In October of 2004, James D. Julia Auctioneers conducted a $9 million dollar auction--the highest grossing firearms auction ever held in the world! In the fall of 2005 Julia's re-set this world record with a $9.2 million gross, but the recent October 2007 auction blew past all previous figures with an astounding $11.23 million gross! The driving force behind this sale was the incredible Ben Michel collection of Confederate firearms, blades and relics .
Confederate firearms collector, Ben Michel, confers with Julia's long-time chief firearms consultant J.R. LaRue. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc. The auction commenced on Monday, October 8th with the renowned collection of Confederate arms amassed by Mr. Ben Michel. Mr. Michel, and extremely successful lawyer from New Jersey has been a passionate collector of arms, rare Marklin trains, French military arms, etc., since the early 1950s. His passion for Confederate arms continued into the 80s when he had somewhat completed his collection. Ben's collection of Confederate conversions is recognized as the most extensive of its type in the world. This special single-owner auction presented a rare opportunity for serious collectors of Confederate arms.
The star of the collection was a rare LeMat 1st Model serial number 7 revolver originally on the famous Confederate iron-clad "Atlanta". The revolver carried a presale estimate of $50,000-$100,000 and after a furious bidding battle, topped out at $166,750. An extensive collection of Confederate long arms included the extremely rare and desirable Tarpley carbine. Only around 100 of these were originally made and only 20 of these exist today. This rare example was estimated at $75,000-$125,000 and sold for $80,500. An exceedingly rare and desirable Confederate rising breech carbine estimated at $40,000-$60,000 finally sold for $46,000 and a scarce Confederate Cook & Bros. cavalry carbine estimated at $20,000-$25,000 went out at a strong $41,400.
Confederate Tarpley carbine, one of only 20 believed to exist today. Estimate $75,000-$125,000 (Ben Michel Collection). Sold for $80,500. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
Also included in Ben's collection were some very rare Confederate Bowie knives including a fine Georgia Armory Confederate Bowie with exceptional scabbard estimated at $6,000-$8,000 that sold for $13,225. As rare as Confederate arms are, their cartridges are even rarer. Ten original Enfield rifle cartridges in their original paper containers sold for $7,475. A historic relic from the battlefield of Cedar Mountain, Virginia, a Confederate wooden canteen with its very rare original linen sling together with a period inscription applied on the side indicating it was taken from the body of a captain of a Confederate North Carolina regiment; it sold for $9,200.
Desirable Confederate rising breech carbine (Bilharz, Hall & Company). Est: $40,000-$60,000, Sold: $46,000Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
Immediately concluding the successful Ben Michel auction, Julia offered a number of consignments of very rare Civil War items from other collections. A Confederate Texas Dance revolver, estimated at $40,000-$60,000 went out at $51,750. The finest pair of consecutively numbered Confederate manufactured pistols known brought $132,250. Some years back, Julia's sold a rare presentation Civil War sword presented to Col. Jacob Frick. The sword did extremely well at auction and later Julia's was contacted by another branch of the Frick family who also had a presentation sword, once owned by this well known Medal of Honor winner. This second sword an attractive and embellished dress sword was estimated at $15,000-$20,000 and finally sold at $47,150.
First Model LeMat revolver captured from the Confederate ironclad "Atlanta" serial number 7. Est: $50,000-$100,000. Sold: $166,750.Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
In addition to the extraordinary Civil War items was also an outstanding offering of rare Colt revolvers. The "Holy Grail" for Colt collectors is the Walker pistol, made at the request of Capt. Walker by Sam Colt for use in the Mexican War. A year and a half ago, Julia's set the world record for the most expensive Walker revolver ever sold at auction at $438,000, this time, a nicer example topped out at $483,000; making it the new world record for a Walker. A rare, martially marked 1st Model Colt Dragoon, estimated at $27,500-$42,500 went for $51,750. A minty cased Colt M60 estimated at $20,000-$30,000 brought $41,400. A spectacular cased Mass Arms Belt revolver in pristine condition was estimated at $15,000-$25,000 but condition carried it to $32,200.
Confederate Dance army revolver. Est: $40,000-$60,000. Sold: $51,750. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
For the last five or six years Julia's has consistently offered and sold some of the finest American and Confederate flags offered at auction and this sale carried a number of interesting examples. Remnants of the first American flag captured during the Civil War together with a large period fabric banner went out at $33,350. Another interesting American flag was a small primitively made flag constructed by school girls in a private Kentucky school. This flag, complete with a period inscribed letter documenting its history indicating that one of the teachers and a number of the senior girls had constructed the flag to wave out the window while Confederate militia was drilling in the streets below. This small folk art flag with a wonderful history carried a presale estimate of $5,000-$10,000 and finally sold for $26,450.
The finest pair of consecutive numbered, Confederate manufactured pistols known, Rigdon & Ansley. Est: $150,000-$175,000. Sold: $132,250. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
Although the sale was tremendously successful, not everything hit the mark; one surprise was an extremely rare and historic Civil War lot consisting of a swallow-tail guidon flag of the 15th Reg. of Pa Cavalry presented to the company's bugler. It included a period photograph of the bugler and his actual bugle together with various photos and letters, etc.; an absolutely superb historic lot which failed to sell for its reasonable presale estimate of $50,000-$75,000. A number of Kentucky rifles offered included a relief-carved Kentucky rifle estimated at $15,000-$20,000 that sold for $31,000. But the piece de resistance amongst the Kentucky rifles was a wonderful percussion Kentucky rifle with carved relief design including a fabulous federal-style eagle. The gun, estimated at $17,000-$25,000 finally topped out at $44,850.
Presentation staff officer's sword of Civil War medal of honor winner Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Frick. Est: $15,000-$20,000. Sold: $47,150. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
Day two of the auction began with a single owner private collection of Indian Wars material. This collection definitely had a John Wayne "aura" to it, started off with a rare collection of Colt M60's. An extremely rare and unique prototype of the M60, estimated at $22,500-$32,500 sold for $26,450. A Sioux skull-crusher war club documented and found on the Little Big Horn Battlefield was estimated at $35,000-$55,000 and went out at $54,650. Sgt. John Ryan, who served under Reno carried a presale estimate of $25,000-$40,000 and sold for $37,375. A period frontier buffalo hide army jacket once worn by an army scout sold for $3,740. Also included in this collection were a number of photos and CDV's of soldiers involved in The Battle of The Little Big Horn. Most notably of course were images of George Armstrong Custer. A cabinet card done by Brady during the Civil War carried a presale estimate of $1,500-$2,500 and went out at a little over $6,000. Another Civil War era image of Custer depicted in a group of McClellan's staff; estimated at $4,000-$8,000 was the subject of a heated bidding battle and finally went out at $17,250. Another small Custer CDV depicted him with his wife Libby together with Miss Cora Bean. A Civil War image done in 1864 by Brady, it carried a presale estimate of $1,250-$2,250 and as a result of a tremendous bidding battle finally topped out at $18,975.
The "Holy Grail" for colt collectors; the rare Colt Walker, this one believed to be one of the finest in private hands. Sold for $483,000 (est: $375,000-$475,000). Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
A Colt single-action Army revolver carried up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Rider's sold for $33,925. The predecessor of the famous Winchester rifle was the Volcanic carbine. An example in this auction by the New Haven Arms Company carried a presale estimate of $12,000-$15,000 but ended up more than double the high estimate at $36,800. A Henry rifle, one of the first Winchesters ever produced in fine condition, carried a presale estimate of $45,000-$65,000 and sold for $51,750.
Springfield Model 1873 saddle ring carbine of 1st Sergeant John Ryan, Civil War veteran & Little Big Horn Battle survivor. Est: $25,000-$40,000. Sold: $37,375. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
One of the highlights of the second day was a group of three rifles, once owned and used by the most extraordinary marksman in the world, Annie Oakley. Two Marlins in this group came directly from the Marlin Factory archives and had for years been on loan to the Cody Firearms Museum where they were prominently displayed. Both had been donated by Miss Oakley just prior to the First World War. Miss Oakley approached the War Department before the outbreak of the First World War and offered to raise a regiment of female soldiers. When declined, she then offered to serve as a marksmanship instructor which the War Department also declined. She was the greatest marksman in the world at that time but the War Department didn't want her to teach marksmanship? Miss Oakley, a fervently patriotic American, was not to be thwarted. She intended to support the U.S. forces and therefore went back home, took a number of her valued firearms, trophies and other possession and submitted them to be used in a fundraising campaign to buy War Bonds. Later, when the president of Marlin firearms learned that Miss Oakley had donated two of their lavishly engraved and inlaid firearms for the war effort, they purchased the guns back themselves and they have been part of the Marlin archives ever since. The first, a gold and platinum inlaid engraved model 1893 was estimated at $150,000-$250,000 and finally sold for $253,000. Mr. J.R. LaRue, Julia's chief consultant announced immediately after the successful bidder purchased the gun that a deal had been brokered with the buyer who agreed to loan this magnificent arm once again to the Cody Firearms Museum where it could continue to be displayed so that others might see and enjoy it. The other gold plated and engraved Marlin sold for $184,000 and a third Annie Oakley lot, originally acquired by the consignor from an heir of Miss Oakley consisted of a Remington pump .22 rifle, one of her extremely rare sterling trophies together with a number of personal photos. The presale estimate was $100,000-$150,000 but it went out at $207,000!
Annie Oakley's rare Remington Model 12b pump action rifle with a rare Annie Oakley silver trophy & original photographs. Est: $100,000-$150,000. Sold: $207,000. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
A very rare Colt pinch frame (only a handful of these were made) sold for just under $110,000. A spectacular silver-plated Cuno Helfrecht Colt single-action revolver inscribed to sheriff Farnsworth of Grant County carried a most interesting history. Lost in a poker game to by the original owner to another law officer it was later taken from the second law officer in a jail break by a notorious bandit and his gang who killed this second law officer. A month or two later, the bandit was once again captured and because of the possession of the gun it was discovered that he was the individual who had killed the former law officer and the possession of the gun resulted in his being hanged. This spectacular work of art with its interesting history went out at $166,750.
Deluxe Winchester Model 1886 lever action rifle. Est: $35,000-$50,000. Sold: $103,500. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
Julia's always has a very strong representation of rare Winchester rifles and this sale included some outstanding examples. A spectacular deluxe Winchester M86, estimated at $35,000-$50,000 finally sold for $103,500. Another very rare M86, estimated at $30,000-$50,000 sold for $46,000 and a third deluxe 86 takedown in outstanding condition and estimated at $25,000-$40,000 brought $43,150.
San Juan Hill documented Model 1896 Krag carbine. Est: $10,000-$15,000. Sold: $20,700. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia, Inc.
Session III began with the outstanding single-shot rifle collection of Dr. Glen Marsh. Dr. Marsh had previously consigned his collection of Bullards to Julia's. The results of which were a tremendous success; thus he consequently decided to sell his single-shot collection. An ultra-rare and unique Freund Remington single shot rifle finally sold for $46,000. A rare Sharps Borchardt M1876 was estimated at $15,000-$30,000 and sold for $25,300. A very rare semi-deluxe Winchester high wall single shot rifle, estimated at $7,500-$12,500 was the subject of a very competitive battle and topped out well above twice the high estimate at $25,300. Concluding the collection of single shot rifles, a spectacular selection of side-by-side rifles and shotguns was offered. A magnificent cased Rigby big bore estimated at $100,000-$150,000 brought $132,250. A royal presentation cased Holland & Holland big bore double rifle in cal. 577 was estimated at $95,000-$145,000 and brought just over the high estimate at $149,050. Immediately after, a spectacular cased Grifnee engraved Holland & Holland double rifle, 470 Nitro Express estimated at $95,000-$145,000 again sold over high estimate at $149,000.
The third day finally concluded with a grouping of 20th century military arms. An extremely rare Navy contract Colt 1900 semi auto pistol realized $15,525. A rare Springfield M03 ramrod bayonet rifle realized $18,400 and a M1896 Kraig carbine carried up San Juan Hill by one of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders carried a presale estimate of $10,000-$15,000 and sold for $20,700.
ABOUT JAMES D. JULIA, INC
James D. Julia Auctioneers is a multi-divisional catalog auction company with specialty divisions in rare lamps and art glass; important toys, dolls and advertising items; and a fourth division specializing in fine arts and antiques. Their next auction, on November 13th consists of rare antique advertising, toys, dolls, trains and mechanical items. Brochures and catalogs can be had by contacting the office and more details are available at their Web site at www.juliaauctions.com or contact them at PO Box 830, Fairfield, Maine 04937; phone: 207.453.7125.