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4 Digit U.S. Colt Army

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by surjimmy, Jun 11, 2016.

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  1. surjimmy

    surjimmy Member

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    I have been put in charge of selling a collection of guns for a 85yr old Vet, I'm in a little over my head and am in need of some help and guidance. The finish is all original, what I am needing is some place to start to find collectors who buy firearms of this caliber. The loading gate cover has the only number that doesn't match the rest of the gun. Any books I should read or look at or any places or people I should go or talk too. He has several different guns is unbelievable condition. Thank you for any and all input. Jimmy
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    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  2. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy

    The number on the loading gate is an assembly number. It will not be the same as the Serial Number.

    The Serial Number of record on a Colt Single Action Army is on the under side of the frame. The upper number in this photo. The serial number on First Generation Colts (made before 1941) should also appear on the trigger guard as shown in this photo. You will notice I have obliterated the last two digits of the serial numbers.

    Serial%20Number%20Frame%20and%20Trigger%20guard%20altered_zpsogi57oko.jpg



    The serial number on 1st Gen Colts should also appear on the under side of the butt, like this:

    Serial%20Number%20Butt%20SN%20altered_zpsdiggmjg6.jpg



    If the SNs on the trigger guard and/or butt do not match the SN on the frame, it means the gun did not leave the factory with those parts, which will lower the value.

    From what I can read of the Serial Number, it appears this Colt was made in the second year of production, 1874. It also appears to be in spectacular condition. Note that spectacular is my own term, it is not an official collector's designation. I am a little bit suspicious of the bright blue on the trigger guard screws, and the one piece wooden grip is in terrific condition for a gun that old.

    This Colt may or may not have been refinished at some time, the colors of the Case Hardened frame are almost too good to be true. Other than a minor amount of corrosion on the barrel, the blue looks to be in terrific condition. There is also a very minimal turn line on the cylinder, meaning either that it has hardly been shot at all, or that somebody who knew how to take care of an old Colt owned it for a long time.

    It is impossible to state an actual value of this revolver without actual first hand examination by an expert. No amount of photos will do, it is too easy to doctor photos.

    You potentially have a valuable piece there, perhaps worth $4000 - $5000 on the collector's market. Again, that is only a ball park estimate based on what I can see on the photos.

    I found myself in a similar situation last year when I was asked to take a look at a collection of guns from a deceased WWII veteran. I discovered there was what was potentially a very valuable Colt 1911 Semi-Automatc pistol in the collection.

    Rather than refer the owner to a local dealer, which was my first intention, I called up a local auction house. The problem with a dealer is they may or may not be honest, and they are in business to make a profit. At best with a dealer you can expect to get about 50% of the value of a gun, and that is if they are honest. An auction house operates differently, they will drive the price up as far as possible, and they only take a fixed percentage of the sale. So the market will determine the value, and you will have signed a contract in advance stipulating the auction house's cut. In addition a reputable auction house will have an expert on hand who can evaluate the gun, determine if the finish is original or not, and place a market value on the gun. In my case the auction house owner was very interested, he came down and inspected the gun, determined it was legitimate, and took the entire collection. The owner of the collection made out very well.

    Where are you located?

    It is best if there is an auction house within a days drive so the expert can inspect the gun himself.

    I would definitely stay away from on line auctions, only a brick and mortar auction house.

    As for books, good luck. The most authoritative book on Colt Single Action Army revolvers is 'A Study of the Colt Single Action Army Revolver', by John Kopec. It is 600 pages long, and if you can find a copy online it costs about $150. And it will not tell you much about current auction values.

    The auction house I went to is the Amoskeag Auction Company in Manchester New Hampshire. You can browse through their past auctions on line for a description of the guns and what prices were paid. Note, the price listed is not the 'hammer price' it includes the 15% premium that went to the auction house.

    http://www.amoskeagauction.com/index.php
     
  3. surjimmy

    surjimmy Member

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    I have taken the gun to several people who know, and knee jerk reaction is the same as yours. After they look it over they set back a blow out some air. It is all original and the numbers all match. Now it makes since about the loading gate not matching since no one ever said anything. This is part of an extensive collection. They sent about 230 to an auction house. He just decided to have me sale this, he had a Remington Army in better condition. Thank you for the info. I believe your way low on the value, this gun books for over $90,000 but I know its hard to tell with pictures.
     
  4. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Well, I certainly hope you are correct.

    The gun looks a little bit too good to be true to me. Not a hint of buggering of the screws, and the fire blue on the screws is very bright.

    Hope you get a really good price for it.

    Have you tried posting it on the Colt Forum? There is a page just for Single Action Army revolvers. You might get some more information there.

    http://www.coltforum.com/forums/single-action-army/
     
  5. COK

    COK Member

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    If your happy with the auction house and it's someone that deals in a lot of firearms as is likely with the number you given them , they should give you realistic value even though their not handling it. Also they may know some serious colt collectors in your area they would be kind enough to direct you to. A few years ago worked with a large estate and auction firm that handled firearms and I was very pleased with their service. Good luck with it.
     
  6. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    Snarky, low-road vignettes don't help anyone. If you're a knowledgeable Colt SAA collector/aficionado, and have a strong background in 1st Gen Colt SAA values, please tell us what current market values are for such pieces.
     
  7. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy Again

    This one sold just last week.

    Granted, it is from 1932 and not 1874, but you can see the condition and what it went for.

    Click on both photos for larger views.


    http://www.amoskeagauction.com/110/80.php
     
  8. surjimmy

    surjimmy Member

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    I could be wrong, everything I have posted is from other experts I have shown it to. Also I think something is being missed here.....The U.S. stamp.
    DJ, I don't think I will post it on the Internet, but I do have the same post posted on the Colt Forum.
     
  9. orpington

    orpington Member

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    Well, if NO PROBLEMS, this firearm is worth $30 to $40K. It MUST have a letter from John Kopec to bring that kind of money--at a major auction house. However, the cylinder is likely a later replacement as the flutes aren't quite right and I don't see cartouches in the grips, but it could be the photographs. With these problems, it seriously detracts from the value I gave--even if Mr Kopec deems everything else to be okay.
     
  10. surjimmy

    surjimmy Member

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    There are 3 initials on the left grip.
     
  11. yugorpk

    yugorpk member

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    The cylinder is not original to the gun. The flutes are too short and the bevel is too short. Looks like a later 1st gen cylinder. May be a factory job but the fact the cylinder has been replaced and renumbered to the gun throws the rest of the gun into question as far as the finish goes.
     
  12. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    I agree with yugorpk on the cylinder not being original to the gun. The flutes are too short* and the wrong shape, plus the stop notches appear to be too far forward.

    I would like to see the full serial numbers, as well as the a good picture of the grip cartouche. The loading gate font does not look right for that old a gun, either, and the "U.S." marking does not look like those I have seen on other SAA's.

    A replacement cylinder would not necessarily cast doubt on the whole gun, but given the serial number and potential high dollar value, any suspicions on originality and authenticity need to be taken seriously and explained by a seller.

    Needless to say, the "too good to be true" feeling does crop up on such a gun. While the gun could have been in some museum for 169 years, few of the contract SAA's look like that. They were issued, carried and used; most have little blue or case color, with faded or cracked grips and wear from many miles of travel in a cavalry holster.

    Please understand that the above comments are not intended to disparage the OP or the current owner of the gun in any way. Colt SAA's have been collector's items for many years, and there have been many fakes and "enhancements" over the years. All too many guns in older collections have been "improved", and often bought by their current owners as legitimate.

    Jim

    *Edited to change "long" to "short". My typo in the original post.

    Jim
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  13. surjimmy

    surjimmy Member

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    I know nothing about these type of guns. I posted it here to get information. There's no way to learn if everyone said what a nice gun this is. I encourage constructive criticism, but not personal attack's. Everything I have posted has come from people who are suppose to know. Please keep the information coming
     
  14. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    My view is that a poster asking for information about a gun wants that information, good or bad. I and others here don't claim to be perfect or always right, but we combined have a fair amount of experience and knowledge. There are several other areas of concern about that gun which also serve to raise suspicion, like the polish and shade of the bluing. I did not raise those points earlier because it is hard to be sure from photos on the Internet.

    Make no mistake. When guns get up in the price ranges a genuine U.S. marked Colt SAA of that age and condition might reach, it is out of the "nice gun" category; sharp eyed and hard-nosed collectors who can come up with thousands of dollars want the real thing and do know what it should look like.

    Jim
     
  15. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    What are those initials? And are they surrounded by a "fence" forming a cartouche?
     
  16. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    Vern Humphrey

    I think you can make out the cartouche on the left grip panel in the first photo, but can't tell what the initials are for sure.
     
  17. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    I can see in the 4th picture from the top what might be the edge of the cartouche there -- but can't see what's stamped there.
     
  18. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    I have examined a number of early Colt SAA revolvers - both military & civilian - that were in at least 95% condition, and owned a U.S. in that condition dating from the early 1880's.

    Today it's not generally known, but during the time under discussion Colt had two case & blue finishes. The 1st. was called their "trade finish" and was applied to commercial products. As a result of meticulous polishing the blue was a deep, lustrous blue. The 2nd was their "Military finish," that eliminated the final two polishing steps, and was duller and more "blue-blue" then the former finish. You can easily see the marks left by the courser buffing compounds.

    Also the cylinder was stamped with the revolver's serial number and additional inspector's marks in the usual form of a single alphabetical letter. Other parts were similarly marked. On well worn examples these may have been obliterated, but not so on a revolver in the condition this one is, if the finish is original, which I doubt.

    Rather then trust the opinions you are receiving here, and if it is you're intention is to possibly sell the piece, I suggest you forward it to a reputable auction house for evaluation. If you decide to do so we can provide you with a list of such businesses.
     
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