DENVER, Pa. – Collectors turned out in force for Morphy’s April 11-13 Firearms & Militaria Auction, which surpassed even seasoned experts’ pre-sale expectations as it closed the books at nearly $7 million. Morphy’s president and principal auctioneer Dan Morphy reported an average selling price of $5,600 per lot, a result he attributes to the firearms department’s focus on “quality consignments versus volume” and a lineup of Class 3 and sporting arms that discerning collectors found hard to resist. Absentee and Internet live bidding was facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.
Many eyes were on the exceptionally rare Class 3 weapons, which are strictly controlled and seldom appear for sale in the open marketplace. The investment-grade selection was led by an ultra-rare and desirable German WWI Model FG-42 machine gun, Model E 1st Model. This shoulder-fired select-fire gun was designed to use a full-power 8mm Mauser cartridge. It is one of only about 2,000 examples made, and its rarity is further enhanced by the fact that few of its type returned to the United States either during or after WWII. The weapon offered by Morphy’s came from the estate of its original American owner, a 101st Airborne paratrooper who personally retrieved and shipped it home from Germany, and registered it in 1948 Estimated at $250,000-$350,000, it soared to a final price of $456,000. All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of buyer’s premium as detailed on Morphy Auctions’ website.
Another prized entry was the exceptionally rare original WWII silenced Sten Mark IV (S) machine gun. Manufactured specifically for use by special operations forces during the pre-invasion of Japan, it is one of the rarest of all British-made machine guns registered for private ownership in the US. Its provenance shows that it was originally issued to an American officer who was training in England during WWII. In 1998, it was featured in an article in Small Arms Review. The Sten Mark IV (S) sold well above estimate at Morphy’s, reaching $129,000.
A Harrington & Richardson T48 (FAL) machine gun with its original box also performed impressively. It is one of only 500 of its type that were produced domestically in the mid-1950s for military test trials. Those trials sought to find a suitable replacement for the M1 Garand, but ultimately that honor went to Fabrique Nationale’s enduring FAL line of rifles, thus elevating the rarity of the T48. Against an estimate of $30,000-$50,000, the auction example concluded its bidding run at $114,000.
The sporting arms category was flush with impeccably built, beautifully engraved guns. A circa-1988 Armi Fabbri bespoke over/under shotgun (shown at top of page) with demi-bloc 27in nitro proof blued steel barrels, Italian proof marks, and the serial number “E701” was described in Morphy’s auction catalog as “flawless.” Master engraver Claudio Tomasoni decorated the gun with wonderful game scenes, floral bouquets and tight scrolls. Offered together with its fitted Fabbri leather case, it was bid to a within-estimate price of $84,000.
Equally faultless, a circa-2000 David McKay Brown (Bothwell, Scotland) premium-quality 20-gauge over/under game shotgun showed off its like-new condition and an elegantly engraved motif that included vines and flowers and the maker’s name in gold. Handily exceeding expectations of $30,000-$50,000, it took a bow at $61,200.
Not to be overlooked, a circa-1996 George Hoenig 7X65R over/under double rifle built in the USA also surpassed its estimate of $25,000-$35,000 to settle at $45,600.
A .40-caliber percussion Kentucky long rifle made around 1835 by master gunsmith John Armstrong of Emmitsburg, Maryland, took the term “rarity” to a new level, as it is one of only four original Armstrong percussion rifles known to exist. Its features include a superbly carved stock, brass inlaid plate on the barrel signed JOHN ARMSTRONG, and a handmade percussion lock script-signed J A. Boasting impeccable condition, the Golden Age rifle previously resided in the Joseph Kindig collection. It is now the property of a new owner who paid $72,000.
A documented original Colt No. 5 “Texas Model” Paterson Single-Action Percussion Revolver was of a type associated with the Republic of Texas and noted for its use by Texas Rangers and Texas Navy. Numbered “996,” it was one of only 1,000 such firearms produced in total between 1838 and 1840. Its line of provenance could be traced back to 1946, and it came with a 2006 John Sexton appraisal document. The final auction price was $57,600.
An extraordinary witness to history, a bright red, star-studded license plate was once affixed to the front of General Douglas MacArthur’s command car. It was documented as having been the first plate used by MacArthur after his promotion to 5-star general in 1944, hence the five-star pattern. The plate was brought home from Korea by Major General Henry K Kellogg and came to auction with paperwork. Against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000, it rose to $31,200.
Morphy Auctions is currently accepting quality consignments for its August 15-18, 2023 Firearms & Militaria Auction. To discuss consigning a collection or individual item to Morphy’s, call Dan Morphy tollfree at 877-968-8880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There is never an obligation to consign, and all enquiries will be kept strictly confidential.
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