James D. Julia, Inc.

Rare Firearms Division
Upcoming Auction.
The iconic Grand American was the flagship of the Model 21 Custom Shop line, listing for a base price of $22,700 in 1988.

More Highlights

  Notable Treasure
The Grand Royal floor plate exemplifies the talent of master engraver Alvin White with the likeness of Olin's beloved Labrador "King Buck" in raised solid gold inlay.

Another Outstanding
Summer Auction for
the Fine Art, Asian &
Antiques Division

by Mark Ford, CEO

Congratulations to the Fine Art, Asian & Antiques Division on an auction total of over $5.7 million! It takes a lot of hard work and dedication on part of the division staff and the agents to bring together an auction of over 2,700 lots offered over four days.

Article Image One of the many highlights from the recent Fine Art, Asian & Antiques Division August auction was a collection of Waldo Peirce paintings. It was a great thrill to have Peirce's grandchildren in the gallery as two of his paintings opened the auction on the first day with a quickly climbing flurry of bids leading to hammer prices which set the pace for the next four days of auction. The first piece, "Coast Guard at the 'Silver Slipper,' Key West" had an estimated value between $4,000 and $6,000. However, once the dust settled after all the bidding activity, the piece sold at over $48,000. And before the audience finished clapping for the piece, we were on to the second piece, "Don Ernesto" Key West '27, which was estimated at... Read more.

What's It Worth

This first year production Model 21 (SN: 57) was advertised in 1930 for $59.50. At Julia's October 2013 firearms auction it brought $4,425.

If you have a rare firearm and want to know "What's it Worth," please take a picture and email it to us at firearms@jamesdjulia.com. We are always looking for consignments of rare and valuable items, as well as collections for our auctions.

Winchester's Finest by Wes Dillon
In the beginning, the concept of the first Winchester side-by-side shotgun was likely little more than a few reverse engineered pencil drawings of the competitor's doubles of the day. After all, Winchester had made its name and fortunes as a Repeating Arms Company, and had done well by developing the patents the likes of John Browning and others. An organically developed double gun was way down the list of priorities for the company in the first quarter of the 20th century. As the Model 21 was being launched, the United States was slipping into the Great Depression. Winchester Repeating Arms Company went into receivership, and was bought at bankruptcy auction by the Olin family's Western Cartridge Company on December 22, 1931. Fortunately for Winchester, Western's First Vice- President John M. Olin was an avid sportsman and gun enthusiast.

Early on, Olin recognized the Model 21s immense strength as a useful selling point. By that time, the ammunition industry had shifted almost entirely from black powder to smokeless-powder. Those with an eye on the future, however, realized that if full advantage was to be made of smokeless ammo, guns would have to be stronger. Olin's own Super-X cartridge offered more power and greater killing range than any shotshell ever had before, and he saw the Model 21 as the gun to handle it.

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Winchester M21 barrel steel and construction were superior. Guns were subjected to punishing "Violent Proof" loads and stamped "VP" before leaving the factory.

To prove the gun's meddle, a rigorous testing procedure was adopted using "Violent Proof" loads equivalent to more than twice the standard pressures encountered with factory loadings of the day. To dive home the point and put their shotgun on a pedestal high above the gentrified competition, a torture test was arranged in which guns from the world's major competitors were fired a number of times with Western Cartridge proof loads. Olin would test a stock M21 against the best English side by sides with the idea of firing each gun until failure with these VP loads. Every English gun failed after only a very modest dose of the poison pills. The M21 kept firing until after 2,000 consecutive rounds, the test was halted. The gun was thoroughly inspected

and recorded absolutely no measured signs of distress. It was a marketing coup for john Olin that would set the stage for the Model 21s reputation in the marketplace as a platform of unequaled performance. Commenting on the test almost fifty years later, Olin said, with characteristic understatement: "There was no near competitor in strength nor endurance to the Model 21."

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The 1930 catalog has Models 21s listed in Standard, Tournament and Trap grades. By 1960 it was a Custom Shop only product.

Throughout history, in their determination to produce the finest double shotgun available, Winchester Model 21 designers have offered and made seemingly limitless configuration choices based on customer wants and needs. These variations are what make the Model 21 so intriguing, unique and challenging for collector. Starting with the "Production" years of 1930 to 1959 there were approx. 30,000 units of the Winchester 21 Shotgun made. This double-barrel shotgun was highly attractive to buyers, even during the tough times of the Great Depression at $59.50. As World War II ended and continuing through the economic boom that followed, the Model 21 Shotgun turned into a platform for more custom-made and quite lavishly decorated products. This emphasis on special ordered "bespoke" shotguns gained in popularity through the 1950-60s as Winchester catered to the varied tastes of the upscale modern sportsman. As a result of this selectivity, only about 1,000 additional Model 21s were produced in the Custom Shop from 1960 to 1991. As production numbers fell off, prices rose dramatically in tandem. Model 21 grades were now offered in 12, 16, 20, 28 gauge and .410 bore with 16 gauge being the rarest. Select custom engraved models were available in 6 different Factory patterns, with a higher number indicating more embellishment. Even higher levels of adornment were available in the Pigeon Grade and iconic gold inlaid Grand American Grade two barrel set, which near the end of production in 1988 retailed with a base price of $22,700. A customer could, of course, order anything he/she desired... for a price.

And finally there is the ne' plus ultra of M21 world, the Model 21 Grand Royal Grade. A concept of singular beauty derived as a special presentation gun for John Olin. Only two such examples were ever produced by the Custom Shop. Unfortunately, Olin died before his gun could be presented - it resides on permanent display at the NRA Museum in VA. The remaining Grand Royal will be sold to the highest bidder at Julia's October 2014 firearms auction as part of the prestigious Bill Phifer Collection. These are some of the most highly prized and sought after Model 21s extant. In all, only a little more than 31,000 total units were produced by the various incarnations of the Winchester factory, making it truly a scarce commodity... The finest examples coveted by the most passionate collectors.

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Classic Grand American engraving w/ gold inlays and Style B checkering pattern. This unfired Small Bore Set (20,28,.410) is extremely rare

Special Note: The esteemed Bill Phifer Collection of Custom Shop Model 21s will be sold in its entirety (individually) as part of Julia's October 7-9, 2014 Firearms Auction. This represents the most significant offering of M21s to ever come to public auction. In 1972 Bill Phifer saw his first Winchester Model 21 shotgun at Kerr Sport Shop, Beverly Hills, California and was instantly impressed. He ordered his first Model 21 from the Winchester Custom Shop in 1978, a 20 gauge Grand American. He subsequently ordered a 12 gauge Grand American and 16 gauge Grand American. Smitten with Winchester's Finest, Bill kept on ordering Model 21s until he had accumulated a complete collection of all configurations available for sale by the post-1959 Winchester Custom Shop located in New Haven, CT. In addition, many one-of-a-kind small bore customs, including the spectacular Grand Royal 28 ga two barrel set (as pictured), were commissioned. Of the thirty plus Phifer-ordered Model 21s, all are accompanied by factory documentation and remain in new unfired condition, assembled only recently for catalog photography. The collection will be sold, as individual guns, in its entirety as part of Julia's October 7-9, 2014. Firearms . A special website was created www.winchestermodel21.com to proudly display some of Bill's collection.

At James D. Julia, Inc. we are always seeking high quality antiques of all types for our year-round auctions. We offer the best seller commission rates in the industry, as low as 0% for high value items and collections. Please contact us directly at 207-453-7125 to learn more or if you are considering consigning one item, an entire collection or an estate to auction. All inquiries are confidential and without obligation.

Lic#: ME:AR83 / MA: AU1406 / NH: 2511