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July 17, 2014

Good Things Come in Pairs: John Ulrich

By Joel R Kolander

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They say that “good things come in pairs,” so why should Rock Island Auction Company be any exception to this long-lived idiom? Without any further ado, let’s take a look at two extraordinary rifles in Rock Island Auction Company’s September 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction. This will be the first of several of this type of article that juxtaposes deserving items worthy of collectors’ attention. Today’s focus is a twosome of classic Winchester model 1866 lever action rifles

The first of these two iconic rifles was manufactured in 1869 and is factory engraved and signed by legendary artist John Ulrich. Besides providing a spectacular example of the master engraver’s early work of scrolls, animal heads, punch dot backgrounds, and geometrically framed panels, on the receiver, both tangs, forearm cap, and buttplate, it also boasts casehardened pieces, silver-plating, an original leather sling, and a beautiful, variegated, polished walnut stock and forearm. Even the sights are the rare “Rocky Mountain” style in the front and the folding Henry-style tang sight at the rear.

Exceptional Earliest Known Signed John Ulrich Factory Engraved Silver Plated Deluxe Winchester Model 1866 Lever Action Rifle

Considering all these special features, the most notable characteristic of this rifle is its serial number, 36481. This serial number combined with its engraving make it the earliest known John Ulrich engraved and signed Winchester. The previous earliest known appeared in R.L. Wilson’s “The Book of Winchester Engraving” on page 138, and was serial number 36484. Early Winchesters are, at the risk of stating the obvious, some of the most sought after collectible firearms. Add a high condition grading and you’ve just exponentially multiplied the value. To top it all off with historical significance, an early production of a beloved model that bears the earliest known work of a master engraver, and you have everything you need to draw the rapt attention of the foremost collectors.

The second of the two Winchester ’66 rifles came to be not too long after the first. However, the date of production is likely the only way in which serial number 103671 cannot match its partner in this article. It is another superb example of the first rifle to bear the Winchester name. This third model 1866 instantly demands your attention with its superbly aesthetic, exhibition grade, factory performed master engraving. The receiver is smothered with vines and four panel scenes depicting elk and stags. Our official item description says it best, “The flawlessly executed engraving has a three-dimensional, relief quality and represents some of John Ulrich’s best and most elaborate work.” What else needs to be said of Ulrich’s work after such high and deserved praise?

Extraordinary Exhibition Quality John Ulrich Signed Relief Engraved Winchester Model 1866 Lever Action Rifle

In addition to the receiver, the master engraving also extends to the forearms cap, both tangs, and the buttplate. The receiver is gold-plated and nestled between a stock and forearms made from “3X” fancy grain walnut with a high polish piano finish. It is simply a stunning piece that requires a viewer spend adequate time with it to appreciate it in all its finery.

The selection of Winchesters, Henrys, and Volcanics in Rock Island Auction Company’s September 2014 Firearms Auction is not to be missed. There will be Civil War production models, marvelous factory engraved receivers, opulent inlays, martially inspected pieces, stunning high condition items, and those with rich histories. We can’t wait to show you more of what is in store for September’s auction, so be sure to read next week’s article for another fascinating pair of collector firearms.

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