The two recent auctions which I’ve viewed have been from Holts and Gavin Gardiner. The Holt’s continuing progress through their remarkable cataloguing system, both in book form and on-line, will one day for the collector, themselves prove to be collectable! The improving and remarkable presentation is turning the catalogues in to useful reference forms and of which the shrewd and astute collector will avail themselves. Of recent times Holts have also installed a magnifying system for their on-line offering, and again a most useful addition. However detailed the laudable facilities are though, they should not be relied upon in total. There has never been and I doubt that there will be, a substitute for the physical viewing of any auction items. I’ve bought-unseen previously and have yet to be disappointed, though I should clearly cease such a practice or I will one day come unstuck! In the defence of Holts though, a requested ‘Condition report’ has always elicited an honest response. There has been in the last few sales, an English made and ‘apparently’ delightful small bore O/U in sidelock. At the last sale it failed to realise £15k and by using the aforementioned magnifying system available through their on-line catalogue, the reasons may be obvious. The old adage that “When things seem to be too good to be true, then they probably are’, rings true.
Otherwise, there was little in the last sale over which your writer would enthuse. There was the usual plethora of Purdey sidelocks, many of the elderly versions being rather tired. There were also one or two other surprises; an Edwinson Green S/L which was the No.2 of a pair, the No1 which was previously sold through their rooms, and was in need of the attentions of a barrel maker to lift and relay the ribs, none the less sold for £6k and the gun recently offered failed to sell. There was a Watson Bros. One Trigger S/L which despite the fact that the barrel walls were at a worrying 17 thou still realised £3k, and a renovated Rigby snap action S/L gun which went for £4.5k. I’ve seen many guns which have been re-colour hardened which have eventually had the colour flake away rather than wearing evenly. Perhaps, if such a gun’s to be used, then regular lacquering may give it a degree of protection, I’m not too sure.
Then there was the more recent sale from Gavin Gardiner. Though of more modest proportions, the catalogue so produced is none the less perfectly adequate, though the on-line version would be considered as a guide only. That’s where the negativity stops! There was a most welcome and delightful array of hammer guns from the good, the great, and from Nobility and Royalty. Perhaps the most remarkable was an 8 bore from John Dickson, complete in its case and with all the supplied accoutrements and previously commissioned and owned by Charles Gordon, the curious 19th. century collector. The gun realised an eye watering £36k!
Charles Gordon was indeed a curious man and for those who’d care to research him, the definitive work in my view, is still in print and is available from the writer Donald Dallas and it’s simply titled ‘Charles Gordon, magnificent madness’. Whilst Gordon’s apparent lunacy by ordering guns to be made new, which were often so outdated as to be considered all but obsolete, he quite clearly had both an eye and an understanding, because he demanded the very best that Dickson’s could produce. He must have been more than satisfied. Charles Gordon would have been more than welcome on this forum!! I digress;
Following the Dickson 8 bore was a beautiful bar-in-wood hammer gun from Westley Richards which was previously the property of the Prince of Wales having been gifted to him by Queen Victoria. £15k.
A Purdey 20 bore owned by Lord Ripon which realised a heady £15k.
A Purdey 16 bore owned by Tom de Grey fetched £6.5k.
Then there were many which didn’t sell, to my surprise.
The gun which rather caught my eye was a 12 bore O/U, made by Joseph Lang for J T Hartwell which appears to have been restored. With its detachable lock plates, it seemed to me to be a most handsome gun and at £9k (plus commissions?) I none the less didn’t think it to be that expensive.
Considering the ‘Renovation’ of worthy guns, gives me an idea for a further blog!
The Head Keeper.