Cowans News

Rare Antique Firearms Produce Record Results in Cowan's November 3-5 Auction

 The Collections of Mel Flanagan and Ben Michel Drive Total Sales Over $4 Million

 CINCINNATI Two world-class collections combined with additional top-quality and highly desirable material resulted in the second largest auction in Cowan's company history, generating just over $4.1 Million in total sales. Over 1700 bidders from across the globe battled competitively for the unique selection of items, driving the prices for many of the European antique arms well past their auction estimates. Bidding went late into the night on day two of the auction due to the vast interest in Mel Flanagan's collection of unique curiosities.

 Driving the auction were the collections of Ben Michel, who focused on French firearms, and Mel Flanagan, who assembled an intriguing array of European and American firearms, including numerous unusual weapons. Both collections resulted in a flurry of international bidding, as many of these items surfaced to the auction block for the first, and probably last time.

 "I have never seen the quality of European items and multi-barreled oddities like those in this auction," said Jack Lewis, Cowan's director of Historic Firearms and Early Militaria.

 The three-day auction began on Tuesday, Nov. 3, with the collection of Ben Michel, a retired New Jersey attorney, U.S. Army veteran and former special agent in charge of counterintelligence. He was also a past president of the New Jersey Antique Weapons Association, as well as a judge at major gun shows in Richmond and Baltimore.

 The French regulation arms were grouped into approximately 350 lots consisting of handguns, long arms, edged weapons, headgear and accessories. Highlights from the Michel collection included a Model 1763 Flintlock Musket, which sold for $17,250 over its estimate of $3,000/4,000, a Model 1856 System Arcelin Breechloading Percussion Musketoon with a Saber-Lance Bayonet sold for $11,500, a Model 1779 1st Type Marine Single-Shot Flintlock Pistol Tulle realized $10,925, and an early 19th Century General's Parade Saddle with Pommel Holsters and Bridle sold for $6,325.

 The second day of the auction, Wednesday, Nov. 4, began with the collection of Mel Flanagan, a World War II Navy veteran who served aboard the U.S.S. Douglas H. Fox, which saw action against the Japanese. Following the war, Flanagan worked in construction in his family's cement business. It was during this time he began collecting firearms, with special interest in the blunderbuss. He also sought alarm and trap guns, pepperboxes, sword and knife pistols, knuckle-dusters, derringers and a variety of oddities. His collection gained national attention when he was invited to join The American Society of Arms Collectors in 1996. He is also a former president of the Colorado Gun Collectors Association.

 Flanagan specialized in the odd and the unusual. After first glance at his collection, one might think that Flanagan's collection came straight out of the James Bond movies.  

 Among the rarities offered, the highest selling lot from the Flanagan collection was a Cased Engraved Henry Harrington Percussion Seven-Shot Volley Pistol, which trounced its pre-auction estimate of $15,000/20,000 and sold for $51,570.  

Handgun rarities included an English Wilkinson & Son Seven-Shot Turret Underhammer Percussion Pistol which sold for  $24,725, a High Grade European 18-Barrel Engraved Percussion Pistol sold for $23,000 over its $6,000/12,000 estimate, a scarce C.B. Allen Seven-Shot Percussion Turret Pistol with Engraved Metal Grips brought $19,550, and a Large English Seven-Barrel Engraved Flintlock Pistol by H. Nock sold for $18,400.

 Flanagan specialized in the blunderbuss. Amongst the items offered for sale on day two were a Rare Irish Over/Under Elliptical Barrel Percussion Blunderbuss by Rigby with a Spring Bayonet which sold for $31,200, a Silver Mounted Spanish Miquelet Blunderbuss Pistol Marked Sanchez realized $10,200, and a Pair of English Brass Blunderbuss Flintlock Short Rifles by J & W Richards with Spring Bayonets realized $9,775.

 For more information, phone Cowan's Auctions at (513) 871-1670 or visit



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