By John Sexton, Senior Consultant & Sales Representative
Many of the rarest and most unique Confederate revolvers remaining in private hands today, along with many other exquisite rarities, are part of the Morris Racker Estate Collection. I had the pleasure of knowing Morrie for many years and conversing with him at many shows. Few collectors loved their treasures more than he did. In the last few years of his life, Morrie resided in assisted living. When we talked on phone about upcoming guns in auctions that he had always wanted, he was so disappointed that he could not buy more. (His facility did not allow guns, although he told me he snuck in a few of his favorites occasionally.) Morrie truly had a passion for historic, extremely rare and unique arms as represented in his collection.
Morrie’s favorite gun and the single firearm which will receive the most attention is the only known surviving 1st Type 1st Model Confederate Spiller & Burr revolver, serial number 13 with remarkable provenance and collection history from direct descent from the Union solider who had captured it, first being discovered by William Albaugh. This remarkable gun is pictured in numerous articles and texts and is in beautiful condition, retaining its original holster and roller buckle belt ($30,000-50,000).
One of the true rarities and among the most coveted revolvers in Confederate collecting is the brass framed percussion revolver made in Portsmouth, Virginia by Thomas W. Cofer. There are 13 known percussion specimens which were issued to the 5th Virginia Cavalry and are the rarest “Confederate contract” revolvers. Mr. Racker has the finest condition Cofer revolver of them all and the only example with any original finish. It is exquisite with great collector history and provenance ($100,000-150,000).
The “iron frame” Samuel Griswold revolver is a unique survivor among the largest Confederate revolver manufacturers’ production with over 3600 made; fully half of all CS revolver production. Serial number 1941 is the only known example with iron frame and has well known collecting history and provenance. It is ironic that Griswold could not perfect the iron frame as there were numerous excavated iron frames found at the factory site at various levels of completeness ($30,000-50,000).
The finest known Augusta Machine Works Confederate revolver was captured by a Colonel of the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry in 1863 and descended in his family until sold by Christie’s in 1999. This revolver is in spectacular condition, retaining most of its original finish ($30,000-50,000).
The only factory cased Confederate used 1st Model LeMat Grapeshot revolver, noted in so many texts, is also offered in excellent condition.
This gun was owned by a Confederate surgeon and son of Confederate Secretary of Treasury, Christopher Memminger ($25,000-35,000).
The few Lemats in the Racker Collection are no doubt among the rarest and most unique. Also offered in one lot is an archive of LeMat patent papers, including the original 20” x 12-1/2” hand drawn patent illustration signed by LeMat. The archive also includes a letter of introduction signed by P.G.T. Beauregard and US Patent Office letter and drawing of the LeMat revolver ($8,000-12,000).
There are only about one dozen known examples of Confederate scoped Whitworth sniper rifles and Mr. Racker had a fine example which is being offered with an original Davidson scope, complete with fine optics and a great bore ($40,000-60,000). To accompany this extremely rare Confederate Whitworth is an equally rare British pattern 1862 Whitworth military rifle in the same configuration, in nearly new condition ($10,000-15,000).
From the renowned Alain Serpette Collection of LeMats which Julia’s originally sold in 1997, Mr. Racker bought the unique brass framed pinfire carbine which is illustrated in several texts. This extremely rare Civil War carbine is being offered in our fall sale ($10,000-20,000).
Other unique Confederate revolvers of Morrie’s offered here include: the personal sidearm of Augusta, Georgia manufacturer Charles H. Rigdon ($30,000-40,000); Arkadelphia marked revolver of General William Y. Slack of Missouri, killed in action at the Battle of Pea Ridge ($8,000-12,000); inscribed, beautiful condition Griswold revolver of Virginian killed in action at Picket’s Charge ($25,000-30,000); consecutive serial numbered pair of Confederate LeMats ($30,000-40,000); consecutive serial numbered pair of Kerr revolvers ($7,000-9,000); the rarest and finest consecutive pair of Columbus, Mississippi made Leech & Rigdon revolvers offered as successive lots ($30,000-40,000); only known “Leech & Co. – CSA” marked Confederate pistol once in the famous Sam Smith Collection ($12,000-15,000); extremely fine and early Texas made Dance Army revolver, serial number 14 ($40,000-60,000).
Mr. Racker also had other rarities including a National derringer owned by General George Armstrong Custer which is listed by serial number in the Custer archives in several texts ($20,000-30,000). There are also two George Custer signed letters being offered.
Also offered, from Mr. Racker’s estate: an exquisite collection of 18th and 19th century powder testers ($8,000-12,000); a Baby Paterson with additional matching cylinder and tools ($25,000-35,000); an extremely rare and well provenance North & Cheney flintlock pistol ($30,000-40,000); a beautiful pair of Kentucky flintlock pistols attributed to Henry Hunsicker ($8,000-12,000); two fine German Wheelocks, one of which the entire stock is veneered in white staghorn and all iron is chiseled ($8,000-12,000); other Confederate arms, and American arms of several genres. Mr. Racker had one additional Colt and it is just a Colt Army, but it was captured mostly likely at Brandy Station and inscribed by a member of the 12th Virginia Cavalry ($8,000-12,000).
The rarity of the Racker firearms is without peer, so many diverse items that are one-of-a-kind Civil War arms that may never be seen again in public venue, especially with such moderate pre-sale estimates and well known collection history and provenance.