Only fully transferable example of a Fabrique Nationale M249 Minimi light machine gun commanded a world-record $602,700; Annie Oakley’s custom-built shotgun hit $258,300
DENVER, Pa. – For its Sept. 5-7, 2023 Firearms & Militaria Auction, Morphy’s rolled out the big guns, from coveted Kentucky rifles to Class 3 machine guns, ultimately closing the books at a resounding $6.34 million. Along the way, the 1,443-lot sale kept collectors engaged, as one historical highlight after another crossed the auction block.
Class 3 weapons – a strictly-controlled group that includes machine guns and requires BATF approval prior to transfer – were led by an iconic Fabrique Nationale M249 Minimi (Squad Automatic Weapon) light machine gun. Serial-numbered “E00037” and widely known to collectors as simply “Number 37,” it is the only fully transferable example of its particular model in the National Firearms Act Registry. The gun’s description in the auction catalog included this important point and added that the gun was accompanied by an original BATF-signed letter confirming its transferability to pre-approved individuals. In near-mint condition, the top prize of the three-day event attracted 21 bids before selling within its estimate range for $602,700. A world-record auction price for the model, it broke the previous machine gun auction record of $480,000 (Morphy Auctions, Nov. 16, 2022).
Thomas B Nelson’s reference book The World’s Submachine Guns (publ. 1963) lists only four “observed” specimens of a 9mm Parabellum Mauser Schnellfeuer Broomhandle machine pistol, a special-order gun introduced in 1932 and known as the “Westinger” model. While the exact number of extant examples of this particular model is not known, there is no argument as to the gun’s extreme rarity. One of the few known survivors was consigned to Morphy’s and presented in superlative original condition with a Mauser logo and other requisite markings. It opened at $15,000 and was bid aggressively to $63,960, well exceeding its high estimate of $40,000. In achieving such a high price, it also set a world auction record for the model.
“We now hold more world-record auction prices for machine guns than all other auction houses combined, with more than ten machine gun models selling individually for prices in excess of $100,000,” said Dan Morphy, president of Morphy Auctions.
The September 5 opening session was dominated by a rare and historical Charles Lancaster Gunsmiths (London) shotgun built for Annie Oakley in 1888 and used by the exhibition-shooting legend during a significant period of her career. The 12-bore double-barreled hammerless model with 28-inch barrels, Serial No. 05970, was gifted to Oakley by Charles Lancaster himself, who reportedly observed the petite sharpshooter at a gun club in England, struggling with a shotgun that appeared too heavy for her. On that occasion, Lancaster offered Oakley advice on wing-shooting and, at a later date, presented her with four shotguns: two 20-bores and two 12-bores. The 12-bore in Morphy’s sale sold for $258,000 and conveyed with a signed 2012 Authentication Certificate from Charles Lancaster Gunmakers Ltd, documenting its history and noting that the shotgun had been made specifically for Oakley.
A fine relief-carved Berks County, Pennsylvania, flintlock swivel breech Kentucky rifle in .52 rifled caliber with a highly figured tiger-maple stock, came with excellent documentation and provenance that linked its original ownership to a colorful French trader and Indian language interpreter named Francis Duchouquet (1751-1831). The distinctive longarm was featured in a Kentucky Rifle Association educational display in June 2000, and its auction-catalog description noted that it is nearly identical to a rifle from the Joe Kindig Jr. Collection that is pictured in Patrick Hornberger’s reference book Berks County Longrifle & Gunmakers. Most recently part of the Louie Parker Collection, the auction gun sold well above high estimate for $73,800.
Every firearms auction at Morphy’s includes something special for Winchester fans. The September auction featured a Deluxe Winchester Model 1892 takedown lever-action rifle, .32 WCF FFL, that shipped from the factory in 1910. Its provenance included the Ray Bentley Collection and a prior purchase, in 1994, from Warren Lewis. The original receipt from that transaction accompanied the rifle to auction, where is sold for $19,065 against an estimate of $8,000-$12,000.
Some of the most sought-after firearms in the sale came from the revered collection of Dr Jim Watson of Scottsdale, Arizona. One such highlight was a factory-engraved and silver-plated Colt .45-caliber Single-Action Army Revolver with matching serial numbers. A signed Colt Industries letter, which was included in the lot, confirmed that the manufacturer had shipped the gun in 1931 to Baldwin Bros., in New Orleans, for subsequent conveyance to Russek Bros. It sold within estimate for $29,520.
Extremely rare and militarily symbolic, a Minatogawa shrine katana, finely executed with mei characters reading Minatogawa Jenja Masataka [plus further inscription], was presented to Ariga Kosaku, captain of the Battleship Yamato. In 1942, the Yamato served as flagship of the Combined Imperial Japanese Fleet. The vessel was present at the Battle of Midway and subsequently was sunk by Allied air forces while en route to Okinawa to engage in a likely suicide mission. An absolutely unique World War II relic, the katana sold for $49,200 against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000.
After the auction, Dan Morphy remarked that he was “extremely pleased” with both the $6.34 million result and the collector enthusiasm for firearms at the top end. “We have the best firearms team in the business. They leave no stone unturned in securing the finest fresh-to-the-market guns and historical material for our auctions,” he said. “With highlights like the Annie Oakley shotgun, the Berks County flintlock Kentucky rifle, and the extraordinary Class 3 weapons, whose rarity only increases with every specimen we sell, the September sale lineup lived up to the standards of investment-grade quality and rarity that today’s collectors desire.”
To discuss consigning a collection or individual item to a future Firearms & Militaria auction at Morphy’s, call Dan Morphy tollfree at 877-968-8880 or email email@example.com. There is never an obligation to consign, and all enquiries are kept strictly confidential. Visit Morphy’s online at www.morphyauctions.com.
All prices quoted in this postsale report are inclusive of buyer’s premium as detailed in Morphy’s Terms and Conditions.
All images courtesy of Morphy Auctions
Original 9mm Parabellum Mauser Schnellfeuer Broomhandle machine pistol, a special-order gun introduced in 1932 and known as the ‘Westinger model.’ Fast-firing with a cyclic rate of 800-1,100 rounds per minute. One of few known and the first of its type ever encountered by the firearms expert at Morphy’s who cataloged the auction. Sold for $63,960, a world-record auction price for the model
Fabrique Nationale M249 Minimi (Squad Automatic Weapon) light machine gun, the only fully transferable example of this model in the National Firearms Act Registry. Serial No. E00037. Accompanied by original BATF signed letter documenting the gun as being fully transferable to pre-approved individuals. Near-mint condition. Sold for $602,700, a world-record auction price for any machine of any type
Factory engraved and silver-plated Colt .45-caliber Single-Action Army Revolver. Matching serial numbers. Shipped in 1931 to Baldwin Bros., New Orleans, for subsequent conveyance to Russek Bros. Provenance: Dr. Jim Watson Collection, Scottsdale, Arizona. Sold within estimate for $29,520
Deluxe Winchester Model 1892 takedown lever-action rifle, .32 WCF FFL, shipped from factory in 1910. Provenance: Ray Bentley Collection, purchased from Warren Lewis in 1994 with original receipt included. Sold for $19,065 against an estimate of $8,000-$12,000
Rare and important Charles Lancaster (London) shotgun built in 1888 for Annie Oakley (1860-1926) and used by the exhibition-shooting legend at a celebrated period of her career; 12-bore double-barreled hammerless with 28in barrels. Serial No. 05970. Sold within estimate for $258,300. View video about Annie Oakley and the gun auctioned by Morphy’s:
Fine relief-carved Berks County, Pa., flintlock swivel breech Kentucky rifle, highly figured tiger maple stock,.52 rifled caliber. Featured in a Kentucky Rifle Association educational display, June 23-25, 2000. Nearly identical to a rifle from the Joe Kindig Jr. Collection that is pictured in Patrick Hornberger’s reference ‘Berks County Longrifle & Gunmakers.’ Provenance: Louie Parker Collection. Sold above estimate for $73,800
Extremely important Minatogawa shrine katana, finely executed with ‘mei’ characters reading ‘Minatogawa Jenja Masataka’ [plus further inscription] and presented to Ariga Kosaku, captain of the Battleship Yamato, flagship of the Combined Imperial Japanese Fleet in 1942. The Yamato was present at the Battle of Midway and sunk by Allied air forces while en route to Okinawa. Sold for $49,200 against an estimate of $10,000-$20,000