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December 13, 2022

December Premier Achieves $18.3 Million in Sales

By Kurt Allemeier

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Last year, Rock Island Auction Company became the first firearms auction house to join the century club by cracking $100 million in annual sales, and RIAC’s December 9 – 11 Premier Firearms Auction helped propel the world's number one firearms auction house to that lofty benchmark for the second year in a row.

With the immense quality from the first to the last lot, December's three-day event achieved a total of $18.3 million, an exclamation point on a tremendous year for Rock Island Auction Company and the world of fine arms collecting as a whole.

December's Premier Auction offered a fantastic array of hugely historical, immaculately conditioned, finely engraved, and exceedingly rare weapons and militaria, including a documented Col. Theodore Roosevelt Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3.

Terrific attendance for preview day foretold of a great weekend for bidders. Collectors, shooters, historians, and investors from near and far arrived Thursday before the auction for a firsthand look at the breathtaking selection of legacy arms and museum-worthy masterworks displayed in RIAC’s expansive Preview Hall.

As lavish as Rock Island Auction Company's full-color catalogs are, they only offer a taste of attending a Premier Auction Preview Day, a celebration of arms collecting at its most prestigious and exclusive level. Many new faces joined a lively crowd of seasoned collectors thrilled at the chance to get close and personal with the highest level of history and artistry that the fine arms industry has to offer.

Auction Day One

Rock Island Auction Company’s final Premier Auction of 2022 opened on Friday to an auction hall packed to the brim. With troves of one-of-a-kind firearms up for bid on day one alone, fans of wheel guns, military arms, long guns, and amazing art all had numerous opportunities to expand their collections.

Anticipation was high for the 26th president’s Smith & Wesson. The Smith & Wesson New Model Number Three, shipped the same day as then-Lt. Col. Roosevelt departed to San Antonio, Texas to train with the Rough Riders at the start of the Spanish-American War.  The Smith & Wesson is in stunning condition with factory engraving and chambered in .38 caliber, the U.S. Army service caliber at the time, achieved the bully figure of $910,625.

Rock Island Auction always draws fine-conditioned and rare-calibered Colt Single Action Army revolvers and they performed well on the auction’s opening day. A Single Action Army chambered in .45 ACP reached $88,125, while a Henry Nettleton inspected SAA with a holster rig and John Kopec gold seal letter brought $55,813.

A Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless engraved and gold inlaid by master William Gough earned $49,938 on the auction’s first day. The gun, manufactured in 1921, showcases Gough’s floral scroll pattern and fine-lined background.

Day One was a good one for rifles and carbines as well, led by an iron framed Henry that hammered for $129,250 and a Civil War U.S. Sharps New Model 1863 percussion carbine that achieved $94,000. A Henry Gross patent prototype breech loading percussion carbine drew $18,800, nearly doubling its high estimate, and an experimental prototype Joslyn-Tomes breech loading trial carbine reached $15,275.

This phenomenal Sharps New Model 1863 percussion carbine reached $94,000 in December of 2022.

Military arms marched to good numbers on Friday afternoon, as an extremely rare Japanese Hino-Komuro Model 1904 blow-forward semi-automatic pistol drew $70,500, easily outpacing its high estimate of $45,000, while an S Code Krieghoff Luger pistol rig with two matching magazines achieved $19,975, doubling its high estimate. That wasn’t the only Luger to fare well as a World War I 1915 Dated DWM Model 1914 Artillery Luger pistol rig topped its high estimate at $17,625. A BSA Model L42A1 bolt action sniper rifle with transport case tallied $10,575 and a U.S. Property Marked Canadian Inglis Mk I Boys anti-tank rifle with extra magazines and accessories doubled its high estimate to achieve $14,100.

Sporting arms from every era saw fanfare throughout the day, with a factory engraved J. Ulrich signed Winchester Deluxe Model 1890 slide action rifle garnering $82,250, an extraordinary Burgess Deluxe slide action shotgun collecting $52,875, and an exceptional Griffin & Howe Model 1903 bolt action .30-06 sporting rifle obtained $22,325.

Vintage artwork, including classic paintings, advertisements, illustrations, and signage from some of the period’s top outdoor artists performed tremendously throughout the day, a theme that continued over the entire weekend.

Auction Day Two

Civil War treasures and two genres of Colt "Lightning" guns led the charge on Saturday. The energy in the auction hall was contagious, and the bidding between the phones, the floor, and Rock Island Live continued strong throughout day two of this December spectacular.

A pantheon of Civil War pieces took the spotlight on Saturday, highlighted by an Ames sword presented to future Confederate General P.J. Semmes realized an outstanding $176,250. Semmes was mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg and with his dying breath asked for his sword and bible.

Daniel Sickles, a Union major general who lost a leg at Gettysburg, was another star on day two, with his gilt presentation Tiffany & Co. sword and inscribed Colt Model 1855 Pocket revolver returning $88,125 and $76,375 respectively. A Burnside Carbine that President Abraham Lincoln presented to Kentucky Congressman John J. Crittenden brought in $105,750.

Nice Colt guns of all classes came out to play on Day Two of the auction. An engraved, cased Colt Model 1877 Lightning double action revolver shattered its estimate four times over and reached $323,125. Another Lightning, this time a Nimschke engraved, gold and silver finished Colt Lightning slide action deluxe baby carbine realized $117,500. Not to be left out, a U.S. Contract Colt Second Model Dragoon revolver netted an impressive $76,375 and an antique Colt Frontier Six Shooter Sheriff's Model hammered for $64,625.

Winchester fired back with a blue and nickel special order Winchester Model 1876 Carbine returning  $117,500. Smith & Wesson got in on the action too, with a Smith & Wesson Schofield and holster attributed to legendary outlaw Jesse James achieving $152,750. Top-tier antiques also made their mark on Saturday, with a pair of silver-mounted Peter Kunz Flintlock Kentucky pistols, known as the "Liberty Bell pistols," landing $88,125.

The wildlife artwork featured in the December Premier was a clear crowd favorite. An original painting, “Honest Woods,” by underappreciated master of the genre Philip R. Goodwin cleared its high by more than $25,000 and returned a worthy $76,375 on Day 2. Goodwin’s pieces used in outdoor advertising also impressed throughout the weekend  A framed January 1916 Winchester "Heading Out" caliber print landed $8,225 on Friday, while a Peters Ammunition poster with mountain sheep achieved the same impressive sum on Saturday, with several other Goodwin prints breaking the $7,000 mark.

"Honest Woods" by Philip Russell Goodwin is based on an illustration he did for the short story "In the Honest Woods" by Holman F. Day, published in 1904.

Day Two showcased the sheer diversity and range of the collectible firearms market, offering everything from antique powder horns to heavy-duty machine guns. Two serial number 1 guns, an engraved and gold inlaid Charter Arms Undercover revolver and a Maadi/Steyr ARM semi-automatic rifle rocketed past their highs and landed $19,975 and $18,800 respectively. A gold damascened Llama Deluxe Martial DA revolver took in $26,438. And an M60 machine gun blazed over its estimate and won a hard-fought total of $105,750.

When the smoke cleared, this M60 machine gun fought its way to an outstanding $105,750.

The Don and Carol Wilkerson Collection featured some fantastic Colt sixguns, including a fine assemblage of Second and Third Generation Colt Single Action Army revolvers that proved a crowd pleaser throughout the weekend. A Denise Thirion signed Colt Third Generation Flattop SAA Target revolver and a cased consecutive pair of Jim White signed Colt Third Generation SAAs earned $17,625 each. A nickel Colt Second Generation SAA Buntline Special revolver brought in $16,450. A Nickel Colt Second Generation Single Action Army .44 Special revolver with its original black box went for $15,275. But the weekend's star for the genre was a Michael Dubber Master Wells Fargo theme engraved Colt Third Generation SAA that hammered at $55,813.

This exceptional Michael Dubber Master Wells Fargo theme engraved Colt Third Generation SAA more than quadrupled its high estimate and hauled in $55,813.

Auction Day Three

Sunday was another banner day for Colts, Winchesters, sporting arms, and military guns as December’s all-star lineup continued, with two breathtaking exhibition firearms taking center stage.

A Master Rudolph Kornbrath signed and deep relief game scene engraved John Oberlies custom Winchester Model 1885 single shot rifle went to a lucky bidder for $105,750. Later in the morning, a factory engraved Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3 revolver displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago reached an outstanding $94,000.

A variety of long guns found a welcome audience Sunday earning some appreciation and greenbacks, with an Ulrich engraved, gold and platinum inlaid Marlin Model 20 slide action rifle hitting its mark for $76,375, and a James Millar Pill-Lock revolver rifle owned by its inventor and namesake appreciating to the tune of $29,375.

It wouldn't be a Rock Island Auction Company Premier Auction without a lineup of scarce handguns, and Sunday's offerings did not disappoint. A Patent Arms Mtg. Co. Paterson Belt Model percussion revolver hit for $88,125 while a U.S. 1902 DWM Cartridge Counter Luger drew $70,500. A pair of engraved W.J. Syms/Mass Arms revolvers collected $47,000, and a Swiss experimental prototype Waffenfabrik Bern P47 pistol scored $23,500. Two fantastic Savage pistols, a gold plated Model 1917 with pearl grips and a nickel-plated Model 1907 with tuxedo grips, each left their estimates in the dust and achieved $18,800 and $16,450, respectively.

The big guns roared on Sunday afternoon as the auction finished strong. A Parker Brother .410 small bore VHE Grade double gun thundered past its high to find $47,000. A Winchester Model 21 Grand American rallied for $38,188. Continuing a strong streak of success for the trench gun genre at Rock Island Auction Company, a WW1 era Winchester 1897 shotgun went over the top for $23,500.

Non-firearms items saw another tremendous showing Sunday, with everything from prints, statues, and historic militaria drawing interest from the phones, the computers, the enthusiastic in-person crowd, and the thousands of sealed bids submitted for the event. A collection of WW2 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) Uniforms soared to $29,375. A German Armorer's tool chest realized $23,500. A copy of "The Rattlesnake" bronze by Frederich Remington, a massive statue that was displayed in the pavilion throughout the auction, made a big impression as it garnered $21,150.

An Unprecedented Record of Success

Whether it was wildlife art, World War 2 flight jackets, or amazing guns with breathtaking beauty, distinguished history, and phenomenal condition, the December Premier Auction was chock-a-block with exceptional items.

The December Premier Auction capped a remarkable year that saw items from Han Solo, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ulysses S. Grant pass through the auction hall. The final premier event had thousands of sealed bids, an exuberance and passion from the in-person audience, and the persistent enthusiasm from those who joined the event via the phones and online consoles. RIAC and its employees are thankful to those who made the event a success and are looking forward to what 2023 has to offer.

None of this success would have been possible without Rock Island Auction Company’s loyal clients and consigners. The passion from RIAC’s guests was on full display as they shared their love of fine arms collecting and made the December Premier and the year as a whole such an outstanding success.

December’s auction was a holiday event for the ages, and Rock Island Auction Company is already preparing a spectacular lineup of Premier Auctions and Sporting & Collector Auctions for 2023. December 20th sees the final Arms & Accessories Auction of 2022, one last chance to pick up something special for Christmas.

Rock Island Auction and the Hogan Family thank everyone for their continued support and wish all their firearms friends a safe and joyous Christmas and a happy New Year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Rock Island Auction Company!

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