Julia’s March Firearms Auction: An Extraordinary World Record

Fairfield, ME ~ March 10-12, 2014. James D. Julia’s Auction House recently conducted the most extraordinary firearms auction to date. For a number of years Julia’s has led the firearms auction field by regularly conducting the largest grossing firearm auctions in the industry and have continually held the record for the largest grossing each year for nearly ten years now. Their October 2013 auction, at approximately $18.3 million, was by far the largest gross ever realized for a firearms auction in history anywhere in the world and it was hard to conceive that could be beaten, but this sale soundly beat that gross coming in at approximately $19 million+ (including post-auction sales).

The success of the sale was not just in its gross but also in many other ways, although this sale did feature over 530 lots that realized in excess of $10,000, 50 lots that realized in excess of $50,000, and 13 lots that generated $100,000 or more. Another truly extraordinary factor about this auction was the number of collections offered from some of the best known firearms dealers and collectors currently in North America. The headlines touted 12 phenomenal and renowned collections. The first was that of the late Tommy Rholes of Texas. For years, Tommy was known as one of the leading dealers in North America for quality Winchesters and Colts and his collection of private guns that he had set aside over the years, reflected his dominance in that market. An extremely rare iron framed Henry SN 90, believed to be, for condition, one of the top 5 or 6 known, carried a presale estimate of $100,000-200,000 and went out at $161,000. Tommy’s extremely rare Nimschke factory engraved Colt SAA was a prime example of his taste. Carrying a presale estimate of $75,000-125,000, it blew through that estimate to $129,650. Tommy had a great interest in historical items particularly those associated with Texas Rangers and early Southwestern law officers. A very rare nickel plated Colt Sheriff’s model to the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company in Bisbee, Arizona carried a presale estimate of $50,000-100,000 and realized $80,500.

The second day began the Bill Gerber Collection billed by Julia’s as a collection of impeccable Colts. Mr. Gerber, a long-time collector from Memphis, Tennessee, has always had discerning taste in what he collected and his collection reflected this. Many of these guns were just breathtaking for condition and in some cases of great rarity. An extraordinarily rare presentation double cased set including an 1860 Army and an 1861 Navy had been presented to General William A. Thornton by Col. Colt. Thornton was in command of ordinance for many years and eventually became a Brigadier General. These Colts in an original Colt casing and outstanding condition carried a presale estimate of $200,000-300,000 and finally realized $224,250. A very rare cased Patterson #2 Belt Model in an original case with accessories carried a presale estimate of $150,000-250,000 and it realized $166,750. His extremely fine cased First Model Colt Dragoon realized $63,250.

Immediately after the conclusion of the phenomenal Gerber Collection was the Norm Flayderman Collection. Norm Flayderman’s name is unquestionably one of the most iconic names in the firearms industry during the 20th century. Norm was a third generation antiques dealer in the Flayderman family, a great patriot serving in three branches of the military service, a renowned scholar, author, and dealer extraordinaire, but one of the most esteemed and lasting tributes that Norm Flayderman established was his reputation for the honorable way in which he conducted himself. One of his first major successes was the acquisition of the Medicus Sword collection. In the 1950s, the Medicus collection was considered the most important collection of its type in existence. The asking price at that time was $20,000 and was more than what any established dealer would consider, all except for the young upstart, Norm Flayderman. Shortly after purchasing it, a special article appeared in Life magazine with a unique photograph of Norm standing amongst a sea of early swords. Over the years to come, Norm marketed the swords, first selling the less valuable ones and saving the choice treasures until much later in the future when the prices would be enormously high. This was a business practice that Norm frequently followed with great success. Norm later distinguished himself through his special catalog business which he started in 1954 and continued to produce up to 1998 (118 consecutive editions), at which time, he switched over to the internet. One other monumental icon of Norm’s name and business was Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values which had come to be known as the bible in the industry and the most respected and most used gun pricing guides today. The Flayderman Antiques & Military Company is continuing and will continue on into the future, now being run by Norm’s surviving wife, Ruth, his daughter, Judy, his son, John, together with his long-time assistant, Tory. The majority of the items offered in this sale were special items from Norm’s private collection. The first lot was a rare engraved Volcanic #1 with wonderful original silver plate carrying a presale estimate of $20,000-30,000; it was subject to a heated bidding battle which finally grossed out at $58,650. His early Civilian Colt Second Model Dragoon carried a presale estimate of $50,000-60,000; it too was competed for heatedly all the way up to $77,650. Almost every lot of the Flayderman Collection had multiple players both from the phone and from the audience. A rare cased engraved 1849 Pocket Revolver was a gem which carried a presale estimate of $20,000-30,000 but went out at $55,200. Many of the guns in Norm’s offering were high condition and some of them were historic. The large framed Belmont-Adams percussion dragoon carried an inscription to the founder of the Pony Express who later became the Confederate purchasing agent, Major Benjamin Franklin Ficklin. The gun carried a presale estimate of $8,000-12,000 but as a result of great competition, realized $36,800. An important note is that Julia’s will also be selling another segment of Norm’s collection in the major Fine Art, Asian, & Antiques auction in August. This portion of the Flayderman collection will be rare Civil War posters, some of which were extremely rare polychrome examples.

Also offered in this auction was the second session of the Michael Leff Collection. The late Michael Leff of Florida was a successful business developer who had a great passion for fine Colts. His collection of Colts, mostly cased and the majority of which were engraved, included a rare cased engraved two gun set including an 1849 Pocket and an 1851 Navy. The pair carried a presale estimate of $40,000-65,000 and went out at $51,750.

Another collection which distinguished itself in the world of firearms collectors is that of Dr. Douglas Sirkin of Buffalo, New York. For years Dr. Sirkin quietly and privately amassed an extraordinary collection of firearms ranging from superb 17th century European high art wheel locks to beautiful raise carved Kentucky rifles. The collection had been amassed through his personal friend and advisor, Dr. Dick Zeschke. As such, until the first session of his collection came on the market in October, almost no one in the firearms world knew about Dr. Sirkin and his collection. One of the rarities of the Sirkin Collection was a Martial Colt Walker C-Company #136. It carried a presale estimate of $75,000-150,000 and went out at $80,500. Dr. Sirkin’s Collection also included a large number of beautiful Kentucky rifles. An outstanding and profusely relief carved York County rifle by Michael Edwards, “the World’s Oldest Living Fireman” carried a presale estimate of $35,000-55,000 and it went out at $47,000. An interesting historical lot was a pair of important silver and gold inlaid American Flintlock Dueling Pistols by James Haslett of Baltimore. These were made for and given to Gerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. They were a gift of his then wife, Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte of Maryland. Gerome married the famous and lovely Elizabeth from Maryland and later they ventured to France to meet his famous brother, Napoleon. Napoleon was enraged, he had intended for his brother to marry into one of the European royal families and refused to allow Gerome admittance back into France until he rid himself from the “American hussy.” Gerome later abandoned his American wife, remarried and became King of Westphalia. The pistols carried a presale estimate of $25,000-50,000 and went out at $40,250. Another highly competed for niche in Dr. Sirkin’s vast collection was his selection of high art European wheel lock firearms. A superb pair of Saxon Elector Guard Wheel Lock Puffers dating to around 1590 and formally having come from the Bremner Hogg Jackson Collection carried a presale estimate of $40,000-60,000. They realized $60,375. Yet another pair of Dresden Wheel Lock Holster Pistols (Puffers) also dating to around 1590 had elaborately inlaid ball butts and were estimated at $20,000-30,000. They ultimately realized $60,000. Dr. Sirkin’s Collection also included some wonderful European arms. His fine rare pair of long late 17th century English flintlock holster pistols by Humphrey Pickfatt dated to around 1690 and carried a presale estimate of $10,000-15,000. They realized an impressive $34,500. Another interesting early item was Dr. Sirkin’s Hall breech loading flintlock pistol. Although these are extremely rare, Julia’s featured one in their last auction from the Sujansky Collection but held this one from the Sirkin Collection back for this auction so as to not “flood” the market. This example carried a presale estimate of $10,000-15,000 and realized an impressive $40,250.

The second day also featured the notable Kentucky rifle and pistol collection of Mr. Frank Sujansky. Mr. Sujansky had accumulated an outstanding offering of Kentucky rifles, but even more notable was his collection of Kentucky pistols. Upon seeing the entire collection spread out on tables for the first time, Julia’s longtime Kentucky rifle specialist, Ron Gabel, former President of the KRA, a lifetime collector, author, and dealer in Kentucky arms exclaimed, “This is the greatest number of Kentucky pistols that I have previously seen in my entire lifetime.” The Sujansky Collection included what is considered the best or one of the best relief carved John Armstrong Kentucky rifles known. This example was in flint and carried a presale estimate of $90,000-150,000 and went out at $97,750. Armstrong’s rifles are outstanding for their beautiful raised carved ornamentation and silver inlays which included a small eagle plaque in the stock. The stocks themselves were also beautifully relief carved. Amongst the plethora of exquisite Kentucky pistols from the Sujansky Collection was an exceedingly rare and desirable Buck’s County relief carved Flintlock by Andrew Verner which realized $46,000. An outstanding and rare John Armstrong Kentucky pistol believed to be the only signed John Armstrong pistol in existence had early on been discovered by Joe Kindig, Jr. and underwent expert restoration. The presale estimate was $40,000-70,000 and it sold for just over $40,000. A spectacular pair of Lehigh County pistols with tiger maple stocks made by Thomas Grubb was estimated at $25,000-35,000 and realized $29,000.

In the second session was the collection of the late Charles Anthony Lamb. The collection which featured early martial pistols included a Revolutionary War British Dragoon pistol from the 17th Light Dragoons estimated at $7,500-12,000, this rare Revolutionary War weapon jumped to $19,550. Also a very fine cased pair of Clark double barrel flintlock pistols was estimated at $12,500-22,500 and saw tremendous bidding, ending up at $32,200.

The third session of the auction started with Session 2 of the world renowned collection of Dr. Geoffrey Sturgess of Zurich, Switzerland. Dr. Sturgess’ Collection is the finest collection of auto loading weapons currently in private hands. The first session of his magnificent collection that was offered in October did extremely well, as did his second session. The important DWM 04 Navy Troop Trials Prototype Luger SN 51 carried a presale estimate of $50,000-100,000 but shot to $138,000. His spectacular and important cased platinum plated ivory gripped and engraved presentation Krieghoff P.08 Luger was estimated at $50,000-100,000 and after strong competitive action, changed hands at $86,250. Also included in the collection was a great number of interesting experimental weapons. One such example was the super rare M1896 Silverman-Maxim Prototype pistol designed by the inventor of the first successful machine gun, Sir Hiram Maxim. The piece itself was extraordinarily rare and interesting, but of particular interest for the Julia firm because Sir Hiram Maxim actually was born and raised in a small Maine community an hour north of the auction facilities. The Maxim pistol carried a presale estimate of $20,000-30,000 and realized $37,375.

Another prominent and renowned collection in session 3 was that of the late Robert H. Haskell III. Mr. Haskell was an avid collector, but in particular he collected rare German and Austrian helmets from the late 19th and 20th century. His collection was one of the best of its type to ever come to auction in North America and generated tremendous pre-auction interest and enthusiasm from buyers both here and abroad. Every lot saw strong competition but probably the most competed one was the Mecklenberg-Schwerin Grand Duchy General Agitant helmet from around 1895. This beautiful helmet, estimated at $4,000-6,000 saw tremendous competition and finally topped out at $25,300. Another very desirable helmet was that of the Bavarian Artillery General Officers Model 1913-1916 helmet. This one was estimated at $3,000-5,000 and generated a $15,500 return.

The tenth distinguished collection also offered in this third session was that of the late John Houchins. Mr. Houchins was a scholar, author and avid collector of L.C. Smith shotguns and published the book, “L.C. Smith, the Legend Lives”; a comprehensive treatise on L.C. Smith and their history. Mr. Houchins’ exceptionally fine A-3 L.C. Smith 12 ga. carried a presale estimate of $65,000-85,000 and flew through the high estimate to $109,000. His high condition early monogrammed L.C. Smith 12 ga. carried a presale estimate of $27,500-47,500 and topped out at $34,500. In addition to the extraordinary collections was a vast array of rare, high condition items and/or historical items from various estates and collections all over North America.

Class III is also a special category for the Julia firm. For a matter of years now, they have been the dominant seller of Class III weapons in North America selling more Class III than any other auction firm and generally for very impressive results. This sale was no exception. A superb Colt Thompson 1921/28 Navy over stamped with FBI case in 45 cal. carried a presale estimate of $30,000-40,000 but saw a great deal of bidding competition and topped out at $60,375. An M-60 machine gun by Rock Island Armory (fully transferable) was estimated at $25,000-35,000 and climbed to $39,000 before selling.

A historical paper group for the start of Operation Torch dated November 1942 included a map and communications which came recently from a family of Marine Corporal, James Richie. This pertained to the invasion of North Africa whose forces were led by Rear Admiral Hewitt and none other than the famous Major General George S. Patton. Included was a map of the landing site and a Naval Telegram message from General Eisenhower to Major General Patton with instructions to commence. The telegram reads only, “Play. Ball.” The grouping was estimated at $5,000-15,000 and went out at $8,600. An extraordinary rare first contract, first pistol Colt Model 1900 US Army Semi-auto pistol given to Col. James Boyd by General Lucius Clay in early 1945 carried a presale estimate of $25,000-50,000 but collectors from all over North America fiercely competed for the lot and it went out at $88,500.

For the advanced aficionado, this sale certainly did not disappoint the shotgun crowd. The first sporting arm up for bid was an exquisite 28 ga. Boss single trigger ejector sidelock O/U game gun in near mint condition. Estimated at $100,000-200,000, it topped out at $207,000. The very next gun, a Sublime 28 ga. Boss Sidelock Ejector single trigger side by side gun, also nearly new and from the same family as the first and also estimated at $100,000-200,000 went out at $136,000. A unique gold encrusted 16 ga. L.C. Smith Deluxe Grade side by side, one of only a couple ever made, this one in excellent condition, carried a presale estimate of $150,000-250,000 and sold for $207,000.

Smiths and Bosses weren’t the only ones to bring a lot of money in this sale. A beautiful Parker A-1 special Trapgun with ventilated rib and beavertail forearm was estimated at $32,500-62,500. It topped out at just over $100,000. An exceptionally fine AH Fox DE Grade 12 ga. estimated at $25,000-35,000 and realized approximately $49,000. In addition to all the fine Winchesters from the Tommy Rholes estate was an exceedingly rare John Ulrich engraved and gold inlaid Winchester Model 1910 semi-automatic. This beautiful gun estimated at $60,000-120,000 brought $75,000. A historic Colt SA Army that had come from the battle of Little Big Horn and at one time belonged to Chief Two Moons (the very Indian whose bust appears on the US 5 cent piece) realized $95,000. Another historic item, a Colt Model 1860 revolver identified to Private Joseph M. Hawkins of Company D, Custer’s 7th Michigan Cavalry who was present at Gettysburg carried a presale estimate of $20,000-25,000 and went out strong at $46,000.

Another area Julia’s excels at is their offerings of Civil War items. A rare EJ Johnston Confederate foot officer’s sword identified to a Captain Munson carried a presale estimate of $25,000-35,000 and realized $33,000. A fine Leech & Rigdon Confederate revolver captured by a Union Naval Officer and in outstanding condition was estimated for $40,000-60,000. Also from the Norm Flayderman collection, it brought $42,500.

All in all, the sale was a tremendous success. An extraordinary number of high valued guns were sold but the most important factor was that there was a major amount of interest in the auction for each of the special niches that was offered both from in-house bidders as well as online and telephone bidders. One thing that continues to ring true today is that with quality goods that are estimated conservatively and realistically and properly handled, there are plenty of buyers with plenty of enthusiasm; so the gun world is very alive and healthy.

As a final note, Fairfield, Maine in March and October did not only have the James D. Julia auction event but Jim’s sister and her husband have a major firearms auction house located 50 yards away. They tend to specialize in the moderate valued shooter and collector guns and their sale is always the three days preceding the Julia’s sale. This March, their sale grossed $2.5 million.

For more details, visit Julia’s website at www.jamesdjulia.com or contact Julia’s at 207-453-7125. The next major firearms auction will be in October of 2014. They have a number of important collections already scheduled for this sale with others coming in. Julia’s also deals in Fine Arts, Asian & Antiques and they are now accepting consignments for their next sale in August. Julia’s also has a rare Lamp & Glass Division and an Antique Advertising, Toy & Doll Division which are also accepting consignments for their auctions that both take place in June.

Image Description
One of the finest relief carved John Armstrong Kentuckys known (est. $90,000-150,000) Sold for $97,750 (Sujansky Coll)
Unique Gold L.C. Smith “De Luxe” 16ga (est. $150,000-250,000) Sold for $207,000
Superb pair of Saxon Elector Guard Puffers (est. $40,000-60,000) Sold for $60,375 (Sirkin Coll)
Extremely rare 1st Contract first pistol shipped Colt M1900 US Army auto to Col. James Boyd by Gen. Lucius Clay. (est. $25,000-50,000) Sold for $88,550
Near New, Extraordinary 28ga Boss (est. $100,000-200,000) Sold for $207,000
Fine and rare Parker A-1 Special Trap 12ga (est. $32,500-62,500) Sold for $100,500
Rare Mecklenburg-Schwerin Grand Duchey Gen. Officer Helmet ca. 1895 (est. $4,000-6,000) Sold for $25,300 (Haskell Coll)
Outstanding Iron Frame Henry (est. $100,000-200,000) Sold for $161,000 (Rholes Coll)
Rare, extra fine engraved Colt SAA (est. $75,000-125,000) Sold for $129,650 (Rholes Coll)
Near New L.C. Smith A-3 12ga (est. $65,000-85,000) Sold for $110,000 (Houchins Coll)
Extremely rare presentation double cased Colts to Gen. W.A. Thornton by Col. Colt (est. $200,000-300,000) Sold for $224,250 (Gerber Coll)
Extremely fine Civilian Colt 2nd Mod Dragoon (est. $50,000-60,000) Sold for $77,625 (Flayderman Coll)
Superb Colt Thompson 21/28 Navy overstamp (est. $30,000-40,000) Sold for $59,800
Extraordinary 1904 Luger Navy Trials Prototype (est. $50,000-100,000) Sold for $138,000 (Sturgess Coll)
A healthy crowd was in attendance as Jim Julia worked the block on the record setting $19 million auction
Jim Julia, together with his CEO, Mark Ford, worked from the podium. Mark Ford, who had just graduated from auction school a few weeks earlier, also spent considerable time auctioning throughout the sale.