Cowans News

Cowan's Gets Top Dollar for Historic Firearms in April 26-27th Auctiom

CINCINNATI Grossing nearly $4 million, the Historic Firearms and Early Militaria sale held by Cowan's Auctions on April 26-27 was an unqualified success. The event was highlighted by the first installment of the noted Confederate arms collection of Cliff and Lynne Young, as well as a session featuring European rarities from the Mel Flanagan collection and Civil War arms from the collection of Raymond Geddes. Interest was evident across a full range of firearms from start to finish.

The Young collection, put together over 65 years, was revered not just for its rarity and condition, but also because much of the material hadn't been on the market for years, in some cases more than half a century. Buyers responded enthusiastically.

Bringing a six-figure price was a near-mint LeMat carbine that realized $115,000. The LeMat carbine was the only foreign-made long gun and repeating arm made for the Confederacy. Although no more than 125 were probably manufactured under Confederate Army and Navy contracts, most never reached Southern troops due to Union naval blockades. Young's research recorded about 20 surviving examples as of 2002, and this one was in exceptional condition.

Other highlights from the Young collection included a Tarpley breech-loading carbine identified to Waul's Legion, the finest of 20 known to exist, that sold for $83,375; an engraved Paris Second Model LeMat percussion revolver, one of about a dozen Baby LeMats known to exist, $69,000; a cased Second Model LeMat percussion revolver in near-mint condition, one of the best known, $69,000; a historically important LeMat Krider percussion revolver, serial no. 2, likely used in the 1859 weapons trials in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., and one of only two LeMat revolvers known to have been made in the United States, $57,500; an engraved Robinson Sharps carbine, the only known surviving example, $54,625; and a J.H. Dance & Brothers Navy percussion Confederate revolver without recoil shield, one of fewer than 10 known to exist, realized $51,750.


The Young collection also yielded a Leech & Rigdon percussion revolver captured in August 1864 from the C.S.S. Tennessee at Mobile Bay, that sold for $46,000; a Spiller & Burr rounded-frame percussion revolver, one of three examples known to exist, $46,000; a full packet of "Nine Combustible Cartridges for LeMat's Revolver," the original box marked for the Richmond Arsenal in 1864, the finest of three known sets, $25,875; a relic transitional LeMat percussion revolver from the Battle of Franklin (Tennessee) in November 1864, six of the chambers still loaded, said to have been unearthed near the banks of the Harpeth River, $12,650; and a wood-and-metal patent model of a First LeMat revolver, with its original U.S. Patent Office tag dated 1856, brought $7,475.

Although only 42 lots represented the Young collection, they accounted for nearly one-fourth of the sale's total. Jack Lewis, Cowan's director of Historic Firearms and Early Militaria, succinctly summed up the material. "Cliff Young's collection did very well," he said.

Cowan's also continued to get strong prices for European and American arms from the Flanagan collection, which featured early firearms and scarce oddities. A double-barrel flintlock blunderbuss pistol by Brown of London, circa 1800, sold for $11,500, as did a Henry Harrington breech-loading percussion volley rifle patented in 1837, the barrel having 19 chambers, made in Southbridge, Mass.

Other highlights from the Flanagan collection included a centerfire-cartridge LeMat revolver that brought $9,775; an American seven-shot flintlock volley gun having a rotating barrel and a tiger maple stock, $9,775; a Jarre 10-shot harmonica pistol, $9,200; and a flintlock blunderbuss carbine by Perry of London that also made $9,200.

"We had a one hundred percent sell-through rate for the second portion of the Flanagan Collection," said Lewis. "It just soared."

When the auction moved away from the Young and Flanagan collections, enthusiasm didn't wane. Bidding remained responsive, with buyers continuing to emphasize condition and rarity. They found it in a Second Model Hoggson engraved Henry rifle that sold for $41,400; a Sharps New Model 1869 sporting rifle that made $35,000; and a massive Bowie knife with a coin silver scabbard marked for Samuel Bell of Knoxville, Tenn., the knife with a 14-inch clip point and having lost its handle long ago, selling for $31,625.

Great material continued. A full-stock Indian percussion rifle from the collection of Jim Ritchie, the barrel marked for Henry Folsom & Co. of St. Louis, the stock studded with brass tacks, sold for $27,600. A Winchester Model 1886 deluxe takedown rifle was $27,600, and a Winchester Model 1886 lever-action carbine made in 1903 realized $26,450.

The diversity of other firearms ranged from a flintlock garniture of arms by Gio Botti, circa 1730, having one Italian longarm and two pistols that sold together for $25,200, to an Auto-Ordnance Thompson submachine gun that brought $18,000. Other highlights included a Volcanic lever-action carbine at $20,700; a rare pair of Brown deluxe-grip, extractor sporting rifles with consecutive serial numbers, $19,550; a cased Daniel Fraser take-apart sporting rifle with engraving, $18,400; and a Tennessee-style, iron-mounted flintlock rifle also brought $18,400.

 Militaria included Emperor Napoleon's silver campaign cup engraved as a souvenir after being captured in 1815 by a Prussian soldier at Waterloo. It sold for $17,250. A Mexican War infantry officer's frock coat realized $7,800, as did a Pattern 1858 2nd Cavalry officer's hat, fully trimmed. An identified World War II A-2 flight jacket from the bomber That's All … Brother sold for $7,475. A powder horn identified to M. Lane, engraved with a British coat of arms and dated 1775, realized $6,037.50.

Cowan's next live salesroom auction of Historic Firearms and Early Militaria is Nov. 1. Included will be the second part of the Young collection, another 300 items from the Flanagan collection, and numerous other high-quality consignments. Bidding will be available on the auction floor, by phone, absentee, and live through


Cowan's is currently accepting consignments for their major Historic Firearms and Militaria Auction this fall. For more information or to consign, phone Jack Lewis at Cowan's Auctions at (513) 871-1670 or visit 

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