James D. Julia, Inc.

Firearms Division
Upcoming Auction.
L.C. Smith Deluxe Grade 16Ga #202974. Magnificent multi-color gold inlays and impeccable state of preservation translated into a World Record auction price of $235,750 for this gun in March, 2008.

More Highlights
  Notable Treasure
In Pursuit of Rare Items
The last Sousa Grade double made in 1938 features exceptional medium scroll with ribbons framing full relief dogs. This piece sold for $69,000 in October 2013.

More Highlights

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
by Mark Ford, CEO
Many of you have commented to me over the past couple of years about the quality of our images and pictures in our catalogs, flyers and online. I thought you may be interested in learning about the process and how "the magic happens."

Every single item that we offer for sale at our auctions comes to our facility in Fairfield, ME for cataloging and photography. Our catalogers inspect each item, and identify what images and pictures will provide the best information to potential bidders. Sometimes it is critical to identify a mark, an artist, a serial number, engraving or another critical detail. Sometimes it is designed to focus on the beautiful condition and color of the piece.

Each of these shots enters into our photography management system. This information is provided to our team of full-time photographers. We typically have four to six full time photography set-ups that are specifically... Read more

What's It Worth

The L.C. Smith catalog from 1913 lists the DeLuxe Grade at $1,000, fitted with a single trigger. By 1943 the price had risen to $1,465. The same shotgun sold for $207,000 at Julia's March 2014 Firearms auction.

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.

Une paire De Luxe by Wes Dillon
Throughout the 20th century, the appreciation of the highest level of quality in shotguns has been very much an acquired taste, much like a fine vintage port. For the sporting elite, utility tended be of lesser importance in the means of harvesting supper and in the libations to follow. What mattered was that the game be skillfully dispatched with an instrument of singular beauty and that the après libation be sufficiently aged and of sufficient quantity. The luxury hallmark in modern sporting arms was staunchly the property of a select few London sidelock gun makers during the Golden Age at the turn of the century. Opulence and prestige in after dinner libation was, is, and forever will be, Portugal's pennant.

After the First World War, accelerated emigration pushed European skilled craftsmen to the new world in ever increasing numbers. The post-war economic boom generated seemingly limitless opportunity for American gun makers to upgrade their shotgun lines to directly compete with English firms for a share of the big money pie. In America, the "Famous Five " included the likes of A.H. Fox, Ithaca, Lefever, Parker Bros, and L.C. Smith. Of these, the L.C. Smith shotgun, fondly nicknamed "Elsie" by her devoted admirers, stood alone as the only U.S. maker of a true sidelock action double gun.

From the beginning, the Hunter Arms Co (maker of L.C. Smith branded guns) set its sights on raising the bar of domestic quality with its line of sidelock shotguns. Recognizing that many wellto- do Americans had purchased foreign guns and paid high prices for them, Hunter Arms organized their factory with the most elaborate and complete operations for the creation of the finest sidelock guns possible, regardless of corporate expense. The goal was to produce "America's Best" shotgun and "compete directly with the Brits in the high end luxury marketplace."

At the turn of the 20th century, the Elsie "A-3" grade was the highest priced sporting shotgun gun made anywhere in the world, priced at a staggering $740. The only thing that came near it was the Parker Bros "A1 Special" at $525, and a Purdey "Quality A" gun came in at $400. The A-3 was the epitome of shotgun luxury and perfection in its day. Given that a laborer's annual wage at the time was about $500, it's no wonder that there were only 18 of the A-3 guns made from 1895-1915. In 1913, the Hunter Arms Company redesigned all of the grades of L.C. Smith shotguns. The grade designation for the post-1913 flagship model would translate literally from French "of luxury"... the "Deluxe" grade. Its striking gold encrusted game scene vignettes would be unmistakable when
resting comfortably amongst its British peers in the gun cabinet.

The Maker's catalog from 1913, in part, describes some of the features of the Deluxe Grade: "This gun represents a beautiful specimen of mechanical and artistic skill, the finest type it is possible to manufacture. The gold game birds in the basrelief on each lock plate, interlaced with the finest engraving, produce an effect that is most striking. We do not confine ourselves to [a single] design, customers' own designs will be carried out and inscriptions of any character carefully inlaid or engraved. These superb productions are greatly appreciated by first-class sportsmen and connoisseurs...this 'De Luxe' grade of the Smith gun is produced at great expense, as selected workmen only are employed on them and neither time nor money are spared in their manufacture... Specially suitable for presentation purposes."

At the height of WWII and nearing the end of the road for the product line, the De Luxe Grade was now sticker priced at $1,465. In the early months of 1943, two sixteen gauge Deluxe grade guns were placed on the order books individually. These two would be the only Deluxe Grade 16 gauge guns ever produced. The origins of the orders are not known, however each unique project required the better part of a year to complete and another year in the warehouse prior to their shipment in late 1944. Factory records are also inconclusive as to the entity receiving the final disposition of each shotgun...but one thing is certain regarding their history...this Une paire De Luxe have each come to the auction block under the direction of the James D. Julia Auction Company.

Cost was not a consideration. The entire action body was embellished to the highest standard.

The first of the Sixteens, SN 202974, would come to Julia's in early 2008 as part of a family collection of Elsies. It would be the first time this grouping would be exposed to the marketplace in generations. The collection's discovery along with the Great Sixteen, seemingly out of nowhere, created a sense of tension and urgency rarely witnessed amongst the ranks of the routinely cool and collected "mature" buyers...and rightly so, as the little Deluxe was highly decorated with multicolor gold inlays and in an extraordinary state of preservation. The days leading up to the sale were filled with nervous inquiry and secret previews

The resultant bidder mêlée that occurred on a lovely October afternoon in Maine would produce intense competitive bidding driving the final cost to the buyer of the great rarity to an astounding $235,750 - A World Record price for an L.C. Smith shotgun.

Most recently, the second sixteen gauge Deluxe Grade, SN 202811, emerged from its protective lair to become part of a spectacular offering of L.C Smith shotguns, perhaps the finest to ever come to public auction, anchored by the personal collection of the late John O. Houchins, author of L.C. Smith, The Legend Lives which is widely regarded as the go to reference for the L.C. Smith devotee. A check of the L.C. Smith factory records confirmed its pedigree. When one lays eyes on this incredible work of art it becomes very apparent to the "expert" and "neophyte" alike that the level of skill and workmanship set before you is of the highest order of the day.

Exquisite engraving by master Albert E. Kraus, under the top lever. Grade designation was engraved on the rib.

The gun appears in the March 12th catalog as Lot 3459 and is described in part: UNIQUE GOLD ENCRUSTED 16 GAUGE L. C. SMITH "DE LUXE" GRADE WITH EJECTORS, SINGLE TRIGGER, BEAVERTAIL FOREND, AND VENTILATED RIB...This exceptionally rare and spectacular best grade shotgun has 28" bbls fitted with raised, flat, ventilated rib, engraved "MADE TO ORDER BY THE HUNTER ARMS CO. INC. FULTON, N. Y." and gold inlaid "L. C. SMITH De-Luxe GRADE" on rear portion... The extent of the gold inlay work is beyond any pictured examples in Brophy or "L. C. Smith, The Legend Lives" by John Houchins... Engraving executed and signed by master Albert E. Kraus, under the top lever... CONDITION: Excellent... An exceptionally fine and rare American classic. Estimate $150,000-250,000.

Would the March 2014 auction bring a new world record price for an L.C. Smith? Alas, it was not to be as Deluxe # 202811 could manage only $207,000. Sufficed to say that the Une paire De Luxe, undoubtedly represent the two most exclusive and expensive L.C. Smith guns ever offered at public auction. Combined, the duo brought a total of $442,750! For those of us fortunate to be present for their combined sale, we will always remember their singular beauty.

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.