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Al Cali collection of Colts crosses auction block

SAN FRANCISCO – Greg Martin Auctions / Heritage Auctions is offering the Al Cali Collection of Important Colt Firearms, to be held as Part I of a three-part sale on Sept. 18 in Dallas, Texas.

Amassed over 40 years, this heirloom collection showcases rare Colt firearms of the ultimate condition and desirability. This not-to-miss opportunity for Colt collectors presents over 30 lots valued at approximately $6 million to $7 million, with the potential to realize exceptional prices.

According to Greg Martin, a founder of Greg Martin Auctions, which was recently acquired by Heritage Auctions, the assemblage amassed by Al Cali is an outstanding, one-of-a-kind collection. “This is the most significant group of Colts put together in the past 50 years,” said Martin. “None has been seen at auction or outside the collection in decades, if ever. Each is unique in its own right and many are world-class arms in mint condition. Passionate Colt collectors who seek the best will be thrilled to see and bid on what is now and so rarely available.”

Here are some highlights of the Cali Collection presented in September. Among the unique lots are several presentation pieces from Samuel Colt, who effectively and innovatively used these firearms both for marketing purposes and to honor heroes of the day. The finest examples – fully engraved and inscribed revolvers, cased with accessories, in mint condition and presented to a famed person of the time – are perhaps the most exotic category of American antique arms for today’s collectors.


· Cased and Shell Carved Ivory-Gripped Texas or Holster Model Paterson Revolver, with 9-inch Barrel and Attached Loading Lever. Serial no. 515, .36 caliber, 5-shot cylinder with stagecoach holdup roll scene, and with “COLT” marking within border motif. Six silver band inlays on the 9-inch octagonal barrel. Top of barrel with standard roll-marking, with star and snake motif terminal at each end: Patent Arms M’g. Co. Paterson, N.J.-Colt’s Pt.” Casing of varnished mahogany and full accessories. The Paterson was Samuel Colt’s first revolver, manufactured in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1836. This revolver, widely reproduced in books and magazines, is in mint condition and one of the finest Paterson’s known. (Estimate: $700,000-$900,000).


· Colt Walker Model Civilian Series Revolver with Period Flap Leather Holster. Popularly known as “The Thumbprint Walker,” the Colt Walker Model revolver, serial number 1078, is an exquisite example from the series of 100 civilian revolvers that were manufactured at the same time as the commission of 1,000 revolvers from the U.S. Ordnance Department in 1847 for the Mexican War, through the aegis of Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker. These revolvers were designed jointly by Walker and young entrepreneur Samuel Colt. The Walker’s triumphant debut paved the way for Colt’s achievements as the ultimate American gunmaker. This unusual revolver, exceptionally preserved and in rare full blue finish, has on the frame a workman’s fingerprint, possibly that of Samuel Colt himself. The revolver is accompanied by the finest known Walker Colt holster, which had been separated from the revolver for many years.

Colt Walker number 1078 has been recognized as one of the finest, most original and rare examples known of the Walker Model. Quoting R.L. Wilson, “To the advanced collector of Colt firearms, the Walker Model is the most necessary single item in his arms group.” Only about 175 of the original 1,100 Walkers are known to collectors. “Number 1078 is worthy of the finest private museum collection of American firearms, and is truly a classic from the entire field of studying and collecting arms and armor.” It was discovered decades ago by Tom P. Weston, a Mexico City antiques dealer. (Estimate: $600,000–$800,000).


· Historic Cased, Engraved and Ivory-Gripped Colt Third Model Dragoon Revolver, Inscribed “Colonel P.M. Milliken.” Serial number 16477, .44 caliber, 6-shot cylinder with Texas Rangers and Indians roll scene. The revolver is profusely scroll and border engraved, which is attributed to Colt’s master engraver Gustave Young. Varnished mahogany case and accessories. Colonel P.M. Milliken was a gallant officer of the 1st Ohio Volunteer cavalry in the Union Army. He was killed leading a saber charge against the Confederates near Murfreesboro, Tenn., in December 1862. The firearm became a prized family heirloom and was inherited by his son, who was just four when his father died. The P.M. Milliken Dragoon, often featured in various publications, is considered among the most desirable of Colt percussion revolvers. (Estimate: $500,000-$700,000).

· Historic Cased, Engraved and Presentation Inscribed Colt Model 1861 New Model Navy Revolver, from the Colt Co. to E.W. Parsons, of Adams Express Company, Hartford. Serial number 19928/E, .36 caliber, 6-shot cylinder with naval engagement roll scene. The backstrap was inscribed “Edward W. Parsons/ With Compliments of the Company/July 1865.” E.W. Parsons served as Chief of the Hartford division of the Adams Express Company, which shipped thousands of Colt revolvers. The deluxe brassbound walnut case contains all accessories – the whole in mint condition. (Estimate: $500,000-$700,000).

· Cased, Engraved and Presentation Inscribed Colt Model 1849 Pocket Model Revolver. The silver-plated backstrap is inscribed: “Anson Chase/From the Inventor.” Serial number 33598/, .31 caliber, 5-shot cylinder with stagecoach holdup roll scene. Varnished rosewood case with accessories. The lot is accompanied by a personal card of Mrs. Samuel Colt with a handwritten inscription, ”with compliments,” and a documenting letter from author and firearms expert R.L. Wilson, noting this revolver “…is of museum quality and importance…It honors the principal gunmaker who built the first of the Colt (prototype) revolvers, and was a gift from the inventor himself.” (Estimate $175,000–$250,000).

· Cased, Historic, and U.S. Martially Marked Colt Third Model Dragoon Revolver, with Smithsonian Institution Stamping "222 399” on Grips. Serial number 14797, .44 caliber, 6-shot cylinder with Texas Rangers and Indians roll scene. Varnished mahogany case with accessories and shipping document from the Smithsonian. According to its records, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History received the revolver in 1903 and traded it for a Gatling Gun in 1958. (Estimate $100,000–$150,000)

The September auction also features two lots that are each a collection of items within the Cali Collection.


· Historic Cased, Inscribed and Custom-Made Set of Colt Model 1851 Navy and Model 1855 Pocket Sidehammer Revolvers, Property of Loren Ballou, a Trusted Employee of Colonel Samuel Colt. The Model 1851 Navy revolver bears serial no. 37301 and was made in London. On the Model 1855 Sidehammer revolver, instead of a serial number, the name “L. Ballou” is stamped within the cartouche on the cylinder and on the buttstrap. A walnut case inscribed “L. Ballou/London” holds both revolvers and numerous accessories. This lot features other items for Mr. Ballou or his wife, including a tea chest, traveling desk set, sewing box, foot locker, artifacts, the documents and records pertaining to his career with the Colt company – including the only known presentation book signed by Samuel Colt.

Of particular note is an exquisite pair of Rampant Colt Sculptures mounted on high-quality walnut – the only known examples of rampant colts that were ever presented by Samuel Colt. Each measures 5-7/8 inches high by 5-5/8 inches wide. According to the Ballou family, from which most of the collection was purchased over many years, the Rampant Colt Sculptures were presented to Ballou in gratitude by Colonel Samuel Colt. These sculptures were acquired from Ballou’s great-granddaughters, who were initially unwilling to part with these family treasures. Eventually they changed their minds, adding a significant part to the Ballou collection. According to Cali, the completion of the Ballou set was “the most gratifying hunt” the collector had ever experienced. (Estimate $400,000–$600,000).


· Charter Oak Collection: Historic Cased, Engraved and Inscribed Colt Model 1855 Pocket Sidehammer Revolver with Charter Oak Grip, Presented by the Inventor to Arms Dealer J.I. Spies. Serial number 5886, .28 caliber, 5-shot cylinder with stagecoach holdup roll scene. The backstrap inscription documents the gift of this set to J.I. Spies, with a specific reference to “Charter Oak Stock/from I.W. Stuart.” The grips are a single piece of varnished Charter Oak. The varnished mahogany case includes all accessories.

This lot also includes the carved Charter Oak Cane, 37 inches long, with an inscribed silver collar; a framed lithograph of the fallen Charter Oak with an oak frame crafted from wood of the tree itself; the Charter Oak brochure dated 1856; a copy of the Proceeds at the Dedication of Charter Oak Hall; an authentic log with from the Charter Oak; and other related items.

The Charter Oak has played a significant part in the history of Connecticut, known as the “Constitution State.” In 1639, Reverence Thomas Hooker, founder of Hartford, prepared the “Fundamental Orders,” considered to be the world’s first written constitution giving people – not the English monarch – the right to appoint their own governor and leaders. In 1662, King Charles II granted Connecticut a Royal Charter, based on the “Fundamental Orders.” As other New England settlements were established, they also were granted Royal Charters. However, after Charles II’s death, his brother James II appointed Sir Edmund Andros Governor of all New England, who in 1687 demanded the surrender of all New England Charters. When Connecticut refused, Andros arrived with 35 armed guards to take it in person. In a meeting between Andros and Connecticut leaders with the document on the table, candlelight was suddenly extinguished by Andrew Leete. In the dark and confusion, the Royal Charter was handed off to Captain Joseph Wadsworth, who ran out of town with the document and hid it a hole of the ancient oak.

After a ferocious storm, the centuries-old oak fell in 1856. The owner of the property on which the tree stood, I.W. Stuart, supplied some of the white oak’s wood to Samuel Colt. Since 1999, the legendary Charter Oak has appeared on the reverse side of 750 million Connecticut quarters from the U.S. Mint. (Estimate $250,000–$350,000).

The Sept. 18 sale features a total of 1020 lots. In addition to the Cali offerings, the event also includes two other noteworthy sessions: Part II offers Fine Antique Arms and Sporting Guns, and Part III comprises over 700 lots to benefit the National Rifle Association for the NRA Firearms For Freedom Auction that began on Aug. 21. Greg Martin Auctions / Heritage Auctions’ September event will be held at Heritage Auctions’ galleries, located at 3500 Maple Avenue, Dallas, Texas.

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