May 30, 2018
By Joel R Kolander
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If you follow the collector firearms market, you know Colt Python revolvers have undergone an explosive rise in price over the past few years. With a nickname like “The Rolls-Royce of Colt revolvers,” it’s easy to see why. Pythons are always a fan favorite because they are gorgeous and sure as hell fun to shoot.
If regular Colt Python revolvers fetch a high price, see what it takes to make the list of the 10 best Colt Python revolvers sold at Rock Island Auction Company. These are some of the finest, rarest, and most desirable Colt Pythons known to collectors.
…and now for something completely different. Kind of. This is still one of the gorgeous Colt Python collector firearms that sold in the previous sale as the last two, and is featured in the same video. However, in addition to its sterling condition, this Python has the honor of being engraved and signed by Master Engraver A. A. White before being presented to noted radio celebrity Barry Gray. Known as the “Father of Talk Radio,” Mr. Gray seldom skirted the controversial issues on his show, gun control being one of them.
He would eventually become a Colt collector himself before his death in 1996. The New York Times obituary of Gray states that he was “radio’s longest-running, highest-paid, and most controversial interviewer, loathed and loved by his listeners.” The gun itself is kept tastefully simple with its near perfectly executed scrollwork. The opposite side features a gold inlaid “serial number” of BG-1, and the presentation inscription “To Barry Gray, With Compliments of Colt Firearms.”
Perhaps of more interest to collectors are the unique and smooth grips inset with the Colt Custom Shop medallions and the muzzle inscription that reads, “Crook control.” All of this was enough to earn this particular revolver a generous spread in the collector firearms book by R. L. Wilson’s The Art of the Gun: Magnificent Colts. It sold during the April 2018 Premier Firearms Auction at Rock Island Auction Company for $20,700.
If you watched our videos on the topic, you know that some folks think that all .22 caliber Colt Pythons are fake. We’ve shown that to be false, and this is the revolver that serves as proof. This particular Python, in its .22 magnum rimfire chambering, was pictured in the 1981 Colt catalog, though the caliber was never mass produced.
The cylinder is chambered for .22, and the barrel is sleeved for .22, but the forcing cone is still that of a .357 magnum, making this gun unsafe to fire. To help ensure that it would never be used unsafely, the firing pin was also removed. At one point it was given to Colt District Manager Lewis B. Sharp for his work “to get the 8-inch barreled Python added to the product line in 1981,” by then Colt Vice President Dave Davis. It sold in May of 2017 for $23,000 at Rock Island Auction Company's Spring Premier Auction.
Snake eyes! The gambling motif has long been attached to revolvers thanks to the Wild West days on the American frontier, and seldom is this more apparent than with this matched cased set of Colt Python double action revolvers found in the September 2020 Premier Auction at Rock Island Auction Company.
Held within a gorgeous wood frame box, internally lined with bright green felt, the presentation of these guns is enough to energize even the staunchest of Colt critics to place bids. Manufactured in a limited run of 500 sets, the only thing missing are some good buddies to throw some cards with. Along with smooth grips featuring two dice scrimshawed on the left panel and playing cards on the right, this lot sold for $23,000 and is sure to make the next poker night something special.
These two Colt Python revolvers are documented as belonging to Texas Ranger Captain E. J. "Jay" Banks. Banks became a Texas Ranger in 1947 after previous work in local, county, and state law enforcement. In 1950 he, along with other Rangers, are credited with apprehending the notorious Los Angeles-based gangster Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen in the Kemp Hotel in Wichita Falls, Texas, "escorting" him to a plane out of Texas, and "advising" him to never return.
Banks was also involved in bringing the notorious killers Gene Paul Norris and Bill Humphrey to justice in 1957 after a high speed chase and shootout which ended in the deaths of both Norris and Humphrey.
Both of these Colt Python revolvers were manufactured in 1982 and came complete with a a notarized letter signed by Banks listing the revolvers by serial number and stating that the revolvers belonged to him, and a Colt hardwood case that holds both revolvers with a presentation plaque on the lid to the Ranger, and a gun belt. They sold during the June 2020 Premier Firearms Auction for $25,875 at Rock Island Auction Company.
Currently this is the lowest serial numbered Python that we have ever sold (though SN 14 is slated for our September 2018 Premiere Auction). Not only is it an extremely early production model, but was also shipped to retailer Abercrombie & Fitch on November 16, 1956. Back then, it would have retailed for a not-inexpensive $125 (over $1,100 in 2018 dollars).
A stunning piece of firearms technology, this gorgeous revolver is breathtaking, to say the least. The crisp checkering on the grips illuminates the golden Colt medallion located in the center. Along with its un-numbered replacement Colt Python box, this impressive lot sold for $25,875 during the September Premier Firearms Auction in 2017.
This stunning first year production (1955) Colt Python has a two-digit serial number and was one of the earliest of the double actions to be produced. Considering that only 299 were made in that first production year, finding and owning one is a real treat for snake gun aficionados.
Because of such a limited number produced, the value of early production Pythons is extremely high, particularly double digit serial number examples. This model sold for a whopping $34,500 in Rock Island Auction Company's December 2021 Premier Auction, doubling the average price first year production Pythons were going for in 2017.
Please notice the sizable price increase from the previous Python on the list. This rare snake gun originally began life as a standard .357 Magnum Colt Python. However, with the introduction of the .256 Winchester Magnum round in 1960, Colt thought the Python was the perfect revolver to take advantage of the new cartridge, and so took this gun off the production line in March 1961 and sent it to the Colt Engineering Department for conversion into the new caliber. This is documented in R. L. Wilson’s The Book of Colt Firearms.
Experimental calibers such as this are rare as hen’s teeth for Python collectors, and it showed in the sale price. It sold in April of 2018 at the Premier Firearms Auction for $40,250 at Rock Island Auction Company.
There are almost too many details to discuss them adequately. This phenomenal cased Python was engraved by Howard Dove, and the grips and grip cap work was done by Leonard Froncolini, each a master engraver. Patriotic gold inlays, superb engraving down to the hammer and trigger, silver scenes on the grips, the handsome rosewood case, and the stunning exclamation point of the grip cap all made this set an easy choice to feature on the cover of the 2017 Standard Catalog of Firearms.
It originated as a private commission from Art Jewel Enterprises in Carol Stream, IL, for a California-based collector, and remains in near mint condition. Manufactured in 1978, this revolver is one of the finest known exhibition quality Colt Python collector firearms – a true piece of modern firearm art.
As the third most expensive Colt Python ever sold by Rock Island Auction Company, this gorgeous revolver is absolutely stunning and sold during the September 2017 Premier Auction for $54,625 at Rock Island Auction Company.
When examining recent Colt Python prices and trends, this California Colt Combat Python from Rock Island Auction's May 2022 Premier sale exemplifies the contuining upsurge the platform is experiencing in the gun collecting community. The included factory letter lists this revolver as having an 8 inch barrel chambered in 38 special with nickel finish and stocks not listed when shipped to Pacific Internat'l Merchandising Corp. in Sacramento, California. It also notes that only 251 Nickel Target Pythons were produced.
With an estimated 200 manufactured, the California Combat Python is one of the rarest snake gun models. This example doubled its high estimate and achieved a mindblowing $70,500 with Rock Island Auction Company in May 2022.
The California Combat Python was built by Pacific International off of original Colt Target Pythons by cutting down the barrel to 3 inches, adding a new front sight and barrel marking, and reaming out the cylinder for .357 magnum ammunition. Due to the modifications made to create California Combat Pythons, the barrel lacks the standard Colt address and the cylinder is marked for .38 special. With an estimated 200 manufactured, these unique snake guns are some of the rarest of the genre.
What other gun could be king of this list than one belonging to The King, Elvis Presley. This extraordinary Python came to Rock Island Auction Company along with a Smith & Wesson 19-2 he presented to then Vice President Spiro Agnew, a bejeweled sheriff’s badge, and numerous historical documents. Elvis gave this Colt Python to his director of security and close personal friend, Richard Grob. Its provenance is flawless and extensive establishing itself firmly as an exhibition quality revolver owned by an American icon.
Notice the expertly executed scroll work, alternating gold and platinum inlays, beautifully scrimshawed grips, and the five North American wild animals wondrously depicted in gold. A sensational showcase of the gunmaker’s art combined with an iron clad provenance to a legendary performer added up to a world record price for a Colt Python. It sold during the May 2017 Premier Firearms Auction for $172,500 at Rock Island Auction Company.
There you have it firearms friends! Those are the top 10 Colt Pythons ever sold by Rock Island Auction Company, and frankly, it’s a pretty good list. Far from a list of firearms barely discernible from each other, the top Colt Pythons are a really neat variety of finishes, history, embellishment, and rarity that illustrates the diversity within the platform. Colt Python popularity continues to skyrocket thanks to their gorgeous gun aesthetic, fine craftsmanship, and portrayal in popular media in recent years like Rick Grimes' Python in the Walking Dead.
Nothing beats the clean and polished look that a Colt Python in good order can exude, and the rare, engraved, and historic examples listed here demonstrate the highest level this exciting genre has to offer. Gun prices are going up across the board, but the Colt Python's rise in value has been particularly notable. Time will only tell high far snake gun prices can go, but for the foreseeable future, they’re still on their way up.
As always, if there are any questions regarding consignment, registration, and future auctions, please contact Rock Island Auction Company. The standard for excellence is always growing here at Rock Island Auction Company, so be sure to check back for updates to this list throughout the year.
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