Embellished Steel and Heavy Metal: A Guide to the May 2023 Premier Auction
Tanks and Blank. Rock Island Auction Company’s May Premier Auction features a second round of offerings from the Norman R. Blank Collection and a
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We have a simple saying here at Rock Island Auction Company: GOLD IS GOOD! If you need further elaboration, this blog post might not be for you because we are listing off some of the most beautiful, shiniest, and most alluring gold items found in our upcoming auctions.
Who doesn’t love gold? Its luster has been significant in human societies for thousands of years. Beyond just its physical appeal, gold is considered by many to be a good investment to counter inflation found in currencies and is less volatile and risky than stocks. All that being said, gold is attractive, valuable, and tends to appreciate the longer you hold on to it.
For firearms enthusiasts, gold items can transform a normal Single Action Army revolver into an elegant figure of pristine beauty. The presence of precious metals on an item also invites other interesting features that can further define the value of the item such as engravings and historical significance.
Let us know what you think of this list and tell us what you’re most excited for during the May 14-16 Premier Firearms Auction! We can’t wait to see you here!
Remember that scene in James Bond when Scaramanga shoots a man with his “golden gun” constructed from an assemblage of ordinary desk items? With its barrel made from a pen, a single cuff link altered to make a trigger, and a lighter functioning as the chamber for a solid gold bullet, this pistol was an icon for the blockbuster motion picture. The crude assembly of the gun, contrasted against both the luxurious gold materials used to make it and the jet black Walther PPK carried by the protagonist made for an interesting matchup on screen.
A bridge connecting different generations separated by the advent of the internet, the “golden gun” has since become a popular sidearm used in the James Bond video game franchise; notorious for its one shot kill advantage. Perhaps even more interesting is the gold plated Walther PPK semi-automatic pistol found in the upcoming May Premier Auction which seems to be the best of both famous firearms featured in the film “The Man with the Golden Gun.”
This pistol is absolutely gorgeous and is almost completely covered in traditional Germanic “Oak Leaf and Acorn” engravings that envelope the shimmering gold body of the gun. Featuring a cross-hatched/diamond pattern engraving on the chamber area of the barrel, the left side of the slide is marked with the iconic Walther banner. Complete with two magazines (both of which have the gold plated finish to match the pistol), this pistol and spare magazines come in a beautiful blue leatherette presentation case that magnificently contrasts the natural yellow tones of the gold. Estimated at $2,250-$3,750, this pistol can be yours during the May 14-16 Premier Auction and channel your inner Bond!
Rolex arguably manufacturers the most luxurious watches known in the market. The precision and detail that goes into each individual timepiece in order to ensure that a superior, high-quality watch is mind boggling to think about. Masters of their craft and industry pour their entire lives into the development of these sacred personal attachments; because owning a Rolex isn’t about keeping track of time, it is ensuring that a piece of you is timeless.
A Rolex, no matter the color or materials used, is beautiful. They are celebrated not only for the genuine mastery of the craft the exhibit in each piece, but the fact that they can last extraordinary lengths of time if taken proper care of. However, when precious metals like gold touch the bezel or even envelope the watch completely, a Rolex can truly transcend anything that words can describe. For example, the Rolex Submariner found in the May Premier Auction that glimmers with elegance.
Featuring a sleek black face and the iconic attributes of a Submariner watch that the brand is world famous for, such as the large numbers found on the bezel (originally used by divers to track their time underwater), the distinctive date window, and resistance to water up to around 1,000 ft., this watch is the pinnacle of class that simply cannot be matched. Fitting for any occasion from weddings to just going out for a day at the range, a Rolex of this quality is something you can be certain can be passed down to kids, grandkids, or anyone else and know it can appreciate in value. Estimated at $18,000-$27,500, this Rolex is more than a watch, it’s a treasure.
Rock Island Auction Company is certainly no stranger to coming face-to-face with one-of-a-kind items, so rare, their true value isn’t inherently what is displayed on the price tag. Offered here is an exceptional factory documented masterpiece of the most iconic 19th century American firearm by Colt's longest tenured Master Engraver, Cuno Helfricht. Its combination of rarity, condition, configuration, and pedigree make this revolver, utterly exceptional.
The accompanying factory letter confirms the 4 ¾ inch barrel in .44-40 caliber, two-tone finish (“nickel with gold cylinder”), pearl grips, and engraving and states the revolver was shipped to J.F. Schmelzer & Sons of Kansas City on January 29, 1889. The engravings are attributed to famed Colt Master Engraver, Cuno Helfricht, or his shop. Helfricht spent his nearly 50 year career exclusively with the Colt firm and during his tenure with Colt, Helfricht saw the transition from percussion to cartridge firearms and a rapidly growing market for engraved firearms. At the height of the firearm engraving popularity, Helfricht oversaw a shop of six engravers. By the turn of the century, experts believe that Helfricht did most of the work himself with the help from one to two assistants. Helfricht's successor's included famed Colt engravers Wilbur Glahn and William Gough.
Using the most liberal statistics only 2,500 1st Generation Colt SAAs of the 357,800 manufactured were factory engraved, and the overwhelming majority of those 2,500 were done in the twilight years of production. Yet even fewer of those remain in high condition, like this incredible piece. Out of the engraved 1st Generations surveyed, approximately 15% were chambered in .44 WCF (the vast majority, 65%, where in .45 caliber) and 4% had a combination of gold and nickel plating.
This highly desirable etched barrel panel was officially replaced by the Colt factory in the 120,000 serial number range with the much easier to produce and larger roll-stamping. Rarely is the etched panel encountered in such pristine condition. Estimated at $200,000-$325,000, this beautiful revolver can only be found during Rock Island Auction Company’s May 14-16 Premier Auction.
When history becomes tangible, that is when the past reaches out and shakes our hand in the present day. Finding a connection, no matter the scale, with something from a different era can awaken a deep connection to something long since transpired. This incredible sword set was crafted by Richard Teed of Lancaster Court, Strand, London. It is the £100 grade—the highest of the three grades reserved for captains. These swords were presented and paid for by the Lloyd's Patriotic Fund founded on July 28, 1803, at Lloyd's Coffee House in London and still exists as a charity today.
These swords are represented in multiple prestigious collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Royal Museums Greenwich, and Royal Armories. Very few are held in private collections, especially outside of the United Kingdom. Only around 175 swords across the three grades were awarded by the fund before the practice ended in 1809.
This sword was presented to Captain Robert Redmill (1758-1819), commander of the intrepid class third rate ship of the line HMS Polyphemus. The Polyphemus was launched 1782 and named for the cyclops blinded by Odysseus in Homer's "Odyssey." Captain Redmill was awarded the sword for service at the historic Battle of Trafalgar, one of the largest and most significant naval battles in world history, during War of the Third Coalition against France and Spain. Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson's fleet was outnumbered and out-gunned with 32 ships against 23 French and 15 Spanish ships, but his daring tactics resulted in a tremendous victory for the Royal Navy. Captain Redmill served in the Atlantic Campaign of 1806 before retiring due to illness and was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1815. The U.S. built destroyer escort HMS Redmill was named for him during World War II and his legacy lives on.
The 30 1/2 inch curved, single edged blade is entirely decorated with neoclassical, martial, naval, and British patriotic gilt designs on a niter blue background. The gold hilt (ormolu) has acanthus leaf languets, a fasces cross guard with naval trophies at the center, club of Hercules wrapped in a serpent, Nemean Lion pommel and back strap, checkered and carved antique ivory grip, and navy blue and gold sword knot. The gold scabbard has naval and classical trophies, serpents for suspension rings and various scenes of Greek mythology scattered throughout. Estimated at $275,000-$375,000, this astonishing piece of art and history is available during the May Premier Auction.
Rock Island Auction is proud and privileged to unveil this never before published masterpiece by celebrated Winchester factory engraver John Ulrich. Its rarity of configuration alone puts into the ultra-elite category as a "best of." Sprinkle in the nuances of condition, depth of engraving, execution and style in tandem with its exhibition and presentation history and this rifle, serial number 18264, becomes a collection defining piece. An object that transcends rank and file, genre specific, fine and historic arms collecting all together. It's an object worthy of the most discerning public institutions or private collections of the decorative arts.
This rifle was originally discovered in France in approximately 2014-2015 and was the second of two incredibly important Winchester rifles found in Europe in the last fifteen years. While the rifles were discovered in two different countries and several years apart, they will forever be linked to one of the most culturally significant events of 19th century America: the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. Winchester had grand plans for the Centennial display and wanted to introduce their newly refined and expanded ammunition manufacturing capabilities (for which they were awarded a bronze medal by the exhibition judges).
Winchester also unveiled two new models of firearm during the Exhibition, the Model of 1876 Rifle appropriately marketed as “The Centennial Model” as well as their first revolver, a new departure and market for the firm (it’s imperative to note that we also have one the Centennial revolvers in the sale). Interestingly enough, the Winchester 1873 serial number 16139 (“a rifle exquisitely inlaid in gold tracery on blued steel”), was discovered by RIAC founder and CEO Patrick Hogan circa 2008 in Spain. The rifle was said to have been presented to Spanish royalty and it is indeed "exquisitely inlaid in gold tracery on blued steel.”
The discovery of these rifles are a seminal event in the field of highly finished Winchester collecting and it is known that the exhibit contained "200 guns and 50 different styles.” The accompanying letter confirms the octagon barrel and set trigger as well as “engraved by U.” Along with the lower tang signature, Ulrich dated his work with the year “1876,” a peculiar and interesting decision on the part of the artist because it is nearly unheard of for Ulrich, or for any of the great 19th century master engravers, to date their work.
The barrel sections of relief feature beautiful scrollwork along with gold inlaid Greek key bands at the muzzle and breech. Gold inlaid panels with floral spray at both ends surround the two-line Winchester address/King’s improvement patent dates marking and the gold inlaid inscription “MARCO A. SOTO” at the breech. The gilt receiver features near full coverage of scrollwork along with multiple deep relief vignettes. Appearing on the left side are vignettes depicting a grizzly bear and a wild turkey while the side plate has an elk hunting scene. Appearing on the right side are vignettes of a fox and a moose while the side plate has a buffalo hunting scene with the hunter on horseback and a smaller panel depicting a squirrel in a tree. A leaping stag adorns the cartridge elevator.
Marco Aurelio Soto (1846-1908) was President of Honduras from August 27, 1876 to October 19, 1883. Soto was a reforming Liberal statesman who never joined the Liberal party, or any party for that matter. He wielded great discipline among the various liberal factions within his country, resulting in ambitious reforms which continued to impact Hondurans well after he left office. Highlights of these achievements included the reorganization of public finances, transfer of civil codes such as marriage, divorce, and education from the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church to secular public institutions, and the establishment of a national library, archives, and postal and telegraph services.
Soto is credited for paving the way for the Liberal Revolution, a period of liberal reformism in Honduras that lasted until the turn of the century. By the 1870s, Honduras was purchasing Winchester Model 1866 and Model 1873 rifles as part of the country’s effort to upgrade national weaponry. In September 2020, we had the pleasure of selling a pair of gold plated New York panel scene engraved Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3 revolvers (nos. 8997 and 9968) inscribed to Soto, formerly of the famed Dr. Gerald Klaz collection.
Estimated at $500,000-$800,000, this Model 1873 certainly fits well with Soto’s opulent tastes and was almost certainly given in thanks or persuasion for the contract between Honduras and Winchester. Soto fled Honduras in 1883 for France which is where this rifle was found over a century later. Find this gorgeous rifle during the May 14-16 Premier Auction.
Gold is good; and by now, the reasoning behind this saying should be very apparent. There are some beautiful gold items that will be for sale during the May Premier Firearms Auction that range from rare, one-of-a-kind rifles owned by members of nobility to shimmering Rolex watches dripping with gold. We really do have it all.
At Rock Island Auction Company, we deal with art, history, and beautiful firearms every single day of the year. While we have seen some very interesting items before, our upcoming May 14-16 Premier is unlike anything we have organized before. Besides some of the beautiful firearms that will be discussed here, there will also be an impressive collection of historic items owned by founding fathers, famous writers, and members of royalty.
Explore the digital highlight portfolio available now on our website and consider ordering one of the extensive and extremely informative catalogs detailing the thousands of lots that will be available during the event. With important information regarding the item’s history, relevance, condition, and estimated price, these catalogs are an informative resource.
As always, if there are any questions about consignment, registration, and future auctions, please contact Rock Island Auction Company. Our 2021 auction schedule is now posted on our website, so be sure to go through the listing and start making your plans to come visit. All our events adhere to all COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. We can’t wait to see you here.
Tanks and Blank. Rock Island Auction Company’s May Premier Auction features a second round of offerings from the Norman R. Blank Collection and a
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