Appraisal Video: (3:46)
Arms & Militaria
J. Christopher Mitchell American Antiques & Militaria
GUEST: When I was just a little guy, my grandfather had this in his dresser drawer under his shirts. And I guess if I was well behaved, my mother would take me in and let me look at it. And for some reason, it just fascinated me all my life, so this is my family inheritance. My brother got the Volkswagen and I got the pistol.
APPRAISER: You got the pistol, he got the car.
APPRAISER: Well, this is something quite special. It's profusely engraved, it has ivory stocks. We have the remainder of some silver-plating on it. I noticed when we were first looking at it, if we look here, there's an inscription with a presentation on the backstrap. What does that say?
GUEST: It says it's presented to Thomas E. Finley on his departure for White Pine, 15 March, 69', from a few of his friends as a token of their esteem. And Thomas E. Finley, I understand, is my great-uncle, my grandfather's brother-in-law.
APPRAISER: Well, this was a great gift. This was a huge token of esteem. It's definitely engraved at the Colt factory. If you look, we have this nice heavy coverage, wonderful scrollwork, but the engraving is very, very well done. Another thing that tells us for sure that this is done at the factory, the engraving, is if we turn it upside down, we're going to see the letter "E."
APPRAISER: And that's to denote special handling, that it is being engraved.
GUEST: Oh, I didn't know that.
APPRAISER: Another feature that we'll notice is if we cock the hammer back, we're going to see that there's a stylized wolf's or dog head here.
GUEST: Yes, I saw that.
APPRAISER: All right, that helps us know the shop that it came out of. I don't necessarily think that this is the hand of Gustave Young, but I think it's out of Gustave Young's shop, so the engraving is, to a Colt collector, it's quite nice. We have these wonderful ivory grips on here. They're all carved. We have this huge Mexican eagle. I suspect these are also factory. They're very, very nicely done. They're very nicely turned out. The presentation on the backstrap, I think that's also done at Colt. I think the whole gun is finished there and then silver-plated. Did you ever wonder why anybody would silver-plate a gun?
GUEST: Yeah, silver's so soft that it certainly wouldn't be utilitarian. It must be just decorative, I guess.
APPRAISER: Well, in this one it was. It was meant to be gorgeous. And when this gun was new, it had a lot of pizzazz and a lot of flash. It was a very impressive gift. Now, we've lost most of the silver on the barrel. We've lost most of the silver on the frame. And the reason is, if we look in here, we'll see these little red colors. That's jeweler's rouge. That's where somebody, trying to do the right thing, wanted to keep the gun nice and clean and shiny, but they polished it and, as you said, it's on so thin that if you use an abrasive jeweler's rouge, the silver comes off. Now, do we have any idea of why they would have thought so much of him to give him this gun?
GUEST: No, I'm afraid I don't.
APPRAISER: Okay, well, two things that I would recommend that you do is one, try to find out anything and everything you can about him and his life, because this gun was expensive when it was new. The second thing that you can do is you can send to Colt for the records. Now, they're going to charge you for it, but for this particular gun, it's absolutely worth doing, because that record can tell us exactly how this gun left the factory. It can let us know that all of these features were done at Colt. And if that comes back, that's really good. It's really good for you and the value of your gun. Now, what's your brother's Volkswagen worth now, do you think?
GUEST: $6,000, $8,000 I don't know.
APPRAISER: Well, in opinion, retail, this is a $25,000 pistol,
APPRAISER: even without the history.
APPRAISER: $25,000 retail. If you send off and you can get the letter to confirm it, it's going to help the value, maybe as much as $4,000 or $5,000 more.
GUEST: Gosh, that's incredible.