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Rare Colt arrives in shopping bag at appraisal clinic

At a recent appraisal clinic, Greg Martin sat up, took notice and held his breath.
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IRVINE, CALIFORNIA, SEPTEMBER 15, 2009 – Greg Martin Auctions regularly holds complimentary appraisal clinics around the country so people can learn what their items are worth from the company’s experts in antique arms & armor. For the appraisers who participate in these events, their days are usually interesting but uneventful -- filled with questions, answers and conversations comprising small surprises or disappointments. But not always. Sometimes an item is brought in that give butterflies of anticipation to the most seasoned appraiser, even before the item is fully unwrapped and revealed. And sometimes, the unveiling proves to be extraordinary!

This fine pair of Civil War Presentation Colt Model 1851
Navy Revolvers will be sold Sept. 27.

Such was the case when Mrs. Sharlene Perez came to the company’s New York City appraisal clinic on June 12. Mrs. Perez came by taxi because her bundle, transported in a sturdy shopping bag, was big and heavy. Upon arrival at the 56th Street event, she sat down with Greg Martin, principal of the company bearing his name, who has been enamored by antique firearms since he bought his first Colt revolver at age 12. Mrs. Perez unwrapped her package – a heavy, varnished wooden case, trimmed in brass. In the center of the lid on a diamond-shaped plaque was a hand-engraved inscription: "Presented to Col. Wm. C. Browne by his friends at Watertown N.Y."

Mr. Martin sat up, took notice and held his breath. Together they opened the case, and Mr. Martin’s intuition and sixth sense, honed by decades of buying, selling and collecting antique arms, proved correct. Inside was a pair of engraved, monogrammed and ivory-gripped Civil War Presentation Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolvers. Mr. Martin smiled and asked Mrs. Perez if she knew what her parcel was worth. “$25,000?” Mrs. Perez guessed. “Five or 10 times that,” said Mr. Martin, “I’d estimate between $150,000 to 250,000.” Mrs. Perez says she “was absolutely floored.”

As Greg Martin noted later, the discovery was a stunner and a classic. “Items from the closet, an older lady, a shopping bag under her arm, and astonishment all around at what was inside,” he explained. “It was marvelous – truly an ‘Antiques Roadshow’ moment.” And Mr. Martin should know: he’s a veteran of the “Antiques Roadshow,” having appeared on this popular TV program and similar shows for many years. “In all my years of seeing and evaluating antique firearms, the experience with Mrs. Perez ranks up there among the Top 5 on my list of breathtaking finds,” he said.

While it’s still too soon to know if the pair of Colts means Mrs. Perez will hit the jackpot, there’s every indication a windfall is likely to come, for a number of reasons. According to Mr. Martin, these particular Colt 1851 Navy Revolvers are extremely rare, have not ever previously come to auction, and have never before been seen in a private or public collection. The provenance is impeccable since the cased set would have come from the family of Colonel Browne.

In addition, the items are historic: Colonel William C. Browne was elected colonel of the 35th New York Infantry, known as the "Jefferson Grays." Organized in Elmira, New York, the unit was mustered into Federal service on June 11, 1861, and disbanded May 18, 1863. The Jefferson Grays served in action at the Second Manassas campaign, Antietam, the second battle of Bull Run, and at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Without a doubt, this pair of Colts is sure to be the highlight of the September 27 – 28 sale and will attract great attention when they go up for bid as Lot #1188 on September 27.

An East Coast native, Sharlene Perez has lived in New York most of her life. She was married for 33 years to Dr. Goltran Perez, an internist who passed away 14 years ago. Still today, Mrs. Perez, now age 74, manages her late husband’s medical clinic in Queens, where she travels to work three times a week.

She believes the Colts have been in her family’s possession for about 30 years. Most likely they were a gift to her husband from one of his myriad friends, perhaps as payment for medical services. Over the years, the pair of Colts had been stored and stayed in the closet, since neither Mrs. Perez nor her husband had any personal interest in guns. But, as she described it, one day last year she took the “very nice case” down from the shelf, noticed the dedication to Colonel Brown, and opened the wooden box. The guns were “heavy and looked authentic.” She was surprised to find two guns, not one, and see the other items the case contained, such as gunpowder and bullets. She was amazed they were all so intact.

Some time later, Mrs. Perez saw an ad in the New York Times for Greg Martin Auctions’ free appraisal clinics and thought this would be a great opportunity to learn the guns’ value. Packing the wooden case in a sturdy shopping bag, she took a taxi to the appraisal clinic several blocks away because it was a hot summer day and the parcel was heavy. “When Greg saw the guns, he was quite surprised,” said Mrs. Perez. She later consigned the Colts to Greg Martin Auctions for sale.

Mrs. Perez decided now was the time to part with the guns since she’s getting older, has no children to leave them to, and has no emotional attachment to them. “They are beautiful,” she agrees. “My husband had them for 30 years and looked at them, not for their value, but because they were nice to look at. I knew they were worth something, but had no idea how much.” She will find out first hand, when she comes out to Disneyland for the first time in many years to watch as her guns go up for bid at Greg Martin Auctions.

For Mrs. Perez, the Colt 1851 Navy Revolvers may be a bonanza that yields great riches. This gift to her husband from an unknown friend long ago may prove to be a hidden treasure several decades hence. And collectors are sure to be thrilled that these rare and historic firearms have finally come out of the closet.

Greg Martin Auctions’ Fall Sale will be held September 27 – 28 at Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel, 2085 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, California. Parking is free for the event. The live auction, expected to be a multi-million dollar event with over 1,200 lots, features a broad selection of collectible arms, armor and historic memorabilia; and several noteworthy collections of antique arms and armor.

The two-day sale will be held in three sessions: Session I, which begins at noon on Sunday, September 27, presents Fine Antique and Collectible Firearms. On Monday, September 28, Session II features the remainder of the John R. Woods collection, starting at noon. Session III begins immediately after Session II and features Modern and Sporting Guns. Auction Previews are held from 10 am – 5 pm from August 25 through September 26 at Greg Martin Auctions’ new headquarters, located at 2152 Alton Parkway, Suite K, Irvine, California.

Greg Martin Auctions bidders can participate in the events in various ways: onsite at the Doubletree Hotel in Anaheim, via phone bidding and absentee bids. In addition, real-time, Internet bidding through Proxibid allows potential buyers online to view a photo of each item as it goes up for sale and to place a bid as selling is underway. All items in the September auction are illustrated in two catalogs, now available from Greg Martin Auctions. Complete catalogs -- including full descriptions, estimates and photographs by individual lot -- are also available online at

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The revolvers carry a pre-sale estimate of $150,000 - $250,000

Lot #1188. Fine and Historic Cased Pair of Engraved, Monogrammed and Ivory-Gripped Civil War Presentation Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolvers
Serial nos. 92275/. and 93215/. .36 cal., 6-shots, 7-1/2" barrels, each marked on top "- ADDRESS SAML COLT HARTFORD CT. -" within engraved border and with intricate finial engraved at muzzle end of each marking. Left side of each frame engraved "COLT'S/PATENT." Serial number stampings including last four digits on top of loading lever lug, bottom of cylinder pin and on bottom of wedges. Cylinder roll scene of naval engagement motif, including dates "ENGAGED 16 MAY 1843." Scroll and border engraved by the Gustave Young shop on the barrels, loading lever lugs, wedges, frames, hammers and gripstraps. Details including floral motifs on the barrel lugs and frames, wolfhead motif hammers, and human head profiles on left side of each lug. Punched dot or stippled background to scrolls. Cartouche on back of each backstrap, allowing space for inscriptions. Scroll embellishment on 93215/. with arabesque styling on each side of frame. Close examination reveals revolvers executed by two different engravers. High gloss blued finish, with color case-hardened loading levers, frames and hammers. Silver-plated brass gripstraps. Single piece ivory grips with rare "WCB" script monograms engraved on left panel, for William C. Browne. Varnished rosewood case, bound in brass and lined in burgundy velvet in the American style of partitioning. Diamond contour inlaid brass plaque on lid, with inscription hand-engraved "PRESENTED TO/Col. Wm. C. Browne/by his friends/at/WATERTOWN.N.Y." Matching diamond profile brass inlaid keyplate. Brass key. Accessories of bag-shaped brass powder flask, blued steel .36 caliber bullet mold marked "COLT'S/PATENT" on sprue cutter, two lacquered tins of percussion caps, cleaning brush tip and worm tip, and miscellaneous lead projectiles. Colonel William C. Browne was elected colonel of the 35th New York Infantry, known as the "Jefferson Grays." The unit was organized in Elmira, New York, and mustered into Federal service on June 11, 1861. Companies A and E were organized at Watertown, N.Y., thus tying in with the inscription on the case lid plaque. The Jefferson Grays unit was disbanded and mustered out, at Elmira, May 18, 1863. The regiment's first year of service was to build and man defenses, in Washington, D.C. The Jefferson Grays first service in action was at the Second Manassas campaign, late August, 1862, in which they saw significant fire. Among other action was at Antietam, and the second battle of Bull Run, as well as at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The cased set comes from the family of Colonel Browne, and has not previously been in a private or public collection.

Condition: No. 92275/.: 93% blue on barrel, scattered oxidation, primarily on bright steel muzzle. Cylinder scene lightly rolled but remains sharp, with 80% blue, patch brown patina with oxidation at spot where rested against cloth case interior. Case-hardening 95%, with light scattered oxidation on top of loading lever, where engages bottom of barrel. Fading dark on sides of hammer, but vibrant on back. 35% light caked oxidation on trigger. No. 93215/.: 20% blue on barrel, balance brown with scattered oxidation and minor, light nicks, one more pronounced on left side of lug. Light and scattered oxidation on bottom of loading lever. 95% case-hardening, colors darker on hammer, more vibrant on back. Cylinder with 90% blue, scattered oxidation. Markings sharp on both revolvers. Minor nicks on right side of each barrel lug near wedge. Safety pins on cylinders fine, with none mashed on 92275/. and three mashed on 93215/. Tracking lines on both cylinders, with light denting on their muzzles. Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000

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