Three times a year Rock Island Auction Company transforms its Preview Hall into a pop-up museum filled with the history, artistry, and notable names of the objects they offer to collectors. The recently held June Premier Firearms Auction was no exception, sparing no expense to make sure guests were both supremely impressed and safe. Nationwide visitors enjoyed a new hospitality suite anchored by a bar wrapped around an M4 Sherman tank, as well as a complementary bag complete with mask and sanitiser.
The auction was also graced by historic figures throughout the centuries who flocked to the auction house on the Mississippi to tell their stories through their extraordinary collectibles:
- Notorious bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd was in attendance via his Colt Government Model, which cracked its $20,000 high estimate to bring $31,625.
- King of Hollywood, Clark Gable, and his wife Carol Lombard were glamorous as ever with a golden, bespoke shotgun – a presentation from husband to wife.
- The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, came up from Folsom prison to revisit a Spencer repeating carbine once housed in his personal collection. It found a new home for $8050.
- Al Capone took a break from running a criminal empire to attend by means of a nickel-plated Colt Model 1908 pocket pistol. It’s $55,000 high estimate was shot full of holes on the way to achieving $69,000.
- Several of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders unsaddled long enough to bend an elbow, represented by a gold inlaid presentation revolver, as well an issued Colt Single Action Army.
- Former Mexican President Jose Lopes Portillo was there with not only his Colt 1860 Army, but also his engraved Bulldog revolver.
- Japan’s Emperor Meiji, known as Meiji the Great, stopped by to view a luxurious drilling said to have been his Majesty’s favorite.
- Baron de l’Empire Cesar- Joseph Bourayne turned heads, represented by a masterpiece pair of museum-worthy dueling pistols from Nicolas-Noël Boutet, each awash in gold and a sapphire-blue finish. They achieved the highest price in the sale, commanding $575,000 for the pair.
Art of the matter
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But it wasn’t just the ‘names’ that stepped out to attend RIAC’s first Premier Auction of 2020. The artists were there too:
- Renowned New York firm Tiffany & Company was there in force with an extravagant display of Smith & Wessons, Colts, and even military swords of their own design.
- Master Engraved Louis D. Nimschke presented a tastefully restrained gallery comprised of six of his works from a virtual “who’s who” of 19th Century American firearms manufacturers. A sensational Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3, finished in silver and gold, and depicted in his own pull book, far surpassed its $35,000 high estimate and brought $48,875.
- The entire Ulrich family was in attendance, unable to resist the pull of an event that featured works by John, George, and Conrad. Even Herman was there, who seldom makes such appearances, and stole the show with his masterpiece Winchester 1866 from the Centennial Exposition that realised $161,000.
- Cuno Helfricht, Gustave Young, Howard Dove, Wilbur Glahn, William Gough, and Samuel Hoggson all also had small exhibits showcasing their giant talents.
Even the barons of industry couldn’t be kept from this red-carpet event. Putting away their rivalries for the evening, it was a display of each man’s best:
- Samuel Colt, the marketing genius and legendary industrialist, showcased his first steps in the firearms trade with both a rare, high condition Paterson Model 1839 carbine as well as a historic and highly soughtafter Walker revolver. The Paterson saw $345,000 and the Walker stampeded right over its $250,000 estimate to find $431,250.
- Horace Smith & Daniel Wesson, responsible for numerous industry developments, touted those contributions by displaying a repeating carbine of their own design, said to be the genesis of all lever action rifles. Appropriately, it saw a realised price of $488,750.
- Even the normally reserved inventor John Moses Browning seemed determined to impress with several early designs of his immensely successful 1911 pistol featured for all to see.
The pop-up museum also saw in attendance Medal of Honor recipients, dangerous game hunters, lawmen, cowboys, maharajas, pilots, and exhibition shooters all rubbing elbows in this outstanding and short-lived event. With such a starstudded celebration, it should come as no surprise that it was the highest grossing event of its kind, reaching $21.1 million dollars in the three-day span. It would seem there are few better times to sell one’s collectible firearms than the present.