RIAC Shatters Industry Sales Record with $63 Million in 2016

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2016 had already proven itself to be a special year for Rock Island Auction Company. With the Robert Bretherton and Robert Lee Collections serving as flagships, and flanked by dozens of collections each outstanding in their own right, unprecedented success loomed large for the auction house on the Mississippi River. Not only did our December Premiere Firearms Auction perform nobly with a realized total of $15.6 million, but it helped to bring about the highest grossing year in our history. This year’s $63 million in sales is the highest total ever for a firearms auction house, smashing the records set by RIAC the previous two years, and eclipsing our nearest competitor by more than $30 million.

The year began strong in April with the $1.2 million dollar sale of the Winchester Model 1886, serial number 1, presented to the man who accepted Geronimo’s surrender, as well as the Colt 1849 Pocket revolver presented to Brigham Young. September continued in the same path with a solid German silver framed Winchester 1866, the iconic “Three Graces” Conrad Ulrich-engraved Winchester 1866, and a gold/platinum handled knife given to President Theodore Roosevelt. Anticipation among collectors and investors was high as to what would be contained in the December Firearms Auction. It would not disappoint.

Confederate Bonds

Day 1 wasn’t even a half an hour old when the factory engraved New Haven Arms Volcanic in lot 26 made its presence known. Sporting the rarely encountered 25” barrel and its original walnut case, the slender carbine vaulted past its $60,000 estimate and sold for $149,500. Confederate items on day one enjoyed a surprising level of success, as seen in lot 160’s offering of two early Confederate bonds. One of several lots offering currency and bonds of the CSA, this particular pair began a bidding battle that soared past its estimate, before landing at a $21,850 realized price. Also of note was the imposing Henry Nock revolving flintlock carbine in lot 227 that found a new home for $40,250, well beyond the $20,000 estimate.

Silver Volcanic

Saturday started with a similar bang, when lot 1008 went up for bid. Containing an unbelievable Winchester 1873 First Model with numerous special order features, such as silver plating and deep relief engraving by Conrad Ulrich, the stage was set for a bidding battle. When all was said and done, it was the highest selling item of the auction, obliterating its $180,000 estimate and finally coming to a rest at $529,000.  Other top sellers of the day include an exquisite, high art Savage Model 1899 in lot 1049 that was presented to co-founder of Dodge Brothers Motor Company, Horace Elgin Dodge. It raced past the $60,000 estimate and brought $195,500. Though perhaps the auction’s largest surprise was lot 1442’s Chinese Hanyang Arsenal experimental semi-automatic rifle that didn’t even hesitate at its $6,500 estimate en route to seeing a $80,500 realized price.

General Liu's Rifle


The final day at auction was a perfect reminder of why Colts and Winchesters remain the “blue chips” of gun collectors. Far from our competitor’s claim of a “soft market” for these legendary manufacturers, they carried the day yet again, with four lever actions finding the 6-figure range. Lot 3138 housed a gorgeous, factory cased and engraved Colt London Model 1851 that readily exceeded its $30,000 estimate by achieving $51,750.  A rare, Nimschke engraved, flastside Winchester 1866 saddle ring carbine in lot 3033, bested the $18,000 estimate to ring the bell at $40,250. Several Japanese arms also enjoyed high sale prices, such as lot 3301’s World War II, North China manufactured Type 19 Nambu, which sold for $19,550, despite its $7,500 estimate.

This success is sweet and a source of professional pride to be savored as we also enjoy the quiet times of the holiday season. However, such accomplishments do not come without diligent preparation and superb execution. To that end, we’ve already begun preparing for our FOUR DAY February Regional Auction, a massive event that will get 2017 to a rolling start. But for now, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labor while also expressing our gratitude to our consignors, our buyers, and our employees.  It wouldn’t be possible without all three groups, and we can’t wait to begin 2017 and see what incredible firearms it has in store. Happy Holidays and a blessed New Year to you and yours from Rock Island Auction Company.

Nock revolving flintlock