Rock Island Auction Company

September 11, 2019

$1.03M Colt Revolver Leads $18M Summer Gun Auction

By Joel R Kolander

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What an incredibly special weekend in September. The weather was near-flawless, the food was delicious, but what will stick with us the longest will be the excitement in collectors’ eyes when they talked about the items in the 2019 September Premier Auction.  People’s passions were on fire and it showed this past weekend: we saw near-record website traffic, over 3 million video views, bids from all 50 states and 20 countries outside the U.S., and RIAC Live doubled the capacity of the auction hall all weekend long! it also marks the fourth occasion in our last five auctions we have sold a collector firearm for over $1 million dollars. To wit, the sale realized $18 million in a spectacular summer sale full of surprises.

Day 1

To say that the auction began with a bang would be an understatement. It started with an earthquake. Lot 17 carried the Winchester 1876 Centennial revolver present at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, the U.S. Navy Trials, and which also spawned the gentlemen’s agreement between Colt and Winchester. This giant of firearms history brought $431,250 before people’s morning coffee had cooled. In lot 62 was the flagship of the sale: the last martial Colt Walker, E Company 120. In addition to its immense Colt significance, it provided an extremely high condition example, especially for a military issued model. This museum-worthy piece achieved $1,035,000 followed by the applause of all in attendance. Other highlights of day one include the 1880 manufactured, finest known Colt Cavalry Model single action in lot 124 which saw $402,000, Georg Luger’s personal “Baby” Luger prototype pistol in lot 456 that realized $172,000, and a martial issued Henry rifle documented to the 3rd U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry in lot 13 that found $92,000.

Day 2

Saturday was not immune to similar applause-inducing results, nor a lack of expediency to achieve them. The 15th lot of the day, lot 1015, contained the high-art, historic Winchester 1895 masterpiece by John Ulrich: a deluxe, takedown rifle inscribed to famed Western author and “Father of Modern Big Game Fishing” Zane Grey. This artisan, investment-grade firearm attracted more than its fair share of attention in the Preview Hall, and the result was a final price of $345,000. Less than 100 lots later, the supremely rare U.S. Army Colt 1877 “Bulldog” Gatling gun in lot 1105 crossed the podium to the tune of $316,250. Within the next hundred lots were two of the day’s top sellers: lot 1193 with the finest known, martially inspected Colt 1860 Army, and lot 1200 with its massive and rare Confederate John Clarke & Co. 12-pound field howitzer.  The Colt commanded an extremely respectable $184,000, but the cannon would make its presence strongly felt with a booming $287,500 realized price.

Day 3

Are you sensing a theme yet? Then it should come as no surprise when we tell you that the 10th lot early on the final day of auction, brought to market a John Ulrich signed, factory engraved, and gold inlaid Winchester 1873, the artistry of which was so fine and masterfully executed that it took home the Grand Prix at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris – 130 years ago to the month. The medal and award still by its side in lot 3010, it achieved $138,000. Shortly thereafter in lot 3187, was the SECOND Colt Walker offered in the sale, this one a C Company, No. 81. Colt collectors know this is of particular significance as C Company was Walker’s own company in the U.S. Mounted Rifle Regiment. There was once a time when RIAC would go years without seeing a Colt Walker, so to offer two in a single sale is a clear indicator of our growth and reach. This particular example exceeded its $125K high estimate en route to a $149,500 payday. Last but certainly not least on Sunday was the massive, gold inlaid and engraved Rodda 4-bore double rifle owned and used by John Ross, author of Unintended Consequences. This fine big bore rifle in lot 3428 was used by Ross to hunt numerous African species. The power, provenance, artistry, and the quality of such a gun all contributed to a $126,500 realized price.

September is always a fun auction: our Annual Barbecue is held on Preview Day, the weather is usually perfect, and lots of folks feel like traveling as summer begins to fade into fall. This September’s auction was not only special for its success, but its exuberance. Collectors were excited to be here, see the guns, talk about them, and share that love with others. Passion so clearly visible makes doing what we do worth every minute detail and extra hour.

The turnaround until our December Premier Firearms Auction is short, so stay tuned to our social media channels and subscribe to our weekly email for updates on what promises to be an absolute powerhouse of a year-end finale.

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