Feeding Frenzy: Gun Auction Finishes 2014 With $47.5 Million in Sales

This magnificent, deluxe special order Winchester Third Model 1873 lever action with brilliant case hardening went for $149,500.

This magnificent, deluxe special order Winchester Third Model 1873 lever action with brilliant case hardening went for $149,500.

In the shadow of the Black Friday shopping weekend, the gun auction scene was red hot as Rock Island Auction Company’s December 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction saw collectible firearms selling like flat screen TVs.

Rock Island Auction Company’s December 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction took place from December 5-7, 2014, marking three days of intense gun-buying action. The auction would achieve an impressive $11.4 million in sales, bringing RIA’s annual total to $47.5 million.

The first day set the stage for the weekend’s bidding battle. Of note was fierce competition for high end Ithaca shotguns. Single barrel and side-by-side shotguns in a wide variety of calibers and special order features could not be had quickly enough. Examples included an engraved, gold and silver-inlaid 7E grade single barrel that sold for $8,050, or the scarce Field Grade ejector hammerless side-by-side 28 gauge that would exceed its high estimate and realize $6,325.

Gun that Nearly Assassinated Gov. George Wallace

The revolver used in the assassination attempt of Alabama Governor George Wallace would bring $28,750.

The revolver used in the assassination attempt of Alabama Governor George Wallace would bring $28,750.

Also making a splash on day one was the revolver used in the assassination attempt of Governor George Wallace, that would bring $28,750. The inconspicuous-looking revolver was used in the 1972 attempt on the life of the Alabama Governor.

The unassuming handgun was wielded by Arthur Bremmer, a man overcome with loneliness and determined to gain himself fame by killing then President Richard Nixon or Gov. Wallace. When Nixon turned out to be inaccessible, his sights turned to Wallace, literally.

During the presidential primaries in 1972, at a campaign stop in Laurel, Maryland, Bremmer got close enough to Wallace to fire five shots. Two shots struck the governor, one lodging in his spine, paralyzing him for life. Three bystanders were also wounded. Bremmer served 35 years of his 53 year sentence and has been out on parole since 2007.

Colts for Sale!

A custom-engraved Civil War Colt 1860 Army with a factory letter detailing its original shipment to the New York Arsenal was estimated at $4,500, but the percussion revolver blew away that figure to sell for $19,550. Other Colts sold like nuts on Friday, including a gold-plated, factory engraved Third Generation SAA that more than doubled its $6,500 high estimate to sell for $13,800. A J.P. Lower & Sons shipped black powder Colt SAA with its accompanying research had a high estimate of $2,750 but would eventually ring the bell at $6,900.

An outstanding pre-war, factory engraved Colt SAA with carved pearl grips beat its high estimate, selling for $51,750.

An outstanding pre-war, factory engraved Colt SAA with carved pearl grips beat its high estimate, selling for $51,750.

Day two would prove to be a bustling auction day from start to finish. Beginning with a host of Winchesters, Volcanics, and Henrys, strong bids were leveled immediately at firearms like a magnificent, deluxe special order Winchester Third Model 1873 lever action with brilliant case hardening that would not be had for less than $149,500.

An exceptional, factory engraved New Haven Arms Volcanic No. 1 pocket pistol also exceeded its high estimate of $18,000 en route to a $25,875 sale price. Likewise, an outstanding pre-war, factory engraved Colt SAA with carved pearl grips beat expectations and joined a new collection for $51,750.

A historic “C Company” Colt Walker contained reached a price of $172,500; a previously undiscovered deluxe, panel scene engraved Colt Model 1855 revolving shotgun achieved $138,000; and an exceptional Civil War production Henry rifle brought $86,250.

Colt Snake Guns

This historic “C Company” Colt Walker contained reached a price of $172,500.

This historic “C Company” Colt Walker contained reached a price of $172,500.

As Colt “Snake Guns” began to cross the block, the auction hall began to buzz. Every phone line was filled and online bidders began to make their presence felt as numerous collectors scrambled to own one of the popular revolvers. Bidders raced as values soared and jaws dropped while the numbers reached previously unheard of heights. A feeding frenzy had begun. A special R. L. Wilson special order Colt Python—with a high estimate of $4,500—would see a sale price of $11,500. Another Python, this time a scarce, inscribed, three-inch barrel Combat with its original box would go even higher and sell for $12,650. Numerous Pythons, Anacondas, Cobras, and Diamondbacks would exceed the $5,000 mark and many surpassed the $10,000 mark. It could indicate an extremely interesting trend for those who seek or collect these revolvers.

After Saturday’s blitz on Colt double action revolvers, it would hardly be a surprise to see them do well again the following day. However, the success of double actions initially came from another source—Colt Model 1877/78 Lightnings and Thunderers, led by the William Baird Collection. A very rare Lightning chambered in .32 Colt had a high estimate of $11,000 but that number mattered little to the collectors and the diminutive revolver would eventually be had for the whopping price of $25,875.

Similarly, a Colt Model 1877 Target chambered in .32 S&W was estimated between $12,000 – $18,000, but determined bidders would drive the sale price to a remarkable $31,625.

Fancying Fancy Shotguns

This deluxe, panel scene engraved Colt Model 1855 revolving shotgun achieved $138,000.

This deluxe, panel scene engraved Colt Model 1855 revolving shotgun achieved $138,000.

High end sporting shotguns continued to be a sought after commodity by collectors, hunters, and investors. An antique Parker Brothers Under Lifter side-by-side, Damascus barreled, 8-gauge shotgun smashed its $9,000 high estimate to knock down a $14,950 price. While a majority of these guns exceeded their high estimates, an engraved and gold inlaid Ithaca Grade 7E double box lock shotgun broke the bounds of its $7,000 high estimate on the way to its final figure of $13,800.
It was a very dramatic end to 2014. Some genres such as early and pre-Winchesters, further cemented their dominance as one of gun collecting’s iconic brands, while also proving to remain an excellent investment opportunity.

Others, such as the Ithaca brand shotguns, while needing no introduction to seasoned shooters, began to make some noise a bit more audible to the public at large. The surge enjoyed by modern Colt double action revolvers and “snake guns” had collectors beside themselves at the end of the auction and discussing the explosive new growth. Will these trends continue or will other new interests by collectors and investors emerge to take the scene?

For more information, please visit www.rockislandauction.com or call 1-800-238-8022.


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