Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3012: Nimschke Engraved Bust of Columbia Winchester Model 1866 Rifle

Auction Date: May 16, 2021

Iconic, Well-Documented L.D. Nimschke Exhibition "Bank Note" Engraved Bust of Columbia Winchester Model 1866 Lever Action Rifle Masterpiece

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $75,000 - $150,000

Iconic, Well-Documented L.D. Nimschke Exhibition "Bank Note" Engraved Bust of Columbia Winchester Model 1866 Lever Action Rifle Masterpiece

Manufacturer: Winchester
Model: 1866
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 RF
Barrel: 24 inch octagon
Finish: blue/gold
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1650
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 14
Class: Antique

This Model 1866 rifle, arguably the most recognizable and well published of L.D. Nimschkes Winchesters, has been documented in R.L. Wilsons Winchester Engraving on page 56 and the Texas Antique Arms Annual on page 56. Wilson proclaimed that this rifle along with Model 1866 carbine no. 66601 are two of the finest examples of L.D. Nimschke engraving. This Winchester displays masterful scrollwork and highly detailed figural vignettes. For this Model 1866, the exhibition quality engraving on the gold plated receiver consists of mostly profuse floral scrollwork on a punch dot background. Amongst the scrolls on the right side plate is a blank inscription panel. The left side plate features the most spectacular bust of Columbia, the female personification of the United States, which Nimschke copied from the Civil War era 15 cent fractional currency note. A similar pattern of engraving showing the exact engraved bust appears as a "smoke" or "ink" pull found in Wilson's "L.D. Nimschke Firearms Engraver" on page 58. This pull is dated December 1869 in Nimschkes own hand. The serial number on this rifle dates to 1869. Another smoke pull of Columbia appears on page 60. The bust of Columbia alone stands as a testament to Nimschkes undisputed title of Americas foremost 19th century master engraver and why so many past and present engravers have chosen to emulate his style. Additional scrollwork appears on the forend cap, cartridge elevator and buttplate tang. Like the receiver, the forend cap and buttplate are plated in gold. The barrel is fitted with dovetail blade and notch sights and is stamped with the two-line Winchester address/Kings improvement patent dates marking ahead of the rear sight. Sling swivels are mounted on the underside of the forend cap and buttstock. The forearm and stock are nicely figured walnut. The trapdoor buttplate contains a four piece cleaning rod. Provenance: Solis Goodman,1950; Elmer Taylor Collection 1965; Doug Beneck Collection; Leroy Merz Collection; Private Collector

Rating Definition:

Very fine. The barrel and magazine retain 75% original blue finish, mixing and thinning to with an untouched blue-brown patina. 30% of the bright original gold plating remain in the protected areas, otherwise the brass has a highly attractive honey appearance. The masterful engraving is crisp. Traces of original niter blue remains on the loading gate. Generous amounts of original case colors remain on the hammer. The wood is also very fine with minor dings and scratches and retaining most of the original varnish. Mechanically excellent. As one of the best known Nimschke Winchesters, this Model 1866 is a must have for the serious Winchester or firearms art collector. It will certainly make a grand statement to any private or public collection no matter how advanced. An outstanding piece of 19th century American patriotic art by the master himself, L.D. Nimschke.

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