Four Rare Firearms, Including Rifles Made for Automaker John F. Dodge, Bring Six Figures
Four extraordinary firearms, each with a fascinating history, realized exceptional prices in Cowan’s Spring Firearms and Early Militaria Auction on April 29, 2009. Lot 14, a Colt Single-Action Revolver that sold for $143,750, surpassed the record for the highest-selling firearm in Ohio, but held the honor for only 20 lots. Lot 34, a Winchester Model 1886 made exclusively for the American icon, John F. Dodge, exceeded the Colt's record by selling for $450,000.
Until today, the record for the highest-selling firearm in Ohio was held by Sitting Bull’s Whitney Revolver, sold by Cowan’s in November 2005 for $120,750.
The two exceptional rifles sold were made for Dodge who founded the Dodge Motor Company with his brother Horace in 1913 after building a reputation for producing the finest quality automotive parts and supplying them to companies like Oldsmobile and The Ford Motor Company. The company grew to be the fourth-largest automobile manufacturer in the country by 1917.
Both of the rare weapons made for Dodge exude the finest craftsmanship known in American Sporting Firearms.
The first, lot 34, a never-fired Winchester Model 1886, which features Dodge's initials and a total of 195 grams of gold used in inlays of a buck, doe, fawn, bull moose, and cow, was purchased by Minnesota dealer Jack Puglisis for $450,000, within its $400/500,000 estimate. A complete factory letter, an unusual find, details all the firearm's exquisite components. Also interesting to note is that the rifle was engraved with Dodge’s initials by J. Ulrich, and the checkering was rendered by C. Ulrich; seldom does a collector find documentation that indicates both Ulriches’ contributions to the piece
The second of Dodge’s firearms, lot 35, a Savage Model 1889 Takedown Rifle, which also features Dodge’s initials in raised gold, realized $230,000, within its estimate of $200/250,000. The rifle's exquisitely-carved walnut pistol grip stock and forearm, depicting leaf and vine motifs in deep relief and a beautiful stippled background, made it extremely desirable to collectors.
Jack Lewis, Cowan's Director of Historic Firearms and Early Militaria, was pleased with the results. “Two of the best rifles made by Winchester and Savage were sold today here in Cincinnati. This is a milestone for not only Cowan’s, but also for our city,” he commented.
Lot 14, a Colt Single-Action Revolver gifted in 1874 by W.B. Franklin, Vice President of Colt Patened Firearms, to his friend General Thomas H. Ruger, superintendent of West Point, sold for $143,750, far exceeding its $30/50,000 estimate. The revolver, likely never fired, descended directly through the family of General Ruger before it was offered for auction by Cowan’s. “This is the finest civilian-cased Colt Single-Action ever sold at auction, and collectors bid fiercely,” noted Jack Lewis.
Lot 121, an exceptionally rare Gardner Gun, Serial Number 2, far surpassed its $50/75,000 estimate, selling for $149,500. William Gardner is believed to have had Serial No. 2 manufactured, based upon his patents of 1876 and 1879, by the Pratt Whitney Company. The weapon that sold is the Patent Gun that William Gardner had tested by the U.S. Navy, tried by the British Admiralty and British War Office, and other European governments. This is the very gun that Alexander Gardner took with him to Paris in 1878 for and exhibition in Paris with similar inventor’s machine guns in which Mr. Gardner’s gun took first place. This gun was used in competition against the Gatling gun. Mr. Gardner's gun won in Europe, but not in America.