Big Sales at Weekend Auctions

Well, we’ve been known to drop four figures to plug a collection gap. But six figures? How about mid-six figures?

We’re not ever going to buy a gun for the price of a house, but some people do, and this past weekend, they did.

A gun that had been owned by Butch Cassidy — the real criminal, not the charming Paul Newman antihero — sold for $175,000 at an auction house in Ventura, California, and a a set of guns owned by notorious 30s criminals Bonnie (Parker) and Clyde (Barrow) went for a nosebleed-inducing $500,000 across the continent in New Hampshire. In addition, the New Hampshire auction house sold a Colt .25 once given away by proto-mafiosi Al Capone, but we don’t have the numbers on that yet. (They will be here or here this week).

(Hey, we don’t really want guns like that. We want good guy guns. That;s what we keep repeating).

CBS Los Angeles reports about the Cassidy single-action Colt (with a hilarious picture of the wrong gun):

A spokesman for the private seller said Sunday that the Colt Single Action Army revolver went to an anonymous online bidder.

The gun is accompanied by a black leather shoulder holster and two binders filled with documentation verifying the revolver’s authenticity.

Cassidy, the infamous Old West bank robber, bought the revolver in a hardware store in Vernal, Utah, in 1896. He turned it over to Utah authorities in early 1900 in an unsuccessful attempt to gain amnesty. Known as the “Amnesty Colt,” it is the most documented of Cassidy’s guns.

Along with the “Amnesty Colt,” pictured here, the auctioneer had another Cassidy-attributed Colt with somewhat thinner provenance, and a percussion Colt associated with Frank James. No word on their sale prices.

If you saw the movie, you know that Cassidy met a bad end at the muzzles of the Bolivian Army.  But Hollywood, like chicks, digs jerks. Which brings us to the other two jerks, whose guns sold at a separate auction in Nashua, NH. These particular guns have been documented to be, perhaps a bit ghoulishly, taken from the criminals’ bodies:

(Reuters) – Two pistols found on the bodies of famed Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after they were killed by a posse in 1934 have sold at auction on Sunday for $504,000.

A snub-nosed .38 special found taped to the inside of Parker’s thigh with white medical tape fetched $264,000 at an auction in Nashua, New Hampshire. A Colt .45 recovered from the waistband of Barrow’s pants was purchased for $240,000.

The guns owned by Parker, who died at age 23, and Barrow, who was 25, were purchased by a Texas collector who wished to remain anonymous.

“They’re still iconic and their love story kind of resonates,” said Bobby Livingston, vice president of RR Auction, the company that conducted the sale. “We have a romanticized vision of Bonnie and Clyde.”

Well, maybe he does. The actual Bonnie and Clyde were cold-blooded cop killers, with at least five law officers’ deaths on their heads. One suspects that they weren’t in crime just for the money.

The notoriety of the two worked to the benefit of the estate of collector Robert Davis. Davis spent about $100,000 on the guns in 1986. (That’s a financial performance well ahead of inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator,  $100k in 1986 dollars is worth about $210k toay). A 1986 appraisal put them at $25k each, suggesting the appraiser thought Davis overpaid.

The guns weren’t all the Bonnie and Clyde ghoulage for sale. Reuters adds:

A gold pocket watch found on Barrow’s body sold for $36,000. Other items included a 1921 Morgan silver dollar taken from Barrow’s jacket fetched $32,400, and one of Parker’s silk stockings, taken from the couple’s car after their death, which went for $11,400.

In the auction, two other Bonnie and Clyde guns also changed hands at the auction, but apparently not to the same buyer.  These were a nickeled Smith and Wesson .44 Hand Ejector, found in the death car and possibly taken from a Texas policeman, and a Colt Army .38 that was modified with a cut-down trigger guard and  bobbed hammer and barrel that Clyde stole from a Texas Ranger (!) and left behind in a stolen car, That sort of modification was popular in the period from about 1930 to 1960 (it was even suggested to Ian Fleming that James Bond should use such as gun).

Why so many big-ticket estate auctions right now? Actually, expect more by the end of the year. Right now, a deceased’s property goes mostly to the benefit of his heirs. After Jan 1, 2013, it will go mostly into the great sucking maw of the federal government, which will use it to fund many things you do not like, regardless of who you are and what you do like.