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$18 Million Worth of Firepower

Mark Sisco | October 14th, 2013


One of Julia’s auction employees reverently pointed out that the prevailing opinion on these Renwick-Locke gold-inlaid flintlock dueling pistols by James Haslett of Baltimore, Maryland, circa 1810, was that they were absolutely unparalleled in firearms lore. “These are without a doubt the finest pieces of their kind in the world,” he noted. The catalog supported that, calling them “the most luxurious pair of American flintlock dueling pistols in private hands.” Their final price was a show-stopping $195,500.


This Ivo Fabbri small gauge three-barrel cased set produced in 1989, with an extra stock, serial number E678, has an engraver’s signature reading “Inc. C. Tomasoni,” indicating master Italian engraver Claudio Tomasoni. All the barrels were engraved “IVO FABBRI-BRESCIA” and “VACUUM ARC REMELTING STEEL.” In nearly unfired condition, it sold for $126,500.  Julia photo.


Each pistol of this matched pair of Saxon elector guard wheel-lock pistols is dated 1588 and is in like-new condition despite the 525 years of age on it. Probably made for a high-level officer, and marked with the maker’s initials “I S,” they are adorned with engraved silver rondels of Mars, the god of war, decked out in full armor with helmet and lion-form epaulets. They once belonged to Prince Ernst Heinrich of Saxony, Duke of Saxony (1896-1971). They passed through several major collections before coming to auction, and the pair easily eclipsed the $40,000/60,000 estimate, breaking into six figures at $103,500. Julia photo.

James D. Julia, Fairfield, Maine

Of the over 1600 lots offered at James Julia’s annual autumn firearms auction in Fairfield, Maine, October 14-16, 2013, only about 275 failed to find buyers, and the rest totaled up to a grand tally of over $18 million, making the three-day event the largest firearms auction ever held. As Julia’s post-auction press release modestly stated, “At over $18 million…it is the second highest grossing Firearms Auction in history.” Word circulating in the crowd was that the sale passed the million-dollar mark within the first 45 minutes of the first day. That must be a world record, too.

Nine items sold for over $100,000 each, led by a pair of Renwick-Locke gold-inlaid flintlock dueling pistols made by James Haslett of Baltimore, Maryland, circa 1810. The pair appeared in an illustration in the October 1929 issue of the Antiquarian. Passing through the hands of several prominent collectors, they were sold at Sotheby Parke Bernet, Los Angeles, in 1972 for about $20,000, and at Butterfield & Butterfield in 1993 for about $181,500. According to the listing, James Haslett trained under the Irish gunsmith Robert McCormick and opened his own shop in Baltimore in 1803. Gold inlays abounded on them, including a sunburst, solid gold front sight inlays in the form of feathers, lightning bolts on the barrels, plus inlays of a stand of arms and a riband engraved “Haslett, Baltimore,” and more. The pair easily passed the $75,000/125,000 estimate, topping the sale at $195,500 (includes buyer’s premium).

According to the catalog, there are only two known surviving prototypes of a Borchardt Model 1893 semiautomatic pistol, and one of them came up for sale here, with serial number six. The chamber area to the barrel was marked in tiny letters “LUDW. LOEWE & CO./ BERLIN/ 1893.” It had been pictured in The Borchardt and Luger Automatic Pistols by Joachim Görtz and Geoffrey Sturgess. Information provided by the consignor noted that it had been presented to General Luis Maria Campos (1838-1907), who was appointed Argentina’s minister of war in 1893 and founded Argentina’s Escuela Superior de Guerra (Superior School of War). It was one of the higher-selling items in the sale, bringing $161,000.

When it came to historic American firearms, the hands-up favorite was a trapdoor Springfield 1873 carbine, serial number 8874, that had been forensically matched to 36 cartridges from the Weir Point site from the Battle of the Little Bighorn site. The serial number indicated that it had been manufactured between April and June of 1874, within the range of serials numbers of other known Custer battle carbines. The forensic matchup came from 18 cartridge casings that had been located on the west flank of Sharpshooter Ridge in 2004, and another 18 that were excavated from the Reno/Benteen defensive line in 2004. The speculation is that the trooper who carried and fired the rifle was covering the retreat of Captain Thomas Weir and was not among the five companies that were annihilated under the direct command of Custer. Weir commanded Company D of the Seventh Cavalry as they attempted to reinforce the doomed Custer companies but were driven back by a charging company of Sioux warriors and had to defend themselves for about a day. The catalog went on to speculate that the trooper returned with other Seventh Cavalry survivors to Fort Abraham Lincoln, where the stock of the damaged carbine was replaced. When the hammer came down, the historic rifle scored a bull’s-eye, selling mid-estimate for $126,500.

A James Purdey & Sons over-under game gun, serial number 28865, came close to the six-figure mark, with an $80,000/120,000 estimate and a final price of $97,750. The gold inlays and relief engravings by Ken Hunt, completed in 1986 or 1987, show multiple scenes of game birds in flight. It was engraved on the barrel “J. Purdey & Sons. Audley House. South Audley Street. London. England.” Other features included scrolled acanthus leaf engravings in full relief with floral highlights and shaded backgrounds and a marbled European walnut pistol grip buttstock. Apparently in unfired condition, it came with a factory specification letter.

For more information, visit Julia’s Web site (www.jamesdjulia.com) or call (207) 453-7125.

One of two known surviving prototypes of a Borchardt Model 1893 semiautomatic pistol, $161,000. Julia photo.

This 1873 trapdoor Springfield carbine, forensically matched to 36 cartridges from the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, brought $126,500.

Samuel J. Entrikin (1862-1942) was born in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. He accompanied Robert Peary as second in command on his Greenland expedition of 1893-94. He later served as a member of a government-appointed party to measure mountain peaks in Alaska, where he remained for about four more years, captaining a steamship and searching for gold. This collection of Entrikin artifacts came from Entrikin himself, purchased by Pennsylvania gun dealer George Gorman, and subsequently acquired by the consignor. It included a Winchester model 1886 lever-action rifle with a buttstock inlaid with pins and tacks reading “S.J. ENTRIKIN/ PEARY ARCTIC EXPEDITION/ 1893-4,” a pair of fur-covered gloves, sealskin high boots, a pair of handmade wood and rawhide snowshoes, a small ship model, an unsigned oil on canvas of a three-masted ship, and a studio photograph of Entrikin holding the rifle. The collection topped the $15,000/18,000 estimate, settling in at $20,125.

This cased James Woodward & Sons pigeon gun, serial number 7112, is engraved on the barrel “James Woodward & Sons” and “29 Bury Street. St. James’s. London. England.” A gold oval plaque was monogrammed “SO,” and Woodward factory records indicate that it was made for a Sami Ozan in 1938 or 1939. It sold over estimate for $43,125.

A rare relic from World War II General Erwin Rommel’s Deutsches Afrikakorps, this vehicle was assembled on February 21, 1941, for use in the German African expeditionary force attached to the 33rd Artillery Regiment of the 15th Panzer Division. It was essentially intact, right down to the bullet holes, and had a palm tree and swastika emblem. The listing stated that the engine turned over but wouldn’t fully run. It was captured in 1943 by the Allies and shipped to a university in the United States for disassembly. There it was analyzed, and a technical manual was written, dated June 6, 1944, the day of the Normandy invasion. It was then sold as army surplus and went into storage for decades. With no guarantee as to its drivability, it sold squarely mid-estimate for $74,750.


Originally published in the February 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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