Hidden treasures at Holt’s
Donald Dallas takes a deeper look at some unusual auction lots.
The Holt’s sale in June coincided with one of the hottest spells in London I have ever experienced, with the temperature reaching a whopping 35˚C. Princess Louise House, where the sales are held in Hammersmith, is at least cavernous with little glass, but we did have to ask for permission to loosen our ties.
To me, the star lots in the sale were a group of six rifles from the gunroom of the WindsorClive family. They were all high quality rifles but what made them particularly appealing was this was the first time they had seen the light of day since they were bought last century. Out of the six rifles, the best example was a magnificent .400/.360 boxlock ejector double rifle by Daniel Fraser of Edinburgh. It was in its original case and in superb condition. It was built for Archer Windsor-clive who was a lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards and killed at Landrecles, right at the beginning of the First World War, on August 25, 1914. As Lot 1154 it was estimated at £6,000-£8,000 but it made a whopping £11,000.
There were more than 3,000 lots in the main sale and in the sealed bid sale. As usual, where do you start? Gems abound everywhere, and one I spotted was a 12 bore boxlock ejector by Joseph Harkom of Edinburgh (Lot 3103). I know boxlock ejectors are 10-a-penny and difficult to sell, but Harkom boxlocks are a cut above the rest as they were actually built in Edinburgh and have gold-washed internals. They are high-quality boxlocks with very distinctive fences particular to Harkom. The example in this lot was tired and black powder proofed only but, at £300-£500, it was a bagatelle
“The rifles were all high quality but hadn’t seen the light of day since they were first purchased last century.”
for such a quality boxlock in original condition. Sold for £315.
Now, .410 guns are always in demand, even more so if they are double-barrelled. Add to this a stock of adult dimensions and they are very desirable. In Lot 2932 there was such a gun, a double .410 hammer gun with an original finish and a 14” stock. There was no maker’s name on it but it must have been built by one of the leading Birmingham gunmakers. With its top lever and pistol grip, estimated at £500-£700, it was just the job for a stroll in the farmyard. Sold for £654.
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of over-under guns in the sale but one that caught my eye was a Beretta 686 Special, in excellent condition it has to be said. As Lot 2686 it was estimated at £400£600, a third of the price of a new Beretta. Sold for £462.
Antique accessories and guns abound, and in Lot 2212, six powder flasks were on offer at £100-£200. A group of powder flasks is always a good buy – I’m sure you will have noticed how much individual flasks fetch in antique shops. Sold for £126.
Another quantity in the sale that I have to say I found fascinating was Lot 2218: six British military flintlocks by various makers for East India Company muskets. They were all in sleeper condition and estimated at £200-£300, quite a find if you’re a collector of military muskets. Sold for £366.
Anybody with an interest in firearms must surely have a library of related books. I find 19th century books fascinating, as not only do they provide information, they feature high-quality engravings, too. Probably the most famous 19th century book of this kind is The
Gun And Its Development by W.W. Greener. This title was in Lot 2435, estimated at just £25-£30. Another 1880s’ Greener book is Modern
Breech-loaders, which was in Lot 2449 and estimated at £20-£30. Sold for £41.
The .400/.360 Daniel Fraser boxlock ejector double rifle no. 3163. Originally estimated at £6,000–£8,000, it eventually sold for £11,000.