Hid­den trea­sures at Holts

Don­ald Dal­las takes a deeper look at some un­usual auc­tion lots.

Shooting Gazette - - Auctions -

Putting an es­ti­mate on a gun or ri­fle is a fairly straight­for­ward job. One boxlock ejec­tor is much like an­other; a best side­lock ejec­tor can be val­ued due to its maker and con­di­tion and gun cases have a set value. But what if some­thing is out of the or­di­nary and has never come up for sale be­fore? Such lots can be dif­fi­cult to value and fre­quently well ex­ceed their es­ti­mates if there is de­sir­abil­ity in­volved.

Rar­ity does not guar­an­tee value as of­ten rare guns are so be­cause they were a dis­ap­point­ment in their time. But de­sir­abil­ity is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter en­tirely — as is oft quoted, it only needs two peo­ple to start a bid­ding war.

I thought it might be in­ter­est­ing to study a few lots in the June Holts sale that went for way over their es­ti­mates.

Lot 110 was an im­pres­sive We­b­ley & Scott air ri­fle Model Ser­vice Mk11 dat­ing from the late 1930s with .177, .22 and .25 bar­rels. Such ri­fles are par­tic­u­larly col­lectible when they have the three sets of in­ter­change­able bar­rels. This one had been pro­fes­sion­ally re­fin­ished but what made it so ap­peal­ing was that it had been cased by the Royal cab­i­net maker D.J. Whin­cup in wal­nut with green baize lin­ing. Es­ti­mated at £1,000 to £1,500 it fetched more than dou­ble this at £3,300. The rea­son it made that price was that the con­di­tion was per­fect and the whole out­fit looked su­perb in its qual­ity case.

Per­fect Purdey

Qual­ity per­cus­sion guns and ri­fles in good con­di­tion al­ways fetch high prices. Lot 515 was a James Purdey .500 sin­gle per­cus­sion park ri­fle built in 1828 with a 28in bar­rel. This would have been used to shoot deer in en­closed park­land. Not only was the qual­ity su­perb, the con­di­tion was too and, es­ti­mated at £1,000 to £2,000, it made £3,300. Any­thing by Purdey will com­mand a high price and this was in fine orig­i­nal con­di­tion, which drove the price up.

An­other stun­ning per­cus­sion gun was Lot 525, a dou­ble 12 bore dated 1858 by Joseph Harkom of Ed­in­burgh. It was in its orig­i­nal pigskin-lined case with all ac­ces­sories and looked like it had never been fired. It was greatly ad­mired and the auc­tion hushed as the ham­mer price of £8,500 far ex­ceeded the es­ti­mate of £4,000 to £6,000. It isn’t of­ten that a gun like this ap­pears at auc­tion, un­touched and in fine orig­i­nal con­di­tion.

Pairs of guns by qual­ity mak­ers al­ways com­mand good prices and Lot 1300 was a stylish pair of 12 bore Holland & Holland Royal ham­mer­less ejec­tors. Built in 1899 they were very us­able guns and, es­ti­mated at £7,000 to £9,000, they made £11,000. Holland Roy­als are lovely guns and these were in good con­di­tion.

Es­ti­mated at £3,000 to £5,000 Lot 1502 soared and soared to £20,000. This was a 16 bore skele­ton round ac­tion side-lever Dick­son. Built in 1883 it was one of only 13 skele­ton stocked Dick­sons recorded, of which only three were 16 bores. Such was its charm and de­sir­abil­ity a con­sid­er­able num­ber of col­lec­tors were in­ter­ested and how ex­cit­ing it was to hear the auc­tion room fall quiet as the tele­phone bids came in.

Lot 1502 was a 16 bore skele­ton round ac­tion side-lever Dick­son. Built in 1883 it was one of only 13 skele­ton stocked Dick­sons recorded.

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