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Silver-plated 1873 Winchester rifle tops $500,000 in $15.6M sale

A stunning 1873 Winchester rifle First Model, boasting unique features including relief engraving, finished at $529,000, to lead all lots during Rock Island Auction Co.'s December 2016 sale.
Winchester 1873 Rifle

Winchester Rifle 1873 First Model boasting special features, commanded $529,000. (Photos courtesy Rock Island Auction Co.)

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. —  Rock Island Auction Company achieved the highest grossing sales ($63 million) year in the firm’s history in 2016. The December Premiere Firearms Auction featured items from the Robert Bretherton and Robert Lee Collections, among others. An 1873 Winchester rifle sold for more than $500,000 in a sale that realized a total of $15.6 million.

Finishing Strong

The December followed the path set forth by earlier 2016 sales of historic firearms. This included $1.2 million dollar sale of the Winchester rifle Model 1886. It was presented to the man who accepted Geronimo’s surrender.

The first day of the December auction saw a factory engraved New Haven Arms Volcanic, with a rarely encountered 25-inch barrel and original walnut case, vault past its $60,000 estimate en route to a final price of $149,500. Confederate items also enjoyed a surprising level of success, as seen a single-lot offering of two early Confederate bonds. This pair began a bidding battle that soared past its estimate, before landing at a $21,850 realized price. Also of note was the imposing Henry Nock revolving flintlock carbine that found a new home for $40,250, well beyond the $20,000 estimate.

Uncommon Winchester Rifle First Model Tops Sale

The second day of the sale started with a similar bang, when an unbelievable Winchester rifle 1873 First Model with numerous special order features, such as silver plating and deep relief engraving by Conrad Ulrich, claimed top lot status, obliterating its $180,000 estimate and finally coming to a rest at $529,000. Additional top sellers of the day included a Savage Model 1899 that was presented to co-founder of Dodge Brothers Motor Company, Horace Elgin Dodge. It raced past the $60,000 estimate and brought $195,500.

Hartford Colt Model 1851

Hartford Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver with London barrel address and Third Model stock with canteen insert, manufactured in 1859, sold for $109,500.

Lots in this auction served as a perfect reminder of why Colts and Winchesters remain
the “blue chips” of gun collectors. Four lever action models finished in the six-figure range.

A factory cased and engraved Colt London Model 1851 readily exceeded its $30,000 estimate by achieving $51,750. While a rare, Nimschke engraved, flastside Winchester 1866 saddle ring carbine bested its $18,000 estimate to ring the bell at $40,250.

Several Japanese arms also enjoyed high sale prices, such as World War II, North China manufactured Type 19 Nambu, which sold for $19,550, against its $7,500 estimate.

The next auction is the February 2017 Regional Firearms Auction, Feb. 16-19. For more information, visit or call 800-238-8022.