James D. Julia Auctioneers conducted an extraordinary firearms auction grossing over $16 million. Immediately preceding their sale on March 12-14, the adjacent Poulin Auction Company conducted a firearms auction totaling nearly $5 million, making the total take for firearms in Fairfield, Maine, during that one week period approximately $21 million.
Julia’s continues, as they have for many years, to be the seller of the most high end and expensive guns each year. This sale offered approximately 450 lots that realized $10,000 or more, 55 lots that realized $50,000 or more, and 11 lots that realized $100,000 or more. In addition, they continue to handle the greater number of high end and frequently iconic collections in the firearms auction world today. This sale included at least a dozen important private collections.
- Elmer Keith. In the annals of firearms history of the 20th century, probably one of the most famous and prolific gun writers, scholars, and big game hunters of his time was Elmer Keith. He was also a firearms innovator and sometimes referred to as “the Father of the Magnum”. Keith and his writings were legendary. This was certainly exemplified in January at the Beinfeld Las Vegas Antique Arms Show. In addition to Julia’s displaying in the Antique Arms room, Julia’s also exhibited in a large special room adjacent to the entrance where they housed and displayed examples from various important collections for their upcoming auction. One such collection featured was of course Elmer Keith’s. Consistently over the three day span of the show, there was a steady stream of viewers that had come to look at, handle and reminisce about Keith. Such was the reputation of Keith and because of this, it was fully anticipated that his guns would generate a great deal of interest far beyond the normal price range of similar examples. One of the first guns up was the most famous of all of Elmer Keith’s handguns, a customized Colt SA Army revolver referred to as “The Last Word” in handguns. Bearing SN #5, beautifully engraved and custom designed by Mr. Keith and Harold Croft, it came to the auction block with a presale estimate of $30,000-50,000. After a furious bidding battle, it went out at $80,500. Gun after gun after gun carrying an Elmer Keith pedigree brought high and sometimes tremendous prices, all of which were testaments to the man’s stature. A pair of Smith & Wesson hand ejector First Model (triple lock target revolvers with holster rig) because of their association with Keith was conservatively estimated at $6,000-10,000 but blew through the high estimate to bring nearly $40,000. Keith was a renowned big game hunter and his collection included many double rifles that accompanied him on various hunting safaris. The most significant or historic gun was unquestionably the W.J. Jeffrey Grade 2 best box lock double rifle that at one time had been owned and used by Jim Corbett. Corbett lived in India and was employed by the British Government on numerous occasions to stalk and kill various man-eating tigers and lions that had terrorized rural villages. During his lifetime, Corbett killed 44 man-eaters, two of which accounted for killing and devouring over 800 people! Corbett was a man of extraordinary bravery and usually went after these big cats by himself. The last man-eater he killed was when he was 63 years old. The cat was killed just at dusk as it charged him. He had no time to bring his rifle to his shoulder but shot from the hip, striking and killing the lion at point blank range. His trusty double rifle was estimated at this sale at a strong and aggressive $75,000-150,000 but flew well beyond the high mark to approximately $265,000.
- Elliott Burka Remington Collection. This sale included the collection of the late Elliott Burka, sometimes referred to as “Mr. Remington”. Elliott was a member of the American Society of Antique Arms Collectors. His very rare engraved Remington New Model Navy Conversion with gold plating went out at $28,750. Elliott was a great collector of rare Remington cane guns and had intended to one day write a book on them. His extremely rare Remington coral colored gutta percha cane was one of only two known to exist. It carried a presale estimate of $8,000-12,000 but saw a lot of competition, selling at double the high estimate for $24,150.
- Norm Flayderman. Included in this sale was Session II of the renowned Norm Flayderman Collection. This auction included a number of historical and inscribed guns including a scarce Civil War plant brass frame revolver with holster presented to 1st Sgt. Wm. Ahrberg/ Co. E 16th K.V.C. The gun carried a modest estimate of $2,000-4,000 and went out at over four times the high estimate for $17,825. Another very rare and desirable item from Norm’s collection was a very rare and important 1830 guardless coffin handle silver mounted American bowie knife. This example, one of only two known to exist in this form, carried a presale estimate of $20,000-30,000 and sold for $23,000.
- Dr. Douglas Sirkin. This sale saw the conclusion of the multi-session auction to dispose of the collection of Dr. Douglas Sirkin of Buffalo, New York. Dr. Sirkin’s collection had been previously unknown and included a diverse selection of medieval arms, wonderful Kentucky rifles, and much more. Nearly all of his Kentucky rifles were the desirable raised carved variation. One of the rarer and more desirable makers has always been John Armstrong whose elegant rifles not only featured beautiful raised carved design but were also inlaid with beautiful eagle engraved silver in the stocks. It has been estimated that no more than 30 or 40 Armstrongs exist today. In recent years, part of the great difficulty in finding an Armstrong rifle was due to the fact that Dr. Sirkin himself purchased just about every single example that came on the market. His collection had originally included eight examples by this rare maker. This auction included the three remaining Armstrong’s to be sold. The third one to cross the block this time was estimated at $30,000-40,000 and went out at $60,375.
- Evergreen Ventures. Day 2 included the final session of the Evergreen Ventures Collection of Class III, collected by Del Smith and his son, Michael. At one time the weapons were on loan to their museums in McMinnville, Oregon. One of the museums is focused on early rocketry, the other highly impressive and massive museum features the evolution of aviation. Included in that museum is the actual and original “Spruce Goose”. The outstanding low serial number Browning Model 1917 by Westinghouse was estimated at $18,000-22,000 and brought a strong $38,000.
- Springfield Arsenal LLC Collection formed by John Morris. This sale also included Session II of the renowned John Morris Collection of antique artillery. Immediately prior to offering John Morris’ collection was a single extraordinarily rare Confederate New Orleans made 12 Pound Bronze Napoleon on carriage with limber. This superb example was estimated at an aggressive $200,000-250,000 but its great rarity and wonderful condition drove it to $350,750. John Morris’ Springfield Arsenal collection started off with a rare and historic US Navy light Bronze 12-Pound Dahlgren boat howitzer with original carriage estimated at $50,000-60,000, nearly doubled the estimate to bring $92,000. Mr. Morris’ Ames Model 1841 bronze 6-pounder on original carriage estimated at $50,000-70,000 went out at the same price of $92,000.
- Dr. Geoffrey Sturgess of Zurich, Switzerland. For the last couple years, Julia’s has been selling portions of the Dr. Geoffrey Sturgess collection of Zurich, Switzerland. The collection which numbered over 1,000 rare units was one of the biggest, most significant and important collections of auto loading pistols currently in private hands today. The theme throughout the various sessions was the greatest rarities, prototypes, and particularly those in high condition brought extraordinary prices. This price trend continued here in this sale. A phenomenal Walther MP-PP blowback prototype shoulder stock lug pistol estimated at $55,000-85,000 generated $109,250. A superb and fabulous Gabbett-Fairfax Mars Model 1900 45 cal. grip safety pistol estimated at $35,000-50,000 brought $75,000.
- The Estate Collection of Thomas Connally. His fine sporting guns included a John Rigby sidelock ejector game gun engraved by Ken Hunt with extra barrels. It carried a presale estimate of $20,000-30,000 and ultimately sold for approximately $26,500. Mr. Connally’s James Purdey best sidelock ejector game gun with extra barrels was estimated at $12,500-17,500 and went out at $24,150.
- Stephen Harris’ Collection of rare trap guns. Mr. Harris is a successful and record holding trap shooter and had amassed a wonderful collection of trap guns over the years. The rare Fox M Grade single barrel trap gun, one of only nine produced was actually the last M Grade ever shipped. It was estimated at $20,000-30,000 and went out at $40,000.
- Collection of the late Richard Schreiber. This collection included a superb pair of E. J. Churchill premiere pinless sidelock XXV game guns made for the Prince of Wales and later Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor complete with original royal warrant from the Prince of Wales. The royal pair’s presale estimate was $40,000-60,000, but sold for a kingly sum of $51,750. Another lot from this old New York collection was a very fine John Rigby Grade C double rifle. It carried a presale estimate of $12,500-17,500; it was much competed for and went all the way up to $28,750.
- Collection of George Reeb. The collection included an exceptional brace of E.J. Churchill premiere XXV easy opening sidelock ejector repeating trigger game guns made for Annie Laurie Crawford. These carried an estimate of $25,000-40,000 and went out at $34,500. A Christian Pramesberger relief engraved and gold inlaid hammer double rifle with extra barrels was estimated at $20,000-40,000 and went out at just over $31,000.
- Private collection of Indian War Items included one the earliest and most accurate maps of the Battle of Little Big Horn site, rendered in hand by William Phylo Clark in 1877. Clark was at the time the renowned world authority on Indian sign language and wrote a very famous treatise on the same in 1885 entitled, “The Indian Sign Language”. This book today is considered the finest scholarly work on the subject, and whenever this rare book can be found, it easily brings a matter of many thousands of dollars. Clark’s map was more accurate than any other of the period, in part because he spent a considerable amount of time speaking (in sign language) with the Indians who had been at the battle. One of the interviewees was Crazy Horse. The map estimated at $30,000-40,000 was part of a large offering of rare Battle of Little Big Horn related items and brought well above expectations, selling for $51,750.
Other rarities included a historic 100-guinea Lloyd’s presentation sword for the hero of the Battle of Trafalgar. It was presented to 1st Lt. John Pilford for his actions during that battle. These presentation swords by world renowned insurer Lloyd’s was one of a small group of such presentations presented to naval officers on the high seas who were involved in heroic actions protecting her Majesty’s navy and the very English merchants that Lloyd’s insured. This was a special way for Lloyd’s to thank those who went about protecting their investments. The sword carried a presale estimate of $125,000-150,000 and sold for $115,000.
The Civil War was represented by a variety of items. General John Bell Hood was a famous Confederate General. His adjunct was Major James Ratchford. Included in this sale was Major Ratchford’s frock coat estimated at $20,000-30,000 and sold for just over $31,000. The fabulous Confederate First National flag with wonderful aesthetics and an inscription on the middle stripe reading, “Liberty or Death” provoked a final bid of $62,500, just over the high presale estimate of $40,000-60,000. This sale included two famous Confederate Texas Dance revolvers. A Dragoon example recently dispersed from the illustrious and famous Joseph Murphy collection carried a presale estimate of $60,000-80,000 and went out at $86,250.
One of the North’s most famous Civil War generals and perhaps one of the most famous generals associated with the Indian Wars was General George Armstrong Custer. Over the years, Julia’s has had a number of items related to Custer and the infamous Battle of Little Big Horn. This sale included Custer’s rare gold and enamel M.O.L.L.U.S. Medal, purportedly the only personal military medal of Custer’s presently in private hands. It was strongly estimated at $50,000-70,000 because of its rarity but blew past the high estimate of $70,000 to a final bid price of $86,250.
20th century military was well represented. One of the first items up was a rare Springfield Model 1903 Mark 1 bolt action rifle with original Mark 1 Pedersen device and accessories from the Phil Sharp Research Laboratory. Estimated at $20,000-30,000, this went out almost twice the high estimate to $57,500. One of the rarest and most coveted Model 1911 A-1 semiautomatic pistols of WWII is the Singer variation. This model, of which only a small number were made, was produced by the same manufacturer that produced the famous sewing machines. Singer geared up during the war to manufacture pistols and the example included here was in super, new unfired condition. The example in this auction was one of the very rare unnumbered tool room samples, which had been given to senior management employees. This one had been given to Mr. Shirley James Murphy upon his departure from the firm. The gun was estimated for $50,000-100,000 and went out at $51,750.
A select grouping of Winchesters, most from a renowned collector included a scarce early Model 1860 Henry lever action rifle. In outstanding condition, it carried a presale estimate of $80,000-140,000; it sold for $149,500. A Deluxe Model 86 in extremely fine plus condition with brilliant case hardening shot past its $30,000-50,000 presale estimate to sell for $74,750.
There was a spectacular offering of Colts presented in this sale. Most notable was the factory engraved, gold and silver single action that had once been part of the 1876 Colt Exhibit at the Philadelphia World’s Fair. The gun was in extremely fine condition and was estimated for $175,000-225,000 and went out at a resounding $333,500. Another very exciting example was a rare and important cased engraved presentation 1855 “Charter Oak” root to famous Boston dealer, William Read from Colonel Samuel Colt. The gun engraved and in very fine condition was consigned by a descendent of Read and carried a presale estimate of $65,000-95,000. It went out for a healthy $132,250 to the great joy of the consignors who were in attendance who plan to use the proceeds towards a purchase of a new house.
Also included in this sale was a nearly new Boss O/U game gun in exceptionally fine condition. Estimated for $60,000-90,000, it found a buyer at $69,000. A recently discovered and previously unknown lightweight Parker A1 special carried a presale estimate of $32,500-62,500 and went out at $57,500. A rare LC Smith Premiere Grade 2-barrel set with case was estimated at $30,000-50,000 sold for $46,000. Probably one of the most expensive Remington 22 pump rifles that has crossed the auction block in many years was the rare engraved Remington Model 12F Pump with beautiful gold inlays. It was estimated at $7,500-12,500 but when the smoke cleared the gun went out at a spectacular $33,350.
Julia’s is now amassing consignments for their October firearms auction and already are touting some extraordinary items for that sale.
More details regarding this sale can found on Julia’s website: www.jamesdjulia.com or by phone 207-453-7125, fax 207-453-2502 or mail: P.O. Box 830, Fairfield, ME 04937. Julia’s next auctions will be in June and will feature a session of rare toys and dolls together with a session of rare lamps and glass.
See more highlights from the March sale below: