Premier Firearms Auction #81

Rock Island, IL

Friday December 4th
Sunday December 6th, 2020
9:00 am
Preview Day: Thursday, Dec 3rd 10:00 am - 6:00 pm


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The December Premier Firearms Auction promises to be a spectacular exhibition of the historic, the rare, and the beautiful. Populating our preview hall are items that span the course of human history, firearms so rare only few are known to still exist, and elaborate designs from some of the world’s most distinguished manufacturers. Thousands of other unique and stunning pieces can be found during this momentous year-end celebration, each with their own stories begging to be told. There are sidearms that accompanied pioneers as they traversed the frontiers of North America, revolvers taken from the dead bodies of notorious western outlaws, and weapons presented to the rulers of nations. This event is guaranteed to be one like no other and with a guest list that reads like a who’s who of firearms and notable figures throughout history, it promises to hold treasures the likes of which are unmatched at any other auction house. Read, take note, and enjoy some of the “all-stars” from Rock Island Auction Company’s December Premier Firearms Auction taking place from the 4th to the 6th with the preview hall open for visitation on the 3rd.


Winchester Model 1873 “One of One Thousand” rifle owned by Montana Pioneer and Frontier Vigilante Leader, Granville Stuart

It may seem hard to believe that a single auction event could hold so many different pieces of history, but Rock Island Auction Company excels at surpassing expectations. One of the leading items in the December Premier Auction is the Winchester Model 1873 “One of One Thousand” rifle owned by Montana Pioneer and Frontier Vigilante Leader, Granville Stuart. A frontier politician and international diplomat, Stuart was a known associate of Theodore Roosevelt and personally lead a group of Vigilantes (known as Stuart’s Stranglers) to help secure the Montana region. Stuart was also the owner of an incredibly rare, one of only two known surviving, “One of One Thousand” Model 1873 Winchester rifles possessing a “Style Three” barrel inscription. While being an amazing piece of history, this particular weapon also boasts extraordinary rarity.

Only a few years ago, Rock Island Auction Company had the honor to auction a knife belonging to the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Amazingly, yet another artifact owned by the famed politician and naturist has made its way to Illinois in the anticipation of finding a new collection to call home. Exhibited in the December Premier Auction is a newly discovered Cuno Helfricht deluxe Colt Single Action Army revolver that was gifted to President Theodore Roosevelt during his time in office. Featuring carved ivory steerhead grips along with rich, beautiful, and detailed engravings throughout, holding this gun places you directly in the shoes of Teddy himself, enticing the mind to wonder what adventures this gun has lead, what action has it played a role in, and where will it travel next?

Arguably one of the most astonishing items to surface during this auction is Annie Oakley’s Smith & Wesson .22/32 hand ejector double action revolver. Born Phoebe Ann Moses, Annie Oakley (1860-1926) created the image of the cowgirl and proved without a doubt that, when given the opportunity, women are as capable as men. The master markswoman could hit the thin edge of a playing card and shoot distant targets while looking into a mirror. She entertained European royalty such as Queen Victoria and supposedly even shot a cigarette out of Kaiser Wilhelm II's hand. Thanks to Hollywood and Western pulps, the legend of Annie Oakley endures to this day. The factory records for this piece indicate that the revolver was ordered by Frank Butler for his wife and famed exhibition shooter, Annie Oakley. Photographs documenting Oakley using a handgun of this exact make and model confirm its authenticity. If only this gun could talk!


While some of the previous owners mentioned above have enough historical significance to make one’s jaw hit the floor, Rock Island Auction Company’s Premier December Firearms Auction also brags an impressive number of uniquely designed and near one-of-a-kind items that have somehow survived to this day. Among these treasures is a U.S. Colt Cavalry Model SAA Revolver inspected by ordnance officer Orville W. Ainsworth and presented to Japanese Emperor Meiji in 1874. With only ten of these revolvers being shipped to Japan, these "Mikado" Colts may truly be some of the scarcest revolvers in Colt collecting. Only three complete revolvers are known to exist today and one of them is patiently awaiting Rock Island Auction Company’s December Premier Auction for a new collection to call home.

The Model Dragoon is one of the most recognizable Colt revolver designs, not only because of the features present on the gun, but also because of how uncommon it is to encounter one of these models face-to-face. Awarded a coveted NRA Silver Medal, these incredible cased Colt Second Model Dragoon revolvers have remained together and in great condition over the last 170 years. Used primarily by the First and Second Dragoon Regiments and the U.S. Regiment of Mounted Riflemen from 1849 until the Civil War, only an estimated 2,700 Second Model Dragoons revolvers were manufactured from 1850 to 1851 and are by far the rarest of the Colt Dragoon revolvers. U.S. Colt Dragoon revolvers saw hard use during the Mexican–American War and Civil War; thus, higher condition examples are highly sought after and rarely found, let alone as a cased high-condition pair.

While there are certainly a myriad of rare items scattered throughout this auction, it would be a crime not to acknowledge the Colt No. 5 Texas Paterson Revolver that found its way into this mammoth of an auction. One of the most desirable of the Colt Patterson Revolvers, No. 5 Texas Models were produced in extreme scarcity making them incredibly valuable. The large frame and long barrel made the No. 5 revolver the most popular of the Colt Paterson revolvers. No. 5 revolvers were the only Paterson model purchased by the United States Ordnance Department who bought about 150 No. 5 revolvers in 1840 for the U.S. Navy. The Republic of Texas was also able to acquire nearly 180 No. 5 revolvers that were notably and frequently used by the Texas Rangers. The success and popularity of the No. 5 would not only lead to the future developments of the Walker and Dragoon revolvers, but would also further cement the Colt brand as a firearms producing powerhouse. This particular firearm is silver banded, factory engraved, and comes complete with antique ivory gripping and a John Gangle certificate.


While the functionality, mechanics, and history behind a firearm can unquestionably increase its value, sometimes what truly makes an item special is the aesthetics. The way an item looks, its various embellishments and engravings, and the meanings behind the style can transform a simple single action revolver into a work of art. This is exactly the case when looking at the deluxe Tiffany & Co. embellished Smith & Wesson .32 single action revolver, exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Despite its current reputation pertaining mostly to jewelry, Tiffany & Co. created some the most spectacular, expensive, and highly embellished deluxe handguns for a number of America’s leading firearms manufacturers throughout the late 1880s and early 1900s, including Smith & Wesson. These highly stylized arms fully embodied the classic Art Nouveau style that was extremely popular during the time. Elaborate floral designs wrap their vines and leaves around every aspect of the revolver allowing for a stark contrast to be made against the pristine figure placed on the inside of the grips. One can get lost for hours following the intricate whiplash lines and patterns that made the Art Nouveau movement so influential.

Rock Island Auction Company is no stranger to coming in contact with items worthy of museums. In fact, many of the items mentioned here could be wor

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