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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Anyone who collects understands that auctions are not normally the place to get a bargain basement price on anything of real value. I do sometimes purchase through auctions, but generally only concentrate on the "sleepers". Every once in a while, however, I am forced to bid on a well-promoted item, and that typically leads over overpaying, should I win.

But some pistols are simply worth that to own. I attended an estate auction of a local fellow who had quite a few guns...about 300+/-. The auctioneer did a good job promoting the sale. On the day of the sale, there was a big crowd. The hall was full. I looked around and recognized several collectors and dealers from shows I attend. At that time, I knew there'd be no real bargains...way too much competition from knowledgeable folks and too few really nice collectibles to go around.

As I looked things over during the auction preview, I knew I was in trouble. There was only one military .45 in the whole sale. The gentleman's obituary noted he was a WWII veteran of the U.S. Navy. Apparently, as a gun collector, he didn't have much interest in military .45s. There were mostly Axis pistols, commercial pistols, Browning shotguns, etc. A real mixed variety of things.

The Colt M1911A1 was a stand alone item. There was a complete WWII Navy belt rig in the sale, too, but the auctioneer had opted to sell it separately. He probably hadn't figured out they went together. I suspected the entire rig had been brought home with the fellow after WWII, but didn't discuss that with anyone. It was just odd to me that, with that many guns, he only had the one.

The auction started promptly at 8:00 am. The hall was filled to the max; was standing room only. The Colt wouldn't be sold until about 3/4 of the way through the sale. So I had a lot of sitting and waiting to do. At 8:08, I'd bought the first four guns auctioned...and I didn't even want them. They were just nice guns...and were bargains. A couple Colt pre-Woodsman pistols in nearly new condition, a nice Colt 1908 vest pocket and a minty Browning Sweet 16.

The auctioneer stopped the sale and told the crowd they better get there hands up or that man over there was going to buy everything. Well...that didn't help things. The crowd woke up and began bidding. The rest of the day was a real challenge. Prices were insanely high on some items. Still, before we ever got to the only lot I was interested in buying, I managed to win 7 or 8 nice guns at prices I could live with.

Finally, we got to the Colt I'd been watching since I'd gotten there. As it turned out, most of the bidders were more interested in the Browning shotguns and Winchester rifles than this pistol. However, there were a couple other military collector/dealers from the gun shows that knew what the pistol was. Bidding started out slow and I thought I was going to get a buy...but, no. The one guy just wouldn't give in. He'd sat there all day, hadn't bought a thing and was determined to take this gun home. So the price went through the ceiling. I ending up paying a lot more than what the pistol was worth, IMO, to win it. The only consolation I got was the other bidder left the auction before the belt rig came up to the block, so I bought it at a good price.

By the end of the sale, I'd spent a small fortune and had guns I didn't even really collect. They were just too nice to not buy. So I phoned a couple friends and passed on all but the Colts. They were happy and so was I. I used the Colts I don't collect as trading stock and picked up some nice items along the way...and came out way ahead in the trades on the first 4 guns I'd bought at the sale. I'd paid a total of $825 for those four. That helped offset the high price I paid for this pistol rig...$875. $800 for the pistol and $75 for the complete belt rig. BTW, the auction wasn't last weekend.

I've always liked this rig. I really believe it came home with the fellow at the end of WWII. It was the only one he had amongst all his collection...and it was absolutely original. The belt rig is especially nice. I really liked finding the water purification tablets inside the first aid kit pouch.




 

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Scott, I figure you did OK. If you took the profit from those first four guns off what you paid for the 1911 I guess it doesn't work out too bad. And I would think you did pretty well on the rig. At the end of the day you got what you wanted and you are happy. That's a score in my book. :D

Rio
 

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Well done Scott, you got an exceptional price on that 1911 and rig.

You're absolutely right about auctions. Auctions have fees and it depends on "who is being charged what" that determines whether an auction gets my interest. Buyer's premiums can eat a winner alive dependent on percentage. That said the only firearm I won at a live auction was a 1927 Model 06 stamped Winchester (not to be confused with the 1906) with an incorrect M1890 crescent shaped buttstock. It had been professionally restored (rollmarks were crisp reblue was the best I've ever seen) and re-barreled with a Redman barrel and was too good of a deal to pass up. I'm a sucker for the old "carny guns" remembering shooting them at the carnivals for prizes. Most had the sights tweaked to insure "inaccurate" groupings ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
you said the auction wasn't last weekend. so when was it, 15 years ago? nice price on the 1911a1 and the rig.
Don't remember for sure, but late '90s sounds about right. At the same time I bought this one, it wasn't uncommon to find one for a good price at a show for $500-600. Time has resolved the pricing issue on this one. Have a few others, however, that are still playing catch-up. :)
 

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Outstanding bit of shrewd bidding, Scott, and what a spectacular acquisition for $875! A really nice collection of WWII militaria. The pistol is in really great condition and the gear looks like whoever owned it had carefully stored and preserved it over the years. I liked your methodology throughout that auction. Wish I could have just watched you patiently go about this process.
 

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I never would have figured parkarized .45s would be the expensive ones. They made the most of those types, they cranked them out by the thousands, and they didn't fit and finish them well in the wartime rush. They were the cheap shooters 20 years ago. I got a 1918 1911 back in the 90s for $350, because it was parkarized and the cop who accepted it from the WWII vet (she was "turning it in to be 'safe'...") wasn't allowed to carry single action autos. I haven't really looked at what these are going for now, but have a sense they're gone supernova or something. Ah...to go back to the ship in 1989 when we still carried these WWII war horses!
 

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I would say the deals are still out there if you're willing to do a lot of 'auctionating' as my wife calls it. In the past year, I have picked up a nice Femaru M37 for $60, a very nice Astra 400 for $95, and a S&W target pistol used in the 1919 Paris Inter-Allied Games for $175. I have bought 4 1903 Colts for less than $200 each.
 
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