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