Rock Island Auction Company

October 30, 2020

Antique Dueling Pistols for Sale - December 2020

By Mike Burns

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Two small row boats slowly make their way across the Hudson River on the morning of July 11, 1804. Barely even dawn, the vessels land on the shores of Weehawken, New Jersey, and two groups of men cautiously make their way towards each other. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are about to make history.

Hamilton-burr-duelHamilton/Burr duel depiction.

While it might be hard to imagine with 21st century hindsight, duels used to be a very popular and a frequent method to resolve disputes and defend one’s honor. The Hamilton/Burr duel might be the most famous in history, but other prominent figures from across the ages such as Andrew Jackson, Édouard Manet, and “Wild Bill” Hickok have all engaged in duels as well.

Always ahead of his time, it was Benjamin Franklin who became one of the first–as well as one of the staunchest–American critics of the practice, calling it “uselessly violent.” By the beginning of World War I, dueling had already been outlawed in most of the Western World. Today, non-lethal pistol dueling exists much like competitive fencing does.

dueling

An interesting window into the past, dueling pistols are a stark reminder of the dangerous consequences that came from disputes of another era. Read on to explore some of the beautiful, rare, and truly amazing dueling pistols for sale during Rock Island Auction Company’s December 4th-6th Premier Auction.

Pair of Gastinne-Renette Pistols from the Exposition Universelle: Lot 1282

Red Sox vs. Yankees, Coke vs. Pespi, Hatfields vs. McCoys. Who doesn’t love a good rivalry? Certainly not Napoleon III who hosted the Exposition Universelle in 1855 to upstage London’s Great Exhibition held 4 years prior. Heated rivals for centuries, France and England have held contemptuous relations dating back to the 10th century; and the Exposition Universelle would finally put an end to the debate of which country was more advanced.

Elaborate Pair of Gastinne-Renette Percussion Pistols with Sculpted Silver Mounts and Relief Carved Stocks from the Exposition Universelle of 1855Lot 1282: Pair of Gastinne-Renette Percussion Pistols with Sculpted Silver Mounts and Relief Carved Stocks from the Exposition Universelle of 1855

One category in which the French regularly triumphed over their British counterparts was in the design and construction of highly ornate firearms and few could ever match those of Louis-Julien Gastinne-Renette. Renette was gunmaker to Napoleon III, the Spanish Royal Family, and was among the most renowned creators of dueling and target pistols in the 19th century. With such a resume, it is no wonder why Renette and his pieces were chosen specifically by Napoleon III to be included in the Exposition.

Pair-of-Gastinne-Renette-Pistols-from-the-Exposition-UniverselleLot 1282: Pair of Gastinne-Renette Percussion Pistols with Sculpted Silver Mounts and Relief Carved Stocks from the Exposition Universelle of 1855

Recently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Dr. Gerald Klaz collection, these Gastinne-Renette percussion dueling pistols are absolutely gorgeous. Featuring magnificent cannon style barrels, intricate wood carvings, and extravagant silver snarling lion trigger guards & pommels, these dueling pistols are estimated at $50,000-$70,000. They are a chance to travel back in time to 1855 for a brief taste of the magic and wonders the Exposition held within its walls.

Cased Pair of Boutet Percussion Conversion Dueling Pistols: Lot 3318

The French are certainly no stranger to dueling. While they preferred the use of swords for settling disputes, pistols were still frequently used; most famously in 1808 when Monsieurs Granpree and Tirevit engaged in a pistol duel while flying 2,000 feet over the city of Paris IN HOT AIR BALLOONS.

Cased-Pair-of-Boutet-Percussion-Conversion-Dueling-PistolsLot 3318: Cased Pair of Boutet Percussion Conversion Dueling Pistols

France is also home to one of most renowned gunmakers ever to live, Nicolas-Noël Boutet. Boutet designed weapons for prominent figures of the 18th and 19th centuries such as King Louis XVI and Napoleon. Under his direction, some of the finest pieces of firearms art ever crafted flowed from Versailles.

Cased-Pair-of-Boutet-Percussion-Conversion-Dueling-Pistols-EngravingsLot 3318: Cased Pair of Boutet Percussion Conversion Dueling Pistols

These antique dueling pistols feature all the iconic themes and motifs one comes to expect of a Boutet. Detailed and intricate floral patterns decorate the trigger guards while checkered engravings on the grips of the pistols focus attention on the contrasting flared pommel caps. The dueling pistols are also engraved in fine script with their barrel address and maker's name.

Cased Pair of Boutet Percussion Conversion Dueling PistolsLot 3318: Cased Pair of Boutet Percussion Conversion Dueling Pistols

Held within a gorgeous wooden case, these Boutet dueling pistols come complete with cleaning tools, attachments, and more. In addition to their artistry, Boutet percussion pistols are supremely desirable because of the high-quality materials used to produce them, as well as the elevated prominence of their maker throughout his lifetime. Estimated at $16,000-$25,000, don’t miss this unique opportunity to own these beautiful Boutet percussion dueling pistols available during Rock Island Auction Company’s December Premier Gun Auction.

Cased Pair of P. Vallee Philadelphia Marked Dueling Pistols Lot: 1283

Dueling was introduced to the United States with the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century and remained a common method of conflict resolution in the country up until the 20th century. Even Abraham Lincoln once accepted a duel after he published an inflammatory article about Illinois State Auditor, James Shields. While shots were never fired, Honest Abe and his opponent drew positions before their seconds were eventually able to intervene and resolve the conflict.

Rare-Cased-Pair-of-American-P.-Vallee-Philadelphia-Marked-Engraved-and-Gold-Inlaid-Saw-Handle-Percussion-Dueling-Pistols-with-Inscribed-Case-1Lot 1283: Rare Cased Pair of American P. Vallee Philadelphia Marked Engraved and Gold Inlaid "Saw Handle" Percussion Dueling Pistols with Inscribed Case

These unique dueling pistols are an incredible piece of art and American history. Designed by gunmaker, Prosper Vallee, they feature Damascus patterned barrels, gold and platinum inlaid breech plugs, and distinct “saw handle.” Vallee was a prominent American gunmaker who worked out of Philadelphia throughout the 19th century. Because of his relations with fellow manufacturer John Krider, Vallee’s pieces have become symbolic of American industry and the city of Philadelphia.

Rare Cased Pair of American P. Vallee Philadelphia Marked Engraved and Gold Inlaid "Saw Handle" Percussion Dueling Pistols with Inscribed CaseLot 1283: Rare Cased Pair of American P. Vallee Philadelphia Marked Engraved and Gold Inlaid "Saw Handle" Percussion Dueling Pistols with Inscribed Case

The City of Brotherly Love was also home to the owner of these dueling pistols, Henry Pratt McKean. McKean came from an eminent Pennsylvanian family with close ties to the American Revolution. Further adding to the historical significance of these pistols, McKean’s grandfather, Thomas Mckean, was an original signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas-McKean-Depiction-in-John-Trumbull-s-Declaration-of-Independence-Painting-1Thomas McKean depicted in John Turnbull's iconic Declaration of Independence

John Adams even went so far as to once describe him as “one of the three men in the Continental Congress who appeared to me to see more clearly to the end of the business than any others in the whole body.” Estimated at $9,500-$16,000, these pistols are a beautiful representation of the industry of Philadelphia and American history in general.

Cased Pair of Henry Nock Flintlock Dueling Pistols: Lot 3308

One of the most distinguished dueling pistol makers in England during the 18th century was Henry Nock. Gunmaker-in-ordinary to King George III, ruler during the American Revolution, Nock’s inventions and contributions to the field of weaponry and arms development lead to the advancement of volley guns, repeating rifles, and other firearms throughout much of his lifetime.

Cased-Pair-of-Henry-Nock-Flintlock-Dueling-PistolsLot 3308: Cased Pair of Henry Nock Flintlock Dueling Pistols

Besides making more economic firearms, Nock also designed expensive weapons and items for members of royalty and the aristocracy. Nock’s firm would eventually transition into making swords and blades and still exists today, although they currently specialize in manufacturing razor blades.

Cased-Pair-of-Henry-Nock-Flintlock-Dueling-PistolsLot 3308: Cased Pair of Henry Nock Flintlock Dueling Pistols

Henry Nock dueling pistols are difficult to find because they made up so little of the gunmaker’s complete portfolio. Such scarcity continues to drive their value amongst collectors.

Flintlock Dueling Pistols EngravingsLot 3308: Cased Pair of Henry Nock Flintlock Dueling Pistols

These pistols have gold maker's marks on the patent breeches along with gold bands and vent liners. The smoothbore Damascus barrels have dovetailed bead front sights, and notch sights are on the upper tangs which have martial and floral engraving. Estimated at $7,500-$12,000, these dueling pistols are beautiful, rare, and historically significant.

Cased Pair of John Blissett & Son Percussion Dueling Pistols: Lot 332

Four British Prime Ministers have engaged in duels throughout history. Two of them were actually holding office while partaking in the duel with the most famous of them being between the Duke of Wellington Arthur Wellesley, and Lord Winchilsea in 1829.

John Blissett Percussion Dueling PistolsLot 332: Cased Pair of John Blissett & Son Percussion Dueling Pistols

Manufactured sometime during 1867-1875, this pair of Blissett & Sons percussion dueling pistols feature smoothbore Damascus barrels, spurred blued trigger guards, and beautiful English scroll engravings. Held within a gorgeous purple lined case, these percussion dueling pistols are estimated at $7,000-$10,000. Own them during the December Premier Firearms Auction.

Bonus

Cased Pair of Gastinne-Renette Exhibition Pistols: Lot 1279

While not technically dueling pistols, this pair of Gastinne-Renette pistols are too beautiful not to share. As mentioned earlier, Renette was a highly influential gunmaker of the 19th century who designed weapons for significant world leaders such as Napoleon III and members of the Spanish nobility. Much like the previously mentioned Renette dueling pistols, these pistols were also displayed at an international exhibition, although these pistols were featured nearly 10 years prior, leading up to the World’s Fair in 1851.

Cased Pair Sculpted Relief Chiseled and Relief Carved Gastinne RenetteLot 1279: Extraordinary Documented Cased Pair of Sculpted, Relief Chiseled, Gold Accented, and Relief Carved Gastinne-Renette Exhibition Percussion Pistols from the French Industrial Exposition of 1844

Translated from the original French, one period author takes note of just how remarkably beautiful these pistols are. The author states, "One of the beautiful things in the exhibition of weapons was a pair of pistols of M. Gastinne Renette. The guns of molten steel are richly chiseled; the angles formed by the sides of the barrel are rounded in small columns which support an elegant warhead; the ornaments are very tasteful; the gilding is skillfully aged and goes well with the gray color given to the steel.

We no less admired the boxes of pistols sent by M. Gastinne Renette; they are made of ebony and stationed in chiseled iron. In a word, all the pieces he had exhibited justified the reputation of the former Renette house, the only one in Paris said to be where the firearm is made entirely."

Gastinne Renette Exhibition Percussion Pistols French Exposition of 1844Lot 1279: Extraordinary Documented Cased Pair of Sculpted, Relief Chiseled, Gold Accented, and Relief Carved Gastinne-Renette Exhibition Percussion Pistols from the French Industrial Exposition of 1844

More recently, the pair was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, being displayed in the Arms & Armor Galleries. Mirroring the resurgence in popularity of the Gothic and Renaissance styles of the mid-19th century, these pistols feature the grotesque figures, pointed arches, and ribbed vaults that defined the style so famously.

Gastinne-Renette-Exhibition-Percussion-Pistols 1844Lot 1279: Extraordinary Documented Cased Pair of Sculpted, Relief Chiseled, Gold Accented, and Relief Carved Gastinne-Renette Exhibition Percussion Pistols from the French Industrial Exposition of 1844

It is hard to find just one area on these pistols that is not covered with elaborate engravings, inlays, and details so delicate one can scarcely imagine how they were crafted in the first place. Estimated at $150,000-$250,000, it is no surprise that these pistols are one of the most anticipated items in this already exhilarating auction. Find them at the December Premier event at Rock Island Auction Company.

Dueling Pistols for Sale

Today, the thought of handling personal or political disputes is such a foreign concept, it might as well be alien. Imagine Donald Trump and Joe Biden drawing positions and sending their seconds in to attempt to resolve the issue.

Gun Auction December 2020-Cased-Pair-of-Gastinne-Renette-Dueling-PistolsLot 1279: Extraordinary Documented Cased Pair of Sculpted, Relief Chiseled, Gold Accented, and Relief Carved Gastinne-Renette Exhibition Percussion Pistols from the French Industrial Exposition of 1844

That being said, reflecting on the customs of the past gives the present a sense of clarity and appreciation. While the days of paces, pistols at dawn, and satisfaction are only a distant speck in the rear view mirror of human history, one would be remiss not to take a few moments to recognize the beauty, power, and legacy behind each of these dueling pistols listed.

remember-to-voteRemember to vote on November 3rd

While it is fun and interesting to look back in time to a world very different than the one now, it is also important to recognize the civic duties that remain constant over the nation’s near 250 year history. Rock Island Auction Company would like to kindly remind you to cast your vote November 3rd.

It is a fundamental right not to be ignored. Brave men and women have given their lives in order to protect this sacred right, do not waste your voice. For more information on voting, please follow this helpful link.

Gun Auction-is-on-December-4th-6thRock Island Auction Company's Next Premier Auction is on December 4th-6th

This December, a fine collection of dueling pistols will be available for auction that span the course of centuries. Own these rare pieces of history at the December 4th-6th Premier Firearms Auction at Rock Island Auction Company. If there are any questions about consignment, future auctions, or registration, contact Rock Island Auction Company today.

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