Simply known as The King, Elvis Presley was rock & roll’s first star and remains one of the most important cultural icons in American history since his first number one charting song hit the airways back in 1956. He was after all the nightmare to 1950s conservative America: the white Southerner bringing together American music from both sides of the color line and performing with natural sexual flare. He was in essence a cultural liberation icon throwing the "system" into chaos. In his personal life Elvis had a well-documented interest in firearms. When he died in 1977, The King was reported to own 37 firearms, including one machine gun. Rock Island Auction Company is proud to offer an exhibition quality Smith & Wesson Model 19-2 double action revolver once owned by Elvis Presley who tried to gift it to Vice President Spiro Agnew only to have it returned and later presented it to Shelby County Sheriff Gene Barksdale. This is a well-documented piece of Elvis memorabilia and includes several documents. The first is a 6 November 1970 dated Beverly Hills Police Department firearm registration. This document lists this revolver by serial number as being registered to Elvis and is signed by Elvis. The listed place of residence is Elvis’ Beverly Hills home at 1174 Hillcrest Drive, and the listed business address is Elvis’ famed Graceland estate. According to the registration, Elvis obtained the gun from Beverly Hills firearm dealer Kerrs Sporting Goods. In the book "Elvis: What Happened?" by Steve Dunleavy, Elvis buying firearms from Kerrs is confirmed. Dunleavy wrote, "Presley had a real ball giving Kerrs Sporting Goods the best business they had ever had. In just one month he bought thirty-two hand guns, one shotgun and a rifle...The total cost of the shopping spree was $19,792." See page 83. The second piece of documentation is made up of three full color photographs. In one of the photographs Elvis holds this revolver in his right hand. In a second photo the revolver is displayed in a briefcase containing other handguns and Elvis looking proudly over his collection. In the third image it appears that the revolver is holstered on Elvis’ hip. A third piece of documentation is a notarized affidavit on Shelby County Sheriff’s Department letterhead that provides ownership history for this revolver. The affidavit is dated 8 January 1992 and is from Gene Barksdale. More than a twenty-six year veteran with the Memphis Police Department and Sheriff of Shelby County, Gene Barksdale was a close friend to Elvis. Barksdale explains in the affidavit that Elvis gifted him this revolver that is identified by serial number and embellishments. An additional notarized affidavit from Barksdale is also included and provides the same information. This affidavit is undated. A fourth piece of documentation is a notarized affidavit on Shelby County Sheriff's Department letterhead dated March 15, 2017 and is from Thomas Morgan Jr. a friend of Elvis, nephew of Sheriff Gene Barksdale and member of the Shelby County Sheriff's Department. This affidavit also authenticates the revolver and states that Morgan received the revolver from Sheriff Barksdale. A second notarized affidavit from Morgan explains his relationship with Elvis that began in the early 1950s when their families lived in the same apartment complex. Requested by Elvis' father, Morgan coordinated security for Elvis' funeral. It is well documented that Elvis had tremendous respect for law enforcement officers. As explained by Elvis' friend Marty Lacker, "Elvis played policeman every chance he got. He loved law enforcement and easily could have enjoyed pursuing it as a career…and as he toured the country there were always local police assigned for security." Until his death Elvis maintained close ties with Memphis Police and Shelby County Sheriff's departments. He often bestowed gifts to police departments and to individual members of law enforcement. These gifts included equipment and uniforms for the Memphis Police Department's softball team, cars for close police friends, donations and paying funeral expenses for a fallen officer. For more see the Shelby County diamond and ruby sheriff’s badge from Elvis’ personal collection that is in this auction. Finally, an accompanying letter from "the world's foremost Elvis memorabilia expert" John Heath authenticates the provenance and history of the revolver. "I believe," wrote Heath, "this to be one of the most valuable firearms from Elvis’ entire collection." According to Heath, Elvis had the revolver engraved by the Fredrick Wilhelm Heym Co. of Germany and originally presented the revolver to Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1970, but due to being the focus in an opened investigation of corruption, Agnew returned the revolver to Elvis. The investigation led to Agnew’s resignation and forced Agnew to return $268,482 in bribes from Maryland construction companies. This account has been retold in several books on Elvis. Agnew and Elvis met at a party in Palm Springs in early December 1970. Three weeks later, Elvis was in the Oval Office posing with President Richard Nixon for perhaps the most bizarre photo to be taken in the White House. As explained by Bud Krogh, Nixon's former deputy counsel who set up the impromptu meeting, "The two of them together somehow is almost incomprehensible. The king of rock and the president of the United States shaking hands in the Oval Office doesn't compute for a lot of people." Elvis presented Nixon with a commemorative Colt 1911 pistol. The purpose of the meeting remains up for debate. Some have concluded that the meeting was a stunt in order for Elvis, an avid collector of law enforcement paraphernalia, to obtain a federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge that he personally asked President Richard Nixon for. Others have argued that Elvis was sincere. The Nixon/Elvis photo remains one of the most requested documents from the National Archives. The revolver features near full coverage relief leaf and scroll engraving outlined by silver and gold inlaid borders. The frame has additional five raised gold North American game animals that range in size from a mountain lion to a moose. The barrel markings and serial number on the butt are in silver inside gold outlined oval panels. The sights are standard factory serrated ramp and adjustable notch. The two-piece grips feature relief carved stag heads among floral scrollwork. The pistol comes with a personalized leather tooled zipper pouch that displays Elvis’ name in bold letters on one side and a floral pattern with turquoise highlights on the reverse.
Very fine as elaborately embellished by a master engraver. The revolver retains 95% of the blue finish showing some thinning to a gray and a cylinder drag line. The grips are excellent having taken on a mellow yellow appearance. Mechanically excellent. The pouch is fine showing some minor flex wear and scratches and missing gems. This is truly a well-documented piece of spectacular firearm art that is deeply tied to the Elvis Presley legacy. A stand out, museum quality piece that would make a great addition to even the most advanced Elvis Presley memorabilia collections.
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