Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 199: Wilbur Glahn Engraved and Gold Inlaid Colt Single Action Army

Auction Date: May 13, 2022

Phenomenal, Fresh, and Extremely Rare Wilbur Glahn Factory Documented Master Engraved and Gold Inlaid First Generation Colt Single Action Army Revolver with Raised Relief Carved Steer Head Grip, Factory Box, and Colt Historian Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $170,000 - $250,000

Phenomenal, Fresh, and Extremely Rare Wilbur Glahn Factory Documented Master Engraved and Gold Inlaid First Generation Colt Single Action Army Revolver with Raised Relief Carved Steer Head Grip, Factory Box, and Colt Historian Letter

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Single Action Army
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 44-40 WCF
Barrel: 5 1/2 inch round
Finish: blue/casehardened/gold
Grip: antique ivory
Item Views: 4554
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 146
Class: Curio & Relic Handgun

With the factory engraving from Master Engraver Wilbur Glahn, four gold inlays, a steer carved right grip, initials carved on the left grip, and a box, this incredible Colt Single Action Army is certainly among the rarest and most desirable of Colt revolvers and is truly one-of-a-kind. It is the only gold inlaid First Generation Single Action Army known that has its original box, and the box calls out some of the rare and valuable features, including "Gold." According to Ullom's Colt records research discussed in the Winter 2007 issue of "The Rampant Colt," there were only fifteen gold inlaid pre-war Single Actions and only two in .44-40 caliber. In "Colt Engraving Book Volume One" on page 435, R.L. Wilson notes, "Only a handful of specimens of gold inlaid and engraved pre-World War II Single Action Army revolvers are known to the author at this writing. Factory gold inlay represents the ultimate in rarity and desirability on Colt firearms." This "ultimate rarity" was manufactured in 1929 and letters in .44-40 with a 5 1/2 inch barrel, grips of "Ivory with carved steer head motif on one side and the initials 'E.A.T.' in relief on the other side," and as factory engraved and gold inlaid. It was shipped to "Sr. Don Alfredo Gottling" of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 16, 1929, in factory order "#16059/1" and was the only gun of this type in the shipment. As the letter indicates, this revolver was shipped to dealer Alfredo Gottling of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Gottling's shop, “La Portena," catered to the elite in Argentina and thus was a key buyer of some of the most extravagant Colt revolvers and other fine arms and in fact received a large portion of the known factory engraved and gold inlaid Colt revolvers. This one was clearly ordered for a specific individual given the carved "EAT" initials on the left grip as specified in the factory letter. Unfortunately no information on the identity of "EAT" is given nor found as of this writing, but we know that Gottling's clientele included the most powerful men in the country, including President Marcelo Torcuato de Alvea. Argentina was among the most prosperous countries in the world between World War I and the Great Depression. While well-known for its silver, Argentina is also the third largest producer of gold in South America, so gold inlaid firearms would have been particularly suitable for wealthy Argentines. Like the gold, the steer head on the right grip is a fitting motif for an Argentina destined Colt as beef was a very important Argentine commodity and export at the time and remains a very significant part of the country's cuisine and economy. The country suffered in the Great Depression which began in Argentina the same year this revolver was made, and the effects helped plunge the country into a decade of political upheaval and corruption known as the "Infamous Decade" the following year. The revolver has Wilbur Glahn's distinctive style of engraving with panels of scrollwork with punched backgrounds on the sides of the barrel as well as the cylinder, frame, trigger guard, and back strap; a star motif on the edge of ejector button, a wavy line motif on the top of the ejector housing and flourish of scrollwork on the right side, coordinating wavy line along the rear of the cylinder, "V" shaped details on the top of the back strap and butt, and a trefoil element on the front of the frame. The four gold inlays are floral accents on the recoil shield, loading gate, and lower left and right of the frame. These are unusual and rare features, in terms of the existence of gold inlays at all and based on what and where the gold inlays are. In "The Book of Colt Firearms," R.L. Wilson noted, "The rarest decoration in the Single Action Series is gold inlay, usually restricted only to barrel bands or inscriptions." The barrel has a standard blade front sight, a one-line address, and "COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER .44-40" on the left side, and the frame has the two-line patent marking and Rampant Colt trademark on the left. The trigger guard has a "1" over the triangular "VP" proof on the left. The loading gate has assembly number "891," and the matching serial number is on the frame and right side of the grip straps. The grips have silver Rampant Colt medallions, "EAT" in raised relief on the left grip with most of the "A" on a removable cap that covers the hidden grip screw, and a classic steer head in raised relief on the right grip. The scarce and valuable factory "maroon" box has an "ENGRAVED" label on the lid end flap and a smaller "Ivory Gold" label on the bottom on the standard dark blue label, and the latter has the correct "5 1/2" barrel length, "Colt's Army S.A. Revolver." and ".44" caliber designation. The last digit of the serial number marked on the underside of the box remains legible and matches. Inside the lid and the bottom of the compartment have factory trade labels noting Colt's revolvers, automatic pistols, and machine guns as well as the factory trademarks. A brass cleaning rod is also in the box.

Rating Definition:

Excellent with crisp engraving and markings, bright original gold inlays, 90% plus original blue finish, minor fading mostly at the muzzle and on the cylinder, 95% plus original vivid case colors, some very faint spotting, and minor overall handling and storage marks. The grips are also excellent and have crisp carving, attractive natural grain and tones, some slight surface flaking on the left by the letters, and minor age and handling wear. Mechanically excellent. The box is fine and has distinct labels on the exterior and interior, moderate wear at the edges with some slight separation, and general mild storage wear. This is an incredibly rare pre-World War II Colt Single Action Army revolver shipped just as the Great Depression was taking hold of the global economy and as Argentina was on the eve of the "Infamous Decade." Its overall combination of rare features make it one-of-a-kind and a truly investment class First Generation Colt Single Action Army revolver with a lot to love. As Wilson wrote in "Colt: An American Legend," "Investor-minded Colt-watchers regard the fancy Single Action as the fastest-rising of blue chips in the Colt portfolio" and "Prewar gold-inlaid are the top of the line in fancy Single Actions; their value picture has improved many-fold since 1901."

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