August 18, 2023
By Kurt Allemeier
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Rock Island Auction Company’s August Premier Auction has Hollywood glitz thanks to Elvis Presley and Tom Selleck, but also the star power of guns that have filled books and stood in elite collections for decades.
The Parsons’ Armies, revered in collectors’ circles, leads a lineup of firearms that are amazingly embellished, beautifully conditioned, and bearing epic historic stories. Several great collections are represented in the auction with amazing diversity in genres, eras, and price points to be found.
The Aug. 25-27 auction also features 109 Class III offerings from full auto machine guns to short-barrel rifles, classic Colts and Winchesters, fantastic flintlocks, and fine sporting arms available as part of the three-day sale. And don’t forget Elvis.
There is no denying that this auction has amazing offerings from several great collections of guns. It includes fine arms from the amazingly well-conditioned and historic guns of The Greg Lampe Collection, to the superb collection of Colt New Line pistols and derringer revolvers of The George S. Lewis Jr. Collection, to the spectacular diversity of The Tom Selleck Collection and the Joe Marlin Hilliard Collection to the brilliant Smith & Wesson offerings of The Dave Ballantyne Collection, and the unsurpassed air guns of The Dr. Robert D. Beeman Collection.
The auction also features a fine slate of revolving rifles, a collection of FP45 Liberator pistol, prototypes, and classic European and American arms from all eras and genres.
The artistry and history of The Greg Lampe Collection showed itself in RIAC’s May Premier Auction, but this month brings one of the pinnacles of Colt collecting, L.B. Parsons’ cased, engraved Colt Model 1860 revolvers, to the podium. This pair of cased, engraved Colt Model 1860 Army revolvers given to Lewis B. Parsons, “Mover of Armies” for the Union in the Civil War, offer stunning factory engraving and was enshrined in several publications.
The Lampe collection follows up with one dazzling firearm after another, such as a cased Colt Paterson No. 2 Belt Model revolver, a cased deluxe engraved Colt Model 1851, a gold panel scene engraved Winchester Model 1866, Samuel Colt presentation revolver, a cased pair of Durs Egg flintlock pistols, and derringers including a very scarce Remington Zig-Zag derringer.
The Lampe Collection also provides plenty of history, not just with the Parsons’ Armies, but also through the badge and Peabody-Martini “Kill Deer” rifle presented to frontiersman and Colorado lawman Harvey S. “Arapahoe Harve” Faucett.
The Greg Lampe Collection has so much depth to its artistry and history that it has to be seen to be believed, so make a point of attending the auction’s Preview Day on Aug. 24.
The George S. Lewis Jr. Collection initial offerings lean heavily into Colt pistols, but not the ubiquitous Single Action Army. Finely engraved Colt New Line revolvers, and derringers abound. The collection also has a Colt House Model “Cloverleaf” as well as a excellently preserved nickel finish Colt Model 1877 Lightning revolver and a blued and casehardened Colt 1877 Thunderer revolver to match.
Along with being marvelous pieces, guns from The George Lewis Collection are dripping with provenance, like a cased, factory engraved Colt New Line .41 spur trigger revolver that is among two guns on offer that appeared as part of the Colt “Wheel” display at the 1876 Exposition in St. Louis. His guns have also been previously featured in R.L. Wilson’s book “Colt Engraving” and “Colt Pistols: 1836-1876,” and in “The William M. Locke Collection,” by Frank Sellers.
Dave Ballantyne is a long-time Smith & Wesson collector and has served on the Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation so it should come as no surprise as to what he collects, nor their quality. All but one firearm is a Smith & Wesson among those available from The Dave Ballantyne Collection including several Registered .357 Magnums.
The head of the class in the Ballantyne Collection’s offerings may be the .357 Registered Magnum of legendary shooter and “Fast & Fancy Revolver Shooting” author Ed McGivern. Not to be outdone is a club gun Smith & Wesson non-registered .357 Magnum revolver with a special zero prefix serial number that is engraved and has carved grips. Also available in the auction are six Registered Magnums. Of those, two are documented to police departments, while a third belonged to FBI and CIA Agent Birch O’Neal.
Whereas Ballantyne had a singular focus, The Tom Selleck Collection offers diversity, ranging from fine European sporting arms to cowboy guns. Leading the Selleck firearms is a magnificent pair of Holland & Holland shotguns embellished by Master Engraver Philippe Grifnee commissioned by Selleck and bearing his initials (“TWS”). Chambered for 20 gauge, this “Model De Luxe” displays highly detailed banknote-style game scenes as flowering scrollwork swirls around them.
Selleck’s collection also offers an incredibly rare Colt Model 1878 “Omnipotent” etched panel revolver. Colt’s first large frame double action revolver was marketed by B. Kittredge & Co. out of Cincinnati, Ohio, with the name etched on the barrel. Of the 174 revolvers shipped to Kittredge, only 154 revolvers will letter as an “Omnipotent.”
A pair of Merwin, Hulbert & Co. revolvers are offered out of the Selleck Collection along with a rare Hopkins & Allen Army Model XL No. 8 Single Action revolver. One Merwin, Hulbert is cased with an extra barrel. Among lever guns, are a trio of Marlin rifles including a Deluxe Model 1889, a Model 1881, and a Deluxe Model 1897. The offerings also feature a Winchester Model 1873 with custom order engraving by Roger Kurtz, built for Selleck.
Colts and Winchesters make up most of The Joe Marlin Hilliard Collection, but it is a gold-plated Walther PP that catches the eye. Factory engraved, the pistol was presented to King Carol II of Romania, who was known as “the Playboy Prince” for his dalliances before ascending to the throne prior to World War 2.
Among the six-shooters out of the Marlin Hilliard Collection are a Colt Single Action Army flattop target model, a pre-war SAA chambered in .357 Magnum, and a factory cased Remington-Rider New Model belt revolver.
Perhaps the most comprehensive collection of air guns is The Robert D. Beeman Collection. Beeman shaped the face of air gunning around the world and he gathered an extensive collection of antique air guns from every genre with examples from the 17th century to the late 19th century. These fascinating firearms had several advantages over black powder firearms, like less recoil, less noise, less fouling, and a quicker reload. They also weren’t impacted as much by rain and moisture.
Of the pieces on offer, a cased engraved Hanson of Huddersfield air pistol from the 19th century may be the most beautiful in the collection with its engraving that begins on the gold plated grip reservoir and continues on to the gun’s action. The collection has several arms that use the Girardoni system including a repeating over-under from Germany and an engraved carved and silver inlaid Austrian grip reservoir air pistol.
Elvis Presley loved guns. Rock Island Auction has previously sold guns of the King of Rock and Roll, and this August will offer a bicentennial-themed Smith & Wesson Model 53 given to him in 1976. Though Elvis provides the star power, this beautifully engraved and gold and silver inlaid gift to Elvis can stand on its own. Smith & Wesson Master Engraver Russell Smith rose to meet the expectations of a gun for Elvis with its floral scrollwork on a stipled background, silver inlaid five-pointed stars, and “1776-1976” on the barrel with gold inlaid bands at the muzzle and breech. The right side plate shows a gold relief eagle in flight grasping an enamel 13-star Betsy Ross American flag, while the left side of the frame has a gold relief minuteman flanked by stars, and the backstrap has the Liberty Bell. The gun comes with two equally embellished cylinders in .22 Jet and .22 LR.
A Colt Cavalry Model Single Action Army from Lot Five is among the “blue chips” of gun collecting and this revolver falls right there among guns issued to the U.S. 7th Cavalry under Gen. George Armstrong Custer. Authenticated by Colt SAA authority John A. Kopec, this revolver had been tucked away since at least the 1940s passed down through a single family. This is a fresh-to-market opportunity for a collector to own a previously undiscovered piece of Lot Five history.
The August Auction will feature 109 Class III items, from heavy machine guns to light machine guns, submachine guns, to modern pre-ban converted full auto guns. The auction brings all of the recognizable full auto guns together, like the M60, the Browning Automatic Rifle, Thompson submachine guns, German MP-40s, a Street Sweeper, the Uzi, and the M16.
The auction also includes some lesser known machine guns like the Haenel MP28II, a Soviet PPsh-41, the World War 1 era Russian 1910 Maxim machine gun with a German sideplate, a Chinese M22, and a North Korean Type 58 AK Kalashnikov-style rifle.
Percussion revolving rifles and revolving shotguns can be rare, but RIAC has 28 in the auction. They range from the extremely rare Colt Model 1855 percussion six-shot half-stock sporting rifle to the extremely scarce William Harvey Patent six-shot hammerless percussion carbine, to the only known and documented U.S. Navy trials Artemus Wheeler flintlock revolving rifle in private hands. These are just a few of the scarce examples that illustrate the technological progression of the long gun before the lever and pump action firearms.
The stellar lineup of the August Premier Auction should draw any collector at any price point, whether it is for Colt revolvers, Winchester rifles, European shotguns, flintlocks, or machine guns. These great collections should be considered an opportunity for a collector to add a magnificent piece. Visit RIAC to see these fantastic offerings in person at Preview Day, Aug. 24.
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