Famous folks’ firearms top $21M at Rock Island Auction

Rock Island Auction

Colt Walker revolvers are a favorite with collectors for their rarity and rich history. This particular example came with a detailed history, passed down for generations through a single family. It brought $431,250. Rock Island Co. Auction image

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – Three times a year Rock Island Auction Co. transforms its preview hall into a pop-up museum filled with the history, artistry and notable names of the objects offered to collectors. The recently held June Premier Firearms Auction was no exception, sparing no expense to ensure guests were both supremely impressed and safe. With such a star-studded celebration, it should come as no surprise that it was the highest-grossing event of its kind, reaching $21.1 million dollars in the three-day span.

Nationwide visitors enjoyed a new hospitality suite anchored by a bar wrapped around an M4 Sherman tank, as well as a complimentary bag complete with mask and sanitizer. The auction was also graced by historic figures who flocked to the auction house on the Mississippi River to tell their stories through their extraordinary collectibles.

Clark Gable and his wife, Carol Lombard, were glamorous as ever with a golden bespoke shotgun – a presentation from Hollywood husband to wife.

Notorious bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd was in attendance via his Colt Government Model, which cracked its $20,000 high estimate to bring $31,625.

Rock Island Auction

The Colt Single Action Army is ‘the Gun that Won the West’ and this near-mint example is the last factory engraved specimen produced prior to World War II (aka 1st Generation). The end of an era, collectors sent it off well with a final price of $195,500. Rock Island Co. Auction image

The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, came up from Folsom prison to revisit a Spencer repeating carbine once housed in the country music legend’s personal collection. It found a new home for $8,050.

Al Capone took a break from running a criminal empire to attend by means of a nickel-plated Colt Model 1908 pocket pistol. It’s $55,000 high estimate was shot full of holes on the way to achieving $69,000.

Several of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders unsaddled long enough to bend an elbow, represented by a gold inlaid presentation revolver, as well an issued Colt Single Action Army.

Rock Island Auction

A pair of gold mounted masterpiece flintlock officer’s pistols by Nicolas-Noël Boutet, gunmaker to King Louis XVI and Napoleon Bonapart. Presented to French naval officer Cesar-Joseph Bourayne, Baron de l’Empire. Sold for $575,000. Rock Island Co. Auction image

Former Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo was there with not only his Colt 1860 Army, but also his engraved Bulldog revolver.

But it wasn’t just the “names” that stepped out to attend RIAC’s first Premier Auction of 2020. The artists were there too.

Renowned New York firm Tiffany & Co. was there in force with an extravagant display of Smith & Wessons, Colts and even military swords of their own design.

Rock Island Auction

Top: One of three known Smith & Wesson lever-action repeating carbines. Sold for $488,750. Bottom: This Colt Paterson Model 1839 revolving carbine is the only known example with a sling bar. Sold for $345,000. Rock Island Co. Auction image

Master engraver Louis D. Nimschke presented a tastefully restrained gallery comprised of six of his works from a virtual “who’s who” of 19th century American firearms manufacturers. A sensational Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3, finished in silver and gold, far surpassed its $35,000 high estimate and brought $48,875.

The entire Ulrich family was in attendance, unable to resist the pull of an event that featured works by John, George and Conrad. Even Herman was there, who seldom makes such appearances, and stole the show with his masterpiece Winchester 1866 from the Centennial Exposition that realized $161,000.

Rock Island Auction

This gold finished Winchester Model 1866 carbine is considered the masterpiece of Herman Leslie Ulrich, one of the famed family of master engravers. Exhibited at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition as well as in the Winchester Museum, it found a new home for $161,000. Rock Island Co. Auction image

Even the barons of the industry couldn’t be kept from this red-carpet event. Putting away their rivalries for the evening, it was a display of each man’s best.

Samuel Colt, the marketing genius and legendary industrialist, showcased his first steps in the firearms trade with both a rare, high condition Paterson Model 1839 carbine as well as a historic and highly sought-after Walker revolver. The Paterson saw $345,000 and the Walker stampeded right over its $250,000 estimate to find $431,250.

Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, responsible for numerous industry developments, touted those contributions by displaying a repeating carbine of their own design, said to be the genesis of all lever-action rifles. Appropriately, it saw a realized price of $488,750.

Even the normally reserved inventor John Moses Browning seemed determined to impress with several early designs of his immensely successful 1911 pistol featured for all to see.