Military history comes to life at Morphy's May 17-18 auction of Early Arms, Militaria, and Extraordinary Firearms

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Military history comes to life at Morphy's May 17-18 auction of Early Arms, Militaria, and Extraordinary Firearms
Extremely rare 17-star, 17-stripe U.S. flag with impeccable provenance from descendants of American naval hero Stephen Decatur Jr (1779-1820), who famously risked his life to avenge the death of his brother, Lt. James Decatur, following an 1804 U.S. attack on Barbary pirates’ ships in Tripoli harbor. Flag’s pattern, dating 1804-1812, coincides with period during with Stephen Decatur Jr was active in the US Navy. Estimate $30,000-$50,000

DENVER, PA.- Antique and collectible firearms of superior quality and great historical importance await bidders at Morphy’s mid-May auction event, with two distinct sessions that, together, offer significant firearms and militaria from the 18th century through contemporary times. For the May 17 session, Morphy’s has prepared a 213-lot curated selection of early arms and militaria, followed on May 18 by a 405-lot offering of fine rifles, shotguns, 19th-century Colts and other handguns; military and NFA weapons; and much more.

Each and every auction item has been examined and cataloged by the appropriate specialist from Morphy’s respected team of firearms experts, whose catalog descriptions are second to none. All forms of bidding will be available, including live online through Morphy Live.

Categories featured on May 17 include antique flintlock, percussion and military rifles and pistols; six antique flintlock shotguns, nearly 40 swords – including pre-Revolutionary War through Civil War models – powder horns, medals, maps, flags, uniforms, field gear and historical ephemera.

An absolute treasure of early American gunsmithing, Lot 1168 is a fine relief-carved flintlock Kentucky rifle attributed to master gunsmith Leonard Reedy (1776-1837), who learned and practiced his trade in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania. Described as being in “near workbench condition,” this Golden Age longarm displays figured tiger maple stock of classic Berks County form with a “Roman nose” buttstock and classic Reedy-style carving behind the cheekpiece and around the patchbox and barrel tang. “Its hand-forged lock was probably made by Reedy himself,” said Morphy Auctions Arms & Armor specialist David Geiger. The rifle is pictured in the reference The Kentucky Rifle and Me by Edith Cooper and has a $40,000-$80,000 estimate.

Morphy Auctions is honored to have been entrusted with an American Flag from a descendant of our nation’s first post-Revolutionary War naval hero, Stephen Decatur Jr (1779-1820). The extremely rare 17-star, 17-stripe flag has remained in the Decatur family for more than 200 years. Among his many acts of valor, Decatur risked his life to avenge the death of his brother, Lt. James Decatur, who died aboard the USS Constitution and was buried at sea after a battle with Barbary pirates in Tripoli Harbor. The flag’s pattern, dating 1804-1812, coincides with the period of Stephen Decatur Jr’s active US Navy service. Estimate: $30,000-$50,000

An identified Revolutionary War New England fusil (musket) is inscribed on its metal tag Made By DB For B. Bacon 1776, referring to Benjamin Bacon Sr. (1726-1807), who served as a captain in the 21st Connecticut Militia and responded to the Lexington alarm. Its manufacture is attributed to Massachusetts gunsmith Deacon Barrett. Estimate: $30,000-$60,000

Museum-quality British arms and militaria from the American Revolutionary War and French & Indian War era are among the highlights of the May 17 session. A Long Land-pattern “Brown Bess” musket is one of only a few known examples marked to Sir William Pepperell, who was knighted for the capture of Louisburg in 1744 and later commanded the 51st British Regiment. “The gun was lost to history until the 1990s, when a Nova Scotia farmer traded it to a surveyor as partial payment for a land survey,” said Geiger. Remarkably, the rifle still retains its brass-tipped wooden ramrod and is entered in the auction with a $30,000-$60,000 estimate.

Also noteworthy is an extremely rare silver gorget (throat protector) marked for the British 5th Regiment, which fought at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. One of few surviving examples in the rare double-lobe pattern, it is depicted in the Troiani/Kochan reference book Insignia of Independence. Estimate: $10,000-$30,000

The May 18 session is sure to delight advanced collectors who seek firearms deserving of the description “extraordinary.” An ultra-desirable Colt “pinch frame” single-action Army Revolver bearing the serial number “58” was manufactured prior to July 1873 and is one of the elite nine that were included in the first commercial shipment of Colt Single-Action Army Revolvers sent to Schuyler, Hartley & Graham on Sept. 2, 1873. “First-run single-action revolvers manufactured by Colt have unique features found only on their type,” said Morphy Auctions firearms consultant Jeremy Hatch. “Serial Number 58 exhibits all of those features, being 100% authentic and original in all respects.” The legendary Colt will convey to its new owner with a 4-page letter written in 2007 by noted Colt authority Ron Graham. Estimate: $100,000-$150,000

Some may recognize the famous set of four near-mint Colt single-action Army “Frontier Six Shooters” in this sale as the “Family Reunion” guns. The near-mint .44-40-WCF Revolvers, all from same 1923 shipment, were reunited after many years of diligent searching by fabled collector Mel Guy. In the early 1970s, Guy purchased two of the revolvers at the Sahara Antique Gun Show in Las Vegas. Later, he found a third gun of the same configuration and condition, which was subsequently confirmed to be the third member of the quartet. But it was not until years later that Guy was able to secure the fourth and final gun from the historical set. In 1976, an article in Arms Gazette, co-authored by Mel Guy and Ron Graham, was published with the title “A Family Reunion,” thus giving the guns their nickname. The lot of four revolvers comes with supportive documents, including two Colt letters, and is estimated at $60,000-$100,000.

There probably isn’t a firearms collector in America who doesn’t revere the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid sportsman whose passion for the wilderness and conservation led to the establishment of our National Parks system. Morphy’s is privileged to offer the cased C Bartels & Buttner drilling (three-barreled combination rifle/shotgun) that was presented to Roosevelt in 1905 by the United Spanish War Veterans of Pueblo, Colorado, Camp 3. It is decorated with an elaborate presentation plaque and carvings of Roosevelt’s initials. Over the years, the veterans of Camp 3 – knowing of Roosevelt’s fondness for the drilling model – gifted him with a total of three such guns. After Roosevelt’s death in 1919, his widow, Edith, returned the drilling offered by Morphy’s to the veterans camp for enshrinement. With its original case, accessories and paperwork, the Theodore Roosevelt grouping, entered as Lot 275, will be offered with a $40,000-$60,000 estimate at the May 18 session.

More than 100 NFA lots will be up for bid. The NFA (National Firearms Act) classification, which requires registration, applies to any fully automatic firearm falling under certain specifications set forth by the agency. Each of the lots is legally transferrable with prior approval from the BATF. A prime example is the exceptional Fabrique Nationale FM Mag 58 (FN 60-20) general-purpose machine gun. It would be familiar to American military enthusiasts as the M240B, which was selected to replace the M60 machine gun in December 1995. This type of gun is extremely scarce in the NFA Registry and is available only to active FFL/SOT dealers as a pre-1986 dealer’s sample. Estimate: $100,000-$150,000

An original 1964 Rheinmettal-manufactured German MG42/59 machine gun, one of only five known original examples, was received prior to 1968 by an American firm which was developing an electric mounting apparatus. In near-mint condition with a Rheinmettal logo, its provenance includes the NFA firearms collection of JR Moody. Estimate: $50,000-$100,000

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