Page 29 - Auction84-Book1
P. 29

 Under the
Spanish Empire,
Mexico, Bolivia, and
Peru accounted for more than
85% of the entire world’s silver supply, and they
continued to be major sources of silver after independence
despite excessive political and civil turmoil. Today, Peru remains the world
leader in silver production and accounts for nearly 20% of the entire world’s production. Following the American Civil War, American firearms manufacturers looked to the various now independent countries of Central and South America for markets to sell their wares, and the often corrupt military and political leaders of these countries also ordered or received many high end Winchesters. The Winchester Model 1866 was very popular in the region.
Mariano Melgarejo (1820-1871) was the president of Bolivia from 1864 to 1871 after serving in the Bolivian military and participating in multiple coups and rebellions against prior Bolivian leaders. After a rebellion in late 1870 and early 1871 involving the country’s indigenous population, he fell from power in a coup in January 1871 and fled to Peru. In the included text, Wilson notes that Melgarejo also owned a fine pair of Colt Model 1860 Army revolvers engraved by Nimschke and fitted with Tiffany grips that were presented by Jose Balta and have “BALTA- MELGAREJO” on the case lid (see L.D. Nimschke: Firearms Engraver, pages 2 and 3).
Jose Balta (1814-1872), like Melgarejo, was a soldier who became president after participating
in coups against the country’s prior leaders and was a corrupt leader. He was prime minister
of Peru in 1868-1871 and was elected president in 1868 and planned to step down after the elections of 1871 to allow Peru’s first civilian president to take power. However, in July 1872, Defense Minister Colonel Tomas Gutierrez and his brothers organized a coup and arrested Balta and proclaimed Gutierrez “General of the Army and Supreme Head of the Republic” on July 22nd. Exactly who then ordered the execution of Balta is not clear, but it is believed to have either
been Tomas Gutierrez or his brother Marceliano. Balta was shot in his bed. RIA auctioned Balta’s French presentation combination pinfire revolver/dagger in 2012.In our opinion and that of other experts, with its major components fashioned from solid silver and exhibiting a one of a kind forged lever, this is unquestionably the rarest Winchester in the world.
CONDITION: Exceptionally fine. All solid silver components exhibit a pleasant even aged patina, the engraving and signatures are magnificent. The loading gate shows strong niter blue as do the smaller component parts and the vast majority of the original case colors remain on the hammer, lever, and trigger. There are some occasional light handling and storage type marks mainly at the edges. The barrel was expertly refurbished for preservation purposes some time ago and shows 98% blue finish on the barrel and magazine tube and attractive aged patina on the original
silver bands. Miraculously, there seems to be no appearance or any evidence of detail loss to any of its engraved scrolls or punch-dot background during this process. It was reported to us by
a previous owner that the rifle was discovered in South America in the 1980’s by a member of
the staff of French President Francois Mitterrand during an official state visit, and that said staff
this rifle
by gift or
It’s therefore
that this
restoration was
then done in
France. We were
unable to verify
this story as of this
writing. The stock
also shows evidence
of some restoration,
likely at the same time
as the barrel and shows ark
patches on the right side of the
forearm at the edge and the toe of the
butt-stock. The stock also shows a faint hairline crack coming
back from the upper tang on the right, and some scattered light dings and
scratches from handling and storage. Mechanically excellent. All in all, this is
certainly the most extraordinary Winchester rifle ever discovered and arguably the
rarest of all Winchester Rifles. The solid silver frame on this rifle alone is an incredible
rarity. Once you add in the custom lever, silver butt-plate and forend cap, the historic presentation by one South American President to another, and the extraordinary quality of the engraving by L.D. Nimschke, you truly have a high class investment grade firearm and piece of art. When you then consider the extensive signatures and the fact that Nimschke documented his work on this rifle heavily within his famous pull book, you have a one of a kind icon. Estimate: 400,000 - 650,000

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