Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3031: Special Order Factory Engraved Marlin Deluxe Model 1881 Rifle

Auction Date: December 5, 2021

Special Order Factory Engraved Marlin Deluxe Model 1881 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $8,500 - $13,000

Special Order Factory Engraved Marlin Deluxe Model 1881 Lever Action Rifle with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Marlin Firearms Co
Model: 1881
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 38-55
Barrel: 28 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 636
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 37
Class: Antique

Manufactured in 1888. The Model 1881 was the first lever action rifle design by Marlin, and it proved to be very popular with many customers out West. This example has a small frame receiver decorated with a Marlin factory engraving. Both sides of the receiver feature scrollwork, simple borders and game scene panels. Each game scene depicts a deer in a meadow. In the panel on the left side a dog is chasing a buck. On top of the receiver a light border surrounds the bolt and a flourish of scrollwork that compliments the sides of the receiver appears on the chamber. Renowned Master Engraver Conrad Ulrich was performing most of the engraving for Marlin at the time this rifle was manufactured. Ulrich designed the engraving patterns that would be the standard for Marlin high end finishes. The rifle is fitted with a German silver blade front sight, an elevation adjustable rear sight, a mid-range tang peep sight, half magazine and full octagon barrel. The top barrel flat is stamped with the two-line address/patent date legend ahead of the rear sight and "38-55" at the breech. The checkered forearm and pistol grip stock are select walnut. The buttstock is fitted with a crescent buttplate. The accompanying factory letter confirms the 28 inch barrel in .38-55 caliber, pistol grip stock and half magazine. The factory letter also states the rifle was shipped on April 24, 1888. Although the high end finishes are not confirmed by the factory letter, the engraving and deluxe checkered pistol grip stock are definitely factory. As noted Marlin expert William Brophy explained, "Unfortunately, the few remaining factory records do not, with any regularity, indicate if the gun was factory engraved or not." Provenance: The Milan J. Turk Collection

Rating Definition:

Fine. The barrel retains 75% original blue finish with thinning to brown on the balance. The magazine has an artificial brown-gray patina. The lever has aged to a smooth dark patina. The remaining metal surfaces have bright appearance. The engraving is crisp. The wood is very good with some chipping at the tang, couple divots, minor dings and scratches, some worn forearm checkering and re-cut wrist checkering. Mechanically excellent. It is not often that we catalog factory engraved examples of Marlin's first lever action rifle.

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