DENVER, Pa. – Year after year, collecting firearms and militaria ranks as one of America’s favorite hobbies – and it’s easy to see why. It’s a pastime whose subject matter uniquely crosses history with technology, and it’s accessible to enthusiasts at all levels, from absolute beginner to seasoned pro. A preferred source for arms and military relics from the pre-Revolutionary War era through modern day is Morphy Auctions’ popular Collectible Firearms & Militaria series. The next event produced under this banner is set for December 13-15, 2022 at Morphy’s Pennsylvania gallery. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
Featured: 1796 George Washington letter, rare-pattern 1760 British light infantry flintlock carbine, exceptional Bowie knives, circa 1800-1820s Northeastern-style pipe tomahawk
The sale features 1,632 lots that span dozens of categories including: antique and modern rifles, handguns and shotguns; powder horns, (52) swords, (48) knives, (31) NFA arms, ammunition, and 259 lots of militaria, ranging from uniforms, medals and flags to a variety of field gear and equipment. Many “book examples” are featured.
The fight for American independence comes into sharp focus in Lot 1098, a rare-pattern 1760 British light infantry flintlock carbine (shown at top of page). Its distinctive furniture is of a type seen on carbines recovered from French and Indian War sites, e.g., Bushy Run Battlefield, Fort Ligonier, etc. It is also the very same type of carbine that was used by British infantry regiments during the American Revolutionary War, as early as 1771. The example offered by Morphy’s is identical to one shown in DeWitt Bailey’s reference Small Arms of the British Forces in America. In that book, Bailey states that before 1760, a total of 6,589 such carbines had been produced and that by 1776, every British infantry regiment had at least two of the guns in its possession. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000
Detail is plentiful on a circa 1800-1820s classic Northeastern-style pipe tomahawk with a hand-forged English-style iron blade. Its full length is 17-5/8 inches. The hardwood haft has a pewter mouthpiece and is covered in thin silver diamond escutcheons and 11 thin silver bands. “Because it is so extensively decorated, it’s quite possible that this pipe tomahawk was a presentation piece,” said Morphy Auctions’ president, Dan Morphy. The piece is a book example, depicted in John Baldwin’s reference Tomahawks: Pipe Axes of the American Frontier, and is said to have initially been collected in Texas. Estimate: $15,000-$30,000
The auction’s edged weapons category is highlighted by two exceptional Bowie knives with provenance from the Tommie Jones collection. The first is a circa 1840s-’50s Bowie knife made by John D. Chevalier, New York, and is correctly marked on the upper face of the blade. Measuring 11 inches long, it has a nickel-silver frame handle and guard, and a red velvet spacer at the front of the guard. The knife appears on Page 89 of The Antique Bowie Knife Book by Adams, Voyles and Moss and is accompanied by a 1979 COA from the Antique Bowie Knife Association. Additionally, it conveys with a framed display that includes a detailed illustration of the knife and a quote from Carol Hutchins taken from the February 1973 issue of The Gun Report. Fine and desirable, with excellent supportive provenance, the knife is estimated at $20,000-$30,000.
The second Bowie knife highlight is a circa-1830s production made by C. Congreve of Sheffield, England. It is 13¼ inches long overall and displays the rare “crown-style” guard unique to Congreve knives. On the blade’s ricasso it is marked (partially illegibly) with the maker’s name, and on its face, the phrase CELEBRATED HUNTING KNIFE appears in a cartouche. A first-rate early Sheffield Bowie knife, it is estimated at $12,000-$15,000.
Another mid-19th century prize from England, Lot 1221 consists of a pair of fine 4¼-inch twist-steel-pattern octagon .54-caliber percussion belt-style gentleman’s pistols. Made circa 1840 and marked by the gunsmith John Blissett, 321 High Holborn, London, the pistols have walnut grips with silver thumbpieces. The guns are presented in an engraved, brass-trimmed walnut case together with a bullet mold, the original cleaning rod, balls, and a cap. This wonderful set of antique pistols is entered with an $8,000-$12,000 estimate.
A unique eyewitness to the US Civil War, Lot 1367 is a gilt-painted snare drum that was carried by a drummer with the Connecticut Volunteers, 21st Regiment, Company D, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 24th AC (Army Corps), identified as “John Bolles.” Born in 1835, he enlisted in the military in his hometown of Ashford, Connecticut in 1862 and served as a musician with Company D from that year until his discharge in 1865. Bolles died in 1910. The drum is expected to achieve $5,000-$10,000 on auction day.
The outstanding selection of militaria is led by a framed 1796 letter personally handwritten by President George Washington to “Colonel Pickering” and labeled “Private.” The letter is very legible and thoughtfully discusses a particular candidate’s respectability and suitability to serve as Surveyor General. The document measures 9½ inches square and is framed together with a color engraving of Washington. Accompanied by a JSA Letter of Authenticity, it is estimated at $15,000-$25,000.
One of the most unusual items in the sale is a diminutive Spanish siege mortar patterned after the Coehorn mortar, which came to prominence during the 1688-97 Nine Years War. It is of a type known to have been used as a signaling device by Spanish colonial soldiers and is similar to a 1775 mortar illustrated in Harold Peterson’s reference Round Shot and Rammers. This very rare war relic is estimated at $7,500-$15,000.
Thirty-one NFA lots are will be auctioned on Day 3, including a rare high-condition Fabrique Nationale Type II “G Series” FAL semi-automatic “paratrooper” rifle imported by Browning Arms Co., in the 1960s. It comes with an additional parkerized bolt carrier, two buttstock removal tools, a front sight adjustment tool, gas regulator adjustment wrench, and extractor/bolt-disassembly tool. The pre-sale estimate is $4,000-$6,000.
Morphy’s December 13-15, 2022 Collectible Firearms & Militaria Auction will start on all three days at 9 a.m. EDT. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers. Questions: call 877-968-8880 or email email@example.com.