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Colt revolver fetches record price at auction

A Colt Serial No. 1 Single Auction Army revolver fetched a world record price of $862,500 to highlight the recent Greg Martin Auction in Las Vegas.
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SAN FRANCISCO – Although Jan. 18 marked the first time that Greg Martin Auctions held a sale in Las Vegas, it’s unlikely to be the last. Intended to dovetail with the Las Vegas Antique, Sporting Arms and Custom Knifemakers Show on Jan 16-18, the Greg Martin Auctions event was a rousing success with more than $3 million in sales, including a world-record auction price for a Colt Single Action firearm. An amazing 95 percent of all lots that came up for bid were sold.

The auction – perhaps the largest sale ever of Colt firearms to come under the hammer at once – featured two exceptional collections of Colts. The Buck Stevens Collection of Fine Colts offered 77 lots of unique firearms, including one of the rarest arms in existence – the historic Colt Single Action Army Revolver Serial No. 1. Called the “Peacemaker” and celebrated as an icon of American arms collecting, this Colt Revolver, along with extensive background material and its custom gold-embossed display case, was estimated to bring $500,000 – 1,000,000. When the auctioneer’s gavel came down, Serial No. 1 stole the show – realizing $862,500 and a new world-record price for a Colt Single Action firearm sold at auction.

The second assemblage showcased – the Colt Factory Archives Collection – presented firearms unique in American history. Offered to the collecting public in three parts, the collection features over 1,200 lots, from the Colt factory’s earliest years through today. The reference collection included prototypes, production models, samples, presentation and engraved pieces and miscellaneous arms.

Part one of the collection offered 430 lots – mostly from the 20th century, including prototypes, experimental firearms and factory samples – and the “Last Gun Made in Hartford.” Lots were very well received by buyers, realizing a stunning 97 percent sell-through rate. Parts Two and Three of the Colt Factory Archives Collection will be sold by Greg Martin Auctions later this year.

Greg Martin, principal owner of the company bearing his name, was very pleased with the auction – but not surprised at the results. “Quality and rarity attract buyers,” said Martin. “Even in a bad economy, great firearms still sell – and at record prices. Antique arms continue to be an excellent store of value and asset preservation.” Martin noted that, not only antiques from the Great American Wes,t but the more modern firearms featured in Part One of the Colt Factory Archives Collection, proved to be very popular. “Seldom do collectors in this segment have a chance to buy prototypes, experimentals and one-of-a kind pieces,” he said. “These items are rarely available in the marketplace – and when they are, buyers recognize the exceptional opportunity and turn out enthusiastically to bid.”

Highlights of the January sale included:

Lot 51 – $862,500:  The most famous firearm in the Buck Stevens Collection is the Serial No. 1 Colt Single Action Army “Peacemaker” revolver. Celebrated since its discovery in 1925, only five collector owners had possessed this national treasure Colt handgun. As the first in the unique production run of Single Action Army revolvers – and its copies – No. 1 is an American icon, and among the most revered firearms ever manufactured. A gold-tooled and inscribed leather case was custom made by Arno Werner Bookbinders to showcase the rarity and significance of this important and historic Colt. The price set a new world-record price for a Colt Single Action sold at auction.

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Lot 77 – $241,500: From the historic Freund Brothers Frontier Armory was Single Action Army revolver, No. 83639. Featuring classic refinements and engraving by the Freunds, No. 83639 is the most elaborate of all Freund revolvers, including a faceted hammer design and the original owner’s monogram. In excellent condition, the revolver had the added feature of a notarized letter of its history, having been won at a raffle in Leadville, Colorado, in the late 1880s. A gold-tooled leather case was made to display the revolver in a regal manner. The engraving of the revolver is attributed to Frank Freund. Only three Freund Single Action Colts are currently known to collectors.

 Lot 151 – $172,500: A deluxe cased, gold inlaid, engraved and inscribed "Last Gun Made in Hartford." This Single Action Army was built by Colt’s Custom Shop, in recognition of the factory's historic move from the old Hartford site dating back to 1855, to the facility on New Park Avenue, where today's headquarters, factory and test range are located. The "Last Gun Made in Hartford" bears serial number MAY 31, 1994 HARTFORD.

Lot 41 – $149,500: The “Big Medicine” Single Action Army, No. 177251 is a .45 caliber 4 3/4-inch revolver made for Crow Chief and Custer Scout Big Medicine, and was complete with extensive history. The unique inscription was factory-engraved on the barrel top, to rear of the front sight: “Big Medicine/Chief of Police.” The detailed history, in a loose-leaf binder, includes the documenting factory letter, background on the Chief, and the origin of his revolver, a gift from 17 U.S. Army officers to a man respected for his bravery and service record. The Big Medicine Colt was the only 19th-century Indian Single Action documented in the factory records.

Lot 75 – $103,500:  From the 1876 Centennial display of the Colt Company was Serial No. 11088 Single Action Army.  At the center of the factory’s elaborate display was a pinwheel design of 18 deluxe Single Action Army revolvers, all with elaborately plated finishes and with ivory grips. Fourteen of these arms were engraved. Colt records reveal that No. 11088 served the company as a sample Single Action, remaining so from c. 1874 to 1894, at which time sale and shipment was made to New York.

Lot 1 – $97,750:  Sam Colt’s beginnings as an inventor, designer, gun maker and marketing genius were with the Paterson, New Jersey, revolvers of c. 1836-42. The largest and most sought-after of these historic first practical revolvers is the No. 5 or Texas Paterson, also known as the Holster Model. The Texas pistol from the Buck Stevens collection was Serial No. 247, with a 7 5/8-inch barrel.

The January Sale featured separate catalogs for each of the two collections; these are still available for purchase. In addition, complete catalogs and auction results are presented online at by individual lot, including full descriptions, estimates and photographs.

Greg Martin Auctions’ next live event is scheduled for March

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