Blue steel proved to be pure gold at a Sept. 13-15 auction in Rock Island, Ill. The three-day event at the Rock Island Auction Company grossed $13.1 million in sales, taking bids from all 50 states and 25 countries. And in the hustle and bustle of the company’s preview hall a handful of firearms stole the show in the 2,700-piece sale.
The two most anticipated firearms were from the renowned Mac McCroskie Winchester collection, the highest grossing lot of the weekend. An iron frame Henry Rifle realized a world-record price for a standard 19th-century made American rifle at $603,750. And a gold plated factory relief Winchester Model 1866, engraved and signed by Conrad F. Ulrich, was equally as sought after, demanding $437,000 for ownership.
Winchester turned out to be one of the hottest manufacturers at the auction, accounting for the top three sales. Rounding out the Winchester run was a factory engraved Model 1876 .50 Express Deluxe short rifle, which commanded the princely sum of $230,000.
Samuel Colt's merchandise had its moments in the sun, also demanding some of the weekend's highest prices. An A Company No. 182 Walker revolver – Samuel's first commercially successful revolver as well as his first military contract revolver – was the premium Colt at the sale. The revolver fetched a jaw-dropping $155,250, But it was not the only Colt to bring top dollar. A British proofed Colt Model 1860 Army revolver with matching canteen shoulder stock went out the door at $80,500; A No. 2 Paterson with extra cylinder achieved $46,000; And an exceptional factory “A” engraved Wilbur A. Glahn first generation Colt Single Action Army revolver with ivory grips sold for $40,250.
Smith & Wesson was not left out in the cold when it came to top-end collectable firearms. Perhaps one of the auction's finest examples of 19th-century craftsmanship was an engraved and gold inlaid Smith & Wesson 44 double action Frontier Model. The revolver was ornamented by famed Colt and Smith & Wesson engraver Gustave Young. The delicate design was enough to command top dollar, but drew an impressive $155,250 due its documented history as a Nevada lawman's gun.
Other notable sales at the auction included a Singer Tool Room/Prototype M1911A1 semi-automatic pistol. The World War II artifact drew a winning bid of $43,125. A top-notch U.S. contract New Haven Arms Co. Henry Rifle rang the bell at an impressive $80,500. And an outstanding presentation Winchester Second Model 1866 carbine with Henry Patent barrel address went out the door for $46,000.