Published: February 14, 2023
Review by Rick Russack, Photos Courtesy Guyette & Deeter
ST MICHAELS, MD. – Jon Deeter is positioning Guyette & Deeter Inc to fill a niche, offering a full range of material to collectors interested in all aspects of what he refers to as “The Sporting Life.” The company is already known as one of the leading auctioneers of decoys, sporting art and folk art. Moving towards that goal, the company has added a division that will specialize in acquiring and selling select sporting firearms. Their first firearms sale took place on February 4, offering live and online bidding on four Internet platforms, as well as phone and absentee bidding. While billed as a specialty firearms sale, it also included decoys, sporting art and folk art. Deeter has teamed with veteran firearms specialists Josh Lowensteiner and J. Wesley Dillon to spearhead the new division, offering more than 300 guns in this sale. It was a strong sale, totaling $3 million and setting 12 new world’s records for sporting guns.
Seventy items brought five-figure prices. Each gun offered was thoroughly described in the 266-page fully illustrated catalog. The company will also be increasing its commitment to offering high-quality sporting art and folk art. This sale included a collection of more than 50 Parker Bros shotguns, all of which brought very strong results with two bringing six-figure prices and 16 more bringing five-figure prices. There was also a selection of more than 35 L.C. Smith shotguns. Both companies produced premier firearms.
The first lot offered saw the new division get off to a good start. Earning $52,800 was a beautifully engraved A. Galazan Boss action 20-gauge shotgun with the serial number “1.” This was Antony Galazan’s first over/under gun and marked the start of his 35-year career. The catalog states “Antony Galazan has made more fine firearms in the last 35 years than any other American gun maker.” The all-over scroll engraving was done by Thierry Duguet.
Just 17 lots later, the division secured its first six-figure price and the highest of the day: $126,000. Earning top lot honors was a circa 1939 Parker Brothers BHE 28-gauge double-barrel shotgun with factory vent rib and finely engraved with two large quail, two pheasant, a setter, a pointer and foliage overall. The catalog described it as “perhaps the only one made in this configuration and what many would call the crown jewel of any advanced Parker collection.”
Achieving the second highest price of the sale at $102,000 and consigned by the same seller as the 1939 Parker Bros BHE, was another Parker, a VHE 410-gauge skeet gun with its original hanging Abercrombie and Fitch tag. This gun was sold with its original case. It had been bought by the consignor’s father in 1958 and had not been on the market since then.
Another Parker VHE 28AG skeet gun earned $90,000.
Many consider Parker shotguns to be the finest and most collectible of shotguns. This was the first six-figure price – and highest price ever realized – for a VHE Parker. Of the ten highest prices in the sale, six were realized by Parker shotguns and five other Parkers in the sale also achieved record prices.
Also finishing within the top ten prices of the day was a heavily engraved Winchester 21-6 factory upgraded 16-gauge shotgun. Realizing $31,200, it was originally ordered in 1935 and upgraded in 1939. Fourteen other Winchesters finished with five-figure prices, including an exceptional piece of Winchester advertising. It was an 1897 cartridge board displaying numerous rifle, shotgun and handgun cartridges accented with accessories such as primer tins, shotgun hulls and cutaways. The central vignette was an A.B. Frost scene depicting two bear hunters admiring their quarry. In a quartersawn oak frame, it measured 57 inches wide and was labeled on the back, “Presented with Complements / of the / Winchester Repeating Arms Company / Please Hang in a Prominent Place;” it sold for $30,000.
There were more than 50 L.C. Smith shotguns in the sale. Topping the selection and bringing $36,000, was a 1906 A-3 grade 12-gauge shotgun. It was a well-known and well-documented example which had been illustrated on William Brophy’s 1983 book, L.C. Smith Shotguns. A grade 5E 16-gauge shotgun, in original condition, with its original case, realized $15,600. Not all Smith shotguns earned four- or five-figure prices; two sold for less than $1,000.
The sale included numerous examples of sporting art, folk art and decoys for which the firm is well known. Decoys were topped by an Elmer Crowell full-sized pintail drake which realized $43,200. Dating to the late 1920s, the 17-inch-long decoy, marked with Crowell’s rectangular stamp, had a slightly turned head and had relief wingtip and tail-feather carving. Crowell’s working decoy black duck, with extra detail to the painting, earned $4,800. Swan decoys are large and impressive carvings, and the sale had three.
Deservedly most popular was a full-size, 35-inch-long whistler swan signed and dated 1986. It had been made by Oliver Lawson, Crisfield, Md., and brought $25,200, a record price for his work. Another full-size swan had also been made by a Maryland carver, Charlie Joiner, was signed and dated 1990, and reached $7,200. Decorative carvings included a raised wing, preening godwit by William Gibian. The head was turned, it stood 20 inches tall, and sold for $3,300.
Decoys made by the Ward Brothers are among the most popular. A full-sized pair of balsawood canvasbacks, made specifically for Norris Pratt, realized $10,800. The catalog described the pair as having “extraordinary fine feather” paint.
Folk art included a 53-inch-tall cigar store Indian carved by Samuel Robb. The circa 1880 unrestored figure sold for $19,200. Surprisingly, a two-piece cast iron Indian princess wearing a necklace and holding tobacco leaves, with traces of original paint, failed to sell.
Lynn Bogue Hunt (American, 1878-1960) was one of the nation’s leading sporting artists and his hunting and fishing scenes illustrated numerous books on hunting and fishing. They were reproduced by Field & Stream magazine and utilized in advertising campaigns by the DuPont company. His scenes of life in the West were much less common and it was a Western scene that topped the selection of sporting art in this sale. It depicted a mounted cowboy reaching for his rifle, encountering a grizzly bear in rocky terrain. The signed oil on canvas measured 45 by 29 inches and sold for $60,000. A smaller Hunt painting, signed and dated 1948, depicted a covey of eight bobwhite quail in a patch of grass; it realized $23,400.
A watercolor painting of two eagles by Art LaMay (American, b 1938) has an interesting anecdote to go with it as it had been commissioned by the White House during Bill Clinton’s presidency. The administration expected LaMay to make the painting a donation but when he decided not to make it a donation, he sold the painting privately at a Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md. It brought $7,200 at this sale. Another of LaMay’s watercolors, this one depicting an unidentified raptor landing in a tree, sold for $1,200. Art LaMay’s duck prints earned him the title “Ducks Unlimited International Artist” in 1994, and his artistic contributions garnered him his own wing in the Ward Foundation Museum in Maryland.
After the sale, Jon Deeter said, “It was a great inaugural sale for the firearms. That’s the quality we’ll be offering as we’re planning two cataloged sales a year for the sporting arms. We really want to present the material in a way that preserves the history and the heritage of the sporting life. We’re not going to be presenting sales with thousands of guns the way some other companies do – that’s fine for their business model – ours is, and will be, different. We had around 100 bidders in the salesroom, and many were there for the whole day. The previews were well attended, and people were having fun: meeting old friends and discussing the features of the stuff we had. It was really a positive feeling. I’m very pleased with the way it worked. And I think the $3 million total tells the story.”
All prices include the buyers’ premium as quoted by the auction house.
For additional information, www.guyetteanddeeter.com or 410-745-0485.
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