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Headlined by a collection of weapons owned by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Rock Island Auction Company’s December Premier Auction took in a total of $25.2 million in sales, making it the second-highest grossing gun auction ever. The first-, third-, and fourth-highest also happened to be RIAC events, all taking place since last December, including last May’s Sale of the Century, which cleared $30 million. Safe to say, the company is on roll. In 2021, RIAC realized an astounding $121 million in sales, also a record.
The recent auction opened on December 2nd with a Preview Day, showcasing 2,200 historic, collectible, and fine working guns. The auction itself began on December 3rd and concluded on the 5th, surpassing December 2020’s record haul of $22 million. The top-5 selling lots alone went for more than 5 million. Here they are, including ties.
1. Napoleon’s Garniture
This six piece, gold-encrusted collection included five elaborately engraved firearms and a gilt dress sword presented to Bonaparte by the Directory of the French Republic in 1797. According to RIAC, the sword is one that Bonaparte carried when he drove the Council of Five Hundred and became First Consul and later Emperor of France. The weapons sold as a group for over $2.8 million by a phone bidder, setting yet another record for the highest price RIAC has ever realized for a single lot.
2. L.D. Nimschke Engraved Silver Winchester 1866
This stunning Winchester Model 1866 with solid-silver frame elaborately decorated by master German-American engraver L.D. Nimschke was originally ordered by President Jose Balta of Peru to be presented to President Mariano Melgarejo of Bolivia in 1868. One of the most elaborate Winchesters ever made, Nimschke himself considered it his finest work, according to RIAC, signing it in seven different places. It sold for $977,500.
3. Colt No. 5 Squareback Texas Paterson Revolver
With only about 2,800 made in total, Texas Patersons are rare to begin with. This is one of the exceptionally rare silver-banded variations. According the description from RIAC, German silver bands are inlaid on the barrel at the muzzle and breech, on the underside of the barrel lug curves, and on the recoil shields. An oval German silver escutcheon is inlaid on the back strap, and the revolver also has a German silver front sight blade.
4. Gold-Plated “Midas Bull” Winchester Model 1873
Known as “The Midas Bull 1 of 1000,” this exceptionally rare rifle is one of only three documented “1 of 1000” factory-engraved, gold-plated Winchester Model 1873s. The engraving was done by John Ulrich, who signed the work on the tang behind the trigger. The left-side plate is engraved with a bull moose in a circular panel, and the right is engraved with bull elk surrounded by scrollwork.
5. Gen. Emory Upton’s Colt Single Action Army Revolver
In January of 1874, the Colt factory presented this historic revolver to General Emory Upton, who is known as “The Father of the Modern United States Army.” RIAC calls the revolver “unquestionably the most beautiful and highest condition example yet discovered of an early Colt Single Action Army, the most famous handgun in history.”
6. U.S. Army Colt Model 1877 “Bulldog” Gatling Gun
According to RIAC, the U.S. Army purchased only seventeen Model 1877 “Bulldog” Gatling guns, with serial numbers 190 and 203-213. This rare example is one of them, with a serial number of 204. It sold for $345,000.
7. Churchill Engraved Holland & Holland Double Rifle
This exceptional .577 Nitro Express H&H double rifle was engraved by renowned Master Engraver Winston G. Churchill. The sideplates, underside, and trigger guard show a variety elephant scenes, surrounded by incredibly fine scroll work. The rifle sold for nearly a quarter million dollars.
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