The major auction houses all had good pre-Christmas sales to round off 2018, from the intimate to the gargantuan. Beginning with Bonhams, who set the bar at the end of November, Jonathan Downs explores how the estimates fared

Bonhams, Knightsbridge

30 November 2018 

Bonhams’ November sale made a combined total of £2,028,426 and included several fine collections: the Daniel Williams Collection of Antique Arms; the Richard Garrett Collection of Antique Firearms; and the Max Gau Collection Part I – which averaged 88 per cent sold by lot and 84 per cent by value. Head of Modern Sporting Guns, Patrick Hawes, said: “The sporting guns section of the sale was particularly strong. Part I of the superb Max Gau Collection of lever action rifles proved especially attractive to collectors from the UK, Europe and the US.” The star of the show was a fine matched pair of 12-bore self-opening sidelock ejector guns by Purdey & Sons with best bold foliate scroll engraving. The guns were completed in 1968 and 1970 respectively for Monsieur Maxime Magne of Périgueux in France, No.1 gun engraved by Foster and No.2 by Casbard. In their leather motor case (even with a broken handle and missing straps) the pair was estimated at £40,000-£60,000, and sold at £52,000, including buyer’s premium.


Rock Island Moline, Illinois

30 November – 2 December 2018 

Those big guns were out again at Moline, Illinois. Rock Island announced that the 2018 December Premiere Auction realised a total of $18.3 million. This gives them a staggering realised total for 2018 of $75.5 million. Within the first 45 minutes of the sale on the Friday they sold Lot 17, a Baby Paterson revolver, for $472,500, an extraordinary semi-Deluxe Winchester 1886 in Lot 39 for $138,000, as well as a rare Winchester M1873 “One of One Hundred” rifle in lot 35. It brought about a bidding war that shot past its $375,000 high estimate to finish at $805,000. Lot 2005 was a stunning high art Winchester 1886, engraved, carved, inlaid, and signed by John Ulrich, which achieved $586,500. Lot 2008 was an extremely rare Briggs patent Henry rifle that went for $195,000 – but the star of the second day was Lot 2461, an ornate Government Model semi auto, engraved by William Gough with gold inlay, serial number C5, a first-day production. Fierce bidding drove the final price to $241,500.

Sotheby’s, Mayfair

12 December 2018 

For Gavin Gardiner/Sotheby’s, the top seller was another fine pair of 12-bore self-opening sidelock ejectors by J Purdey & Sons, from the same period. Built in 1971 for the Duke of Fife, these were estimated at £25,000-£35,000 and sold for £31,250. Next on the list was a trade sale of a pair of Boss 12-bore single trigger round-body sidelock ejector guns, built in 1909 with replacement barrels fitted in 1996. These were estimated at £12,000-£18,000 and sold for £14,375. Lot 343 was a Belgian 20-bore FN Browning custom sideplate single-trigger over and under. Estimated at £6,000-£8,000, it sold bang in the middle at £7,500 to a North American private buyer.

Holt’s, Blackheath

13 December 2018 

Holt’s December auction at Holly Hedge House, in London’s Blackheath, showed another strong result with 64 per cent of the 843 lots offered sold on the day and hammer prices totalling over £700,000. According to Holt’s, the breakdown of the buying market showed a significantly higher percentage of UK buyers at 56 per cent (compared to 42 per cent at last sale), 21 per cent from Continental Europe and 14 per cent from the USA. The highest price was achieved by two lots; the first was Lot 1641, a Holland & Holland Sporting Model 20-bore over-and-under ejector, which flew past its £20,000 estimate to sell to an internet buyer for £28,000. Next, Lot 1223 was a .470 Nitro Express sidelock ejector double rifle by the one and only John Rigby, and made a similar £28,000, nearly doubling its low-end estimate of £15,000-£20,000. Holts tells us that 16-bore guns are in great demand at the moment and Lot 1320 saw a fine pair of Purdey 16-bore sidelock ejectors estimated at £14,000-£18,000 make £19,000. As ever with Holts there were sporting accoutrements and accessories galore, sporting watches, game knives – and even a Winchester rifles: Lot 630 saw a rare .32-40 take down deluxe short rifle dated 1899 gallop past its estimate of £2,500-£3,000 to £3,400.


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