PD Auctions Their 1921/28 Thompson: No Sale

The most iconic NFA weapon? Some would say the AK, or the M16A1. But you don’t have to be a full-on wehraboo to prefer the FG42, MP40 or MG42, and a few connoisseurs like the clockwork of a Maxim or BREN. But if you were to poll a thousand gun enthusiasts, the blank would most often be filled in with the various names of the original Chicago Typewriter, the Thompson Submachine Gun.

In recent years, even beater Thompsons have reached nosebleed price levels, with the most desirable early Colt-produced 1921 and 1928 guns reaching levels that would crimp even the Navy’s LCS budget. (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not a huge one. And of course, with a Tommy, you’re actually armed, which is more than the LSC swabbies can say).

Unlike the later M1 and M1A1 TSMGs of World War II, these early guns had detachable stocks.

So we were a little surprised to see that this GunBroker auction ended on the 11th in a No Sale, despite the rarity and solid provenance of the firearm. The bidding was soft, taking some time to open at an initial bid of $20k and reaching only $29k before stalling out. The reserve is unknown (except for, “higher than $29,000,” obviously), but based on the selling prices of other 1921s and 1928s recently, was most probably in the high $30s.

Here’s the description (paragraph breaks added)

Colt Model 1928 Navy Overstamp. Thompson Submachine manufactured by Colt for the Auto-Ordnance Corporation. Colt manufactured 15,000 Thompson Submachine Guns for the Auto-Ordnance Corporation in 1921.

The Marine Corps obtained a small number of Model 1921 Thompsons in the mid-1920s and used the weapons with success in Nicaragua and China. Based on Marine combat experience, most of the unsold Model 1921 Thompsons were modified by Auto-Ordnance to reduce the rate of fire from 800 to 600 rounds per minute by adding a heavier actuator and had a Cutts Compensator added to the muzzle.

The modified Thompsons were designated “Model 1928 Navy”. Auto-Ordnance stamped “U.S. NAVY” above the model designation on the left side of the receiver and over-stamped the “1” in “1921” with “8”. The Marine Corps and Navy purchased a small number of Model 1928 Thompsons in the late 1920s and early 1930s; most 1928 Thompsons were sold to state and local law enforcement agencies.


That’s true of this firearm, Serial Nº 13350, which found a home with the Plymouth Borough, Pennsylvania, police department. Plymouth never used it in anger, although they sent for it once while tracking a multiple murderer. Since the firearm has increased greatly in cash value, but has little practical value for a 21st-Century copper, the Department thought that they could turn it into cash for some of their more mundane, but immediate, needs.

They were disappointed that the gun did not sell. As of this morning, the Thompson has not been relisted.

It was a bit scratched up. Collectors are strange cats; they want every gun to be documented as having been in the first landing craft on Omaha Beach, while simultaneously being LNIB. Maybe the scratches are what did it in.

Overall condition is fair with normal handling marks consistent with the gun’s age and police department use. There are deep scratches on the receiver. The gun includes two stick mags. There is no drum or any other accessories included. The mags have deep scratches on one side with the police departments initials.

via COLT Thompson Model 1921 AC .45 acp NAVY OVERSTAMP : Machine Guns at GunBroker.com.

No doubt that at the moment, they’re buried in lowball offers from some of the more rapacious high-volume NFA dealers (you know who you are).

For more information on Plymouth’s use of, and decision to sell, this Thompson, see this local news story.

21 thoughts on “PD Auctions Their 1921/28 Thompson: No Sale

  1. John Distai

    Hognose – Here’s a story to keep your eye on:


    No official explanation as to what happened, but my money is on this:
    Underage girl out late and under the influence. Crashes her car entering her neighborhood. Tries walking home from the accident (very close to her home) to “buy time” and avoid a DUI. Takes a “shortcut” to get home, stumbles in the dark and passes out. The cold wet weather takes over from there.

    I imagine there are several cautionary tales in this one.

    1. Hognose Post author

      That’s why we call it Judgment Juice™. Pity the poor kid and her family (parents/any sibs especially).

  2. DSM

    The little police station in my dumpy little hometown still has a Thompson from that era. They still have it as an exhibit of the only gun not robbed from the station by John Dillinger and crew one night. Way to put yourself on the map!
    It’s interesting the department would choose to sell this and that there isn’t some rule in place preventing firearms and equipment from being sold. It is PA after all. And it pre-dates NFA but I’m going to have to read up on how those transfers work. The horror of it being a “ghost gun!”

    1. Hognose Post author

      Most PD guns were registered when NFA was passed, and there was an amnesty in 1968 for anyone that missed, plus PDs have always been given consideration. As I understand it, .gov registrations are without transfer tax. That’s only for the proles.

      1. DSM

        Agency transfers are tax free, that is correct (Form 5 IIRC) though where I’m fuzzy, admittedly because it doesn’t affect me, are the agency to person transfers. When I get a moment I will consult the NFA Handbook for further confusion on the matter.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Agency to person transfers would presumably use Form 4 and buyer would pay $200 (and wait most of a year to pass go, although friend just had one come through in ~30 days — on a paper form, no less). Agency to dealer transfers, Form 3 and tax paid. I think. Be interesting to see what the Handbook says.

          1. DSM

            It’s not specifically covered in terms of a registered, no tax paid firearm to a tax paid transfer to another entity but as far I can read Form 4 per the Handbook.

      2. cm smith

        I’d wager most PD guns were not registered when NFA passed even though they should have been. “That can’t mean US!”

        My PD had their oopsie in 1972. ATF allowed registration so we could complete a trade for two Uzi’s. (Not a bad deal at the time.) As I understood it, our 1928 was then fully transferable. Despite being warned, the sheriff didn’t act. “That can’t mean ME!” A decade later his oopsie left him with a police only gun that nobody wanted.

  3. robroysimmons

    An owner of a small shop that I have frequented was visited by a nice little old lady carrying a paper grocery bag back in the day, MP-40 contained within.

    Her deceased hubby had been the county sheriff back in the day and also a WWII vet Euro theatre but the gun did not register so no one was able to ascertain how it was obtained only that it made it to her attic.

    A happy ending, it made it to a museum.

  4. Jonathan

    I have been following NFA sales and prices for a while now, though probably not as long as you, and I have noticed that high priced weapons tend to sit through multiple auctions (or a REALLY long auction, like the recent 70+ day ones I saw) to find someone willing to buy at that price; to move a weapon quickly requires a more reasonable price.
    Kudos to them for listing directly instead of doing a quiet sale to a rapacious dealer.

  5. Quill_&_Blade

    OK, guess I don’t know much about guns; but I can’t understand why this wouldn’t be for an officer today. Some corporations have a designated parking spot for employee of the month, why not ‘best of blue’ award that lets said officer pack this heat for a month. Participation and moral would skyrocket. At least they would for me.

    1. John M.

      YOU might not want to carry a Thompson around. I wouldn’t mind trying. I can do more push ups, and there’s something magical about those guns.

      -John M.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I got it from Tam, apparently it’s a thing on some of the nets she frequents and I don’t. But it’s so fitting for that guy who’s sold on what Larry Correia calls the “fine firearms for manly Teutonic operators.” Some of the manliest ones are the women, especially the former East German powerlifters.

  6. Ti

    Who as an American firearms fanatic would not want that?
    Unfortunately I’m at the “clone” level and non-NFA at that so far. If it weren’t for parts kits, 80’ers, plethora AR stuff, and semi-auto clones, I wouldn’t have sh%t.

  7. John McG

    Not far from Plymouth Township, Pa, is the Borough of West Chester, PA. Back in the early 90’s there were either three or four Thompsons seized from a local collector. I can’t remember now if it was a PFA or a tax lien or something similar.
    All the seized guns eventually disappeared from the Police Evidence Locker. I just did a quick google search but can’t find any trace of the story at the moment. I’ll try and do better when I have a little time.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I dunno about West Chester, but the city of Chester had a police chief, Joe Bail, and a cop, Ernie Manerchia, who were all tied up with notorious SF/Ranger phony John Giduck. They were crooked as 80 miles of Afghan highway. I think Bail made it to retirement and Manerchia made it to prison. Giduck is still around, trying to sell himself as a terrorism expert, after looking left and right to make sure there’s no real CT guys there (although he once did generate enough paying work that a couple of real-deal guys are still loyal to him, even knowing now that he’s a phony!)

      1. John McG

        Ok, best I can find is a newspaper article from 1997. Five Thompsons were seized from Loring Hill in 1968. He was convicted of illegally selling automatic weapons in 1968, but received a gubernatorial pardon a few years later.
        The DA refused to return the tommy guns, stating that they would present a danger to the citizens of Chester County. So some mook stole two of them from the Detective Bureau office and sold at least one to a drug dealer for 500.00. He confessed after the statute of limitations had expired.
        Apparently Mr. Hill got three of the guns back in the mid-nineties.
        I have a pretty good friend on the CHester PD. I’ll have to ask him if he was around for the knuckleheads you mentioned.
        Thanks for the great blog, I’m always learning something here.

  8. Dan

    Colt Thompsons are the gold standard, with a slightly higher price for the original 1921 models versus the Navy overstamps, and a much higher price than the West Hurley models. I’m not surprised the reserve was listed at somewhere over $30k, it could fetch that with the right buyer. Unfortunately, there aren’t many buyers out there that are willing to spend over $30k on a gun that’s nearly 100 years old, so it will simply require time to find the right buyer.

    Also, FWIW, the seller is a dealer who is brokering it for the police. I doubt it would be any harder to transfer than a standard Form 3 and subsequent Form 4.

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