Published: April 10, 2001
FAIRFIELD, ME. -On March 13, Julia’s moved into the Civil War period with their most recent world record of $109,000 for an Ames presentation sword belonging to Civil War Major General Jesse Reno, as well as other important Civil War rdf_Descriptions, including a local defense flag captured at Richmond in 1865 which sold for $43,000; a blunderbuss that was captured from the Confederate White House during the fall of Richmond that sold for nearly $29,000, and an inscribed Confederate canteen captured at Fort Blakeley, Alabama that sold for $12,000.
One of the highlights in this auction was the Civil War presentation swords, with results reflecting the significant demand for these rdf_Descriptions, despite the auction being held one day after the Dow Industrial Average fell 400 points.
The $109,000 paid for a carefully documented Civil War presentation sword once owned by Major General Jesse Lee Reno was a rare moment. The Ames sword turned out to be that top-seller among nearly a thousand lots in Julia’s March firearms auction. This is a world record for an Ames and believed to be the third most expensive sword ever sold at auction. The 31-inch sword featured a double-edged blade with elaborate etching and classic motifs including armed warriors and Roman faces. The brass and gold washed scabbard carried the classical theme with elaborate decorative work, battle scenes in high-relief and the names of General Reno’s battles engraved below the throat.
The lot included a portfolio of documents relating to General Reno’s illustrious career, such as his photograph on three cartes de visites and the Western Union Telegram announcing his death. He was killed in action on September 14, 1862, but through this remarkable offering in near mint condition, the glory of his Civil War service lives on.
A number of other rare and remarkable rdf_Descriptions were offered in the opening hours of this day-long sale drawn from important private collections of outstanding firearms. The accent was on the Civil War era for much of the day, a period that continues to grow in popularity and value. In addition to the Ames sword mentioned above, a number of other highly desirable presentation swords brought strong prices.
A spectacular cased presentation sword inscribed to a high-ranking officer of the United States Colored Troops in 1864 went out at $40,250. The reverse of the scabbard was inscribed, “Col. C.A. Hartwell/From Officers of the/77th U.S.C.I./N.O. 1864.” The sword was in near mint condition. A high-grade silver statue hilt sword by Schuler, Hartley & Graham of New York was inscribed to Capt. R. Suydam Grant in 1866 and came on the block in very good condition to fetch a final price of $25,875. An historic Masonic non-regulation and field officer’s sword presented to Lt. General Winfield Scott sold for $23,000 and a cased Civil War presentation officer’s sword brought $18,400. This rdf_Description was in near mint condition, featured etching the length of the blade, and was heavily encrusted gilt adorned the hilt and the dress scabbard.
Other memorable top-sellers included an extremely rare Confederate Billharz, Hall, and Co. rising breech carbine in very good condition. Fewer than 100 of these were manufactured and very few survive. The rare carbine exceeded the estimated $27,599/47,500 bringing a final world record price of $60,375. Another Billharz, Hall, and Co. carbine believed made on contract to the Confederate States in 1864-1864 was one of 500 manufactured and went out at $20,125.
Other desirable Confederate carbines included an extremely rare Perry brass frame carbine in excellent condition featuring carved initials, “J.R.H.” ($27,600) and an outstanding Cook & Brother carbine in excellent condition ($32,000, believed to be an auction record). A historic English Blunderbuss captured from the Confederate White House during the fall of Richmond, Virginia, came on the block with plenty of historical associations with Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The historic firearm fetched $28,750. A rare second model LeMat revolver also brought a strong price which nearly doubled the estimated $11/15,000 when it sold for $25,300.
While rare, historic weapons in top condition are the cream of Civil War collecting, the memorabilia of the Civil War continues to attract attention. High quality and great condition were the common threads as Julia offered an assortment of lots, such as the exceptionally rare Lincoln assassination poster offering a $100,000 reward for the assassin of President Lincoln. The catalogue described the 12 inch by 22-1/ 2 inch broadside in excellent condition as “one of the most sought after printed pieces of Americana on the market today.” It sold for a final price of $15,525.
A simply superb and unquestionably authentic Confederate local defense flag was one of the top-sellers in the sale. It was captured at Richmond on April 3, 1865 and came on the block with minimal stains and fresh color. The 25 inch square was a “battle” style flag featuring the St Andrews cross and 13 stars. The local defense within the city of Richmond was made up of one company of policemen, one company of postal workers, etc. This is believed to have been the only local defense flag ever offered at auction. It brought well above its estimate when it sold for $43,125.
The Henry rifle from Captain James Wilson of the Kentucky Cavalry, which he presented to his surgeon Major T.J. Swan, was believed to have been the same rifle his single-handedly used in defending himself and killing seven Confederate guerillas. As a result, Oliver Winchester contacted Wilson requesting the rights to print the story in a promotional publication to help sell his Winchesters. This gun as estimated at $50/75,000, yet despite its tremendous historical significance, it failed to sell.
If there are a few names that bring out the bidders at firearms sales, “Colt” is surely one of them. This sale offered some great Colts, like the very rare pair of Colt Model 1860 fluted cylinder Army revolvers once owned by Major General William Thompson Martin of Natchez, Mississippi. This lot included factory letters that are rare from that period and brought an impressive price of $40,250.
Springfield firearms were also a hot commodity at this sale, thanks to the consignment of an outstanding group of Springfields amassed over a lifetime by a single owner. Among the best was a rare Springfield Special Order Officer’s Model Trapdoor rifle in excellent condition that brought $40,250 and an excellent 1875 Springfield 1st Type Officer’s rifle $18,400.
A private collection of rare stocked pistols included a Borchardt, estimated at $7,500/15,000 which brought $11,500. Also, an extremely rare Papa Nambu with should stock, estimated at $7,500/15,000 brought $11,787 and a rare Colt 1905 .45 ACP estimated at $8/12,000, brought $8,337.
In addition to the various other collections offered in this auction, Julia presented a fine selection of Winchesters from the late Robert E. Ambrose collection of Camas, Oregon. A Model 76 Deluxe realized $6,037 while his Deluxe Special Order Takedown 86, estimated at $10/15,000, brought $10,925 and his Marlin Ballard Pacific Single Shot estimated at $1,500/2,000, brought $3,392. A Model 94 Special Order factory engraved, which did not come from Ambrose’s collection, was estimated at $22/25,000 and sold for $25,875.
Cased firearms came in many forms, from the cased pair of converted Dueling Pistols used in 1813 in a fracas involving Andrew Jackson ($7,475) to the rare cased pair of English Bull-dog type revolvers ($5,750). After nearly 800 lots, Julia called it a day until the next firearms sale, October 8, 9 and 19, closing the case on one of the best one-day offerings in the field of antique and historic firearms in many years.
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