Morphy and Rock Island prove collectors still love the classic American firearms.  


This rare 1884 Colt Single Action Army “Buntline Special” drew $295,200. Ned Buntline supposedly gave the unusual revolvers as gifts to Wyatt Earp and other famous gunmen. According to Buntline biographer Julia Bricklin, that story “has been widely debunked.” Colt just called them “Buggy Specials.” Courtesy Morphy Auctions


Samuel Colt patented his first revolver in 1835, and in 1855 he started the company that made him famous…and rich. Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company produced other firearms, but it was the revolvers that established the Colt name’s place in Western history. Those revolvers pulled in big money at both the Morphy Extraordinary Firearms Auction on November 17 and 18 and the Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction from December 3 to 5.


Manufactured in Paterson, New Jersey, and popular in Texas, this Texas Paterson #5 Revolver, made by Samuel Colt before he established his Colt Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company, fetched $431,250. Courtesy Rock Island Auction


At 387 lots, Colt eclipsed even Winchester in sheer numbers at the Rock Island Auction. At the Morphy Auction, it was Colt’s “Buntline Special,” with its long barrel and detachable metal stock, that obtained top dollar at $295,200. The top-selling Colt at the Rock Island Auction, selling at $431,250, was a #5 Revolver. Manufactured in Paterson, New Jersey, and popular with the Texas Rangers, it was called the Texas Paterson revolver. The #5 was manufactured in small quantities between 1838 and 1840, just as Colt was getting his start. 


Largely because of the difficulty in transporting Gatling Guns, Custer refused to take them with him to the Little Big Horn. A year later, but too late for Custer, this “Bulldog” version was released; it was lighter than the earlier models and could be more easily used by the cavalry. It sold for $345,000. Courtesy Rock Island Auction


Another high-ticket Colt at the Rock Island Auction was not a revolver at all but an 1877 “Bulldog” Gatling Gun with tripod and other accessories for $345,000. Gatling Guns were the first commercially successful machine guns and were used occasionally in the West. Colt later produced a Thompson Machine Gun in 1921, one of which sold at the Morphy Auction for $101,425.


New Mexico lawman Fred Lambert purchased this Colt Single Action Army in 1907 and carried it throughout the rest of his career. The inscription on the revolver’s backstrap, and his badges that were sold with it, document that career. The Lambert items sold for $110,700. Courtesy Morphy Auctions


There were plenty of Colt Single Action Army and Navy revolvers sold at both auctions. One of those Colt revolvers, with impeccable provenance, belonged to New Mexico lawman Fred Lambert. That Single Action Army, plus eight of Lambert’s badges from Cimmaron and other places, sold for $110,700 at the Morphy Auction. Another well-documented Colt Model 1860 Army went for $138,000 at the Rock Island Auction. It had belonged to Confederate Maj. William Connor, who was killed at Gettysburg. The sale prices of these and other Colt firearms at both auctions demonstrate the ongoing legacy of Samuel Colt among collectors. 

Steve Friesen comes to “Collecting the West” with over 40 years of experience in collecting for museums, including evaluating and acquiring artifacts from the American West.


Both auctions featured other outstanding items. A ca. 1880 Winchester cartridge board (above) in excellent condition went for $73,800, while a ca. 1869 board from the United States Cartridge Company (below) brought $43,125. Winchester Cartridge Board Courtesy of Morphy Auctions/United States Cartridge Board Courtesy of Rock Island Auction


This engraved Colt Single Action Army was acquired by Joe Graham Barnett in 1917, just after he enlisted as a Texas Ranger. The revolver, his Ranger badge, his
pocket watch, a biography of Barnett and a documentation notebook sold for $92,250. Courtesy Morphy Auction


Captain William G. Connor‘s Model 1860 Army revolver, with its detachable shoulder stock, brought $138,000. Connor may have been carrying it when he died at the battle of Gettysburg. Courtesy Rock Island Auction



March 15-18, 2022

Collectible Firearms & Militaria

Morphy Auctions (Denver, PA) • 877-968-8880

April 8-9, 2022

Western Fine Art Auction

Scottsdale Art Auction (Scottsdale, AZ) • 480-945-0225

May 13-15, 2022

Premier Firearms Auction #85

Rock Island Auctions (Rock Island, IL) • 800-238-8022

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