Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 2006: Rare Documented, Winchester 1873 'One of One Thousand' 1st Model

Auction Date: December 2, 2017

Extremely Rare Documented, Winchester First Model 1873 "One of One Thousand" Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $375,000 - $550,000

Extremely Rare Documented, Winchester First Model 1873 "One of One Thousand" Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: 1873
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44-40 WCF
Barrel: 24 inch part octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened
Stock: highly figured 4X walnut
Item Views: 28541
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 8
Class: Antique

This is an exceptional example of a Winchester One of One Thousand Model 1873 Rifle with extensive documentation. Winchester manufactured 136 One of One Thousand Model 1873 rifles between 1875 and 1879. A letter of evaluation of this rifle by Winchester expert R.L. Wilson states that only about 30 of these rifles had been located by collectors and historians. In 1950 as part of the promotion for the movie "WINCHESTER 73", the Winchester Repeating Arms Company attempted to identify the surviving One of One Thousand rifles. This rifle is complete with a copy of a letter dated January 28, 1953, from Winchester to Norman L. Patten of Detroit, Michigan, notifying Mr. Patten that: "rifle No. 18070 is one of the very rare "One of One Thousand Model 73's". The rifle is accompanied by a letter from the Winchester Gun Museum dated 1971 and a letter from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center dated 1977 that describe the rifle's features and verify that it is listed in Winchester factory ledgers as a "1 of 1000" rifle. The Buffalo Bill letter states: "The original Winchester Records housed in our Museum, describe Model 1873, Serial Number 18070 as a rifle, 1/2 octagon barrel, set trigger, 4X checkered stock, Pacific Buckhorn sights, casehardened, 1 of 1000, swiveled, engraved. It was received in the warehouse on February 26, 1876, and shipped February 28, 1876". This rifle is also listed in the Winchester warehouse ledger reproduced on pages 375 and 376 of "Winchester's New Model of 1873", Vol. 2 by James D. Gordon. This rifle has what Gordon identifies as "Fourth Style" markings and engraving on page 390 of his book. "One of One Thousand" is engraved in script letters on the top barrel flat of the 24-inch half-round/half-octagon barrel reading toward the receiver. The "One of One Thousand" marking is bordered by dot and scallop engraving with an engraved flourish next to the rear sight. The sides of the barrel are engraved with deeply cut scrollwork on a punch-dot background. Silver bands are inlaid at the barrel breech and muzzle. The muzzle has four engraved scrolls on a punch-dot background. The barrel has a gold-plated Beach folding combination globe and post front sight and a early style, 2 1/2-inch, Sporting Rear Sight with knurled edges and five step elevator. The R.L. Wilson letter states that half-round/half-octagon barrels and short magazines are very rare on Model 1873 One of One Thousand rifles. The rifle has the first style receiver with grooved dust cover guides and dust cover with checkered oval finger grip. The receiver has a single set-trigger. A folding graduated peep sight is mounted on the upper receiver tang. The hammer has bordered knurling on the spur. Factory eyelets for sling swivels are mounted on the forearm cap and stock. The Wilson letter notes that sling swivels are rare on One of One Thousand rifles. The crescent buttplate has a sliding brass trapdoor. The butt trap contains a four-piece, jointed steel sling swivel with brass tip. The stock and forearm are deluxe, highly figured, 4X, fancy grain walnut with early style Winchester checkered panels and a piano finish. Wilson's letter states that the "XXXX" marking is stamped on the left side of the lower tang and visible when the stock is removed. The top barrel flat is roll-stamped with the two-line legend: "WINCHESTER'S-REPEATING ARMS. NEW HAVEN. CT./KING'S-IMPROVEMENT-PATENTED-MARCH 29. 1866. OCTOBER 16. 1860" ahead of the rear sight. The serial number is stamped in script numerals on the lower tang behind the lever latch. The forearm cap, receiver, dust cover, hammer, lever and crescent buttplate are color casehardened. The loading gate has a niter blue finish. The barrel, magazine, rear sight, tang sight and trigger are Winchester blue. The sock and forearm have a semi-matt piano finish. The Model 1873 One of One Thousand rifle is the best known of all Winchester rifles. One of One Thousand rifles are considered by experts to be the ultimate rarities in Winchester collecting. In addition to the Wilson Winchester Museum and Cody Museum letters, this rifle is accompanied by a list of all of the owners from 1950-1977. The most prominent collectors to own this spectacular rifle were John R. Woods and subsequently Robert M. Lee. The rifle was listed by serial number in the Oct. 1950 issue of American Rifleman ("The End of a Search" by Bill Depperman, page 38) as being purchased by E. Ames Alden of Boston in 1880. A photocopy of this article is included. Also included is photocopy of a letter written by Alden's son, Charles, circa 1950, which further explains that this rifle "was used for several years during vacations in the Adriondacks and many deer were killed with it." The gun was left to Charles after his father passed away in 1887.

Rating Definition:

Extremely fine overall. This rifle is all original and retains 80% plus of the blue finish. The engraving and markings are extremely sharp. The stock and forearm are in very fine-excellent condition and retain nearly all of the original piano finish with sharp checkering. The R.L Wilson letter describes this rifle as: "among the finest examples of a One of One Thousand Model 1873 in existence". His letter states that this rifle has handsome case colors and concludes: "This is a rifle fitting for the finest museum or private collection". This is a splendid example of a Model 1873 One of One Thousand rifle with impeccable documentation that has been part of some of the finest collections of American firearms. Provenance: The Robert M. Lee Collection.

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