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Big Firearms Collectors & Big History Spur May Results – $16.1 Million

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By Joel Kolander

If you watched any one of the videos we made for our May 2017 Premiere Auction, we mentioned that “2017 is beginning right where 2016 left off.” The first firearms collectors auction of the year, our February Regional, was the largest in RIAC history, selling over 10,000 guns in just four short days and setting numerous industry records along the way. The May Premiere Auction certainly had the quality of guns to be a barn-burner of a sale – all we needed were the collectors.

You showed up in spades.

Winchester 1910 self-loading rifle John Ulrich


In fact, you showed up in such numbers, we had to make accommodations! In preparation for the unprecedented crowds we added new phone banks for record numbers of live telephone bidders, hired more help, and were processing more bids than ever before. It all added up to a realized total of $16.1 million – one of the largest auctions in our history and the largest firearms auction to date in 2017. The daily action took place as follows:


Day 1

The auction started with a bang as sought after Winchesters were scooped up by collectors as quickly as they could be offered. Lot 27 held one such Winchester, a special order, deluxe Model 1873 that, like many others that morning, continued to show why the Antique Winchester market is stronger than ever by achieving $46,000, besting its $35,000 low estimate. Later that day the finest known Elgin Cutlass pistol found a fitting price and a new home for $48,875. However, all the real excitement was yet to come. Even 40 years after his untimely passing, the King of Rock & Roll can still fill a room. The Auction Hall began to crowd about 50 lots prior to the offering of the Elvis Presley items in the sale. Soon, it was packed and standing room was being taken where it could be found. Everyone was waiting for the King to arrive and each lot seemed to drag its feet. People were anxious and stirred in their seats, ready to see what the legendary performer’s items would bring. One can’t help but wonder if this is how concert-goers felt before Elvis’ performances.

After what seemed like hours, they finally had their turn at the block. The air was electric with anticipation and then the fun began. The Smith & Wesson 19-2 revolver, shown being held by Elvis in a period photograph, was the first to go and was won after a lengthy bidding battle by a live phone bidder for $195,500. Next up was the equally lavish, Presley-owned Colt Python. It too saw a healthy payday and brought $172,500. Both revolvers now hold the new world record prices for their respective models. Afterwards, Elvis’ gem-studded sheriffs badge rode off into the sunset for $40,250, and the original sales contract for Graceland signed off for $43,125.



Day 2

Elvis may have carried the first day of the auction, but Saturday belonged to the usual suspects: Winchester, Colt, and military firearms. Rock Island Auction Company has been fielding calls on the vaunted “On the Rocky Mountain” antique Winchester 1866 rifle since we announced our procurement of the Robert M. Lee Collection. Therefore, it was no surprise when the flagship of the auction also took home the top price of the weekend with a final price of $598,000. A mere 7 lots later was “The Midas Bull 1 of 1,000” Winchester 1873 rifle, available for the first time in over 25 years. Collectors also showed their appreciation for the fine, original condition masterpiece and rewarded it with a $414,000 realized price. Within those first 14 lots, the sales total for the day had already topped $1.2 million! The top Colt of the day was not far behind; only one bid increment less than the top gilded Winchester was a silver banded, cased Colt No. 5 Texas Paterson that could not be had for less than $575,000. Also, RIAC continued its pleasing trend of obtaining excellent prices for Class III guns and related items. A scarce Krieghoff FG42 sold for $241,500 and three registered automatic trigger assemblies brought an astounding $54,625!


Antique Winchester rifles



It was another showcase day for Colt, Winchesters, and sporting arms, but the second offering of Class III guns and related items again made their presence and popularity known by firearms collectors. Other strong performers were Smith & Wesson revolvers and early Colt semi-automatics. Some of the top sellers of the day were an extraordinary U.S. contract Colt 1851 Navy that saw $86,250, an extremely rare Colt double rifle, commissioned by Caldwell Colt, that brought $74,750, a set of consecutively numbered Marcel Thys side-by-side shotguns with stunning relief scroll engraving that went for $51,750, and a stunning John Wilkes double barrel shotgun, covered in casehardening and gold inlays, brought $37,375. These last two firearms are clear examples of the growing number of sporting arms coming to Rock Island Auction Company and the handsome prices they are attaining at auction.


Firearms Collectors John Wilkes double barrel shotgun gold

With the combination of world class guns and loyal collectors with such passion, how could this auction have been anything but a smashing success? 2016 left some big shoes to fill, $63 million dollar shoes to be exact, but against all odds 2017 seems up to the challenge. Led by iconic, collection defining pieces, cherished historical figures, and monumental firearms collections, RIAC is poised to impress an ever-growing number of firearms collectors who know where to go when they want the world’s finest collectible firearms.