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To a non-specialist, it seems strange that standard Colts, the famous .45 and .44 and the .36, which were mass-produced in their tens of thousands, should have become so scarce. But Weller & Dufty auctioneer Mike Scott explains that it was the general practice of most gun dealers on accepting trade-ins when selling new guns to sell the metal for scrap.

Cased presentation guns, however, were seldom used as everyday working tools and tended to survive in pretty good condition. Such was the case at Birmingham when a pair of silver-plated Colt Model 1862 Police percussion revolvers, serial numbered 206e and 207e, were offered.

Using Weller & Dufty’s classification system (which runs from New and Nearly New through Grade 1 down to Grade 8) the five-shot pistols were catalogued as Grade 2-plus with much of the original finish.

They featured an abundance of foliate engraving and the rare 61/2in (16.5cm) round barrels were also engraved Address Saml Colt Hartford C.T.

Adding to the decorative aspect of the guns were the ivory grips, each carved in relief with a classical female head.

The guns came in their original mahogany case fitted with a pear-shaped zinc flask embossed with the American eagle, double-cavity bullet/ball mould and sprue cutter marked Colts Patent, and a cap tin marked Eley/Colts Patent.

The Colts sold within estimate at £14,000, although the winning collector later said he would have gone higher. Police Colts rank below the heavier calibre Navy and Army models – a presentation pair of which would have fetched twice as much, said Mr Scott.

Back on December 10, there was no single piece of this quality, but the 788-lot sale, which totalled £55,000 with 95 per cent getting away, did include a dozen four-figure sellers including the rare ‘flintlock’ air gun featured above. Top seller was a c.1850 double-barrelled percussion sporting gun by Janeck of Dresden, with three sets of barrels, a pair of 20-bore, a pair of 28-bore and a pair of one of each. Coming in the original oak case fitted with accessories and in Grade 1-plus condition, the guns sold at £7250.

Other successes included a rare 1840 Brunswick Heavy Navy rifle and a cased 54-bore Third Model William Tranters patent double trigger percussion revolver. The .706 rifle was one of 100 set up for the Navy at Enfield and had been singled out as a presentation piece. In Grade 1-plus condition, it sold at £4800.

The Tranters pistol, with chequered walnut grip and 6in (15cm) barrel, came in its original mahogany case complete with all accessories and a Dixon & Son powder flask and sold at £3400.