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Julia's March firearms auction grosses $10M

Sale shows firearms fraternity is rebounding
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Colt M16 A2 Commando. Estimate $12,000-15,000. Sold $16,750.

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A $391,000 Winchester, a $339,250 double rifle, and a $43,125 Singer 1911 A1 semi-automatic pistol all sold in Julia’s March 14-15 firearms auction and prove the old adage, “One good thing begets another.”

In October of 2009, Julia handled the Wellington collection of Winchester rifles. In the collection were two great engraved and gold inlaid Winchester rifles that grossed over $300,000 for the two. They originally belonged to a close personal friend and hunting companion of Theodore Roosevelt, Col. Archibald Rodgers. The exciting results were enthusiastically received by the collecting fraternity.

Recently, as a result, distant cousins of the Rodgers family learned of the success and contacted Wes Dillon at Julia’s firearms division. They indicated they had a similar rifle purchased by their ancestor at about the same time Col. Rodgers got his. Based on their cousin’s success, they were enticed to sell theirs. In the original photos, the gun, which had been stored for many years, appeared to be in marginal condition, but did in fact have extraordinary, deep relief engraving and gold inlay by master engraver John Ulrich. Dillon gave a conservative estimate of $50,000-100,000, and the rifle was immediately shipped. Then the gun was properly cleaned and well marketed. On March 15, a host of collectors competed for it, and the gun realized a phenomenal $391,000.

Another star of the auction, the Westley Richards .577 Nitro Double Rifle, which at one time belonged to Ernest Hemingway, also came to the auction as a result of a previous success. Last fall, Julia’s handled most successfully the President Theodore Roosevelt Fox shotgun that sold for a world record setting price of $862,500. The resulting fanfare was eventually noted by a lady in southern Florida who reasoned if a double barrel owned by Roosevelt could bring such an extraordinary price, perhaps her rare double rifle owned by the famous author Ernest Hemingway may also bring a strong price. She, too, contacted Wes Dillon. The gun was an exciting addition to the sale and it stimulated tremendous interest in the sporting world. Estimated for $150,000-200,000, the final sale price was $339,250.

MP-40 Submachine gun by Steyr. Estimate $14,000-16,000. Sold for $23,000.

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Julia’s October 2010 auction included a very rare 1911 A1 semi-automatic pistol manufactured for use in WWII by the Singer sewing machine company. Singer produced only a small number of these arms, so they are considered a great rarity, and even more so if they are in superb, original condition, which the October of 2010 pistol was. It carried a presale estimate of $20,000-35,000, but condition and rarity drove the price to $80,500. Again, fanfare regarding the sales results resulted in another Singer pistol coming Julia’s way. This one, not as good a condition as the first one, but every bit as rare, carried a presale estimate of $30,000-40,000, and sold for $43,125.

The sale overall was a bellwether of the current firearms collecting industry this year sending a clear message to the collecting world that the firearms fraternity has been rebounding very strongly. The extraordinary record prices scattered across a vast array of firearm niches, together with an ever-increasing number of bidders returning to the chase with a renewed enthusiasm and excitement, all bode well for the firearms collecting world. The low estimate of everything sold in the March 14 and 15 auction was just over $7 Million, and the total realized was $10 Million.

Scarce high condition LeMat 2nd model Grapeshot rev. Estimate $25,000-40,000; sold for $34,500.

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Julia’s firearms auctions consistently include an outstanding array of arms from nearly all the important collecting niches. Session I began with Class III weapons in which the top seller was a German MG-42, made by Maget. Estimated at $20,000-30,000, it sold for $23,575. An MP-40 Submachine gun by Steyr, estimated at $14,000-16,000, brought $23,000. The more contemporary Colt M-16 A2 Commando, estimated at $12,000-15,000, sold for $16,750.

The next category offered featured extraordinary sporting rifles and was headed by the famous Hemingway Westley Richards .577 cal, NE. This desirable gun, made around the turn of the century eventually ended up in Hemingway’s hands. He used it on his famous African safari in the 1950s, which was featured in Look Magazine. A recent book on Hemingway’s guns included an interesting anecdote about his Westley Richards. Apparently, during WWII, Nazi submarines frequently surfaced along the Cuban shoreline near fishing boats to requisition fresh fish, current newspapers, etc. Hemingway and a group of friends in a tavern one night concocted the idea that they would like to go hunting for U-Boats. Purportedly with the blessing of the OSS, they acquired Thompson machine guns, satchel explosives, and drifted along the Cuban bays and shorelines hoping for a sub to surface nearby. The plan was to wait until U-boat attendants crawled out of the climbing tower to negotiate for fish, then open fire with the Thompsons, use the satchel explosives to blow up the sub, and as a backup, Hemingway decided to bring along his massive .577 NE double rifle. If it could stop an elephant, or rhinoceros, he reasoned it could probably punch holes in a U-boat. Fortunately or unfortunately, Hemingway and his cohorts never encountered a U-boat.

A Holland & Holland 8-bore double rifle hammer gun, estimated at $20,000-30,000 sold for $37,375. During his lifetime, Robert Petersen of Petersen Publishing Company, amassed one of the more formidable firearms collections in the world. Recently the NRA added the Petersen wing to their famous museum. In it is featured a number of arms from this renowned collection which had been donated by the family. This auction included some important items from the Petersen estate. His lavish gold inlaid Rigby double rifle engraved by Ken Hunt, cal .470, carried a presale estimate of $80,000-120,000, and sold for a final bid price of $80,500. His fabulous Preater, Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe .458 Rim Mag rifle was estimated at $50,000-70,000, and went out at $69,000. Also from the Petersen estate was an extraordinarily rare small bore IVO Fabbri, best quality sidelock O/U, 410 ga shotgun estimated at $80,000-120,000, which sold for $97,000.

Rare Dance Confederate Dragoon-size revolver from the Fred McDonald estate of Houston Texas, estimate $40,000-50,000 - sold for $60,375.

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Select arms from the Walker Inman estate were also included. Walker was an orphaned child adopted and raised by Doris Duke. His estate included some superb shotguns, such as a true pair James Purdey 28 ga, extra finish game scene engraved shotguns that carried a presale estimate of $80,000-120,000. They sold for $115,000. Also included was his exquisite pair of J. Purdey extra finish game scene engraved 16ga shotguns, which carried an estimate of $100,000-150,000 and sold for $109,250.

A superb offering of high art bolt action sporting rifles including an extraordinary Winston Churchill stocked and engraved custom Remington Model 700 left hand rifle, cal .280,estimated at $15,000-25,000 sold for $16,100. Churchill was one of the finest sporting rifle engravers of the 20th century, and this gun was not only embellished with engraving by him, but stocked and produced by him.

High-grade American shotguns included a Winchester Model 21 Grand American factory upgrade small bore set. Estimated for $55,000-75,000, it sold for $69,000. A beautiful restored Parker AAHE estimated at $35,000-55,000 brought $40,000. Normally Parker V-Grade shotguns do not bring exceptionally high money. However, when it’s in the scarce and highly desirable .410 ga, it’s a different matter. One fresh market example estimated at $17,500 - $27,500 brought $21,850. Some years back, Julia’s handled the majority of the collection of Jay Huber, renowned Remington scholar, collector, and author. This auction included a few remaining guns from his estate, most of which were shotguns. A model 1894 Remington Grade D boxlock with two sets of barrels was estimated at $3,000-5,000, but went out at $7,475.

From the Fred McDonald estate of Houston, Texas. An extraordinary sterling silver, Tiffany presentation sword to Maj. Gen Lewis Merrill. Estimated at $85,000-125,000, it went out at $241,500.

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The sale also included a superb offering of approximately 50 Browning arms, most of which had come from a single-owner private collection. Nearly all were in superb, frequently unused condition, and brought strong prices. A Browning C-Series sideplate, F-1 exhibition O/U 20ga estimated at $12,500-18,500 realized $20,700. Another Browning presentation P3S, Superlite, O/U 410ga carried a presale estimate of $14,000-18,000 and sold for $21,850. A desirable Browning Midas Grade, Superlite, O/U in 20ga, estimated at $12,500-17,500 saw considerable bidding competition and realized $35,075. A rare diminutive, special order exhibition Browning Custom Shop, auto .22 rifle, embellished with beautiful gold inlays was estimated at $15,000-25,000 and sold for $18,400. Exceedingly strong prices were also attained for Browning bolt action rifles. A rare Olympian, Mod/Cal .284, was estimated at $12,000-15,000 and finally sold at 24,150. Other Olympians did very well including a cal .222 estimated at $7,000-10,000, and realized $20,700.

The first session concluded with an excellent offering of Marlin rifles, most of which came from the collection of George F. Peters. His scarce factory engraved Model 93 Deluxe lever action rifle was estimated at $20,000-25,000 and realized $34,500. His very rare Deluxe factory engraved Marlin 1897 was estimated for $15,000-20,000. It was highly competed for and sold for $31,625.

Day 2 began with what was probably the finest offering of volcanic firearms ever presented at auction. The volcanics were the first successful lever-action firearm. The company was eventually purchased by Oliver Winchester, a shirt manufacturer who began producing his Winchester rifles based on the volcanic design. Winchester has become the most renowned manufacturer of rifles in the history of North America, and quite possibly the world. Many of the volcanics in this offering came from the esteemed collection of Dr. Edmund Lewis, scholar, author, and collector of rare volcanics and Winchester rifles. Dr. Lewis, together with a good friend recently completed a special book on volcanic arms, which will be printed shortly. He and his wife recently decided to move to a new home in Idaho, and elected to dispose of some of his collection.

Rare, tack decorated, Indian used Spencer carbine, forensically proven to have been used at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Estimate $85,000-125,000. Sold for $138,000.

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His fine, cased New Haven volcanic #1 pistol, including an original cartridge tin, was estimated at $12,500-17,500, and sold for a strong $31,050. An extremely rare volcanic pistol carbine from his collection that was estimated for $30,000-40,000, sold for $43,700. The most expensive volcanic, from another collection, was a rare engraved New Haven volcanic #2 Navy sized lever action pistol with ivory grips. Estimated for $30,000-40,000, it sold for $51,750.

Of course the high point of the Winchester offering was the Ulrich engraved Robert H. Coleman example mentioned early on in this article, but other Winchesters also performed exceedingly well. An outstanding Model 1886 Deluxe lever action rifle with spectacular and vibrant case coloring was estimated at $45,000-75,000, and brought $97,750. A recently discovered 1876 “1 of 1000” was estimated at $75,000-125,000 and sold for $80,500. And a beautiful Kornbrath engraved Winchester custom high-wall single shot, 22 cal. rifle estimated at $50,000-70,000 went out at $57,500. A martially marked Henry rifle with an estimate of $40,000-50,000 went out at $46,000.

The next category was a wonderful assemblage of rare Colts and these also did not disappoint. An extraordinary set of three Kornbrath engraved gold inlaid Single Action Army revolvers, once owned by the President of Argentina, Marcelo T. Alvear, came to the auction with a $300,000-400,000 estimate, and sold at $345,000. An exceptional Nimschke engraved Colt SAA revolver estimated at $60,000-80,000 was the subject of tremendous competition by enthusiastic Colt collectors. It ultimately sold for $161,000. A rare cased Colt Model 1855 sporting rifle in spectacular condition carried a presale estimate of $80,000-120,000 and went out at $92,000. Another single action of considerable interest was the Samuel Lum Hart Colt with an exceedingly rare Tombstone, Arizona holster. Hart started a gun shop in Tombstone and was there doing business at the time of the gunfight at the OK Corral. In fact, his shop was not very far from the corral. Hart would recondition military Colts, but before doing so, would identify each gun with a stamp of his which included his first two initials “SL” and the shape of a heart symbolizing his last name. This particular Colt had been his personal Colt handed down through the family. Because of its Tombstone provenance, it carried a $65,000-85,000 estimate and sold for $63,250. A stunning Colt model 1860 fluted Army in magnificent condition was estimated for $50,000-80,000 and realized $63,250. And an equally extraordinary Colt London Model 1862 Police, estimated at $55,000-65,000, sold for $63,000.

Good Remington arms were also hot. A rare model 1890 Single Action Army estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 went out at $37,950. A beautiful engraved model 1890 Single Action with estimate of $40,000 to $60,000, realized $43,125.

Rare identified Singer model 1911 A1, semi automatic pistol. Estimate $30,000-40,000. Sold $43,125.

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Another mixture that has sold well over the years are the rare Civil War arms, and here again were some tremendous results. From the Fred McDonald estate in Houston, Texas was a beautiful solid sterling Tiffany presentation sword to Major General Lewis Merrill that carried a presale estimate of $85,000-125,000. After a tremendous bidding battle, it went out at $241,500. Immediately following the sword was a group of a photographs relating to Merrill. Estimated at $10,000-15,000, the lot sold for $11,500. Also from the McDonald estate was an extremely rare Confederate Staff Officer’s button referred to as “CS2”. It carried a strong presale estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, but because of its rarity brought $24,150. McDonald’s rare Texas Tyler rifle, SN 604,estimated at $30,000-40,000, realized $69,000. His rare Dance Confederate Dragoon-sized revolver, estimated at $40,000-50,000, went out at $60,375. An interesting lot of period Indian items that included beaded bags, peace pipes, and a couple of tomahawks descended from the collection of Temple Houston, the son of the illustrious Sam Houston, 1st Governor of the state of Texas. Temple became a lawyer with highly gifted oratory skills. He was an extremely colorful individual, sometimes resembling a dandy, but was in no way soft. On one occasion, after a heated debate with a competing lawyer in the courtroom, he met his adversary in a nearby bar and challenged him to a gunfight in which he succeeded in shooting him dead. Houston died at a young age in 1905, and an illustration of his Indian collection dated 1905 was included in a Time Life series on Western figures in the 1970s. Many of the items illustrated in that 1905 photograph were included in this lot, which was estimated at $20,000-30,000 and sold for $69,000.

The Julia Company has probably sold more firearms from the famed Battle of Little Big Horn than any other firm in the world. In fact, ten years ago they sold the most expensive item to ever come off the battlefield, a Model 66 Winchester rifle (forensically proven to have been used at the battle) which brought $682,500. This recent sale included a historic Spencer carbine with Indian tack decoration and matched up to two separate spent casings found on the battlefield, thereby forensically proving to have been used at the battlefield. This historic Western gun was estimated at $85,000-125,000, and sold for $138,000.

Another niche that performed admirably was a selection of Kentucky rifles. Included in this sale was a recently rediscovered extraordinary inlaid Kentucky rifle by John Small of Vincennes, Indiana. Originally from the Kindig collection and illustrated in his book, it was estimated at $45,000-65,000, and set a new world record auction price for a Kentucky at $184,000. From the same family came another former Kindig rifle, a relief carved Nicholas Beyer golden age Kentucky estimated at $20,000-30,000, which sold for $40,250. An additional interesting item was a beautifully engraved 18th century powder horn from the estate of Dr. Garcelon of Augusta, Maine who formerly was the head of the NRA. Garcelon was an avid hunter who traveled all over the world hunting and even hunted with the former Shah of Iran. In the 1980s, Julia’s first major auction included the estate of Dr. Garcelon who was an avid collector and put together a marvelous collection of firearms, all of which sold with great success. At the time, his son and daughter had kept a couple of things of their father’s. One of those, which they recently elected to let go of was this 1777 dated powder horn. The horn was masterfully engraved with houses and depicting various New York scenes. Most notable was the fact that the horn belonged to Jonathan Huntress (and so inscribed) and was with him in 1777 in the near fatal winter at Valley Forge. The horn was estimated for $10,000-20,000, and sold for $20,700.

Julia’s auctions are always preceded by his sister's auction company sale. The Poulin Auction Company, with their auction facilities approximately 50 yards away regularly hosts a 3-day sale consisting of middle market firearms of all variations and types. This sale included around 2,000 lots and generated just over $2 Million, thus making the entire 5-day event between Julia’s and the Poulin firm the largest firearms auction event in the world this year so far at $12 Million!

For more information on this sale and upcoming auctions, visit the Julia website at

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