Julia’s Spring 2012 firearms auction sets $18 million house record

FAIRFIELD, Maine – James D. Julia’s Spring Firearms and Knife Auction hit its highest total by far with extraordinary pieces fetching exceptionally great returns for the collectors that  consigned to his sale. Anticipating especially heavy crowds and telephone bidding the sale was conducted over two days, March 12-13, 2012 at Julia’s gallery.

The sale consisted of firearms from the Estate of Robert Howard of Texas, the collection of the late Wes Adams Collection and The Scagel Knife collection of Dr. Jim Lucie.

James D. Julia vintage firearmsJim Julia was well into the selling about lunch time of the first day when he realized his total was well into the millions. Photo courtesy Tom O’Hara.

At nearly $18 million the sale generated by far the highest grossing firearms auction every held in history.  Also of note was another firearms auction, held by Jim Julia’s sister and brother-in-law, the Poulin Auction Company, which grossed over $2 million the three days preceding the Julia auction, thus the five day gun auction event generated approximately $20 million in all.

The statistics are equally as impressive: more than 183 lots generated $25,000 or more; 102 lots generated $50,000 or more, and 36 lots sold for more than $100,000 each with eight of those selling for $200,000 or more.

The sale began with military items which always generate strong interest.  Some lots had as many as 20 to 30 telephones with numerous absentee bids.  A Colt 1919 B.A.R. Commercial 30-06 automatic rifle, estimated at $20,000-$30,000, was top lot at $43,700.

Prices quoted include the 15 percent buyers premium.

Among the 20th Century arms, an historic Sauer double rifle presented to Hermann Goering by the City of Suhl, Germany, in 1934. This lavishly engraved gun, estimated at $100,000-$200,000, went out at $115,000. An extraordinary rare Colt engraved service model Ace pistol in pristine condition carried a presale estimate of $40,000-$50,000 and blew through the top of that estimate at $103,500.

Next an outstanding array of high-grade sporting shotguns and rifles were offered to a very anxious crowd with all the phones working. A 20 ga. Parker Grade 3 hammer/lifter shotgun, estimated at $3,000-$5,000 went out at $32,200. An exceptionally fine L.C. Smith 20 ga. Monogram Grade, estimated at $50,000-$60,000, went out at $51,750. An exquisite Purdey best over-under single trigger game gun in 20 ga. was estimated at $55,000-$75,000 and sold just under $60,000.


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One of the top items of the day was a huge J. Dickson Four Bore Hammer shotgun made for the eccentric Charles Gordon. Gordon, during his lifetime commissioned many of the leading English firearms firms of the day to produce copies of earlier guns. Most of those created for him were never used and are in exceptional condition. This was one of only two four bores ever made and carried a presale estimate of $40,000-$60,000 but sailed far beyond the high estimate at $86,250. A brace of John Dixon percussion pistols, made also for Gordon, in the original pigskin lined case was estimated at $15,000-$20,000 and went out at $24,000.

The highest selling lot of the sporting arms was an Alfred Lancaster .450 Double rifle made for the Maharaja of Bulrampore. The gun made in 1871 was fitted with a complete butt stock and fore stock made from rhinoceros horn. Because of the value of the rhino stock alone, the gun was estimated at $50,000-$75,000, but soared to almost twice the high estimate at $138,000.

James D. Julia spring 2012 firearms auction Some of the guns were available in the showcases during the sale, but there were too many for all to remain on display for the sale. Photo courtesy Tom O’Hara.

Following the sale of the sporting arms was Dr. Jim Lucie’s historic collection of Bill Scagel knives. Lucie was Scagel’s personal physician who became an ardent collector of Scagel knives. Lucie’s collection was extraordinary not only for the number of objects but also their rarity and condition. The second highest grossing lot in the collection was a rare Scagel-made D-Guard Fighter, one of only six ever made; it was for a Marine in 1942. The knife and its original scabbard were estimated at $18,000-$26,000, but finally sold for $41,400. Scagel’s personal sheathed knife, carried and used by him on a daily basis, had a presale estimate of $20,000-$28,000 and sold for $40,250.

A Scagel ax, described by Lucie as an extremely rare two-handed ax which is the only one known by the author to exist. In excellent condition, it carried a presale estimate of $17,500-$25,000 while selling for $29,900.

In many cases each knife carried a personal story about Scagel. One such knife was referred to as the “Damn Democrat” knife. Scagel, always the crusty, independent, extremely conservative individual would never be beholding to anyone. One story tells that after receiving a favor from the local Ward Chairman of the Democratic party, Scagel made the next day a small string cutter knife and went to the ward chairman’s home. He handed it to him with the comment, “Thanks for the favor the other night.” A week or so later a friend inquired of Bill about the strange knife he made for the ward chairman of the Democrat party. Scagel responded, “Oh, you mean that damn Democrat knife.” When his friend inquired why the handle of the knife had an ivory slab on one side and striated mother-of-pearl handle on the other side, he quickly responded, “Those damn Democrats are two-faced, so I made him a two-faced knife!” The knife carried a presale estimate of $3,500-$5,000 and went out at $11,500.

Later on the first day from the Howard Collection a complete buffalo hunter’s outfit, including a cased Sharps rifle, caliber 50-70 estimated at $25,000-$40,00 went out at just over $86,000.  A rare Remington-rider magazine pistol in superb condition estimated at $4,000-$7,000 finally sold at just under $21,000. A spectacular cased engraved and gold-plated American Standard Tip-up revolver was estimated at $4,000-$7,000, saw incredible competition and ended up over 3 times the high estimate at $23,000.  A boxed pair of engraved No. 1 Moore all metal Derringers in the original cardboard box were also estimated at $4,000-$7,000, and also went out at a remarkable $23,000. The biggest money Derringer of the day, however, was the rare Reid large frame knuckle duster in 41 rim fire, estimated at $6,000-$12,000, it finally sold for just under $36,000.

Tuesday morning’s auction began with the collection of the late Wes Adams. An extraordinary, one of a kind, relief engraved, gold and nickel Winchester Model 1866 carried a presale estimate of $200,000-$300,000, and went out at $293,250. A rare early Model 73 22 caliber, estimated at $20,000-$32,000, sold for approximately five times high estimate at $155,250, and things continued this way throughout the Wes Adams sale.

A rare factory engraved exhibition Model 94, estimated at $40,000-$60,000 ended up at $207,000. A John Ulrich engraved gold inlaid Model 94, estimated at $50,000-$80,000, went out at $253,000.  One lot was an extraordinary original crate of unissued Winchester Model 94 Saddle Ring Carbines. As the story went, some years ago a few cases of these guns were found in a warehouse. They had originally been destined for a military unit but never used.  All but two of the cases were broke and sold individually – this being one of the only two kept intact. It carried a presale estimate of $50,000-$100,000, and after a hellacious bidding battle, sold for $218,500.

The sale proceeds, nearly $18 million was, according to Jim Julia, not only by far the highest grossing firearms auction ever conducted in history, but was reached with only 1250 lots; an average of about $14,500 on each. Julia wanted to remind all “there is more to come from the Wes Adams Collection this Fall.”

For more details visit Julia Auctions.

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Tom O’Hara is a freelance writer and dealer, owner of Easter Hill Antiques of Sharon, Conn. In the past, he has covered shows in Brimfield, Round Top and Springfield, Ohio, for Antique Trader.

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