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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently acquired a Klay 'in-the-white' 1851 Navy, serial number 23307. Frank Klay purchased 150 'in-the-white' Colts on 8 July 1983 (see his hand-written note on 1st attachment). It was his intent to produce 25 Klay Colts and 125 Klay Colts-Engraved (as referenced by Dennis Russell in his Guide Book - C1121 KCP and C1121 KCE, respectively). Total of 150.

On 27 October 2006, Frank sold one of those 'in-the-white' Colts to a gentleman named Gefroh (see 2nd attachment) which I now currently have. I know of 3 other 'in-the-white' Colts that are currently in collector's hands. That is a total of 4.

Question. Did Frank Klay buy additional 'in-the-white' Colts after he purchased his lot of 150 (to account for the 150 that are referenced + the 4 'in-the-white')? Or, though it was his intent to produce 150 finished products, he did not do so, and the left over Colts were sold 'in-the-white'? If that is the case, how many of the 150 were really finished, and how many were not? How many 'in-the -white' are out there?

I have asked Dennis Russell if he had any more insight on this subject, but have not received response, at this time.

Either way, we may never know the answer, but that is the fun part of collecting, the unknown and the clues left behind to make up a story.

Rob
 

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To the best of my knowledge, Frank Klay did not finish anywhere near the 150 Colt M1851's he purchased from Colt "in the white". Several years ago, I tried to buy one directly from Frank, However, one of his sets brought upwards of $3,000.00 at an auction just before my inquirey, and he boosted his price to $4,500.00 with the money up front, for a gun alone and said it would take between a year to 18 months for him to produce it. A mutual friend told me that he really wasn't interested in doing any more of these guns, wanting to concentrate on his private life. Considering Franks age at the time, I decided I didn't want to risk losing that much money. My friend estimated there were only about 125 of these guns, both engraved and unengraved done by Frank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That would have been my assumption that he didn't do all 150. Well, the hunt is on to find one of those estimated 125 that were finished. Thanks for the response.
 

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Frank only produced his Klay Colts based on an early 3rd Model 1851 Navy using C-Series revolvers purchased directly from the factory. He did produce complete accessories for the revolver should a customer want a cased set. Of the 150 purchased, I believe Frank only produced 125 to 130 as Klay Colts, most being master engraved. I know he has sold several revolvers "in the white" as well.

Frank and his wife spend their time in New England and Florida these days. He seems to have little interest in producing anymore Klay Colts due to advanced age and the extreme labor, skill, and time required to produce one of his Klay Colts. His last Klay Colt took almost four years to complete! In the 80s/90s when Klay Colts were in "limited" production, Frank had a small staff and a few contractors to produce the Klay Colt revolvers and accessories. In the past decade, it was only Frank doing everything short of engraving, charcoal bluing, and color case hardening which he contracted out.

I am of the opinion that it is unfortunate that there are not more craftsmen like Frank as his attention to detail and craftsmanship are unmatched. For those interested in a Klay Colt, do not hestitate to snap it up should one come to auction, plain or engraved! You can't go wrong on one of Frank's revolvers.
 

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I cannot see the draw to these. You spend a fortune buying one and then what? Dump another fortune into it having it engraved? Why?

I have a '51 Navy 2nd Gen. that I shoot. They have never really jumped in value as many would want us to believe.

If I wanted an engraved '51 Navy I'd just buy an Uberti.
 

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There are a number of Klay's in the upcoming RIA.-- Two are '51 Navies, and letter to Klay. There also is a '61 Navy that is attributed to Klay, But letters to Northeast Gun & Supply in Needham, Ma. They are being estimated in the 3K-5K Range. They are beautiful pieces. I quess value is in the eye of the buyer.
 

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I stand corrected!!!

E-mails between to Dennis Russell correct my information that Frank Klay DID produce a few revolvers that were not 51 Navy revolvers, (referring to a previous question). As proof, there is a Klay 61 Navy coming up for auction at RIA. I was totally surprised to see this revolver with Frank's stamps on it as Frank had told me he didn't remember producing anything other than 51 Navy revolvers.

According to Dennis, Frank did produce various copies of Colt percussion revolvers for a collector back in the early 90s. Apparently, these were one of each model and were NOT purchased from the Colt factory as were the 150 Navy revolvers. As noted, I was surprised to the existance of these revolvers even though Frank had plans in place to expand offerings in the 90s; accessories, etc., but these never really came to realization.

Most people are aware of the history of 2nd and 3rd Gen. revolvers, and the connection with Uberti. I believe most people are also aware that in terms of quality 2nd Gen. revolvers are the top of the line in the series, especially as compared to current and past Uberti editions. The difference comes down to the degree of accuracy in machining, as well as fit and finish in each generation of revolvers. Frank Klay's revolvers took the 2nd Gen. revolvers to a whole new level, correcting and improving many features and offering fit and finish levels well above the 2nd Gen. standard in attempt to better replicate the original Colt revolvers. As a result, collectors have sought out Frank's revolvers when in production and on the secondary market. Additionally, the quality of Frank's revolvers is the reason many collectors opted to have their revolver engraved by a master engraver contracted via Frank. And most of Frank's revolvers will never be fired due to the collectors' value in a pristine revolver.

If a collector is looking for a shooter, Klay Colts are not the option due to the expense. A current Uberti revolver will do just as well to put a round down range, just without the finess and historical accuracy of a Klay Colt. It's just a matter of what the collector is seeking. Incidently, Dennis noted that there maybe an unaccounted for Klay Colt Walker out there somewhere.......
 

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I agree that Klay's work and finishing is very fine. I paid way too much for one of his Cullity engraved 1851s nearly 15 years ago, its bird's eye maple grips are incredible. I have seen very few of Klay's colts up for auction over the years but would not be surprised to see more in the future as former owner's estates have no interest and seek to liquidate. Not too long ago Julia sold a Cullity engraved donut style 1851 that brought a good price, but a lesser price than before the 2008 crash.
 

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I have a 3rd Model “C”-Series Dragoon he did for someone back in the early ‘90’s. It’s a fairly standard model, but the trigger guard was formed to more accurately replicate an original, and is silver-plated, along with gorgeous smooth ivory grips. Screws also fire-blued. Finish looks like Colt factory. Has factory case, but flask, wrench, & tin were made by Mr. Klay. It came with one of his brass Navy molds, but being the wrong caliber I set it aside and replaced it with a regular 2nd Generation Dragoon mold. A letter from him to the buyer was included.
 

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What an interesting discussion on Frank's 1851 Navy. I consider myself fortunate to have one which was made to my specs and delivered May 6, 1991 (we were then living in FT. Lauderdale, FL). Mine (Ser. # 24671) was engraved only on the silver plated back trap and the brass plate on the case (engraver was Andrew Bourbon). The set is outstanding, the grips are one piece clearo (figured) walnut. The set was priced at $1800 and upgraded to $2000 with the engraving. I have the complete factory paper work, written correspondence with Frank during the process (I will have to check, but start to finish time was about 6 months).

As to how many were eventually sold, I have no clue. I can tell you that one is in my safe, and expect that most are in similar places. A friend in FL who put me onto the Klay Colt production was married to a niece of Frank's. He had a lot of great stories about Frank, his Colt affiliation, and his personal Colt collection. He had visited Frank and seen the collection (and was able to snap some photos). He had a virtual Colt museum in the reinforced concrete basement of his home.

I could go on for pages, but will stop to see if anyone has any thoughts or questions about these amazing Colts. You really can not fully appreciate them unless you have seen on fully finished.

Hope this is of interest,

Bob M./Asheville. NC
 

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From the information flier published by Frank, I can give you a sample of the effort that went into these.
-Two years spent researching 19th century tooling and finishing equipment (which he was reported to have acquired from storage in the Colt factory).
-All flat surfaces hand worked and polished, even the detailed tapered flats of the triggerguard, retaining all crisp edges throughout
-Early Colt charcoal bluing process especially built and tested for this project
-Walnut grips (standard) fitted, stained, and varnished to match the originals.
-Each pistol accurized for target test (target included), specially cut forcing cone and breech facing are trued to the bore.
-Cylinder chambers and mold cavities reamed to exactly compliment the rifling.
-After Colt factory inspector stamps his mark, it is recorded, cased with accessories and shipped.

The detail and craftsmanship of the cases and accessories is equally authentic. I can ad more PR about that aspect if anyone is interested, and I have the original price list with options, such as engraving, ivory grips, and silver plated accessories dated 1988.
 

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From the information flier published by Frank, I can give you a sample of the effort that went into these.
-Two years spent researching 19th century tooling and finishing equipment (which he was reported to have acquired from storage in the Colt factory).
-All flat surfaces hand worked and polished, even the detailed tapered flats of the triggerguard, retaining all crisp edges throughout
-Early Colt charcoal bluing process especially built and tested for this project
-Walnut grips (standard) fitted, stained, and varnished to match the originals.
-Each pistol accurized for target test (target included), specially cut forcing cone and breech facing are trued to the bore.
-Cylinder chambers and mold cavities reamed to exactly compliment the rifling.
-After Colt factory inspector stamps his mark, it is recorded, cased with accessories and shipped.

The detail and craftsmanship of the cases and accessories is equally authentic. I can ad more PR about that aspect if anyone is interested, and I have the original price list with options, such as engraving, ivory grips, and silver plated accessories dated 1988.
That is impressive. I'd be interested in his findings on the 19th century equipment.
 

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Frank Klay was an artist in many ways. I got to know him quite well in the mid '80s when his shop was in Rockland, Massachusetts. He made two sets of one piece Ivory Colt SAA (both carved to perfection) grips, brought back to life, an original 1874 Sharps Business rifle in caliber 40 1 11/16ths that had a perfect bore but for some reason, had its upper tang broken just before the serial number, and several parts confiscated. With the new parts from Shiloh Sharps and Franks expertise in metal working by making a "new upper tang" and fitting parts, I ended up with a shootable 1874 Sharps. I could go on and on, I'm lucky any have read this far.
 

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I tried to post this before, but I don't see it. Please excuse me if this appears twice. I bought one of Jim Gefrow's Klay Colts a few years ago, one of the 25 that were not ordered with engraving. The gun is fine, but I can no longer open the presentation case. I do not know if the varnish is sticking or if the box has warped in our dry New Mexico air, or . . . ? I can slip a slim knife blade under the lid, but I don't want to pry unless I am sure I have unlocked it. Can you (or anyone else on this thread) tell me whether the Klay cases open when the key is turned clockwise or when the key is turned counter clockwise? when the key is vertical or horizontal? Thanks in advance.
 

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Not to argue, but all of my old cases, Colt and otherwise, open clockwise and lock counter clockwise. Click it back and forth first and listen for the clicks both ways to make sure it isn't broken inside. Then try it one way first gently prying with first a plastic knife at the lock. If that doesn't work, do the opposite. If you aren't hearing clicks operating the key, try it with the case upside down. If the spring inside is broken sometimes that will do it.

Good luck.
 

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LostNak,

Are you aware of anything published re Klay Colts? I have a now somewhat dated "pamphlet" by Dennis Russell with a good overall summary of post 1970 Colt percussions including a very limited amount re Klay Colts but that's it. Kay's guns are certainly beautifully done. Do you have any idea how many Forum members have a Klay? It would be interesting to see photos of them.

rbs
 
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