Nobel Prize founder’s historic arms collection leads arms, armor sale

SAN FRANCISCO – Bonhams & Butterfields Antique Arms, Armor and Modern Sporting Guns auction on June 20, 2011 in San Francisco brought an impressive $1.2 million, with top lots consigned from the Nobel Family Collection, which included Alfred Nobel, creator of the Nobel Prize awards.

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Leading the sale was a fine gold-inlaid nephrite hilted Ottoman jambiya, from the Nobel Family Collection, that brought $304,000 (estimate $30,000-$50,000). When translated, an inscription above the jambiya’s hilt reads: “The work of Feyzollah of Sustar,” and “Help from God and Early Victory.”

Other items that brought especially impressive results, included a fine Persian shamshir out of the Nobel Collection, that sold for $205,000 ($12,000-$18,000), and a historic gem-set and gilt silver-mounted Islamic saber, from during the reign of the Tipu Sultan, which brought $144,500 ($15,000-$25,000).

The Islamic saber’s origin points to a robust period in India’s history – the 1780s – during which the Tipu Sultan ruled India’s strongest, most prosperous state. Tipu was a relentless warrior who inflicted defeats on the British and used Western weaponry against their inventors. He was killed at the siege of Seringapatam in 1799.

Additional highlights of the sale included historic property of Captain Philo Norton McGiffin, Annapolis legend and founder of the Imperial Chinese Naval Academy, sold for $29,250 ($4,000-$6,000); and guns such as a cased, engraved and gold-inlaid .375 H&H Magnum Beretta Model SSO Express double rifle, sold for $23,400 ($20,000-$30,000); an early 19th century, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania percussion conversion fowling gun by Nicholas Beyer, sold for $16,380 ($2,000-$4,000); and a .500 Nitro underlever double rifle by W.& J. Jeffery & Company, sold for $14,040 ($15,000-$20,000).

Other items that did very well in the sale included a gilt decorated Mughal armor ensemble, probably late 18th/early 19th century, sold for $14,040 ($4,000-$6,000); an unusual Indo-Persian zulfiqar, probably early 19th century, sold for $14,040 ($2,000-$4,000); and a rare alligator hilted bowie knife by Woodhead & Hartley, sold for $11,700 ($1,500-$2,500).
The firm’s next Antique Arms, Armor and Modern Sporting Guns auction will take place in the fall on Nov. 14, 2011, in San Francisco. The illustrated auction catalog will be available online for review and purchase in the weeks preceding the sale at

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