Featured: Class 3 weapons, historical Colts including No. 5 Texas Paterson and 1876 Centennial Exposition SAA; Confederate Tallassee percussion carbine, circa-1835 Armstrong Kentucky rifle
DENVER, Pa. – At every level of the antique firearms hobby, savvy collectors are guided by three non-negotiables when considering a purchase: impeccable provenance, genuine rarity and unimpeachable condition. They will find all three qualities in uncompromising abundance at Morphy’s April 11-13 Firearms & Militaria Auction.
From a documented Springfield M1903 recovered from the USS California at Pearl Harbor to the only known privately held Tallassee Carbine to a five-star license plate from General Douglas MacArthur’s Korean War command vehicle, the 1,238-lot auction delivers some of the rarest and finest firearms and military relics ever to reach the open marketplace.
Featured sections include unique and highly sought-after Class 3 weapons, including an MK4AS Silenced Sten machine gun; premier sporting arms, highlighted by a George Hoenig rotary rifle; and a spectacular array of investment-grade Colts. The latter grouping includes a newly discovered Colt .45-caliber Single Action Army Revolver that was one of 18 of its type to be displayed by Colt at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
The collector market for Class 3 weapons has continued to heat up as the supply of these strictly controlled firearms has dwindled. Morphy’s will offer several very rare and desirable Class 3 guns, each requiring BATF approval prior to transfer. A top entry is an early and exceptionally rare Soviet DHSK-38 .50-caliber heavy machine gun accompanied by its carriage and an extensive complement of accessories. Its 1939 marking dates it to the first year of the model’s production. This highly coveted weapon, which was formerly part of a museum’s collection, is likely one of the four known to have been used by the Finnish military during World War II. It is estimated at $100,000-$150,000.
Another stellar Class 3 weapon is a Colt-manufactured Browning Model 1917 water-cooled machine gun – the only known example of this particular model that is still available to acquire for private ownership. Colt produced only 500 Browning Model 1917s, and nearly all went to Europe for use in World War I, but the gun consigned to Morphy’s was a rare exception. It was instead sent to the Hercules Powder Co., for purposes of testing their powder. It is expected to sell for $60,000-$100,000.
The parade of illustrious Colt handguns is led by the aforementioned .45-caliber Single Action Army Revolver, one of 18 of its type displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. It was part of Colt’s legendary “Wheel of Colts” display and is documented as such in the 1877 (Henry) Folsom List, which details some of the arms Colt exhibited at the event. This newly discovered connoisseur’s firearm has an ivory grip, nickel and gold finish, and is exquisitely factory-engraved. It comes to auction with a $60,000-$120,000 estimate.
Yet another magnificent Colt – documented and 100% original – is a No. 5 “Texas Model” Paterson Single-Action Percussion Revolver, a type associated with the Republic of Texas and noted for its use by Texas Rangers and the Texas Navy. Approximately 1,000 Texas Patersons were produced – all between 1838 and 1840 – and were serial-numbered from 1-1,000. The auction example is numbered 996. It has a long and distinguished line of provenance and will convey with a 2006 John Sexton appraisal document. The pre-sale estimate is $50,000-$80,000.
A stunning survivor, a .40-caliber percussion Kentucky long rifle made circa 1835 by master gunsmith John Armstrong of Emmitsburg, Maryland, is one of only four known original Armstrong percussion rifles. Its stock is superbly carved, and it boasts a brass inlaid plate on the barrel signed JOHN ARMSTRONG and a handmade percussion lock script-signed J A. This Golden Age rifle in impeccable condition was previously in the Joseph Kindig collection and will now be offered by Morphy’s with a $70,000-$100,000 estimate.
Strong competition is expected when an extraordinarily rare Confederate Tallassee percussion carbine crosses the auction block. It is one of only 500 that were manufactured, all between June 1864 and April 1865. Few extant examples are known, with most residing in important museum collections. The carbine is marked CS / Tallassee / Ala. and is dated 1864. It is the first and only firearm of its particular type ever to be offered at auction. Accompanied by a Statement of Provenance, it is estimated at $80,000-$120,000.
Two shotguns, in particular, could easily be described as “fit for a king.” A circa-1988 Armi Fabbri bespoke over/under shotgun with demi-bloc 27-inch nitro proof blued steel barrels and Italian proof marks was expertly decorated by Master Engraver Claudio Tomasoni. The motif includes game scenes, floral bouquets and tight scrolls. A flawless example in a fitted Fabbri leather case, it is expected to achieve $70,000-$110,000 at auction.
The second shotgun of note is a British treasure – a circa-1977 James Purdey 20-gauge side-by-side that presents in near-perfect condition. The Purdey name and address are shown on the barrels, and the decorative program includes artful images of game birds and lush foliage created by Master Engraver KC Hunt. In a fitted Purdey case with accessories, this fabulous sporting arm could reach $30,000-$50,000 on auction day.
There are three auction lots, in particular, that deserve special recognition. The first is a rare, ornately polychrome decorated Havana map powder horn with the name “James Hobert.” The main inscription above the map image reads: THE CITY OF HAVANA ILLUMINATED AT THE EMBARKATION / OF THE BRITISH TROOPS JULY THE 7TH 1763. This particular horn appears in a 2-page spread in Nathan Swayze’s book Engraved Powder Horns of the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War Era. Its extensive line of provenance includes Swayze and Joe Kindig III, amongst others. The estimate is $50,000-$75,000.
The second “unicorn” is a lock of hair taken from Abraham Lincoln’s hair after his death. The hair is tied with a small black ribbon and housed in a leatherette photographic case together with an engraved portrait of Lincoln. The revered presidential keepsake was formerly owned by Dr John K Lattimer, author of Lincoln and Kennedy: Medical and Ballistic Comparisons of The Assassinations. Estimate: $10,000-$20,000
The trio of “uniques” is rounded out by a 5-star license plate that was affixed to the front of General Douglas MacArthur’s command car in Asia. It is documented as having been the first plate used by MacArthur after his promotion to 5-star general in 1944, hence the five-star pattern. The plate was brought home from Korea by Major General Henry K Kellogg. Offered with paperwork, it is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.
Morphy’s April 11-13, 2023 Firearms & Militaria Auction will be held at the company’s Denver, Pennsylvania gallery, starting on all three days at 9 a.m. EDT. All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live. Questions: call 877-968-8880 or email email@example.com. Online: www.morphyauctions.com.
All images courtesy of Morphy Auctions
Lot 1006 –
Only known Colt-manufactured Browning Model 1917 water-cooled machine gun available for private ownership. One of only 500 made by Colt; nearly all were fielded to Europe for use in WWI. This example went to Hercules Powder Co., for testing their powder. NFA item requiring BATF approval prior to transfer. Estimate $60,000-$100,000
Lot 1028 –
Very early and exceedingly rare Soviet DHSK-38 .50-caliber heavy machine gun with carriage and extensive array of accessories, 1939 date representing first year of production. Very likely one of four of its type taken into Finnish service at some point during WWII. At one time this weapon was in a museum’s collection. NFA item requiring BATF approval prior to transfer. Estimate $100,000-$150,000
Lot 1144 –
Documented original Colt No. 5 ‘Texas Model’ Paterson Single-Action Percussion Revolver, a type associated with the Republic of Texas and its use by Texas Rangers and Texas Navy. Approximately 1,000 produced in total between 1838-1840 with serial numbers from 1-1,000; this one numbered ‘996.’ Distinguished line of provenance tracing back to 1946. Accompanied by 2006 John Sexton appraisal document. Estimate $50,000-$80,000
Lot 1145 –
Rare, newly discovered, exquisitely factory-engraved Colt .45-caliber Single Action Army Revolver, one of 18 of its type featured in the ‘Wheel of Colts’ display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Documented in the 1877 (Henry) Folsom List, which details some of the firearms Colt exhibited at the event. Ivory grip, nickel and gold finish. Estimate $60,000-$120,000
Lot 1154 –
Extremely rare Confederate Tallassee percussion carbine, one of only 500 manufactured, all between June 1864 and April 1865. Few known survivors; most in museum collections. Marked ‘CS / Tallassee / Ala.,’ and dated ‘1864.’ This particular gun is the first and only one of its type ever to be offered at auction. Accompanied by Statement of Provenance. Estimate $80,000-$120,000
Lot 1217 A or 1217B – one shows with case; the other without case –
Circa-1977 James Purdey 20-gauge side-by-side shotgun, Excellent condition, barrels retaining 98% black and bores like mirrors. Right barrel reads ‘AUDLEY HOUSE, SOUTH AUDLEY STREET, LONDON. ENGLAND,’ while left barrel reads ‘J. PURDEY & SONS. Images of birds in flight by Master Engraver ‘K.C. Hunt 77.’ Fitted Purdey case with accessories. Estimate $30,000-$50,000
Lot 1219 –
Circa-1988 Armi Fabbri bespoke over/under shotgun with demi-bloc 27in nitro proof blued steel barrels, serial no. ‘E701,’ Italian proof marks. Beautifully decorated with game scenes, floral bouquets and tight scrolls by Master Engraver Claudio Tomasoni. Flawless example in fitted Fabbri leather case. Estimate $70,000-$110,000
Lot 1224 –
Circa-1895 Holland & Holland 8 bore big game safari gun with 26in side-by-side steel barrels with 3½-inch chambers. Deeply grooved Paradox rifling extends approximately 2 inches from muzzles. Top of right barrel reads ‘ HOLLAND & HOLLAND 98 NEW BOND STREET LONDON.’ Left barrel reads ‘PARADOX’ AND ‘FOSBERRY PATENT.’ Estimate $15,000-$25,000
Lot 2016 –
Remarkable original .40-caliber percussion Kentucky long rifle made circa 1835 by master gunsmith John Armstrong of Emmitsburg, Md. One of only four known original percussion Armstrong rifles. Magnificently carved stock, brass inlaid plate on barrel signed ‘JOHN ARMSTRONG’ and handmade percussion lock signed in script ‘J A.’ Super condition, Golden Age rifle. Provenance: Joseph Kindig collection. Estimate $70,000-$100,000
Lot 2019 –
Rare, ornately polychrome decorated and well documented Havana map powder horn of James Hobert. Main inscription reads “THE CITY OF HAVANA ILLUMINATED AT THE EMBARKATION / OF THE BRITISH TROOPS JULY THE 7TH 1763.’ Featured in 2-page spread in the Nathan Swayze reference ‘Engraved Powder Horns of the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War Era.’ Extensive line of provenance includes Swayze, Joe Kindig III. Estimate $50,000-$75,000
Lot 3056 –
Lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair taken from his head after death. Secured by small black ribbon and housed in leatherette photographic case together with an engraved portrait of Lincoln mounted under glass. Formerly owned by Dr John K Lattimer, author of ‘Lincoln and Kennedy: Medical and Ballistic Comparisons of The Assassinations.’ Estimate $10,000-$20,000
Lot 3225 –
License plate once affixed to front of General Douglas MacArthur’s command car, said to be the first one used by MacArthur after he was promoted to 5-star general in 1944. Brought home from Korea by Major General Henry K Kellogg, who noted in his diary that he received it as a gift from ‘Capt Kidd.’ Accompanied by paperwork. Estimate $10,000-$20,000