Bids in Surprising Places

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When one plays the markets, they expect certain behaviors from certain stocks. “Blue chip” stocks are generally massive companies that experience slow, steady growth, while “Small Cap” stocks are generally up-and-comers that, if they experience growth, can enjoy rapid and monumental upswing. During the 2015 June Regional Firearms Auction at Rock Island Auction Company, there were plenty of both! It made for an auction filled with old favorites and exciting bidding on items nobody could have anticipated, resulting in a final sales figure of $4.5 million for the world’s largest firearms auction house.

The first day of auction started with those “slow and steady” favorites of gun collectors everywhere. A gorgeous, deluxe, factory engraved Marlin Model 1893 lever action began the auction, followed quickly by a host of classic Winchester lever guns, all of which received respectable prices. Lot 29, a Civil War era U.S. Martially inspected Henry rifle brought $20,700 and the very next lot contained a deluxe, engraved Winchester 1866 saddle ring carbine that found a notable $10,925. However, it would be the lots later on that would bring the most surprise from the crowds present. Lot 680 contained two customized versions of legendary military rifles, the M1903 and the Mauser Model 98. Estimated at a humble $1,100, the two rifles had more than a few collectors checking their catalogs as the bidding approached its final price of $5,462. A lot containing four Krag-Jörgensen bolt action rifles contained one “Stomperud” model, as featured by Forgotten Weapons, which exceeded its estimate on the way to realizing $4,025.

Despite the ubiquitous nature of the AK-47 and its variants, they were definitely some of the “Small Cap” guns of the weekend. Examples abounded like lot 620, a lot of five semi-automatic rifles in AK and SKS styles, that saw a surprising $3,450 in price. Bladed weapons from Europe also proved to be one of the weekend’s surprises. Lot 396 was one such lot that not only more than tripled its $800 estimate, but also generated its own bidding war between three live, online bidders before selling for $2,587. Smith & Wesson double action revolvers continued to show the strong market demand of beefy wheel guns like those in lot 1029, which were estimated at $900, but reached an impressive $3,450.

Day 2 was another day of strong blue chip performances and surprising upstarts. Representing the “big boys” would be lots like 2287, an Antique Colt SAA with a nickel finish and beautiful antique ivory grips that smashed its $1,400 estimate to bring $4,887, and lot 2259, one of the rare Smith & Wesson Model 320 revolving rifles with the super rare 16” barrel, that no trouble bypassing its $7,000 estimate en route to a $16,100 final figure. German rifles enjoyed a strong performance throughout the auction, evident in lots like 2595, containing three Nazi German Model 98 bolt actions that blitzed their estimate by hammering at $4,312. Surprises were again present in the European edged weapons! The crowd let loose of more than a few chuckles when a large grouping of knives and bayonets in lot 2835, started low, quickly passed its estimate of $900, and proceeded to increase steadily in an online bidding battle that drove the realized price to $3,450.

The final day of auction continued the trend, but with high bids coming for a myriad of genres and popular weapons. Perhaps most surprising was a Pietta reproduction of a Colt 1851 Navy attributed to being used in “The Outlaw Josie Wales” with related framed documents in lot 4878. Estimated between $2,500 – $5,000, the revolver skyrocketed in a bidding battle between two internet bidders and a phone bidder and couldn’t be had for less than $17,250! Other surprises included the 1943 Mosin Nagant PU (sniper rifle) in lot 4343 that sold for $2,300, and the continued high values of edged weapons. Never more clearly seen than in lot 4332, this grouping of 17 European style daggers was the true sleeper of the auction – its $1,000 estimate easily eclipsed by online bidders who drove the price to $6,325! Not only did live online bidders help shape the last day of the sale in terms of price, but also in participation. Previous days saw AK and SKS-style rifles go for excellent prices, like those in lot 4625. The five rifles in that lot not only surpassed their $1,300 estimate, ringing the bell for $4,312, but also had activity from 26 bidders before the auction even began.

The consistent performance of old favorites kept collectors and investors alike in a great mood, while the unexpected surprises made for an exciting three-day event. Just when you think you have gun collecting and values nailed down, sales like this arise and help remind us all that trends pop up all the time and you never know what genre is going to erupt next!