This Colt 1847 Civilian Walker Model is also known as the “Thumbprint Walker.” The ultra-rare Colt Percussion revolver has a rare full blue finish, and a workman’s fingerprint, possibly that of Samuel Colt himself, on the left side of the frame.
So how is it possible for one owner to lose over $150,000 on this world-class Colt in just over 2½ years? Good question – and for a change, the answer is relatively simple.
An undisclosed owner bought this revolver from the famous Al Cali Collection at a Heritage Arms & Armor auction on Sept. 18, 2011. Even though the economy was trying to recover at the time, best quality firearms like this enjoyed a lot of interest and demand. The result was this Walker revolver with the factory installed loading lever latch assembly (one of three known) and period best quality leather holster, which gaveled for $690,000, including the buyer’s auction premium. The original auction estimate was $600,000-$800,000, so it ended up selling in the middle of this range. Astonishingly, the first 30 Percussion Colt revolvers at this auction sold for $6,690,240 – that’s an average of over $223,000 per revolver!
Ratchet the calendar forward approximately 31 months, and for whatever reason(s), the owner decided to put the gun up for auction again. This time around, it sold on May 4, 2014, for $546,250, again, including the auction buyer’s premium. This time, the estimate was $500,000-$700,000. Since the seller usually has to pay a commission to the auction house for the sale of the lot, the previous owner lost at least $150,000 on this “blue chip” Colt.
The right side of this ultra-rare Civilian Walker is even better than the left. The revolver was brought into Tom Weston’s Mexican Art Shop in Mexico City circa late 1950s, and after procuring it, became part of the famous William M. Locke collection.
How/why is this possible? Don’t the best collectible guns always go up in value? Why did the previous owner have to sell this gun at a loss? Good questions, and the first answer is that even though the economy continues to recover and improve, the top end of the antique firearms marketplace is a little soft and saturated at the moment. Let’s face it – at this level of bidding, there aren’t too many qualified bidders out there having this type of scratch lying around.
The answer to the second question is usually, but not always. Even though over 20 antique firearms (mostly gold inlaid and engraved Percussion Colt revolvers) have each broken the vaulted $1 million mark, with most of the sales in the last decade of the last millennium, and the first decade of the new one, there has not been a $1 million gun sold at auction for awhile. Obviously, the previous owner found this out the hard way. Additionally, don’t expect a collectible at this price level to automatically be an ATM for awhile. In most cases, it takes at least 4-5 years between sales before a gun purchase at this level can be considered a successful investment.
The answer to the third question would need to come from the previous owner, and he’s probably a little embarrassed to talk about it. However, if I was in his shoes and was married, I wouldn’t want to answer the wife’s question after this auction was over – “Honey, how did our guns do at the auction?”