19th-century California knife sells for $45K at Heritage Auctions  

Michael Price, San Francisco’s premier 19th-century cutler, crafted this knife that sold for $45,000. Heritage Auctions image

DALLAS – A collection of exceptional knives and an ornate double-barrel shotgun led the final total for Heritage Auctions’ Dec. 9 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Auction to $1.49 million. The auction included the sale of more than 130 lots to benefit the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum based in Claremore, Oklahoma. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

“You could see and feel the bidding pick up when the J.M. Davis Museum lots took the podium,” said David Carde, consignment director of Heritage Auctions arms and armor. “Buyers know when items are fresh to the market and have not been offered in the past. The prices realized are a reflection of our clients’ knowledge and understanding of the historical significance of many of these lots.”

A Michael Price abalone mosaic California knife became the focus of four bidders, who drove its price to $45,000 – nearly double its estimate. The circa 1856-89 work of art was created by San Francisco’s premier 19th-century cutler, Michael Price. It features an elaborate mosaic handle of native California abalone shell and silver, with the top piece of abalone on each side in the form of a keystone. The handle’s wrapped edges and the guard are silver and engraved with beautiful scrollwork.

A cased and engraved James Purdey & Sons sidelock ejector double-barrel shotgun tempted 10 collectors into making bids before it crossed the block at $28,750, nearly 50 percent above its estimate. The 20-gauge shotgun features 26-inch barrels with concave rib and a front bead sight, and a single trigger. The right barrel is marked “J. Purdey & Sons, Audley House, South Audley Street. London. England.” The barrels, lever and trigger guard have a blued finish, and the case-hardened receiver is marked “J. Purdey & Sons” on each side.

Cased and engraved James Purdey & Sons sidelock ejector double-barrel shotgun. Price realized: $28,750. Heritage Auctions image

It took just two competitive bidders to drive the sale price for a clip point Bowie by J.D. Chevalier, New York to $27,500, nearly doubling its high estimate. The heavy 9 1/8-inch clip point blade is marked “J.D. Chevalier, New York,” and the case brass handle frame houses dark wood inserts. Although his main business was the production of dental instruments, Chevalier was one of the best-known American knife makers and made a large number of knives for those headed in 1849 to the California Gold Rush.

Clip point Bowie knife by J.D. Chevalier, New York, circa 1840s-1850s, heavy 9 1/8-inch-long clip point blade. Price realized: $27,500. Heritage Auctions image

A rare hunting knife by Schively, Philadelphia, circa 1830s-1840s, also raced past estimates before finishing at $23,750. The knife was made either by Philadelphia-based Henry Schively, or his sons, George and/or Charles, who worked with their father and independently. The 6½-inch blade features a sharpened false edge ground only from the obverse side. The 11-inch knife, with finely checkered horn slab handles attached with iron pins, is arguably the best of fewer than 10 known examples of this style.

Rare hunting knife by Henry Schively of Philadelphia, or his sons George or Charles, 6½-inch blade, circa 1830s-1840s. Price realized: $23,750. Heritage Auctions image

Also in high demand was a half-plate ambrotype (4-by-5½ -inch image) of Confederate Gen. Richard Gano, which reached more than four times its estimate when it closed at $21,250. Gano, a physician, Protestant minister and brigadier general, is pictured in a half-length portrait, which is partially tinted. He is shown with one hand tucked inside his jacket in a style reminiscent of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Confederate Gen. Richard Gano (1830-1913) half-plate ambrotype. Price realized: $21,250. Heritage Auctions image

Other top firearms in the sale included:

– Cased 12-gauge Holland & Holland Royal hammerless ejector double-barrel shotgun with extra set of barrels: $20,000.

– Cased 12-gauge Holland & Holland Royal hammerless ejector double barrel shotgun with extra set of barrels: $17,500.

– Winchester Model 1866 lever-action rifle with handwritten Madis letter: $14,375.

The auction included a collection of 132 lots to benefit the J.M. Davis Collection at the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum. The top lots from the collection, which sold for a combined $267,700 included:

– Webley-Fosbery Army/Navy single revolver: $13,750.

– French LeMat Second Model single-action percussion revolver: $11,875.

– Heavy Japanese matchlock blunderbuss cannon: $10,625.

Other lots that exceeded estimates included the 68 lots in the Schützenfest Collection, including:

– Collection of 10 gold shooting medals mainly from the San Francisco Schuetzen Verein, 1885-1915: $3,250.

– Thirteen American shooting club medals, 1888-1931: $2,531.25.

– San Francisco International Shooting Festival Association poster, 1915: $2,250.

– Beautiful hand-painted German target, 1896: $1,375.

– Three German silver Munich Bundesschiessen shooting trophy cups, 1881-1906: $1,187.50: $1,375.

Other top lots included:

– Civil War Regulation Infantry Regiment drum by Ernest Vogt, Philadelphia, contract of 1864: $13,750.

Civil War regulation infantry regiment drum by Ernest Vogt, Philadelphia.
Price realized: $13,750. Heritage Auctions image

– Civil War Regulation Infantry Regiment drum by Ernest Vogt, Philadelphia, contract of 1864: $13,750.– Rare Bowie knife by J. English & Hubers: $20,000.

– Coffin-hilt Bowie knife by Rose, New York: $15,000.