Category Archive 'Auction Sales'
02 Aug 2021

Another Rare Coin First Found by British Metal Detectors

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The Gold Penny or Mancus of 30 Pence, was struck during the time of Ecgberht, King of the West Saxons between 802 and 839.

Evening Standard:

An Anglo-Saxon coin discovered by a metal detectorist is set to fetch up to £200,000 [$277,791.37] at auction.

It was unearthed by a metal detectorist at West Dean, on the Wiltshire and Hampshire border, in March 2020.

Experts say it is the only late Anglo-Saxon gold coin in private hands, with eight other specimens held in institutions – seven at the British museum.

The coin, which weighs 4.82g, is expected to fetch between £150,000 and £200,000 at a sale of coins and historical medals by auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb on September 8.

This coin probably represents a mancus, a gold denomination that first appeared in central and northern Italy, but was current in England already before the year 800.


01 Aug 2021

Gary Cooper’s Griffin & Howe Custom Rifles

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Auction Date: September 11, 2021

Lot 1407: Gary Cooper Griffin & Howe .30-06 Sporting Rifle with Scope

Documented Griffin & Howe Bolt Action .30-06 Sporting Rifle with Zeiss Scope, and Silver Plaque Inscribed with Initials Attributed to Gary Cooper, Famed American Actor and Sportsman.
Estimated Price: $12,000 – $18,000


Lot 1408: Gary Cooper Griffin & Howe Scoped 1903 Bolt Action .22 Hornet

Griffin & Howe Bolt Action .22 Hornet Sporting Rifle with Zeiss Scope, Large Movie Poster, and Silver Plaque Inscribed with Initials Attributed to Gary Cooper, Famed American Actor and Sportsman.
Estimated Price: $9,000 – $14,000

24 Jul 2021

Elmer Keith’s No. 5 Revolver

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Rock Island Auction, September 11, 2021
Lot 1270: Elmer Keith’s Custom Colt Single Action Army Target Revolver

Estimated Price: $65,000.00 – $130,000.00
Caliber: 44 Russian & 44 S&W special

Historic Elmer Keith’s “OLD NUMBER 5 COLT REVOLVER”, Well-Documented Engraved and Inscribed Custom Croft/Sedgley No. 5 Colt Flattop Target Style Single Action Revolver with Relief Carved Grip, Tooled Holster, and Documentation.

This incredible revolver was one of Elmer Keith’s (1899-1984) favorite revolvers and was custom built for him while he was still a young man early in his famous career as an expert marksman. Keith owned and shot a great many revolvers, including others sold by Rock Island Auction, but none is as unique or as famous as this one. The revolver is chambered for .44 S&W Russian or .44 Special. The latter was one of Keith’s favorites, and his experimentation with the .44 Special led to the popular .44 Magnum. The revolver is pictured on page 103 of Keith’s popular book “Sixguns” and listed as “No. 5 S.A. Colt, converted by Sedgley to author and Harold Croft’s design flat-top target” and also on page 169 being worn by Keith in the included holster with the caption: “Keith wearing George Lawrence belt and holster designed by Keith. S.A. Colt number 5.” A picture of Croft and Keith in Durkee, Oregon, in August 1928 is on page 126 and shows Croft showing Keith one of his custom revolvers. Keith’s revolver is also pictured in the included copy of “Gun & Ammo” from December 1967 in the article “Seein’ Sixgun Sights” by Keith. The most significant documentation for the revolver is the article “The Last Word” by Elmer Keith in the April 1929 issue of “The American Rifleman.” He notes, “My good friend, S. H. Croft, put in a lot of time, thought and money improving the S. A. Colt. Mr. Croft has designed the changes necessary to convert an ordinary S. A. Colt into the finest trigger single-action imaginable, either in the Featherweight model, or, at my suggestion, in a heavy, all-around 6-gun.” He notes that Croft used the Bisley back strap bent to the same angle as the regular S.A.A. and paired it with a S.A.A. guard and front strap. Keith states, “after playing with Croft’s guns a while I decided to have one of my S.A.A. guns worked over to incorporate some of Croft’s improvements, with a few ideas of my own thrown in.” The full details are worthy reading in the article. Keith indicates that Croft supervised the overall job and he and Neal K. Houchins of Philadelphia made the sights and the latter also fitted the barrel close to the cylinder. Keith wanted “a cross pin put through the front-sight band, and a set screw put in the rear of the flat-top frame and bearing against the rear-sight base, to lock the sight against a possible blow.” R.F. Sedgley modified the frame with a flat top that extend back over the top of the hammer, fit the new base pin and catch, made the No. 3 type grip frame, welded the base onto the S.A.A. hammer to fill the longer cut in the top of the Bisley back strap, manufactured the wide trigger, and made and fitted the new mainspring. On the latter, Keith wrote: “The Croft-Sedgley spring is without a double the fastest in action of any S.A.A. spring, and should improve the S.A. greatly for target shooting. . .” The hammer had already previously been fitted with a Bisley style spur by J. D. O’Meara for Keith “by dovetailing and brazing in the Bisley thumb piece.” Keith states, “We decided to call this gun model No. 5.” It was tuned to an approximately 3 1/2 pound trigger pull. “To my notion this is the finest and best Colt in existence. I know there are many with inlay work and finer finish, but they lack Croft’s many improvements, which are to me worth far more than all the inlay work, as they are a real help landing a bullet where I wish it to go. For general excellence of grip, balance, sights, trigger and hammer, I do not think this gun can be improved upon. Last spring I killed with this gun over 59 magpies, around two dozen crows and hawks, six horned owls, and a bobcat, to say nothing of over a hundred blacktail jack rabbits and a few woodchucks.” He later indicates he even shot this revolver at animals hundreds of yards away. He indicates the grips were replaced by him after the custom work and notes that the carving serves to fill the palm of the hand. The exact age of the frame on this fabulously customized and engraved revolver is not clear. In place of the usual serial number on the frame, this revolver is marked “M5.” The revolver a barrel turned down and fitted with an adjustable target front sight, an interesting cylinder pin release switch and pin with large grasping finial, a flat top frame with an adjustable notch rear sight, a Bisley style hammer, modified grip frame, and different mainspring. It is engraved with extensive floral engraving with serrated backgrounds. The top strap has the Masonic square and compass. The barrel has “RUSSIAN AND/S&W SPECIAL 44” in a panel and the one-line Hartford address on top. The left side of the frame has the two-line patent marking and circled Rampant Colt trademark. The back strap is inscribed “ELMER KEITH” down the back and “DURKEE, OREGON” on the butt. Includes a George Lawrence Co. 5 1/2 russet leather holster tooled with floral patterns. Provenance: Elmer Keith Estate Collection, Private Collection.

21 Jun 2021

Napoleon’s Campaign Drinking Glass


Sat, Jun 19, 2021 10:00 AM EDT
Alex Cooper Auctions
Lot 1500 Details
Circa 1800-1810; cut and faceted crystal cup by Montcenis, with etched Napoleonic cypher, 3 3/4 in. H., 3 in. Diam. with brown fitted kid leather cylindrical case with gilt bees and cypher on lid, having green velvet interior, 4 1/4 in. H., 3 3/4 in. Diam. Consignor states was purchased by General John M. Schweizer Jr. USAAF, in German antiqe store in 1953, and authenticated by the Louvre in 1956. Goblet is same as example on website with slight size difference. Leather case is same as one displayed at Fondation Napoleon in October of 2018 and gobelet is very similar.

Sold for $3520 (with 28% Buyer Premium).

I did not win.

19 Apr 2021

“The English Gentleman”

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A Yale classmate recently sent me a link to this book coming up for auction at Swann: Lot 0021: Richard Brathwait (1588?-1673) The English Gentleman.

We both thought the frontispiece, showing the English Gentleman in Youth, during his Education, his Recreations, Vocation, Disposition, &c., His “Hope in Heaven, but His Feet on the Ground” attired in Carolingian fashion delightful.

I would certainly have purchased this curiosity if it were not horribly expensive. Alas! it went for $1700, with Buyer Premium: $2210. The book is quarto sized, and I fear a lot of people like framing and hanging that amusing and evocative frontispiece.

I looked for a free ebook, but was disappointed. There isn’t one.

HT: Tom Weil.

12 Apr 2021

Alexander Hamilton’s Martial Pistols

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Carried by Phillip Schuyler in the French and Indian War, then given by Schuyler to his son-in-law Alexander Hamilton circa 1780.

Rock Island is predicting a new record firearms price.

30 Mar 2021

Nice Object

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I receive a lot of email notices of auction sales. This morning an email circular from Christie’s had this fragment of a leopard serving as the illustration at the top. I liked it enough that I decided to look, unlikely as the chance would be, just in case it might be selling for only a few hundred dollars. I thought Karen would enjoy owning it as a decorative bibelot.

Clicking on the image, though, only took me to a sanctimonious pledge about carbon neutral auctioneering. Pah!

So I decided to capture the image and give it a search.

And I found it, as you see below.

I must admit: I have expensive tastes.


Via Alain R. Truong:

Lot 33. A Mesopotamian inlaid limestone leopard, Late Uruk – Jemdet Nasr period, circa 3300-2900 B.C.; 2 ¼ in. (5.8 cm.) high. Estimate GBP 150,000 – GBP 250,000. Price realised GBP 212,500.

Provenance: Private collection, New York, 1960s.
with Mathias Komor, New York.
Leo Mildenberg (1913-2001) collection, Zurich, acquired from the above in the mid-1970s.
A Peaceable Kingdom: The Leo Mildenberg Collection of Ancient Animals; Christie’s, London, 26-27 October 2004, lot 153.

Exhibited: The Cleveland Museum of Art, Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, 21 October-29 November 1981.
Munich, Prähistorische Staatssammlung; Mannheim, Reiss-Museum; Jerusalem, Bible Lands Museum; Bonn, Akademisches Kunstmuseum; Stendal, Winckelmann-Museum, Out of Noah’s Ark: Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, 11 October 1996-28 June 1999.

Published: A. P. Kozloff, ed., Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, Cleveland, 1981, no. 2.
P. E. Mottahedeh (ed.), Out of Noah’s Ark, Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem, 1997, no. 91.

Note: This Sumerian leopard with a ‘beauty spot’ (the remains of an ‘Egyptian blue’ inlay) on his cheek was affectionately named “Omar” by Mildenberg after the film star, Omar Sharif.
Only the upper section of the leopard is preserved, finely carved in the round in the heraldic rampant pose. While the body is shown in profile, the head is turned towards the viewer, snarling.
The mottling of the fur is rendered with a series of drilled holes, once inlaid with Egyptian blue (of which only one survives). The use of this typically Egyptian pigment is documented in Egypt from the Predynastic period, while contemporaneous similar-looking blue stones in Mesopotamia have been traditionally described as lapis lazuli. This single surviving inlay then represents one of the earliest appearances of Egyptian blue in the region.
According to Kozloff, the animal represented might be the Arabian leopard, now critically endangered and once found throughout the Arabian peninsula and the Sinai.
The use of coloured inlays to add detail to sculptures is well documented in Sumerian art. For a finely carved limestone bull showing drilled holes for now-lost inlays and also dated to the Jemdet Nasr Period, cf. Sumer. Assur. Babylone. Catalogue of the exhibition at the Musée du Petit Palais, 24 March – 14 June 1981, Paris, 1980, p. 38, no. 41.

Christie’s. Antiquities, London, 3 July 2019

21 Mar 2021

For You Parker Fans

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Amoskeag Auction No. 129, Lot 128:


serial #137720, 12 ga., 32” Whitworth steel barrels choked modified and full with bright excellent bores, each of the tubes showing a small ding along their top edge about 4” from the muzzles. There is no wall-thickness noted below .030” most .035” or more. This rare Parker A-1 Special remains in very honest, fine as-found condition, being consigned directly from the family of the man who ordered and used the gun on his extensive plantation in Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Built on a No. 2 frame, the barrel shows perhaps 80% of a dark gray-blue fading original blue, mixing with a mottled pewter patina, showing some light oxidation staining about the surface. The nice engraved rings at the muzzles remain intact and the engraved wedges at the breeches remain crisp, the rib with dual ivory beads and “No. 1 Special Parker Brothers Makers Meriden Conn Whitworth Steel” hand engraved rather than roll-marked as-mentioned in The Parker Story. The frame is now a very pleasing pewter-tone patina with the open intertwining scroll and floral embellishment remaining crisp, the nice fine background punch-dot shading, three beaded ribs at the rear of each fence. The water table still shows the nice fine engine turning which matches the bottom of the barrel flats, fading a bit from the years. The triggers gold plating is fading somewhat but is strong at the roots and the bow of the guard is neatly pierced. The checkered capped pistol grip English walnut buttstock rates very fine with much original varnish, stunning grain figure, the special A-1 checkering remaining crisp, the fleur-de-lis’ at the rear of the cheeks a bit soft. The splinter forend is fully checkered and shows a bit more wear showing some smoothed points, all of the forend metal a deep pewter gray. The pistol grip cap sits on a nice beaded flat brass spacer and has gold inlay at its center lightly engraved around the border with Mr. Crump’s name in an oval “James L Crump/New Orleans”. Close inspection reveals that the stock shows a repair to a break through its left side at wrist, the repair neatly camouflaged beneath the checkering (as a 12 ga. gun, it should not be considered fireable with a repaired break in this area). The length of pull to the period Hawkins 1” recoil pad is 14 1/4” with drops of 1 5/8” and 2 5/8”, showing roughly half an inch of cast-off. The gun locks up solidly with the top lever still just right of center, the barrels tight on-face. The safety is non-automatic and the arm cocks and fires properly however the ejector mechanism has been disabled. An external inspection shows that all of the parts seem to be present. James Lyman Crump was a cotton man for roughly 50 years before moving to develop a farm and spacious Holly Bluff lodge on his 3600 acre tract along the Jourdan River which they would name Holly-Bluff-on-the-Jourdan. He would put some 600 acres into cultivation, breeding a hybrid “Braford” beef cattle, upland rice, Kentucky fescue and Ladino Clover, clearing leveling and draining the land for the purpose. 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. Crump was a sportsman and owned and used this arm for many years, indeed the muzzleloader sold in our last auction dubbed “Pocahontas” hung over the fireplace in that rustic lodge for many years, these arms consigned directly from a descendant. The A-1 special is arguably Parker’s finest high-grade arm, this example being one of only five listed in the Parker stock books as “Whit1” being an A-1 Special with Whitworth steel barrels, this serial number gun is mentioned in the monumental work The Parker Story on page 362 in the A-1 Special chapter. The Parker Story calls the floral embellishment Texas bluebells, although this example would seem to have some daisies and other flowers thrown in, perhaps very fittingly as the gardens at Holly Bluff was so extensive and beautiful. There were thirteen 12 ga. guns made with 32” barrels, this very rare gun being one of the special “five” with the special engraved barrel marking in the Parker stock books. The authors of The Parker Story quote: “the reason for the use of Whit1 for their quality code and their unusual markings is not certain. It must be that all five of these Whit1 guns were made for something special or unusual.”. Parker Guns, I.D. and Serialization also confirms “Grade 8, A-1 Special, Ejectors, capped pistolgrip, 12 ga. with 32” barrels”. A very lovely and very special Parker double for the advanced Parker collector or the discerning collector of fine double guns. (3K9828-1) C&R (20,000/30,000)


The A1 Special Grade was Parker’s 8th highest grade shotgun, topped only by the 9th grade Invicible.

The A1 Special was introduced in 1907, and cost $500 at the time. You could buy a small house in lots of places in America for $500 in 1907. Only 79 examples of this model were ever built.

Parker collectors will be snapping at this one like trout after caddis flies. Personally, I’d consider a 2-frame Parker heavier than I’d like for Upland Hunting. This gun also has a wrist crack and a dent. I prefer a straight stock to a pistol grip. And the elaborate engraving is too florid and Baroque for my taste. I’d be happier with lots of less expensive and scarce English guns.

09 Mar 2021

Quick! Check Your Barn and Attic

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Ward’s Auctions Item 10010 “CHRISTMAS BOX!!! UMC, ”CLUB”, 12 Gauge, 2 5/8” … “VERY DIFFICULT TO FIND AND COVETED BY COLLECTORS!!! Grade: Excellent ++ – Value: 20000 to 50000”

It takes all kind of people to make a world and different people naturally have different hobbies and collecting interests.

Still, a number of us gun nuts were frankly astounded when one discussion group member passed along a link to the above auction lot.

This item is an old-time Christmas edition box that contained 100 2 5/8″ 12 gauge Union Metallic Cartridge Company shotgun shells, the equivalent of four normal boxes. 2 5/8″ length 12 gauge is a lighter chambering more commonly found in English-made double-barrel shotguns and in very old American guns. The usual modern American chambering is 2 3/4″.

This box was empty. The buyer got no shotgun shells. It had been “professionally restored,” and sealed and was filled with “NPE” — whatever that is.* The box doesnt even tell you how many drams of powder those shells were loaded with, or what size shot they contained. I assume they must have been Number 6 shot. It sold for –hold onto your seat!– $22,000.00 plus a 15% buyer premium, a total of $25,300.00. Wow!

The sporting scenes on the top and sides of the box are nice examples of nostalgic Americana, dating, I’d estimate, from circa 1910 to 1920.

I knew that there were folks out there who collected cartridges and others who collected period sporting advertising. I’m not surprised to find that there are people who’d like to own this empty shotgun shell box, but I find the price this thing went for downright astounding. You could obviously go right out a buy a nice Purdy shotgun for that kind of money, which seems obviously a lot better than an empty box.

I guess this one must be essentially the Holy Grail of shotgun shell boxes.


* Correction: “NPE” is “new primed empty.” And it does contain shotgun shells, just empty, already primed ones, that you could load with powder and shot yourself. That explains why no dram measurements or shot sizes.

I had no idea that, back then, they sold shotgun shells in this form.

15 Feb 2021

Portrait of a Grand Horizontal of the ’30s

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CHRISTIE’S March 1 | Live Auction 19783
Modern British Art Evening Sale

Lot 18 SIR JOHN LAVERY, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)The Viscountess Castlerosse, Palm Springs
GBP 400,000 – GBP 600,000 ($556,104.54 – $834,156.81)

Lavery had of course, already painted Doris Castlerosse’s portrait in 1933 when her marriage to Valentine Browne, Viscount Castlerosse, was already under strain. Having visited the Kenmare estate in 1913 to portray Lady Dorothy, the viscount’s sister, the Laverys were already well-known to the Castlerosse family. It is certainly the case that following their marriage in 1928, the two couples met socially (Mosley, 1956, p. 99). During a sitting however, Doris is reported to have asked the painter, ‘If I were divorced, it would not make any difference, would it, Sir John?’ Lavery’s diplomatic reply is unrecorded, but his wife, Hazel, was known to admire Doris’s ability to survive ‘rebuffs and unpopularity’ – the ‘same qualities as Ramsay MacDonald’ (George Malcolm Thomson, Lord Castlerosse, His Life and Times, 1973, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, pp. 110-111). A columnist of the period provided a vivid pen-portrait of Lady Castlerosse in the following terms:

‘She is well turned-out with no exaggeration. She has no habits. She does not pick the varnish off her fingernails. She does not twist her ring around her finger. She does not smoke cigarettes. She does not drink champagne. She does not disdain bad language. She makes full use of the common idiom in her speech’ (Mosley, 1956, p. 108; quoting from The Daily Express, 12 July 1932).

Born Doris Delevingne (1900-1942), daughter of a French lace and silk importer, Lady Castlerosse rose to fame in the twenties when sharing a flat with the actress, Gertrude Lawrence. She was regarded as a ‘gold-digger’ even though her husband, a failed banker, turned gossip columnist for the Sunday Express, had little money. At the time of her first sittings to Lavery she was having an affair with Randolph Churchill. Reports of a dalliance with his father, Winston, are complemented by his two portraits of Doris (David Coombs and Minnie S Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill, His Life and His Paintings, 2011, Ware House Publishing, cat. nos C152 & C158). In Hollywood in 1938, around the time she was sitting to Lavery on this second occasion, she was attending premieres and social events with Mr and Mrs Fred Astaire, Moira Shearer and Darryl Zanuck. Meeting the eighty-two-year-old painter in January 1938, at Palm Springs was likely, nevertheless, to have been a moment of calm in an otherwise full Hollywood diary.

Sittings in which the ‘model’s dais … was the spring-board’, were conducted by the pool at the Moroccan-style villa. Lavery composed the picture from two sketches using his portable easel. …

When revealed to the public, Lavery’s model, ‘pretty and very young-looking’, her legendary legs dangling over the pool, was almost carefree. Although she wears white court shoes in the photographs as The Sketch noted, the artist ‘has not forgotten to record the gay-lacquered toe-nails of Lady Castlerosse in his bathing portrait of her’ (‘What Every Woman Wants To Know’, The Sketch, 4 May 1938, p. 224). And as a master stroke, the artist includes the legs of the unseen, unidentified companion on the left of the canvas. A contemporary photograph which has recently come to light, indicates that these also belong to Castlerosse, snapped wearing a hairnet, shorts and plimsoles, during a break between the sittings (alternative theories, one advanced by Katharine FitzGerald, suggesting that the unseen observer was ‘a film director’, or another, that the legs belong to Doris’s brother, can be discounted).

Beside her, the present canvas is in progress and we can see that the ornate white garden chair, originally in the background, has been removed and adroitly placed under the figure reading, in place of the ugly wooden lounger. Lavery was clearly aware of the universal admiration for the famous Castlerosse limbs and secretly pays his own tribute, by painting them not once, but twice.

And of course, he had painted swimming pools before, in Florida and on the Riviera. The setting fascinated him. Art lovers today regard David Hockney as the ‘owner’ of Californian pool imagery. It may come as a surprise to some to discover that an aged Irish painter shared his enthusiasm and acted as its precedent.


Wikipedia bio

Affair with Winston Chuchill

24 Jan 2021

Coming Up From Christie’s

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Lot 19

Depicting a man deep in thought, sitting on the ground with his chin resting on his folded arms, this pre-Columbian terracotta sculpture from Colima in Mexico dates from around 250 AD. The horn protruding from the figure’s head marks him out as a shaman

Estimate: €6,000-9,000 ($7,302.79-$10,954.18)
9 February, Paris

17 Dec 2020

Rock Island Auctions TR’s Silver-Plated Colt Peacemaker

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