The finest known surviving example of Samuel Colt's first revolver - the Cased and Shell Carved Ivory-gripped Texas or Holster Model Paterson Revolver with 9-inch Barrel and Attached Loading Lever - produced by the legendary gunsmith in Paterson, N.J. in 1836, is expected to realize $700,000+ when it comes to auction as part of The Cali Collection, offered in Greg Martin Auctions/Heritage Auctions
' Sept. 18 Signature(r) Arms & Armor Auction.
"In terms of desirability and historical importance, this one has it all," said Greg Martin, President of Arms & Armor Auctions at Greg Martin Auctions/Heritage Auctions. "Maybe 3,000 of these were made, with very few survivors, and certainly none that even begins to approach the condition of this one."
When this revolver was sold by the Far West Hobby Shop in 1938, for the then-exorbitant price of $1,650, this is what they had to say about this storied gun: "Every factor that contributes to the valuation of an antique firearm is outstandingly apparent in this magnificent Texas-Paterson - Age, Historical Interest, Beauty, Condition, Pride of Possession, Great Demand, Extreme Rarity, Etc. In our opinion, this is the most desirable Colt outfit ever offered for sale at any time. Aside from the fact that it will be some collector's (sic) most treasured arms possession, it will prove a gilt-edged investment for the future..."
"I'd say they got it pretty much perfect," said Martin. "It was a gilt-edged investment then, and it's a gilt-edged investment now."
Also offered as part of The Cali Collection is the single finest known 1847 Colt Walker Model Civilian Series Revolver, Serial No. 1078, famously known as "The Thumbprint Walker," because a workman's fingerprint was imbedded on the left side of the frame during the finishing of the gun, estimated to bring $600,000+, along with spirited bidding, when it comes up for auction.
"It's been theorized that the thumbprint on this gun is that of Samuel Colt himself," said Martin. "Whether that's the case or not, no one can say for sure, but this civilian revolver is one of the finest, most original and rare examples of the Walker model known and is clearly among the most desirable examples of the most celebrated single models of percussion Colt revolver ever produced."
In 1847, Colt and Capt. Samuel Walker of the U.S. Dragoons designed what would be known as the Colt Walker Revolver. The U.S. government ordered 1,000 Colt Walker revolvers for use in the Mexican-American War and on the Texas frontier. One hundred civilian revolvers were manufactured at the same time.
Alfred Cali began collecting antique percussion revolvers in 1959 quite by accident. The year he was married, his wife Carol gifted him a Colt revolver for Christmas.
"I tried to look excited and surprised, but the gun did not interest me at all," Cali writes in the book American Arms Collectors: Percussion Colts and Their Rivals -The Al Cali Collection.
Cali's interest was piqued, however, and over the next five decades he and his wife would amass one of the most important collections of antique American revolvers.
"The early period of our collecting was not easy," Cali reflects, "but with both of us working together, besides our family, it made for many of the most satisfying experiences of our lives ... still exciting for us every single day."
More than 30 lots from the Alfred (Al) Cali Collection are being offered in the Sept. 18 auction.
Other auction highlights include two revolvers presented to trusted Colt employee and chief engineer Loren Ballou, and a Colt revolver with a grip made from the historic Charter Oak tree of Hartford, CT.
"The Ballou revolvers include the only-known rampant Colt sculptures, which were presented to Ballou. The Charter Oak tree, of course, is famous because in colonial days, the royal charter for Connecticut was hidden in a cavity within the tree during a dispute with England in 1687."
After it fell in 1856, a piece of wood from the tree was used for the grip of a revolver presented by Colt to arms dealer J.I. Spies. The lot also includes Charter Oak artifacts, a cane, books and various documents concerning Colt and the Charter Oak.
"This collection, 50 years in the making, is one of the most important to ever come to auction," Martin said. "Condition, rarity and historical importance are three main ingredients that create value - and this collection has all of those ingredients."
Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world's third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $700 million, and 600,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.