English Howdah Pistols, ca. 1846
Appraised Value: $15,000 - $20,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 4
Appraisal Video: (3:03)
Arms & Militaria
Bonhams & Butterfields, SF
GUEST: I don't really know a whole lot about the pistols. They were handed down to my father by his father. Where they originated, I really don't know.
APPRAISER: How did he get them?
GUEST: He was a chiropractor in California for the movie stars, and we don't know whether they were given to him or whether it was some type of payment. From the literature that I have, they were made in England.
APPRAISER: What makes them English. What do you think?
GUEST: The coat of arms on the pistol grip, the stamps that are underneath I guess tell a story about the gunsmith who made it.
APPRAISER: Oddly enough, I can't figure out who the gunsmith is. The guns are not signed on the locks where they would normally be signed. And there's this name on the top barrel flat which says Pedro Salmon, and I know of no British gun maker named Pedro Salmon. I don't think you'll ever know, you'll truly find out who he is. I think he was the owner of the pistols and not the gun maker. That said, they definitely are British double-barrel percussion pistols. They date to 1846, and we could tell that from the silver mounts and the hallmarks. They have these wonderful lion mask butts, which are also hallmarked on the back. What makes them interesting is that they're a very large bore, and they're double-barreled. They're known as howdah pistols, and a howdah is basically a very large saddle, which they used on the back of an Indian elephant. And you wanted short barrels but large bores so that you could properly manage the guns sitting on top of an elephant…
APPRAISER: …If you were being attacked by wild game, or, for instance, if you were hunting wild game, mainly in India. They have smooth bore, they would have fired shot. They were in a case, but they also have these belt hooks. And the belt hooks is exactly the same thing. You're basically in a very large saddle on top of an elephant, and you would put the pistols in your belt, ready and able to go for your hunt.
GUEST: So they're hunting pistols.
APPRAISER: Correct. What do you think they're worth?
GUEST: I really have no clue.
APPRAISER: Well, the guns are in excellent condition. They have most of all their original finish. They have blue on the hammers, they have the case colors on the actions and the breech, and they also have this beautiful, brown twist patina on the barrels. Howdah pistols are fairly scarce on the market and would be highly sought after. I think the one detraction is is that they weren't signed. I think a current auction market value would be about $15,000 to $20,000.
GUEST: Oh, really?
GUEST: That was a little more than I was thinking, but that's great.
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