great value, with the prices of firearms steadily increasing over time, picking up these pieces now represents a perfect opportunity to make an investment. Few other hobbies can claim to be so lucrative. What are you waiting for? Hop on our website today to find the next collectible firearm that you’ll be putting in your safe.
Bonus piece of auction advice: Estimates are just estimates! Many firearms go above or below the estimate. Think a low-ball bid can’t win? Think again. Know a piece is worth more? Bid higher than the estimate and have an advantage over people who only bid close to the estimates. You never know what will happen at auction, but you’ll never win a item you don’t bid on.