Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1253: Tiffany & Co. Embellished Smith & Wesson 38 DA Revolver

Auction Date: September 12, 2020

Exceptionally Rare, Iconic, Documented and Inscribed Deluxe Tiffany & Co. Embellished Smith & Wesson .38 Double Action 3rd Model Revolver with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $60,000 - $95,000

Exceptionally Rare, Iconic, Documented and Inscribed Deluxe Tiffany & Co. Embellished Smith & Wesson .38 Double Action 3rd Model Revolver with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Model: 38 Double Action
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 38 S&W
Barrel: 3 1/4 inch solid rib
Finish: nickel
Grip: silver/antique ivory
Item Views: 1721
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 209
Class: Antique

Self-described as an “American multinational luxury jewelry and specialty retailer,” Tiffany & Co. created some the most spectacular and expensive highly embellished deluxe handguns and rifles from the late 1880s to the early 1900s for American’s leading firearms manufacturers including Colt, Winchester and most notably Smith & Wesson. Often 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, these highly stylized arms fully embodied the classic Art Nouveau style, as clearly demonstrated on this S&W revolver. “Revolvers of the most improved types, mounted in silver, carved ivory, gold, etc. with rich and elaborate decorations,” proclaimed the Tiffany Blue Book catalog, would set a customer back $50.00 to $300.00. Although the number of surviving Tiffany S&Ws remains unknown, they are arguably the rarest and most desirable of the late 19th century American high art firearms. The accompanying factory letter lists this .38 Double Action 3rd Model Revolver with a 3 ½ inch barrel, nickel finish and checkered black hard rubber grips when it was shipped on September 18, 1886 to M.W. Robinson of New York City, S&W’s largest distributor. As explained in the letter by S&W historian Roy Jinks, the decoration on this revolver was “completed by Tiffany Jewelers…under contract either by the dealer or the individual who purchased the handgun.” The revolver is pictured and described in Neal and Jinks’ “Smith & Wesson, 1857-1945” on page 297. The sterling silver Tiffany grip 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 screw, and features etched Art Nouveau floral pattern and relief carved insert and pommel. The grip is signed "TIFFANY & CO./STERLING" just behind the trigger guard. Tiffany marked each piece they made on special order. The inscription “WRIGHT P. EDGERTON, WEST POINT, N.Y.” is on the underside parallel to the trigger. The frame serial number is not visible. The serial number “165486” is marked on the cylinder, barrel and barrel latch. The barrel and cylinder are plated in nickel, the trigger guard is blued, and the hammer and trigger are casehardened. Lt. Colonel Wright Prescott Edgerton (1852-1904) was the son of ardent abolitionist and first Territorial Governor of Montana, Sidney Edgerton, and was a Class of 1874 U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduate. His field duty after West Point greatly varied. He served in numerous troop assignments stateside such as attending artillery school, frontier duty in Texas and participating in suppressing the Pittsburgh railroad strike of 1877. He returned to his alma mater as an instructor of mathematics in the fall of 1882. He remained at West Point through most of his remaining years of his life but briefly returned to field duty in Louisiana and New York and during the Spanish-American War was a voluntary aide de camp with the expedition to Puerto Rico where he "sowed the seeds of disease" that led to his passing at the early age of 51. In 1898, he was appointed full professor, a position at West Point he held until his death in 1904. When Edgerton died it was said, "To his associates in the Army he was especially endeared. At every post at which he served all the members of the garrison and more especially his commanding officers, invariably became deeply attached to him. This is not to be wondered at, for he was most winning in his character, loyal, generous, tender and adorable." He was buried at the West Point cemetery. His modernization of the mathematics curriculum at West Point was his enduring legacy.

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine as highly embellished by the renowned Tiffany & Co. The barrel retains 98% original nickel finish and the cylinder retains 90% original nickel finish mixed with some flaking, a drag line and a couple areas of gray with some very light pitting. Traces of original case colors remain on the hammer and trigger. 90% original blue remains on the trigger guard. The grip has a highly attractive untouched aged silver appearance and a crisp etching and carving. The grip insert and pommel are taking on an attractive aged mellow appearance. Mechanically excellent. A highly interesting, exceptionally rare Tiffany embellished revolver inscribed to an important West Point graduate and ranking military officer. Definitely a one-of-a-kind work of 19th century firearms art. Provenance: Charles Duffy collection (1967-2011) and Dr. Gerald Klaz collection (2011).

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