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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Announcing The Bretherton Collection

Rock Island Auction Company is proud and deeply honored to have been chosen to market at auction the legendary Robert “The Bear” Bretherton Collection. The Robert Bretherton Collection houses European and American automatic pistols, classic European high art arms, American and European sporting rifles and swords, incredible Colt revolvers, Winchester rifles of the West and their competitors, plus combat and prototype arms of the Allied and Axis powers; representing an epic feat in the field of fine arms collecting.  Aside from its tremendous size and high condition are the unforgettable rarities that span more than four centuries of technological advances, design, and craftsmanship. Even with all these tremendous accolades, the most appealing aspect of the collection is its unmistakable freshness, having never been viewed by a single collector in its entirety.

Born in 1925, Robert “The Bear” Bretherton had an insatiable appetite for fine arms even at an early age, acquiring his first gun by his sixth birthday. Over the next 80 years he hunted and pursued fine firearms across the globe on an unprecedented scale. After viewing the collection, President and CEO of Rock Island Auction Company Patrick Hogan commented, “It was quite clear to me even at first glance, the level of scholarship and passion Mr. Bretherton had when building his collection.  He understood rarity and condition, the difference between good and great, and had an obvious adoration for the history behind the firearms, as was exhibited by the collection’s vast range from classical European wheelocks to 20th century military arms."

 “Having been in this business for nearly 25 years, I have examined collections in almost every state and throughout Europe. In all my experience, I have never encountered a group of arms equal to the supreme quality and quantity as what is represented within the Bretherton Collection.  To say his collection is a lifetime achievement would only be scratching the surface,” said Hogan. “It is simply magnificent.” Many times when a collection of this size is amassed by an individual and that person passes, that collection can fall into neglect.  Thankfully, in this case the caretaker was an outstanding curator who ensured all items were well cared for and cherished.

Rock Island Auction Company is coming off the heels of the most successful year to date for any firearms auction house or firearms division, posting the unprecedented sum of over $51 million in sales for 2015. This cemented their 12th consecutive year as the world’s number one firearms auction house. “We are extremely proud of what our team was able to do in 2015 and equally thankful to our customers, both consignors and buyers,” said Laurence Thomson, Executive Director of Operations at RIAC. “We have a company culture that is never satisfied with average and pushes to be exceptional each and every year, one auction at a time. Over the last four years we have averaged $48 million annually.  No other firearms auction house has ever hit $40 million! We are beyond excited for 2016 to announce the acquisition of the Bretherton Collection.  It’s an unbelievable opportunity for our firm and for collectors everywhere.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Top Guns: 2015 December Premiere

Time to review the top guns of our 2015 December Premiere Firearms Auction, and the event was HUGE. In case you hadn't heard, the event resulted in nearly $15 million in sales and pushed our annual total to $51 MILLION! That is another record in the firearms industry set by Rock Island Auction Company and we couldn't be more proud. Since no one else has breached even $40 million, these phenomenal numbers cement our place as the world's #1 firearms auction house for a twelfth consecutive year. Of course, we couldn't have done it without the trust of our consignors, the loyalty of our buyers, and a super active internet community like you that likes our posts, shares our photos, watches our videos, and reads our blogs.

Numbers like this should be extremely encouraging for the entire firearms community! It's no secret that the number of new guns being sold seems to reach a new high every other month and by our own numbers the overall market for collectible firearms is also at new and exciting heights. We had bidders from 21 countries bidding via the RIAC website alone! Let's take a look at some of the high dollar, popular, and over-achieving guns in this sale.

Most Popular

Lot 3665: U.S. Winchester Arms M1 Garand Semi-Automatic Rifle with Case
Estimate: $700 - $1,000
Realized Price: $1,725
Number of Sealed Bidders: >30

The popularity of M1 Garands does not appear to be waning anytime soon, especially high condition examples.  This has been especially apparent in 2015 when we sold M1 serial number 7, prototype models from the SALVO project, and more famously a National Match refinished by the CPRPFS (now the CMP) that belonged to President John F. Kennedy. The Winchester M1 shown above was manufactured in 1944 and wonderfully restored by Miltech of California.  Original or restored, people want a good looking Garand; this rifle simply allowed them to do it with a significant reduction in price but still with high attention to detail and authenticity.

Top Dollar

Lot 1262: Important, Fresh and Extremely Significant Middle Eastern Treasure: 15th Century Shirt of Mail and Plate with Elaborate Gold Koftgari Decorated Plate Reinforcement with the Property Stamp from the Janissary Arsenal at the Hagia Irene Church in Istanbul with Inscription that Appears to Bear the name of the Recipient: Qaytbay Mamluk Sultan of Egypt 1468-1496
Estimate: $200,000 - $500,000
Realized Price: $2.3 Million

If you receive our emails or look at our social media pages, then you already knew about this one. A 15th century shirt of armor belonging to an Egyptian sultan sold for $2.3 million dollars! This is far and away the highest amount achieved by any item at Rock Island Auction Company, and what an exciting moment it was to watch it sell. It is simply an incredible piece that was covered in more depth by our "More Museum Worthy Pieces" article last month. For a blow-by-blow account of the sale of the shirt, read our full auction write-up.

Highest Performing Item Overall

Lot 1132: Finely Carved Powder Horn with French-Indian War Themed Decoration
Estimate: $1,800 - $2,750
Realized Price: $25,875

With the wonderfully high sale price of the armor, you'd think it would be a no-brainer for the highest performing item in the auction. However, this unassuming powder horn takes that prize by hammering for 1,150% over its low estimate, while the armor hammered over its mark by 900%. The engraving on the horn is sharp and, at its base, depicts armed Native Americans bearing a flag of Great Britain.  The rest shows an unnamed river with tributaries that wraps around the horn almost two complete times. The horn may have doubled as a map for someone who frequently traveled that waterway.

Highest Performing Genre: The Royal Hunt Collection

Lot 1329: Massive and Magnificent European Red Stag Wall Mount From King Frederick William III Accompanied by Mid-19th Century Military Themed Items

Average Percentage Above Low Estimate: 260%

OK, so the true top performing genre was the "Antique European Military Item," but that stat is definitely going to be skewed by the sale of the armor. The next genre in the list is the items from the Royal Hunt Collection.  An incredible collection of hunting trophies taken by top men in the Imperial German military and assembled over 40 years through the support of Kaiser Wilhelm II's descendants. The moment these began to be offered, you could hear the buzz in the room and it was reflected in the bids. It was nearly dumbfounding to see mount after mount pass their estimates by thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. Selling a mere 60 lots after the Egyptian armor, it was a very exciting afternoon at Rock Island Auction Co.

Obviously, the non-firearm items in this auction had a spectacular day, but let's look at some of the top sellers in some of the most popular areas of collecting.

Highest Selling Colt

Lot 1687: Super Ultra-Rare Early Production Colt Model 1909 Serial Number "22" 45 ACP Semi-Automatic Test Trial Pistol with Factory Letter
Realized Price: $161,000

The headline for this weapon says it all.  It's a ridiculously high condition example of an important developmental stage of an iconic weapon.  There were 23 ever made, serialed 0-22 making this the final one ever produced! It was easily the top dollar Colt in the auction with its $161,000 realized price.  In second was a San Francisco shipped, Glahn engraved Single Action Army in .44 S&W with an R.L. Wilson letter in lot 1220 that realized $103,500. Each one a beauty!

Highest Selling Winchester

Lot 1014: Magnificent John Ulrich Masterpiece Factory Engraved, Signed, Gold Inlaid, and Elaborately Ornamented Winchester Model 1894 Lever Action Rifle From the Legendary Mac McCroskie Collection

Realized Price: $207,000

This was the highest estimated Winchester in the auction, so there's no big surprise here.  Though guns that were not the highest estimate have come through before! It's another outstanding piece from the Mac McCroskie Collection, so you know it is of the highest quality and condition. As Director of Auction Services Kevin Hogan says, "If there was a Mount Rushmore of gun collecting, he'd be on it." This gun is a fine representation of the caliber of guns in his collection (no pun intended).  Expertly master engraved, gorgeous wood, gold inlaid, high condition, and featured in several books, it is everything a collector could want from a top of the line Winchester.

Highest Selling Civil War Arm

Lot 3174: Rare U.S. Civil War Era Ames Foundry Model 1841 6 Pounder Cannon Dated 1855 with Provenance
Realized Price: $109,250

It's true, this isn't a small arm, but it is definitely the highest selling Civil War Era item in the sale. Many cannons come through our doors, but few are original models like this one. This cannon is one of very few 6-pounders in private hands, especially when accompanied by its large quantities of documentation. The highest selling small arm of the sale was sold only two lots earlier and was the Sharps Model 1853 in lot 3172 that was captured during John Brown's raid on the Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. That historical carbine sold for $28,750.

Highest Selling Non-Firearm

This was easily the Egyptian armor.  Since we've covered it already, we'll be moving right along.

Highest Selling German Arm

Lot 1584: Rare Historic Factory Engraved Walther PP Gold Plated Nazi Presentation Semi Automatic Pistol with Leather Holster and Spare Magazine
Realized Price: $37,375

We have seen some absolutely incredible European arms collections come through our doors this year. This was especially apparent in The Iconic Ralph Shattuck Collection filled with amazing Lugers and German military pieces. Pistols like this gold plated, presentation Walther PP show that the collections are still rolling in and going strong. It's beautiful, pre-WWII, fresh to the market, and according to the inscription, was a Christmas present in 1934. The collector that secured this fine firearm has some fascinating research ahead of them. Following the Royal Hunt Collection, German Military Lugers were the 2nd highest performing genre in the entire auction - a good sign of a continuing solid market for those collectors.

What a sale and what a year! It was an exciting weekend that put an exclamation point on an already successful season. Newcomer collections were top performers and led the way via the Legendary Mac McCroskie Collection and the Royal Hunt Collection, but traditional genres such as the German Military pieces were not far behind.  Again, a hearty and sincere thank you to everyone who helped make this year, and the previous 11 a reality. We'll continue to work as hard as we can to keep your interest, your trust, and your loyalty.

Our next auction will be an Online Only Auction held on Friday, January 29, 2016 beginning at 9:00 a.m. CT. The first batch of lots in that auction has posted today!  Head on over to search today to browse and bid on these items. It'll be a great way to start the new year.

-Written by Joel R. Kolander