COLUMBIAN & BAILEY AIRGUNS
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COLUMBIAN & BAILEY AIRGUNS
This line of airguns began in 1892 with the Bailey BB guns produced by previous manufacturer E.E. Bailey Manufacturing Company in Philadelphia, PA. The Bailey Company was not successful and only about a dozen Bailey specimens are known today. In 1893 a partnership of Elmer E. Bailey and William G. Smith began to produce airguns under the Columbian trademark. Upon Bailey's death in 1898, the partnership reverted to William Smith. Smith's company was taken over by William Heilprin in 1907 and continued producing airguns until the early 1920s. The airguns of these makers are often referred to as Heilprin airguns, but Heilprin was not involved with most of the Columbian models or most of their production. He produced only the last model of the elite cast iron models and then shifted into sheet medal models- most of those rather quickly expired. The break-open Models L and S, based on Heilprin's patents, were not successful; only a handful of specimens are known today.
Bailey's famous second patent, #507470, issued October 24, 1893, is the key to the Columbian airguns. The patent's key feature, having a reciprocating air chamber enclosed within the gun's frame casting, was central to the Columbian airguns. The 1000 shot design format was a standard of the BB gun industry for over 80 years.
The best known examples of the Columbian line are the heavy, cast metal BB rifles which not only weighed far more than any BB guns of the time but cost much more. When Daisy and other common BB guns were selling for $0.69 to $1.00, the Columbians were the elite airguns, selling for $1.95 to $3.50. Their solid construction, durability, and cost gave a boy who owned one tremendous neighborhood status.
William Johnson's 2002 book Bailey and Columbian Air Rifles is the absolute key to this complex line of airguns. We will follow his organization of the early, heavy, cast iron models into 11 types and the final sheet metal models into three lever action and two break open models. Not only must we stop referring to these guns as Heilprins, we must stop referring to some as the Squirrel Model, the Buffalo model, etc. The animal figures can help narrow down the choices, BUT there are three different squirrels in four different type groups for a grand total of nine "squirrel" models. There are two different stag's heads in two different type groups for a total of four models and two full buffalos in two different type groups. This section probably can lead to the identification of almost all models, but only Johnson's book and CD can confirm the ID and give you the known variations and the many details.
Most of the models do not trade often enough to clearly establish meaningful values. Johnson's rarity ratings have been translated here into estimated numbers of existing specimens per model.

From Blue Book Publications:


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