Top 15 Firearms of 2017
By Joel R. Kolander
At Rock Island Auction Company we cater to collectors of all levels. Our Online Only Auctions sell hundreds of great firearms, our huge Regional Auctions offer thousands of modern, usable guns and thousands more collectible firearms, but of course most people know us for the world-class firearms in our Premiere Firearms Auctions. They have housed such incredible items as JFK’s M1 Garand, Teddy Roosevelt’s golden hunting knife, Elvis’ .357 revolvers, and thousands more treasures of collecting from military men, kings, exhibition shooters, lawmen, outlaws, stars of the silver screen, and legends of the Old West. These items readily capture collectors’ imaginations and rightly so. Items of such quality are rarely encountered and possessed by a fortunate few. To that end, here are some of those extraordinary items sold by Rock Island Auction Company in the past year; specifically the top 15 sale prices for all 2017. What a year it has been!
15. We begin with a 3-way tie for the sale price of $172,500.
Magnificent and Fresh Bespoke Philippe Grifnee Master Game Scene Engraved Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe Over and Under Shotgun in Desirable .410 with Case, Full Complement of Accessories, and Factory Letter
14. Historic Impeccably Well-Documented The King of Rock & Roll Elvis Presley’s Exhibition Quality Engraved, Inlaid and Carved Smith & Wesson Model 19-2 Double Action Revolver Gifted to Vice President Spiro Agnew
Sold for $195,500
An amazing gun with a fantastic story, this little Smith & Wesson was easily a crowd favorite in 2017 and earned its fair share of attention. After all not many firearms can boast that they’ve had their photo taken being held by The King.
13. Exquisite and Well-Documented John Ulrich Signed Engraved, Gold Inlaid and Relief Carved Factory Exhibition Winchester Deluxe Model 1894 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter: Winchester’s Factory Exhibition 1894 Rifle for Over 20 Years!
Sold for $207,000
We affectionately dubbed this rifle “The Winchester that Saw the World.” This Model 1894 is very well-known to the Winchester factory and is accompanied by records detailing everything from its engraving cost ($50.00) to over two decades of travel as an exhibition piece. According to R. L. Wilson, only two Model 1894 rifles feature the $50 engraving and only two feature “B” grade stock carving. This rifle bears both.
12. Extremely Rare World War II Fully Automatic NFA/Class III Nazi Krieghoff FG42 Paratrooper Assault Rifle
Sold for $241,500
RIAC set the bar with its last two sales for the rare FG-42 paratrooper rifles – $322,000 and $299,000 respectively. Clearly, with prices still hovering around a quarter million dollars, the market for these distinct and rare firearms is quite strong.
11. Rare and Exceptional Double Cased Set of Factory Engraved Colt Model 1851 Squareback Percussion Revolvers
Sold for $253,000
10. Extraordinary Documented Historic Early Production Factory Presentation Engraved Silver-Plated New Haven Arms Co. Henry Deluxe Lever Action Rifle, Serial Number 17
Sold for $276,000
At serial number 17, this Henry rifle is early enough to be considered in what we are calling the “cabinet range.” The very earliest Henry rifles were presented to important politicians, military men and the like. Some of those are:
#1: Secretary of War Edwin Stanton
#6: Abraham Lincoln (rifle currently resides at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History)
#9: Gideon Wells, Secretary of the Navy
#14: Samuel Hoggson, noted engraver for New Haven Arms
#18: General James Blunt
This beautiful, silver plated example is thought to have been presented to Thomas A McGrath, a prominent citizen of Shelbyville, Kentucky with several notable stories. One has McGrath and the local tailor, J.H. Masonheimer, fighting off Confederate guerillas who were attempting to raid the Shelby County Courthouse for its stores of muskets and ammunition. In his final story, he was murdered, shot in the back, by a Union troop who would later hang for the betrayal.
9. Extraordinary and Fresh Bespoke Pair of Hand-Detachable Side Lock Philippe Grifnee Master Engraved, Gold Inlaid Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe Over and Under Shotguns in Desirable 28 Gauge with Case, Full Complement of Accessories, and Factory Letter
Sold for $299,000
More on this extraordinary work and Mr. Grifnee can be found in our blog detailing these high art Holland & Holland shotguns.
8. Well-Documented Cased Pair of Extraordinary Special Order Consecutively Serialized Gold Plated Colt Model 1860 Army Percussion Revolvers with Matching Rosewood Canteen Shoulder Stock Once Belonging to 19th Century California Businessman Eustace Barron
7. Documented Finest Condition U.S. Singer Manufacturing Co. Model 1911A1 Semi-Automatic Pistol with Two Extra Magazines and History
Sold for $414,000
The story of the 500 Singer M1911A1 pistols is well-known to collectors. These “holy grails” of collecting are as revered for their quality as their rarity. This example happens to be the finest in existence. Rock Island Auction Company set a world record in 2010 when this pistol was sold for $166,000. It shattered the mold (and expectations) when it sold again in 2017 for the new world record of $414,000.
6. Extremely Rare and Equally Fine, 1 of Only 3 Documented, Factory Engraved, John Ulrich Signed Gold Plated Winchester “1 of 1000” Deluxe Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter
Sold for $414,000
For featuring engravings of a bull moose and a bull elk, plus its bright golden finish, this Winchester Model 1873 “1 of 1,000” earns the moniker “The Midas Bull 1 of 1,000.” It was offered in May for the first time in over 25 years – a powerhouse of collecting for its beauty, model, and rarity. “How rare,” you ask?
- It is one of only three “1 of 1,000” rifles in the Winchester factory ledgers listed as factory engraved and gold plated.
- Of the remaining two, one of which is refinished and the other possess only traces of the original factory gold
- It is one of 15 Winchester Model 1873 1 of 1,000 rifles listed in the factory ledgers as factory engraved.
Collectors waited a long time to get their hands on this well-documented and often photographed Winchester and it showed in the final price.
5. Extremely Rare Documented, Winchester First Model 1873 “One of One Thousand” Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter
Sold for $448,500
An exceptional, iconic rifle accompanied by impeccable documentation tracing its provenance through several of the finest collections of American firearms.
4. Extraordinary and Historic Cased Deluxe Factory Engraved and Inscribed Samuel Colt Presentation Colt Model 1862 Police Percussion Revolver Presented to Major Charles T. Baker
Sold for $460,000
Samuel Colt died on January 10, 1862 making this cased, first-year production 1861 Police revolver likely one of the last presentations the legendary businessman ever made. He presented it to Major Charles Traintor Baker, an officer in the 5th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers, but it was not the only presentation Colt made to Baker. The other, an 1860 Army with an identical inscription, currently resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Robert M. Lee Gallery.
3. Iconic, Well Documented and Phenomenal Cased Factory Vine Scroll Exhibition Engraved Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver with Matching Deluxe Shoulder Stock
Sold for $506,000
This marvelously cased Colt 1860 Army and its accompanying shoulder stock have been featured in a plethora of books and are considered by many to be the finest of their model ever produced by Colt. Formerly of the William M. Locke Collection, the esteemed Warren Anderson Collection, and eventually the Robert M. Lee Collection, this icon of Colt collecting has made its way through some of the top collections in the world.
2. Exceptionally Rare and Magnificent, Documented Silver-Banded, Factory Cased Colt No. 5 Squareback Model Texas Paterson Percussion Revolver
Sold for $575,000
A major purchaser of the Colt Paterson No. 5 revolver was the Republic of Texas in order to arm their Texas Rangers, thus earning them the nickname of the “Texas” Paterson. This particularly pristine example appears to be unfired to this day, bearing 70% of its original finish (90% on the cylinder) and all seven of its rare German silver inlaid bands. It is one of the highest condition Colt Paterson revolvers extant. Ownership is documented to Francis Bannerman as well as Robert M. Lee.
1. Stunning, Documented Factory Panel Scene Engraved, Gold Plated, Maple Stocked and Cased Winchester Deluxe Model 1866 Factory “On The Rocky Mountains” Display Lever Action Rifle
The top selling firearm of 2017 had collectors calling by the dozens asking “When is ‘On the Rockies’ coming up for sale?” This iconic and well-known Winchester 1866 lever action rifle with its gilded finish and pale, highly-figured maple stock would stand out in a sea of the world’s finest collector firearms. It is immaculately engraved, handsomely cased, and wonderfully preserved. Manufactured in 1871 in a serial number range well heeded by collectors for containing numerous Winchester presentation and exhibition pieces, “On the Rocky Mountains” has stood as a shining example for more than 140 years as a testament to the quality of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.
With a host of outstanding collections slated for 2018, we plan on continuing to set the bar ever higher. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, or subscribe to our YouTube channel to see all the exciting items coming in the new year.