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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just today I just received a factory letter for my 2nd Gen. SAA. I sent for it 12/5/05, so that's 136 days. There were no surprises and the gun lettered perfectly. Since there were five guns in the shipment, I suspect that the individual to whom it was shipped was a dealer, although I don't recognize the name, and the address is a town that no longer exists or has been renamed since 1956.

The cost was $90 including my 10% discount for being a member of the Colt Collector's Association. I got the letter out of curiosity and because getting a letter on any SAA is always recommended. I have a ca. 1909 New Service that I'm also curious about, so I might go for a letter on that one, too.

A note of warning, though: a few years ago, I got a great deal on an 1889 New Navy because the guy I bought it from thought it was a different model. He sent for a factory letter (which he gave me) by model and serial number. Since the serial number was within the range of the other model, the factory dutifully replied, "confirming" to this guy that it was what he believed it to be. To a Colt collector, however, it's obvious what model it really is, and it cost the guy (i.e., saved me) nearly $1000. The lesson here is what we in the software industry call "garbage in, garbage out" - the factory letter is only as good as the information you provide.

Dorsey
 

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That's great. Now perhaps you can assist Colt with software that will speed up the process!!! /forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif /forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif /forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif Kiddin, patience is a virtue...
 

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Hi Dorsey,

What M-1889 Navy did you get??? I'm always interested in details on them... is it one you already told me about?
I think you have my email address already, if you don't let me know... I'm still working on Vol. II .
Have a good weekend! Bob Best
 

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If you want to receive the Colt letter faster you can pay more and get it within 2 weeks. Just from my experience with the letters for SAA's. Maybe it's not that way with all revolvers. Rick
 

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[ QUOTE ]
A note of warning, though: a few years ago, I got a great deal on an 1889 New Navy because the guy I bought it from thought it was a different model. He sent for a factory letter (which he gave me) by model and serial number. Since the serial number was within the range of the other model, the factory dutifully replied, "confirming" to this guy that it was what he believed it to be. To a Colt collector, however, it's obvious what model it really is, and it cost the guy (i.e., saved me) nearly $1000. The lesson here is what we in the software industry call "garbage in, garbage out" - the factory letter is only as good as the information you provide.

[/ QUOTE ]

Oh, geeze ~ I just wrote to Ms. Hoyt for five letters (three M-1889s and two M-1892/5s). The reply confirmed $90.00 a pop and between 100 and 120 days for the letters.

I specified Model, s/n, calibre, barrel length, finish, grip material, assenbly number, and (in one case) that the gun is engraved.

Question: is this enough data per gun for a correct "confirmation"?

Another question for Bob: Are you interested in hearing about these guns. Two of the M-1889s are only four digits apart. One is a "buraeu" gun and the other is a "used tool."
 

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Hi Zulu6,

I'm always interested in the details on any of the early Colt DA revolvers produced between 1889 and 1908. I have a database containing more than a 1000 serial numbers and descriptions of these revolvers that I used to help pin down model/variation changes and where various contract guns fall for my book. I'm always interested in hearing about them.

I have two sets of DA revolvers that are one number apart and another set that are about 40 numbers apart. This set was a set of civilian models that went to the Revenue Cutter (Pre Coast Guard) Onodago. The letters confirm they were both in the same shipment. Both also have a Navy Trident inspection stamp on the butt. The other two sets were a pair of WF&Co guns that were in the same shipment and the other was a pair of Navy contract revolvers that were shipped in the same case!

I think that the information you supplied to Colt will get you the right information on your guns as long as the MODEL you gave Kathy was correct. Also, when you get the letter make sure the model specified is the model you have... I think you said you have my book... all of the models are pictured in there except for one navy variation I located after the book was published. That one is included in an article on the Navy variations that I wrote for the Colt Collector's Association magazine. It is part of a series of articles I wrote on the Navy model that they are publishing...

Always interested in any information you are willing to share... Thanks! Bob Best
 

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Hello again, Bob ~ as I have about 30 left-wheelers (M-1889s, M-1892/5s and Officers Models), I'll send you an email with the details much the same as I sent to the Colt Historian. Will that be adequate for your purposes? I do have your book, and found your article in the Rampant Colt on the five variations of M-1889 very enlightening. BTW, all of these guns are commercial release, not military.
 

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Hi Zulu6,

I'm at our other home in Nevada right now and I can't check my CCA Rampant Colt magazines... I was thinking Kurt House and KT Roes at the CCA already published part one of the Navy Contract revolver series in the Fall issue of the Rampant Colt??? I thought the five civilian model variations article was in an earlier issue?? Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but they have two articles waiting for publication now... I was talking with KT Roes and she needs a couple of better photos taken for the Navy Contract Model article they have, which I believe is part 2, but the article on Fakes that I did was ok... I think they are going to publish one of the articles in the Spring issue... not sure which ... Sorry for the confusion???

I would be very interested in the details of your 30 or so "left wheelers"! Thank you for taking the time to send me the details... I'll be looking forward to receiving them...

Take care,
Bob Best
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hi Bob,

Yes, the M1889 is the one you and I have corresponded about. Now that I've got a few extra dollars, I will take your advice and get a letter for it. Once I receive a reply, I'll provide you with you the details; hopefully, in time for Volume II.

By the way, you had autographed a copy of your book as my wife requested. Thank you for your consideration.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
According to an article in The Rampant Colt a few years ago, I believe that Colt has computerized their records. I suppose that it's just sheer volume that causes the delay, but there's also the marketing idea that the quality of the letter is the result of a time-consuming research process. Whether or not this is true, I leave to the reader. Considering the potential value of a factory letter and that there's no real alternative, it's a seller's market so Colt Archival Properties calls all the shots in any case.

Once the records are fully computerized (a one-time expense), the information is literally at the historian's fingertips and a letter can be produced in a matter of seconds. So, a single operator/researcher could easily handle 500 letters a day. Signing and embossing the letter, putting it in an envelope and getting it out the door should take another five minutes. I'd be happy to read a satisfactory explanation - I'm just ranting here.
 

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Hi Dorsey,
An interesting observation... Not quite how they are doing it though... As of June of 2003 when I was invited back to Colt to do research in the factory shipping records on the New Army and Navy models for my book, this was the process:

Only the single action revolvers were computerized. Each SAA entry could be looked up in the computer and the information given verbally over the phone. The record entry was then confirmed against the origianl shipping records to verify that the computer entry was correct before the corresponding letter was prepared and sent out...

On the other models, each gun has to be looked up in the shipping records individually before the letter can be sent out. (None are computerized) This is quite time consuming as the serial numbers are not listed sequencially in the records. Each shipment of guns to a dealer has the serial numbers randomly listed that were sent out in that order.

As an example for the New Army and Navy Models that I researched, each dealer shipment is in date order and had the guns broken out by finish and most of the time by barrel length. The serial numbers were listed in a 10 column accounting book to the right of the order. one serial number to a box... to make it interesting guns that had the first two or three digits of the serial number the same would only have the last three digits listed in their box! (eaxmple: 102345 / 347 / 349 / 103112 / 114 / ... etc)

Lets say a dealer ordered 10 six inch blued revolvers and five 4 1/2 inch blued revolvers and three nickeled six inch revolvers. You would have 10 serial numbers listed next to the line for six inch barrel/blue finish then below that would be five serial numbers listed next to the line with the 4 1/2 inch blue finsh... and so forth.

What really makes this time consuming is that there may be a 3000 or 4000 number spread in the serial numbers in the dealer's order and since each order is listed by date sequencially, you may have to look through hundreds or even thousands of records to find the serial number you are looking for.
Consider a gun overlooked in the safe and not shipped for ten years (sometimes happens)... you would have to look through ten years of records to find it!

Keep in mind what Roy Jinks always says: The gun companies were (and still are) in business to make money not make it easy for collectors 100 years later... Colt was interested in recording guns ordered not making it easy to look up a shipped serial number.

There are two people doing Colt Letters, Kathy only does them part time as she handles other duties as well... I would guess that they are only able to handle 10-15 letters a day rather than the 500 you were indicating above...

I doubt that you will ever see any of the other records computerized... there is a long story behind this that is to involved to relate here, but maybe this explanation of the process will give a little insight into why it takes so long to get a letter from Colt.

And for those that want to know why S&W is faster... The factory setup a sequecial serial number ledger rather than an order ledger like Colt... Try to get a list of serial numbers from Roy of guns shipped in an order to a dealer and see what he says! Have a Good Weekend! Bob Best
 

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Interesting info, Bob. Just FYI for the group, I sent in for a couple of letters and have just received a postcard back acknowledging receipt on 5/23 and estimating delivery to be between 120 to 150 days. While I realize it is normal for people to grow impatient while waiting, I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

Given the process you describe, how the SNs were recorded and how they are now looked up, I’d like your guess on the likelihood of the following gun being lettered, by which I mean the serial number discovered: A 357 New Service (first cataloged in 1936) with an SN that puts the DOB for the frame in 1930. I guess the person looking through the records would know (or I could point out) that if the gun shipped as a 357 it must have shipped 1936 or later. (Here’s more info in the gun I am talking about: http://www.coltforum.com/forums/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=29107&Main=28996#Post29107) I have not tried to letter this gun as I am still thinking about the gun itself.

Bob Murphy in his book on the New Service comments “When Colt’s historian is unable to locate the shipping record, if often means that the gun was shipped many years after assembly.” In this case there would be no point in looking prior to 1936, if the gun is original. In asking around about the gun in which I am interested, a couple of very well informed guys have opined that it is indeed possible that the gun shipped as a 357, but only Colt would know.

By the way, one suggestion I had was to call up Colt and ask them on this 357. I did not see that procedure mentioned on Colt’s website. Do you know that procedure, who to call and what the charge is?
 

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Hi Onomea,
In answer to your question... I really think that you have to consider all of the possiblities on your gun... The first possiblity is that your gun was shipped sometime after 1930 and before 1936 as another caliber. The second possiblity is that it was an early frame and just assembled and shipped later as a 357. The letter will tell you if it was shipped as a 357 or not. If the reply comes back "No record" then the gun might have been shipped years later or for some other reason it was not in the records. ...(The records are not totally complete... again, another story too long to tell here)...Your guess is as good as mine as to whether your gun will letter or be a "no record" gun.

I personally would be a little skeptical about the originality of the 357 caliber, only because I have had the opportunity to see just how good the Fakers are... If it was my gun, I would try to letter it and see what they say...

As for the call to Colt... you could try that, but generally they will not have your request handy or be able to discuss the specifics of your question and they will just make a note for the file when gun's turn to letter comes up. You can call 1-800-962-2658 and pick the option for the historical letters. You will most likely get a voice recording from either Kathy or Beverley ... Tell them who you are and give a good description of the gun with the serial number and give the added information you want them to know about for your letter...As for the charge, they won't be able to tell you over the phone one way or the other, so the only charge will be for your letter.

I believe if you want to get a superquick answer, you can still ask for a superquick response and they will do it in about two weeks, but the cost is double... The last one I did that way cost about $200 but I needed to quickly confirm that a New Service Fitz-Special was real....

Sorry I can't be more helpful here... Bob Best
 

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Thanks for the info and informed comments, Bob. Actually I have not sent a letter request in on the 357, but have two other letter requests in the pipeline.

Re the fakers who are out there, I am growing increasingly confident that this 357 that I am considering is the real deal. It is confusing, to say the least, but absent the factory letter the pieces are starting to fit pretty well. If you have time, take a look here and let me know your thoughts: http://www.coltforum.com/forums/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=28996&an=0&page=0#Post28996

Have you ever seen the star on the New Service 357 cylinder faked?

Umm. You have a New Service Fitz Special?! Holy Moley! /forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif Start a new thread and tell us about that one!
 

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Hi Onomea,
I took a look at your link... From reading it over, I think the two possiblities are:

1)The original owner had a NST or SM in .38 Spl and decided to have it modified at King's into a 357... In this case the Colt letter would probably show a shipment date prior to the intoduction of the 357 and be consistant with the 1930 serial number.

2) The second possiblity is that it was shipped late as a 357 by Colt and then the owner had it modified at King's. If it was shipped several years after the 1930 serial number then the odds of it being a "no record" gun will be greater...

If I had your gun, I would try to letter it!

The reason I mentioned the "cottage industry fakers" is that people collecting King conversions has increased and the real King's stuff seems to be appreciating at a high rate... I was offered a King converted SAA for a high four figure recently. I also have seen a couple of "re-engineered" King converted S&Ws that looked pretty good... so "Buyer Beware" is in order!

And in answer to your other question, "no I have not seen the star faked yet"...

As for the "Fitz"... there is not much to tell. I bought it from the son of a Judge who got it through the chief of police in a town in the midwest. I'm personally not fond of the "Fitz" design (or any of the other conversions for that matter), so when a collector offered me a price I couldn't refuse, I needed the letter to confirm for him the info I had on the gun... It lettered all the way...
Enjoy!
Bob
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I suspected that there were darker reasons why Colt Archival Properties hasn't attempted to automate the process and improve their customer service. This kind of thing is my business, and it is a trivial (although time-consuming) matter to convert the customer-oriented record keeping (even hand-written) to a collector-oriented one. Any mid-level data or business analyst worth his or her salt could do this without breaking a sweat, although you'd have to find an old timer, as most companies have converted their written records to electronic form decades ago, as Colt should have.

Bob has also revealed why the letter shows how many similar guns are in the shipment. I've never cared about or seen any value in that particular data, but it is an interesting piece of information. None of my guns are in any way special, so I get the letter out of curiosity. What I really look forward to finding out is when the gun was shipped, and to whom. Oh, I got a letter on my SAA because it seemed like the right thing to do.

I'm very disappointed to learn that there are not more people assigned to producing factory letters, so I have to conclude (this time as a businessman) that by artificially restricting the supply, they can keep the price high. Of course, when you're the only game in town you can get away with this.
 

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Hi Dorsey,
Please don't jump to conclusions about "...darker reasons..." why they haven't automated the other shipping records. My comment that there was more to the story than I wanted to go into was just that I didn't have time to type out several pages of explanations about the reasons for the lettering process being the way it is...

In a nutshell... Back before our government started requiring such strict reqistration requirements, the shipping records were used to track orders for Colt's business and nothing more. No one needed to keep the records longer than what was required for tax audit or their own internal business purposes. So no one cared about the old shipping records. These shipping records that were on hand now were stored in an old attic in the orginal Colt factory for many years. Many of the shipping record ledgers were lost over the years and some found their way into the Connecticut State Library and others are even in personal hands. The current group of records was "found" many years ago and are what supplies the information you get today on the older models (before the gov't got involved).

Kathy and Beverly are employees of the Colt company. Kathy has other duties beside the historical research of guns... The Colt factory is in the business of selling guns not providing historical information for collectors...

As an example, Roy Jinks, who solely owns the early S&W shipping records and provides the information on his own, still works at S&W as an employee. He receives support for this venture from the company, but he alone owns the records and provides the letters...

You have noted in your response that "Colt Archival Properties" owns the shipping records... this appears to be a different name that "Colt Manufacturing Company", so maybe they are not part of Colt Manufacturing Company and their resources are limited and it is not cost effective to automate the records????

As a business consultant I'm sure you will agree that you have to recover the "cost" of the employees involved in any business process. Sometimes companies don't even break even on the venture but continue to support it for good will purposes... Lettering guns has only become popular in the last few decades... (I have a Colt letter in my collection on a Wells Fargo shipped New Army Model that was requested in the early 1960s... the letter cost $3.00!)

As in Roy Jink's case in the example above, shipping record automation would not be cost effective for a one person business who does it as a side venture... so it might not be cost effective if Colt Historical Properties is also a small company not owned by Colt Manufacturing Company...


As for your comment about the interest in number of guns in a shipment, some folks actually collect Colt guns from the same shipment... I have three different "sets" of guns that were shipped in the same shipment to a dealer/gov't... One set is the two New Navy model revolvers shipped to Revenue Cutter Onodago that was shown in my book... Just another facet of Colt Collecting... Hope that better explains what I was alluding too in my original comments... Bob Best
 

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Just an interesting post script to this thread... I'm a member of the S&W Collectors Association and Roy Jinks just asked the members not to request letters until September as he is behind by 500 or so letters... Looks like S&W letters are taking about the 90-120 days that Colt is projecting also... He is trying to work through the backlog... FWIW Bob Best
 
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