Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1215: Tiffany & Co.Smith & Wesson .38 Safety Hammerless Revolver

Auction Date: June 6, 2020

Exceptionally Rare, Iconic, Historic Deluxe Tiffany & Co. Embellished Smith & Wesson .38 Safety Hammerless 3rd Model Double Action Revolver Exhibited by Tiffany & Co. at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $40,000 - $65,000

Exceptionally Rare, Iconic, Historic Deluxe Tiffany & Co. Embellished Smith & Wesson .38 Safety Hammerless 3rd Model Double Action Revolver Exhibited by Tiffany & Co. at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: 38 Safety Hammerless
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 38 S&W
Barrel: 4 inch solid rib
Finish: blue
Grip: silver
Item Views: 1638
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 154
Class: Antique

From the late 1880s to the early 1900s, Tiffany & Co. of New York created a highly embellished series of deluxe handguns and rifles from some of the period’s leading firearms manufacturers including Colt, Winchester and most notably Smith & Wesson. These high art firearms are the epitome of the Art Nouveau movement. While Tiffany did some work for S&W in the 1870s, no work of this magnitude was executed until the 1890s, and they were intended to be showpieces for the World's Columbian Expedition of 1893, the Exposition Universelle in Paris of 1900 and the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY in 1901. This fantastic example was manufactured specifically for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The front of the grip is stamped with a special exhibition cartouche: a globe over a capital "T," which identifies items as Tiffany Columbian Exposition pieces. S&W’s exhibit was entitled "Tiffany at The World's Columbian Exposition". An advertisement taken out by S&W in the Youth's Companion dated May 4, 1893 described the exhibit as "Beauty of Design and Finish". This same ad was, interesting enough, S&W's only published attempt in the 19th century to promote decorated handguns of any kind (including factory engraved samples). The number of surviving Tiffany S&Ws remains unknown. In R.L. Wilson's "Winchester: The Golden Age of American Gunmaking and the Winchester 1 of 1000," a Tiffany S&W is pictured and identified as one of those displayed in the S&W exhibit in the Department of Liberal Arts at the World's Fair, and additional information and examples are documented in Wilson's "Steel Canvas" and Neal and Jinks' "Smith & Wesson 1857-1945." The largest public display of Tiffany embellished 19th century arms can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Gallery 372. The lion’s share of the display was donated and/or sold by Dr. Gerald Klaz. Third Model .38 Safety Hammerless revolvers were manufactured from 1890 to 1898. The solid cast sterling silver Tiffany grip is constructed in one-piece, covers the frame and recoil shield, is attached to the revolver so masterfully the only visible place where it is secured is at the barrel hinge by original Tiffany silver plated screws, and features a near full coverage etched comical cowboy scene of men trying to bust a bronco with little success and a flared butt. The barrel, cylinder, trigger guard and grip safety are blued, and the trigger is casehardened. Like most major firearm manufacturers of the time, engravers were not allowed to sign their own work. Amazingly, Tiffany was allowed to mark the piece made on special order as well as those made for private customers. The grip is signed "TIFFANY & CO./STERLING" above the Tiffany Columbian Exposition cartouche as previously mentioned. The frame lacks a visible serial number. The serial number “54680” is stamped on the cylinder and barrel. The accompanying factory letter lists this revolver with a 4 inch barrel, nickel finish and checkered black hard rubber grips when shipped on October 14, 1892 and delivered to Tiffany & Co. of New York City. The revolver is specifically listed in Tiffany’s official Columbian Exposition catalog (“Catalogue of Tiffany & Co.'s Exhibit: Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893”), and is revolver number 301 on page 50: “SILVER MOUNTING, etched cowboys, steel cylinder and barrel.”

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine as highly embellished by the renowned Tiffany & Co. The revolver retains 95% plus of the bright blue finish on the barrel and 60% on the cylinder with the balance between smooth brown and gray patinas. The grip has a highly attractive untouched aged silver appearance. Patterns of original case colors remain on the trigger. The phenomenal scene is crisp. Mechanically excellent. Tiffany & Co. Smith & Wesson revolvers are some the rarest high art firearms in existence; some are on display at the prestigious MET. Don't let this one of a kind piece of S&W/1893 World's Columbian history slip away! A must have for the serious S&W or astute firearms art collector! Provenance: Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.

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