In London, Bonhams (27.5/25% buyer’s premium) welcomed back a rare Colt Paterson No 2 de-luxe belt model revolver which proceeded to sell for £220,000 at the December 3 auction, having reached £200,000 in its saleroom back in 2002.
Two days later at Rock Island Auctions (15% buyer’s premium) in Illinois, a monumental $1.275m (£969,000) was paid for a Colt single-action .38 revolver, serial number 324642, recently identified as a presentation model ordered as a gift for Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.
The attribution was made by Colt historian Don Jones in the spring 2018 issue of The Rampant Colt, where he pointed out that a clerical error in the Colt factory records meant that this highly embellished (and now highly esteemed) weapon had previously been confused with a much later gun.
Comparing order and shipping records, he established that a simple transposition of two figures in the serial number had hidden the true identity of this presentation pistol which was finished to the highest standard, with ivory grips carved with horned steer heads and overall engraved scroll decoration by Cuno Helfricht.
The gun was apparently ordered as a gift for the former president’s 54th birthday during his famous campaign for a third term as president, when he styled himself as the independent ‘Bull Moose’ candidate, standing against his former protégé William Howard Taft.
Just four days before his birthday Roosevelt was shot in the chest at a rally in Milwaukee by a would-be assassin but went on to make a 90-minute speech. At the election he split the Republican vote, allowing Democrat Woodrow Wilson into the White House.
The sale came as the turmoil surrounding President Trump’s contested defeat rumbled on. Whether or not this affected bidding, the newly established associations with the country’s only true Cowboy President raised this pistol’s profile and it sold for more than double its most optimistic estimate.
Back at Bonhams
The Paterson Colt sold by Bonhams was a very different sort of discovery. It originally came to light during a house clearance in 2002 and was recognised as one of the two best examples of its type, being cased with all original accessories and engraved to de-luxe standard.
Its nearest rival was sold by Butterfield and Butterfield in San Francisco in 1992 for $220,000 (£118,920).
The most desirable early Colt model from the short-lived Paterson, New Jersey, factory has generally been the No 5, a larger and slightly heavier calibre version which found favour among Texas Rangers.
Around 1000 of these were produced and No 361 was another star of the December Rock Island sale. This example was exceptional in having silver inlay, leaf-scroll engraving and ivory grips, refinements not often seen on a model which generally shows heavy wear from use in the field. It sold for $275,000 (£209,000).