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Ancient armor, weapons top sellers in Munich

Over 7,300 items were sold between April 20 and 30 at Hermann Historica’s 57th auction.
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(Munich, May 19th 2009) - Over 7,300 items were sold between April 20 and 30 at Hermann Historica’s 57th auction. Although more lots than usual remained unsold, selected pieces achieved top results of up to twenty times their starting price.

Hermann Historica is one of the world’s leading auction houses for historical weapons, hunting gear, medals, and militaria. As has become customary over the years, the annual spring auction began with a two-day sale of firearms of five centuries, and Ancient arms and armor.

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Arsenal stored wheel lock puffer for enlisted men of the Saxon
Prince-Elector’s Palace Life Guards from 1587.

18,500 euros ($25,457).

Firearms of five centuries

Among the highlights in this section was a pair of cased percussion pistols from the workshop of the noted Prague gunsmith Anton Vincent Lebeda (1797-1857). Manufactured in 1840 and decorated with intricate vine work in silver and gold, they exceeded their starting price of 12,000 euros ($16,510) to sell for 21,000 euros ($28,887). Bidding for a breech-loading pistol by the same maker began at a starting price of 10,000 euros ($13,758); formerly owned by Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the excellently crafted weapon with custom features such as a finely checkered ebony stock and a gold inlaid cipher FF for Franz Ferdinand fetched 14,500 euros ($19,953). A striking, arsenal stored wheel lock puffer for enlisted men of the Saxon Prince-Elector’s Palace Life Guards from 1587 embellished with the Saxon Electorate’s coat of arms and fine bone inlays even brought 18,500 euros ($25,457).

Top results were also achieved for exceptional guns of newer date. A Mauser C 96 “Step-Barrel Cone Hammer - System Mauser” in near mint condition with matching numbers including detachable stock and grip panels caused a bidding competition which only came to an end at 30,000 euros ($41,275) – five times the starting price of 6,000 euros ($8,255). Another rare and highly sought after item was an SS antitank rifle assembled at Waffenwerke Bruenn. Produced in a quantity of only 2,000 pieces, the weapon sold for an impressive 32,000 euros ($44,031) (starting price 9,500 euros - $13,073).

Ancient arms and armor
One of the nine auction days centered on antiques. Among the lots were also several pieces from the famous Axel Guttmann Collection. Whether in the salesroom, online or on the telephone, bidders from all over the world seized the opportunity to enhance their own collections with unique artifacts of ancient origin.

Taking center-stage were two Chalcidian bronze helmets from the 5th century BC, which were among a group of 17 helmets discovered in a cliff deposit in Spain. With features such as a round chased skull, enforced brows, curved cheek plates, and a crest holder, both helmets were offered at a starting price of 10,000 euros ($13,758); one sold for 30,000 euros ($41,275), the more unusual piece with adornments made of hammered, pierced sheet bronze brought 35,000 euros ($48,169). An unusual Hellenistic Pilos type helmet from the 4th/3rd century BC with a high skull, rich decorations, and naturalistically shaped wings achieved 22,000 euros ($30,273) (12,000 euros - $16,510), while a set consisting of a Chalcidian helmet and a two-piece muscle armor dating from the 5th/4th century BC soared above its starting price of 8,500 euros ($11,695) to sell for 25,000 euros ($34,398).

Medieval weaponry
Arms and armor from the Middle Ages have always been a source of great fascination. The spring sale of Hermann Historica presented once more a wide variety of lots displaying the craftsmanship of sword smiths and armorers of previous centuries: a Viking sword from the 9th/10th century with vestiges of silver and copper wire inlays on the pommel and crossbar was sold for 11,000 euros ($15,135); two well preserved knightly swords from the 15th century achieved 12,500 euros ($17,199) and 13,500 euros ($18,575); a close helmet from the 16th century with a modified grotesque visor fetched 8,600 euros ($11,831); helmets with visors bearing embossed facial features were frequently in use at the Gioco del Ponte, an annual festival historically documented since the 14th century.

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Richly decorated cocked hat formerly owned by Patrice de
Mac-Mahon (1808-1893)

23,500 euros ($32,341)

Medals and militaria
A large selection of medals and other military objects was also successfully sold. A fierce bidding contest ensued over a richly decorated cocked hat formerly owned by Patrice de Mac-Mahon (1808-1893), ultimately realizing 23,500 euros ($32,341) against a starting price of 3,000 euros ($4,127). Due to his outstanding service, Mac-Mahon was promoted to Marshal of France before even leaving the field after the Battle of Magenta in the Austro-Sardinian War in 1859, later also becoming Duke of Magenta. Another important piece of French military history was General Viktor d’Urbal’s personal helmet. After several minutes of heated bidding, the model 1913 helmet for cavalry officers with gilt mountings and long horsehair crest sold for 17,000 euros ($23,385) – well in excess of its starting price of 2,000 euros ($2,751).

A significant object of British naval history was offered under lot number 4522. The splendid vermeil cigar box with hand painted enamel cartouches was given to John Rankin by staff members of Rankin, Gilmore & Co. in 1911 as commemorative present for his 50th anniversary at the shipping company. The unique item commanded a final price of 20,000 euros ($27,518). Two magnificent swords also performed exceptionally well: the splendid honour sabre given in June 1866 by the Spanish government to Archibald Douglas Fletcher, British Commander of the HMS Spiteful, fetched 15,000 euros ($20,639); an equally noteworthy presentation sabre with two scabbards formerly owned by the English brewer, philanthropist, and Member of Parliament Charles Buxton (1823-1871) sold for amazing 18,000 euros ($24,772).

The personal seals of noted politicians and noblemen also achieved top prices. The jewel encrusted wax seal of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico (1832-1867) brought 6,000 euros ($8,257); the onyx sceau of King Nicholas I Petrovitch Njegosh of Montenegro (1841 – 1921) realized 8,500 euros ($11,697); the signet stamp of Baron Albert Salomon Anselm von Rothschild (1844-1911) fetched 8,000 euros ($11,008); the extravagant seal of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886) with a handle bearing the figure of a historical knight in full armor found a new owner for 11,000 euros ($15,136). The highest amount was paid for a seal commemorating the 25th anniversary of the victory in the Franco-German War 1870/71; made entirely of nickel silver, it formerly belonged to Reich President Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934) and sold for 14,000 euros ($19,269).

The complete list of sale results can be found at All results are net prices and do not include a 23 percent buyer’s premium. Unsold objects can be purchased in the after sale.

The upcoming autumn auction of Hermann Historica oHG will take place in Munich in October 2009. Consignments are welcome from now until mid June.

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