ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – Rock Island Auction Company’s December 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction proved to be quite an exciting and successful weekend. At the end of the three days, the Dec. 5-7 auction would achieve an impressive $11.4 million in sales, bringing the annual total to $47.5 million! It has been another banner year at Rock Island Auction Company, who would like to extend huge and sincere thank-you’s to our repeat buyers, loyal consignors, those trying us for the first time, and all our supporters both new and old.
The first day set the trend for the whole weekend’s bidding battles as collectors aggressively sought to procure their favorites in several categories. Of note was the competition for high end Ithaca shotguns. Single barrels and side by sides in a wide variety of calibers and special order features could not be had quickly enough, like the engraved, gold and silver inlaid 7E grade single barrel in lot 400 that sold for $8,050, or the scarce Field Grade ejector hammerless side by side 28 gauge in lot 660 that would exceed its high estimate and realize $6,325. Also making a splash on day one, was the Charter Arms revolver used in the assassination attempt of Governor George Wallace in lot 499, that would bring $28,750, and a custom engraved Civil War Colt 1860 Army in lot 175 with a factory letter detailing its original shipment to the New York Arsenal. With a high estimate of $4,500, the percussion revolver blew away that figure to sell for $19,550. Other Colts also sold quite well on Friday, including the gold plated, factory engraved Third Generation SAA in lot 444 that more than doubled its $6,500 high estimate to sell for $13,800, or the J.P. Lower & Sons shipped black powder Colt SAA in lot 232 with its accompanying research with a high estimate of $2,750 that would eventually ring the bell at $6,900.
Day two would prove to be a bustling auction day from start to finish. Beginning with a host of Winchesters, Volcanics, and Henrys, strong bids were leveled immediately at firearms like those in lot 1043, a magnificent, deluxe special order Winchester Third Model 1873 lever action with brilliant case hardening that would not be had for less than $149,500. Early lot 1017, an exceptional, factory engraved New Haven Arms Volcanic No. 1 pocket pistol also received the attention it deserved by exceeding its high estimate of $18,000 en route to a $25,875 sale price. Likewise, an outstanding pre-war, factory engraved Colt SAA with carved pearl grips in lot 1323, breeched its high estimate and left for a new collection for $51,750. Other highlights from Saturday: the historic “C Company” Colt Walker contained in lot 1270 reached a price of $172,500, the previously undiscovered deluxe, panel scene engraved Colt Model 1855 revolving shotgun in lot 1277 achieved $138,000, and the exception Civil War production Henry rifle in lot 1044 brought $86,250.
The end of Saturday was quite a surprise to everyone in attendance. As Colt “Snake Guns” began to cross the block, the auction hall began to buzz. Every phone line was filled and online bidders began to make their presence felt as numerous collectors scrambled to own one of the popular revolvers. Bids couldn’t be taken quickly enough as the values soared and jaws dropped while the numbers reached previously unheard of heights. A feeding frenzy had begun. A special R. L. Wilson special order Colt Python in lot 1789, with a high estimate of $4,500, would see a sale price of $11,500. Another Python, this time a scarce, inscribed, three-inch barrel Combat Python with its original box in lot 1792, would go even higher and sell for $12,650. These numbers were not rare! Numerous Pythons, Anacondas, Cobras, and Diamondbacks would exceed the $5,000 mark and many surpassed the $10,000 mark. It could indicate an extremely interesting trend for those who seek or collect these revolvers.
The final day of auction was a perfect summation of the auction, as categories and manufacturers of arms that had performed well throughout the weekend continued to do so on Sunday. After Saturday’s blitz on Colt double action revolvers, it would hardly be a surprise to see them do well again the following day. However, the success of double actions initially came from another source – Colt Model 1877/78 Lightnings and Thunderers, led by the William Baird Collection. Lot 3268 had a very rare Lightning chambered in .32 Colt with a high estimate of $11,000. That number mattered little to the collectors at the RIAC facility and the diminuitive revolver would eventually be had for the large price of $25,875. Similarly in lot 3282, a Colt Model 1877 Target chambered in .32 S&W was estimated between $12,000 - $18,000, but determined bidders would drive the sale price to a remarkable $31,625.
Much like the first day of the auction, high end sporting shotguns continued to be a sought after commodity by collectors, hunters, and investors. Lot 3453 saw its antique Parker Brothers Under Lifter side by side, Damascus barreled, 8 gauge shotgun powder its $9,000 high estimate to knock down a $14,950 price. While a majority of these guns exceeded their high estimates, lot 3461 did so in impressive fashion. The engraved and gold inlaid Ithaca Grade 7E double box lock shotgun broke the bounds of its $7,000 high estimate on the way to its final figure of $13,800.
The Edged Weapon Collection of Major General Theodore Paulson also achieved some attractive prices. Lot 3329’s etched and gilt accented German presentation sword cut through its $3,000 high estimate to bring $5,175, and lot 3445’s simple-looking yet scarce Hoerster production Hitler Youth Leader’s Dagger would beat its $1,600 high estimate and leave our doors to the tune of $4,312. The swords were stunning and many were masterpieces of design and craftsmanship, but like the end of the day Saturday, things really began hopping again when the Colt DA revolvers started crossing the block. A 1956 production Colt Python in lot 3790 would climb to a $5,462 sale price, another Python in lot 3777 would see ascending bids ending in a $4,600 sale, and a Colt Viper with its original box in lot 3786 could not be had for less than $4,312. The phones filled with phone bidders, auctioneers calling bids left and right, and the astonished looks of attendees made for a thrilling finish to the three day event.
It was a very dramatic end to 2014. Some genres such as early and pre-Winchesters, further cemented their dominance as one of gun collecting’s iconic brands, while also proving to remain an excellent investment opportunity. Others, such as the Ithaca brand shotguns, while needing no introduction to seasoned shooters began to make some noise a bit more audible to the public at large. The surge enjoyed by modern Colt double action revolvers and “snake guns” had collectors beside themselves at the end of the auction and discussing the explosive new growth.
Will these trends continue or will other new interests by collectors and investors emerge to take the scene? Only 2015 will tell, so make sure to mark your calendars for our February 19-22 Regional Firearms Auction. For more information, visit www.rockislandauction.com or call 1-800-238-8022.