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I see Colt can letter some 1st gen 1851 Navy's. I have one in the range that can letter but at $300!! Yikes!!! Are these letters like the SAA letters that rarely have useful historical info? Or at this time period do the letters show WHO the gun was sold to? Anybody have a letter they would like to post?
 

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Colt sold to dealers/jobbers, who commonly sold to gun shops, hardware stores and other retailers - with the number of available purchase points, there was little need to order directly.

Military orders went to a Officer, who signed for the delivery - then on to a gaining unit - Colt's interest stopped at the shipping dock with that signature.
 

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I lettered my 1849 pocket model, as it fell in the range they still had letters for. Nothing earth shattering, although it at least confirmed it was still the factory 6" barrel 6 shot version as original. It went to a dealer in NY if I recall correctly.
 

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What is the thinking of the forum as to whether a factory letter adds to the price of the gun and, if so, how much? Is a letter likely to add $300?
 

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If shipped to a unique or interesting location or has historical value, then I'd say so. Otherwise, not worth it probably.
A shame that these letters are so expensive. Half the price would have been more appealing to me.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
What is the thinking of the forum as to whether a factory letter adds to the price of the gun and, if so, how much? Is a letter likely to add $300?
Most people dont care about them. I sold a lettered Winchester 1873 with the letter that documented the sights were special ordered. The buyer was uninterested when I gave him the letter. Saw the gun on a table at a gun show a few years later, different dealer. No letter with it. When I sell old Winchesters and Colts with letters the result is always the same.....they just dont care. I guess that is good as they are buying the gun and not the letter but still....
Letters can be faked. If I bought a very high end gun with a letter I would reorder the letter to verify it, and if low end it would not really add to the price I would pay.
 

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I got a factory letter on an engraved ‘49 London Pocket and, as I recall, they charged a premium ($50, I think) because it was engraved. I thought it was justified since it documented that it was a factory job. Still pretty pricey, though.
 

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I got a factory letter on an engraved ‘49 London Pocket and, as I recall, they charged a premium ($50, I think) because it was engraved. I thought it was justified since it documented that it was a factory job. Still pretty pricey, though.
London made or export to? I've heard that the London made Colts cannot be lettered.
 

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With a single action letter for $300, you get the important info about the caliber, the type of finish, the length of the barrel, and the type of grips on a gun when it left Colt. So many Colt SAAs have been changed in some way over the decades, this is important info.
But with a standard type Colt percussion, say your Colt Model 1861 Navy, you know that ALL were made in .36 caliber, and all with 7-1/2 inch barrel. A letter might show the factory had some special feature. It might show that it was sent to some particular buyer.
I did buy a letter for my Colt 1861, because it was in a serial range that I thought might have gone to the US military, and the letter showed that it was purchased by the US Navy, so that was worth the $300 expense.
But I already knew the gun was standard in every other way, .36 caliber, case frame and hammer, blue barrel and cylinder finish, varnished wood grips, barrel length of 7. inches, etc. and so I would not have bought a letter to confirm those details.
 

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Re the London Pocket mentioned above, it was one of the guns sent back to Colt after the London factory closed. They sat on it for 4-5 years and finally sold it in 1860. It lettered out of Hartford, not London. There are no letters for guns sold in London, it appears.

jpn
 

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A Lettered 51, 99*** " Factory Engraved " Shipped Colt's Patent Fire-Arm Mfg. Company New York Office

11th April 1861 with 30 others

I wonder who? bought this revolver a Southerner, Northerner we will never know from the condition it wasn't used.

Michael
 

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A Lettered 51, 99*** " Factory Engraved " Shipped Colt's Patent Fire-Arm Mfg. Company New York Office

11th April 1861 with 30 others

I wonder who? bought this revolver a Southerner, Northerner we will never know from the condition it wasn't used.

Michael
At the start of the War, Colt had a chance to clean out old inventory, and special feature guns that had been made for eventual sale were sold. That included engraved guns, and guns fitted with shoulder stocks. Your 99,xxx Colt 1851 was not OLD stock, but I have seen a letter for an engraved 1851 with a much earlier serial shipped also to Colt's New York Office in April, 1861.

It may have well gone to a wholesaler such as Shuyler before getting to the ultimate purchaser.

Scott
 

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Most people don't care about them. I sold a lettered Winchester 1873 with the letter that documented the sights were special ordered. The buyer was uninterested when I gave him the letter. Saw the gun on a table at a gun show a few years later, different dealer. No letter with it. When I sell old Winchesters and Colts with letters the result is always the same.....they just don't care. I guess that is good as they are buying the gun and not the letter but still....
Letters can be faked. If I bought a very high end gun with a letter I would reorder the letter to verify it, and if low end it would not really add to the price I would pay.
I think factory letters sometimes "disappear" when the gun is sold if they don't confirm what the seller would like - I once owned a Colt 1878 with some family note about it being taken from a robber who was shot out west, and the 1878 also had a letter with it being sold to a St. Louis distributor. When I later saw that guy offered by a dealer, no letter. I suspect the dealer wanted to let the potential buyer dream that a letter would show it went to some Western location, such as Arizona or Texas.
 

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I have two letters.
1851 Navy Colt shipped Jan 15th 1861 to hardware store in Philadelphia (cost $300.00). Recovered in a field in Kansas unknown date/location. Now in Idaho. I have shot this one.
1877 Colt Lightening .38 cal shipped March 4th. 1897 to dynamite/ammo mfg. co company in Louisville, Kentucky (cost $100.00). Recovered in 1972 outside Silver City, Idaho. Was still loaded with 5 live rounds when found.
How they got from purchaser to where they were found would be very interesting to me.
The only real value the letters have (to me anyway) is historical information for me or my heirs and are well worth the cost.
I assume the difference in cost per letter has to do with availability
/location of records.

Tom/Idaho
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Welcome to the forum Tom....can you post pictures of those guns? Are they in relic condition?
 

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FAQ said I have to have more posts before I can do that. I'm not sure I could do it anyway, so,
if I could email them for you to add that would be great. I think posting pictures would be above my pay grade.
[email protected]
Thanks, Tom/Idaho
 
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