Fairfield, Maine. Fairfield, Maine is unquestionably the worldwide epicenter for firearms auctions. The largest number of high-end, rare and expensive units offered, the largest total gross for firearms at auction; all take place in Fairfield, Maine. This year on March 11-15, the total take approached an amazing $19 million. Starting off the semi-annual event was the Poulin Auction Company which conducted a 3-day sale from March 11-13. Poulin’s specializes in moderately priced, affordable firearms and they regularly present not only an expansive offering but a tremendously diverse offering. Total take for their 3-days was $4 million. Less than 100 yards, a “stone’s throw” away, at the James D. Julia Auction facilities on March 14 & 15, things were far different. Julia’s presents a more intimate selection of firearms for auction but the average sale value is the highest you will find anywhere in the world. This Julia Auction grossed approximately $15 million. The average sale price of lots sold was $12,600. Over 300 lots realized $10,000 or more, 20 lots realized $100,000 or more.
Monday, March 14 featured the Sporting & Collector Firearms Session, a new addition to the Julia Firearms Auction. This session generally presents more moderately priced firearms in the average range of $2,000-8,000. This portion of the sale featured the Estate Collection of well-known Texas collector, G.W. “Bill” Stewart. Bill had a passion for Colts and Winchesters and judging from the prices, many of the collectors shared his views. The first lot up was a rare Smith & Wesson #1 Volcanic pistol which carried a presale estimate of $7,500-12,500 but went out at just under $15,000. The sleeper of the sale was Bill’s rare Nimschke engraved Winchester Model 66 carbine. This silver plated, engraved masterpiece had been ordered by Mexican President, Porfirio Diaz, who had 10 created and presented them to prominent businessmen. This example had been estimated at $6,500-12,500 and went out at a strong $31,000.
Also included in this sale was the Estate Collection of another Texan, Dr. Robert G. Cox. Cox and his collection have been much renowned for many years. Dr. Cox was a scholar and authority on Colt New Line revolvers and his collection reflected that. A factory engraved plated pistol in a beautiful black leatherette case was estimated at $3,000-5,000 but with a number of serious buyers chasing it, the price flew to $13,800.
Another collection was of Carmen Gianforte from Tennessee. Mr. Gianforte was a well-known scholar on a special group of Pocket pistols made by James Reid, known as Reid Knuckledusters. His very rare 41 cal. Knuckleduster, estimated at $8,000-12,000, shot to $16,100. But it was not just his guns that fellow collectors wanted, he had an archive of his personal notes and scholarly books. Those carried a presale estimate of $500-1,000 but shot up to $5,175.
A nice selection of moderately priced sporting arms included a massive William Evans 8 bore Fowler estimated at $2,500-4,000; collectors drove the final price to $12,650. A pair of Colt Python 357 “Snake Eyes” cased set were estimated at $3,000-5,000 but soared past the high estimate to $17,250. Perhaps one of the most stunning items in Monday’s sale was an extremely rare factory engraved gold plated Smith & Wesson .38 1st Model Hand Ejector that had been created specifically for the 1901 Pan-American Expo in Buffalo, New York. It went into the auction with a presale estimate of $4,000-7,000 but went out at a healthy $23,000.
Tuesday’s sale was where the greatest excitement was. First lot up was a spectacular and pristine Volcanic #2 pistol. At one time, it had been in the Colt Firearms Museum and carried a hefty but well warranted presale estimate of $75,000-85,000. The final selling price was just under $100,000 at $92,000. One of the more distinguished collections was that of Paul Tudor Jones II. Jones, one of the country’s top hedge fund managers, many years ago had collected choice firearms to decorate an Eastern Shore Maryland hunting compound. He recently donated the facilities and land while electing to sell his small but very discerning collection. Included was an engraved, plated Model 66 Winchester with carved ivory stocks made for Mexican President, Porfirio Diaz. The gun was estimated at $150,000-250,000 and sold for $230,000. Mr. Jones’ rare Winchester 1876 1 of 100 also fared well. It carried an estimate of $175,000-275,000 and it went out at $230,000 also. Mr. Jones’ extraordinary rare cased consecutive numbered exhibition quality Colt Model 1860 Armys had been presented to General Joseph Hawley for his service as President of the U.S. International Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA. For the most part, the guns were almost brand new and much coveted. They finally sold at $212,750. Another exciting piece from the Jones Collection was a spectacular Lefever “Optimus” quality shotgun in outstanding condition. The gun was presented by Friends of Industry to President Benjamin Harrison, who was an avid duck hunter. This gun carried a presale of $75,000-125,000 and went out at $120,750. This makes the second Presidential shotgun that Julia’s has offered at an auction. In fact, Julia’s holds the record for the 8 highest prices realized for American shotguns at auction. The highest being a Fox shotgun they sold that originally belonged to Theodore Roosevelt. That particular gun established the world record for the most expensive shotgun ever sold at auction when it realized $862,500.
There were plenty of desirable Winchesters, but one of the most beautiful examples was an extremely rare factory engraved John Ulrich signed special order Deluxe 1894 Takedown. The gun was engraved on one side with a beautiful grizzly bear on a ledge and a leaping stag on the reverse. It was inlaid with gold and in outstanding condition with an estimate of $55,000-85,000. It went out at $103,500.
A super rare and desirable Colt Model 1883 U.S. Navy Gatling Gun on tripod together with two extra drums generated a total of $346,150, confirming the demand for these iconic early “machine guns”.
A great number of beautiful Colts were available. One of the best Single Actions was a black powder, factory engraved, plated gun featuring pearl grips and shipped to Charles Hummel, San Antonio, Texas in 1885. This beauty went out at $92,000. Speaking of Colts, this sale included the esteemed Collection of Steve Ardia. Mr. Ardia’s love has been Colts and he specifically attempted to collect only outstanding examples, such as the rare rosewood cased Gustav Young engraved 1851 Navy. It came on the block with a $60,000-80,000 estimate but went out with a final selling price of $69,000. Another beauty from the Ardia Collection was an extremely fine 1860 fluted cased Colt Army estimated at $65,000-95,000. When the smoke cleared, the final price was $74,750.
One of the most coveted Colts is the Paterson model, which represents the earliest Colt creation. This sale included an extremely rare cased Colt #5 holster model Texas Paterson cased together with all its accessories in outstanding condition and came to the sale with a $300,000-600,000 presale estimate and went out with a price of $345,000.
Julia’s sales regularly include outstanding Civil War and Confederate items. For the serious collectors, this sale was certainly one for the ages. Included was the Don and Kathlee Bryan Collection of Confederate Revolvers. The collection was billed as the finest, most comprehensive collection of Confederate Revolvers ever assembled. Don is not only a passionate collector but also an authority and scholar on Confederate Arms and had spent much of his lifetime amassing some of the finest examples known. He continually upgraded when the opportunity presented itself. His rare Cofer Portsmouth revolver was estimated at $100,000-150,000 but after the battle was over, it went out at $149,500. His LeMat revolver SN 8, which had belonged to Confederate General Beauregard, is considered by many to be one of the finest condition Confederate revolvers ever known. Early on, Beauregard not only championed LeMat’s lethal handguns but invested money in the company, which provided many Cavalry officers with a 7-9 shot pistol featuring a second barrel that housed a 16 ga. shotgun filled with buckshot. Beauregard’s historic pistol was estimated at $200,000-300,000 and finally sold at $224,250. His extremely fine Dance Revolver inscribed to cavalryman, Charles Hill, Company H, 35th Texas Cavalry is the finest Dance Navy revolver extant. Bidders on this gun paid accordingly. It came to the auction with $100,000-150,000 estimate but went out at just under $150,000. Bryan’s collection of Texas Confederate revolvers was both complete and extraordinary. His rare L.E. Tucker Lancaster Confederate Navy revolver is one of only two examples known; this one being absolutely in superb condition and subsequently the finest example known. It had a presale estimate of $150,000-250,000; if finally topped out at $172,500.
The highlight of the day for Confederate items and specifically the Bryan Collection was his much coveted and unique “Sisterdale” Texas Dragoon revolver. It is the only example in existence, it retains its original cow horn grips and came to the auction with a presale estimate of $150,000-250,000. Its great importance was reflected in its great price and finally sold at $253,000. Other rare Civil War items included a fine Model 1861 Parrott rifled cannon made for the State of New York and believed to have been used at the Battle of Gettysburg. It came to the auction with a reasonable estimate of $40,000-60,000 and went out with a blast at $80,500. A very extraordinary and historical captured Civil War battle flag of the 45th Pennsylvania featuring numerous battle honors went on the block. It was captured at Petersburg in 1864 when General W.H.F. Rooney rounded the loop of the Union Army to attack them from the rear. The results were devastating and the 45th was annihilated by Lee’s Virginians. The flag captured by the rebels was estimated at $40,000-60,000 and went out at $57,500.
In the Fall 2015 auction, Julia’s offered a portion of the famous John Ashworth Collection of Confederate Bowies. The remainder of Bowie knives from Ashworth’s estate was offered in this sale and his exceptional and unique massive “Memphis Novelty Works” Bowie with “Floating CS” was estimated at $30,000-40,000. It slashed its way to $34,500.
This sale featured an extraordinary array of sporting arms. A truly exceptional pair of 410 ga. Purdey golden age extra finish side by sides, possibly the finest small bore pre-war guns in existence, came to the auction with a presale estimate of $150,000-250,000. They went out at $189,750. This sale included 16 rare and desirable English Purdey shotguns.
If you were impressed by the number of Purdeys in this sale, you would be astounded by the approximately 40 rare and desirable Holland & Holland shotguns and double rifles that were offered. Most of these came from a single owner, private collector who collected what is known as Stopping rifles. This type of gun was used for hunting large and very dangerous game, such as elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, etc. in the late 19th and early 20th century. The highlight of the collection was an incredible 4-bore made for the Nizam of Hyderabad. It came in with an $80,000-120,000 presale but went out with a roar at $258,750. Another gun from the Nizam was an exceptional gold inlaid 10-bore Holland & Holland double rifle which was estimated at $65,000-95,000. This too drew much competition and finally sold at $149,500.
Double rifles are expensive but so is the ammunition. An exceptionally rare, full box of 10 Holland 4-bore nitro rifle cartridges by Kynoch came up on the block with what seemed like a high $3,000-5,000 estimate but left with an astounding sale price of $20,700. At over $2,000 a round, one could not afford much target practice.
A great number of other quality English sporting arms were offered in this sale and included a coveted pair of magnificent and rare Boss side lever hammer ejector game guns estimated at $70,000-90,000; they generated a $92,000 sale price.
The big money for an American shotgun was, of course, the Harrison “Optimus” for over $120,000 but there were other notable American side-by-sides such as an exceptionally rare “All Options” L.C. Smith premium grade 12 ga. which came in at $50,000-70,000 but went out at $69,000.
A number of fine Parkers were offered, the biggest money being for an exceptional high original condition .410 ga. VHE Parker with case and hang tags. Presale estimate was $20,000-30,000 and the price shot through to almost double the high estimate at $57,500.
Winchester was also represented with a scarce 16 ga. Model 21 Deluxe Grade #6 engraved two-barrel set carrying a presale estimate of $25,000-40,000 and went out at $37,375.
Another area that Julia Auction House excels in is Class III weapons (machine guns). From 2008 up to October 2015, James D. Julia’s has sold more than 50% of all Class III weapons offered at auction in North America during that time period. Four other major auction houses dealing with firearms divided up the remaining 50%. Up until this sale, Julia’s had sold nearly $12 million of Class III items; the remainder equating to approximately $9 million was divided up between the other auction houses. So it is no surprise that once again, some more fine examples were offered at Julia’s. A Colt Model 1921 Thompson machine gun, a favorite weapon of Machine Gun Kelly and/or Al Capone, carried a presale estimate of $25,000-35,000; it flew to $43,700. A 50 cal. Browning Water-cooled M2 “Tora Tora” on pedestal mount was estimated at $25,000-35,000 but finally sold for just under $50,000. A Colt SP1 Machine gun set up with 3 custom uppers was estimated at $15,000-25,000 and established a new auction record at just under $42,000.
For more details on this spectacular auction check out www.jamesdjulia.com/firearms.
Julia’s next firearms auction is scheduled for October 2016 and already includes fabulous collections and spectacular arms and is sure to be another record breaker.
About James D. Julia, Inc.:
James D. Julia, Inc., one of the top ten antique auction antique houses in North America as measured by annual sales, is headquartered in Fairfield, Maine. The company also has an office in Boston, Massachusetts. In business for over 45 years, the company conducts high-end antique, collectible and fine art auctions throughout the year. Julia’s has routinely established new world records through its sales events. The company consists of three key divisions, including Rare Firearms; Fine Art, Asian & Antiques; and Rare Lamps, Glass & Fine Jewelry. Each division is regarded for its excellence and is staffed with world-class specialists to ensure fair and professional authentication, identification and valuation services. For more information on James D. Julia, Inc., please visit www.jamesdjulia.com.