Published: April 12, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Amoskeag Auction Company
MANCHESTER, N.H. – At just under $4 million in total sales, auctioneer Jason Devine called his March 27-28 firearms sale at Amoskeag Auction Company one of his better ones.
“We had fresh-to-the-market offerings, things that get locked up in collections and don’t come around often,” Devine said.
Among the collections that came to the fore were those of both dealers and collectors in Frank Berry II, Dr James D. Morgan, William J. Reese, David and Lore Squier, Robert T. Borcherdt and Vincent Coniglio.
It will be the last of the online-only marquee sales for the firm as the auctioneer plans to be back in-person for the next June auction, though Devine said interest has not waned in the past year. He checked in more than 3,000 active bidders for this sale of 1,301 lots.
“There have been more phone bids, for sure,” he said. “Though even people who are serious bid online, it’s very reactive, it’s quick. I can see the names of the bidders when they are bidding. I’ve had bidders in the Bahamas bidding against someone in Washington state, they bang back and forth.”
The sale’s top lot was found at $52,875 for a Parker A-1 special double-ejector 12-gauge shotgun that once belonged to collector James L. Crump. The catalog noted Crump developed a farm and Holly Bluff lodge on his 3,600-acre tract along the Jourdan River, which they would name Holly-Bluff-on-the-Jourdan. He put a swath into cultivation and bred a hybrid “Braford” beef cattle. “The gardens at Holly Bluff on Bay St Louis became so luscious and wonderful that they were a must-see for tourists to the area for many years,” the catalog said. On the A-1, Devine said the fresh-to-the-market example had come out of the woodwork from a Vermont estate. “They only made 230 of them,” the auctioneer notes. “It was their highest grade. They had different styles of engraving and the style on this example is rare.” The shotgun had a repair to the stock that made it unshootable, but Devine said that does not always deter value. “There are a lot of guns where being unshootable would diminish their value, but the collectability of that one superseded that, there’s not a lot of A-1 Specials around,” Devine said. “It’s all original, which adds to the collectability of it in my mind. There are certain things that should be fixed, but in this instance, I would much rather have it the way it is now than with a new stock on it.”
A selection of cased pistols came from Frank Berry II, including the sale’s second highest lot at $36,425 for a set of percussion belt pistols by the Dublin firm William and John Rigby. The pistols came with a note that said they were “Presented to William Kinsey by / Lord Norbury who was murdered at Durrow Abbey 3rd Jany 1839.” The son of a judge, Lord Norbury was apparently murdered in an agrarian dispute. Devine said two phone bidders pushed the bidding on the pistols and that many of the examples from Berry’s collections went back to where they were made, including the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and Austria.
Berry was a 25-year member of the American Society of Arms Collectors, a prestigious collectors group with limited membership that is well known for an emphasis on sharing knowledge.
Also from Berry’s collection was a pair of .48 caliber British flintlock pistols by Knubley & Brunn that sold for $25,850. The duo, dated to 1795-97, was highly embellished in gold and silver with floral and geometric designs. They had been exhibited in 1962 at Willmer House Museum in Farnham and were featured in the 1964 title The Art of the Gunmaker, Volume II, by J.F. Hayward. The catalog noted that they were once owned by Robert M. Lee, who amassed one of the finest firearms collections ever assembled and endowed the Robert M. Lee Gallery of American Arms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The pistols sold to a buyer in the United Kingdom.
From the Squier collection came an ornate double percussion shotgun made in tribute to Prince Imperial, Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte, on the occasion of his birth. It featured the Prince Imperial’s crest inlaid in gold on the breeches and sold for $30,550 to a buyer in the United States. The 20-gauge shotgun was presumed to be made by Mosieur Forget with Albert Bernard barrels dated 1856. The Prince Imperial would die aged 24 in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879.
Also from the Squier collection was a cased pair of Colt Model 1851 Navy percussion revolvers with ivory grips that brought above estimate at $25,850. The pair dated to 1853, the early Civil War period, and was enhanced by the rarity of a cased pair. The case included a powder flask, dual cavity bullet mold, a spanner tool and a selection of round and conical bullets.
“Navys have been generally down in value,” Devine said, “but these sold how they should sell.”
“The Squier collection was built over 60 years ago,” Devine said. “He had a shop and was very active in the business, went to a lot of shows. The collection was things that he sought out and things that sought him out.”
Among the New York guns from the Squier collection was a percussion bench rest target rifle by Morgan James of Utica in .42 caliber with a 34-inch octagon barrel. At $19,975, the firm said it was a classic Morgan James rifle built on his takedown lobed action. It had been featured in Winney & Rowe’s New York State Firearms Trade, Volume II. The author wrote, “One of the most desirable of New York guns for the collector is a cased Morgan James heavy target rifle in mint condition – as this one is.”
Famous exhibition shooter and writer Ed McGivern had a connection to two examples in the sale. McGivern authored Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting in 1938, a book that is still printed today. He holds a record for “the greatest rapid-fire feat” when he emptied two revolvers in less than two seconds. He was also able to shoot a dime out of the air or hit a thrown tin can five times before it hit the ground. A prewar Colt single action Army revolver was shipped to McGivern from the factory in October, 1935, and sold for $21,150. The other, a Colt new service double-action revolver, was featured in Mullins’ Colts New Service Revolver and was formerly in the collection of Bill Powell. The book features the revolver under a prominent heading for Ed McGivern, the implication being that it may have been owned by the man himself.
From the collection of Bob Borcherdt came a number of Remington Hepburn rifles. A presentation grade example with original engraved scrolling and geometric borders went out at $17,625. The house noted, “This rifle is illustrated in Rowe’s Remington’s No. 3 Hepburn where the author calls the rifle ‘extremely rare.’ Rowe also points out that the game scene engraved rifle (which we sold in sale No. 128) had a hand engraved patent date, while this example has stamped patent date with an engraved border around it. There are only a handful of factory engraved Hepburn rifles known to exist, this is clearly among the finest of those rifles.” Devine said it was worth every penny of that price. At $10,575 was a Hepburn No. 3 long range Creedmoor “A” grade rifle with a serial number 10. Rowe estimates that only 50-75 of these long range Creedmoors were ever produced.
“We’ve done the online sales for a full year now,” Devine said. “With our video feed, customers are very comfortable with it, there’s a lot of activity and it’s amazing how many are watching and following. But we’re looking forward to getting back and seeing everyone.”
Amoskeag Auction Company’s next sale is scheduled for June 5 and will feature the Richard Kumor collection. All prices reported include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For more information, www.amoskeagauction.com or 603-627-7383.
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