Hidden treasures at Holts
Donald Dallas takes a deeper look at some unusual auction lots.
There was plenty of anticipation as Lot 1325 came up at the Holts September sale — a pair of virtually new 12 bore over-unders by Purdey that had been built for Eric Clapton. They were estimated at £150,000 - £170,000 and the bidding started at £120,000. The room went quiet; you could have heard a pin drop as they made £150,000 then, with a final push, they made £160,000 and the room burst into applause.
Lot 230 was an historically important SAS regimental brass insignia from 22 Squadron SAS (rhodesia). Solid brass and weighing 20lbs it was made to be displayed on a wall. It bore the motto “Who Dares Wins” and was certainly unique. Estimated at £3,000 - £5,000, it made £3,800.
Lot 408, an elegant and appealing double flintlock sporting gun by bass of London from around 1795, made an impressive £6,100 against its estimate of £4,000 - £5,000. With its rounded fattish stock, square chequering and stubby front trigger, the quality and condition were top notch.
Lot 506 was a fine late-built Purdey percussion live pigeon gun No.7444, dating from 1867. It looked similar to Purdey hammer guns of this era, with its original padded leather cheekpiece and, as befitting a live pigeon gun, no ramrod. What made it stand out was the incredible original condition it was in, with loads of original brown and case hardening and sparkling in its entirety. That is why it made £7,500 within its estimate of £7,000 - £9,000.
An unusual gun was Lot 525, a percussion gun by Daniel ross of Edinburgh. Have you seen the restored ross Fountain in Princes Street, Edinburgh, donated by Daniel ross in the 19th century? Estimated at £1,500 - £2,000, the gun realised £3,100. It had extra rifle barrels and all were contained in its original oak case. Provincial percussion guns like this can be a bit quirky and this one had exaggerated dolphin hammers.
Winchester lever-action rifles are highly collectible and Lot 620 was a fine 40-65 lever-action 1886 model made to special order. It was in fine original condition and, estimated at £3,000 - £5,000, it went for £7,000. I wonder what my plastic Winchester dating from the 1960s would make? Another one was on offer in Lot 635, an extremely fine Winchester 45-75 lever action model 1876. Considering it was made in 1877 it was in amazing condition retaining the majority of its original finish. Estimated at £5,000 - £7,000 it put on its spurs and galloped to an astonishing £10,500.
Holland & Holland has a reputation for double rifles and two lots, Lot 1207 and 1208, bear out the desirability of the name. Lot 1207 was a .500/465 Nitro Express royal double rifle dating from 1932. Contained in its case and estimated at £20,000 - £25,000, it made £20,000.
Lot 1208 was another, this time a 7x65r royal (originally .240 Apex) built in 1928. It had much original finish and, estimated at £12,000 - £16,000, it made £15,000.
For some reason pairs of guns are difficult to sell, but not so singles. Figures were high and it is heartening to see the excellent prices achieved. One of my favourite sidelock guns is the Holland & Holland No.3 or Dominion with its back action locks. Lot 1406 was such a gun beat its estimated £700 - £900 by making £1,300 — still an absolute bargain for such a quality gun.
I was also pleased to see the excellent prices achieved by boxlock ejectors, destroying the myth that there is little demand for these beautiful guns. Any boxlock by Churchill fetches a high price and Lot 1703, a 12 bore Hercules, made £2,800 against its estimate if £1,000 - £1,500. Another one, Lot 1705, this time a Utility estimated at £1,500 - £2,000, made £2,000. What could be regarded as run-ofthe-mill boxlock ejectors were all making well over £1,000. Hurrah!
Winchester 45-75 lever-action Model 1876 rifle. Estimated at £5,000 - £7,000 it made £10,500.