The Rock Island Auction Company is one of the biggest antique auction houses around. They have garnered fame for auctioning unique and interesting firearms such as Theodore Roosevelt’s Single Action Colt and many other pieces of history. 

They hold a limited number of auctions each year and often bring an exciting range for antique collectors and firearms fans all over the world. However most of us will never have the opportunity to own one of these exceptional pieces. 

Rock Island auction has broken records for some of the most expensive firearms ever sold, topped only by Bonhams sale of “the Gun that killed Billy the Kid”. A colt single action army that sold for $6.01 million. The price of these items does not do justice for the rich history and meaning that they carry with them. 

4. The Millikin Dragoon – $1,667,500

In the words of the Colt historian, R.L. Wilson, the Dragoon is “one of the classics of Colt collecting.” This piece immediately reveals itself as fine art, by definition, a steel canvas. The beautiful hand engraving exudes quality workmanship unlike any other. The engraving, done by Gustave Young, shows his special attention to detail and expert ability.

Manufactured in 1857 by Colt, the Dragoon originally belonged to a heroic Union Army officer, Colonel John Minor Milliken, Jr. Born in 1834, he was part of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and fought valiantly in many battles. Minor met his end in December of 1862 at the Battle of Stones River. Colonel Milliken’s heroic acts will always be remembered by history, and the Millikin Dragoon pays homage to his bravery.

What sets the Millikin Dragoon apart from other antiques is its immaculate condition. After all this time, it is still in excellent condition. The grip has retained 97% of its thick silver plating with typical age stress lines on the bottom, still keeping most of its attractive grain and color. The loading lever, hammer, and frame still retain 95% of the original case coloring. The barrel itself looks near perfect, keeping 97% of its original, highly polished blue finish. The finely engraved cylinder has maintained 90% of its original polished blue finish, as well as the smooth brown patina on the balance. The classical engravings are near perfect and retain all the scenes originally textured into the revolver. Mechanically, the Millikin Dragoon is still in excellent condition, with the bullet mold keeping 95% of the authentic blue finish. 

The Millikin Dragoon

The Dragoon revolver was designed in response to many issues with the Colt Walker, and became popular among civilians in the 1850’s and 1860’s. However, this model was designed as a presentation piece. It includes a double-cavity bullet mold, a double-faced Colt Dragoon powder flask, and an Eley Brothers cap tin. The attention to detail and perfect finish is a testament to the quality workmanship put into the Millikin Dragoon. 

The Millikin Dragoon sold for a whopping $1,667,500. It’s no surprise considering the rich history and artistic value that will forever be etched into this gun. 

3. The “Danish Sea Captain” Civilian Colt Walker – $1,840,000

The .44 caliber Colt Walker was designed alongside Colt by Texas Ranger Captain Samuel Walker in 1847. Samuel Walker found that the .36 caliber Paterson Colts did not have enough power and so requested a more streamlined .44 revolver. The .44 caliber Colt Walker was born. It was originally designed to be used by the military and carried in saddle holsters, but it saw major success in the civilian market. Very few Colt Walkers survived the test of time, with the Danish Sea Captain being amongst the most popular. 

The Danish Sea Captain was one of the versions sold to the public. The gun was named after Niels Hanson, a Danish sea captain who the gun was purchased by in New York. It was passed down by his family and eventually sold to a Danish collector. According to legend, the revolver was buried in a backyard garden during World War II to prevent the Nazis from snatching it up. Both the gun and the case survived in remarkably good condition. 

The Danish Sea Captain has passed through the hands of many famous collectors over the years, but this was the first time the revolver had been offered at a public auction. After being hidden during World War II, it resurfaced in America, where it was sold for $10,000. It was a high price at the time, but nothing compared to the $1,840,000 it was recently auctioned off for. 

The “Danish Sea Captain” Civilian Colt Walker

The .44 caliber revolver still retains most of its original condition, being described as exceptionally fine. The 9-inch part octagon barrel maintains 60% of its original bright blue finish. The walnut grip shows minor scratches but still retains the rich reddish brown color it is famous for. 50% of the original blue finish can be seen on the back strap, with the hammer, frame, and loading lever keeping most of their original colors. The original Indian battle scene engraving on the cylinder remains in near perfect condition, while pitting has affected some parts of the gun. The mechanics of the gun are still in excellent working order. Not bad for a gun that was buried during World War II!

Finding a Colt firearm documented by Samuel Colt himself is extremely rare, so this is a once in a lifetime gun that we will probably never have the chance of even seeing. The Danish Sea Captain has been well documented through time and remains one of the few revolvers with a wealth of historical significance and rarity behind its name. 

2. Napoleon Presentation Garniture Of Six Arms From Boutet – $2,875,000

When one thinks of Napoleon Bonaparte, we think of one of the greatest military leaders to command an army. He is well known for his victories on the battlefield, which led him to conquer most of Europe. Beyond his rapid rise in the military, Napoleon also revolutionized military organization and training, reformed education, and saved France from the chaos of the French revolution. 

The Presentation Garniture Of Six Arms From Boutet was presented to General Bonaparte as a gift for his victories over the Austrians and Sardinians’. At a Christie’s King Street auction in 1991, the hammer dropped on a price of £105,000. A small amount compared to the $2,785,000 it recently sold for. 

The Presentation Garniture of Six Arms includes a gold-inlaid carbine rifle, pocket pistols, carriage pistols, and a dress sword complete with scabbard. It is rumored that Napoleon carried this sword when he drove the Council of 500 out of St. Cloud. The Versailles Manufactory produced the set in 1797. The same factory that produced carbines for the military. Nicolas-Noël Boutet is the man behind the beautiful artwork and embellishments we see on the set. It’s his name that you will find inscribed on every piece. 

All of the pieces from the presentation appear in remarkable condition. Clearly, care has been taken in handling these antiques throughout time. The 58-gauge flintlock rifle is considered in extremely fine condition and retains 95% of its original finish. The barrel has been beautifully textured with a matte blue background, contrasted by the golden decorations at the muzzle and rear half of the upper flats. At the end of the breech sits the French imperial eagle on a cloud with a lightning bolt, enclosed in scrolls and borders. Some of the other details include floral motifs and martial trophies. “Boutet Directeur Artiste” has also been inscribed on the barrel, along with floral accents ahead of the gold embellishments. The walnut stock maintains its attractive appearance with detailed carvings and near-perfect checkering. However, one can see light handling marks from storage, some dents on the cheek rest, and flaking around the edges. The rifle is still mechanically excellent.

Napoleon Presentation Garniture Of Six Arms From Boutet

The set includes two carriage pistols and two flintlock pocket pistols, all in fine condition. After all this time, they still retain their blue finish, decorated with detailed engravings and golden accents. The sword is also a work of art, keeping most of its original features. Double serpent borders with entwined heads decorate the wooden grip with different symbols relevant to the time period. Some of the motifs on the scabbard include the thunderbolts of Jupiter and the club of Hercules. These golden motifs are finely contrasted by the shagreen and blue panel backgrounds. The sword is hard to draw from the scabbard due to its precise fit. 

The Napoleon Presentation Garniture Of Six Arms From Boutet is an excellent example of the skilled craftsmanship and high quality for which the artisans of the time were known. This set has seen the rise and fall of empires and will continue to grace the present with its rich stories of the past. 

1. General Ulysses S. Grant’s Cased Remington New Model Army Revolvers – $5,170,000

If you understand the history behind the famed General Ulysses S. Grant, you will understand why these reached a whopping price of $5,170,000. Besides being the 18th President to inhabit the White House, General Grant was a strong commander who secured countless victories during the American Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln hand-picked Grant as commander of the Union Army, and his efforts during the Civil War established him as a national hero. 

Two Mexican-American war veterans and businessmen were responsible for the creation of the beautiful revolvers. As a thank you for the capture of Vicksburg, Otis Nelson Cutler and William C. Wagley presented General Grant with the pair of Remington Revolvers. To put the heavy price tag into perspective, a standard Remington revolver like this cost $12 at the time. General Grant’s engraved pair cost a total of $400. 

When many called for the removal of Grant as Commander of the Union Army of Tennessee, Abraham Lincoln famously said, “I cannot spare this man. He fights.” Most generals at the time were too reluctant to commit their forces fully, whereas Grant’s aggressive tactics got results.

After General Grant’s death, the exquisite pair of revolvers were given to a handyman as payment for work done during the Great Depression. They managed to stay hidden from public view until the 2018 Las Vegas Antique Arms show. 

The .44 Caliber percussion revolvers were manufactured by Remington and Sons. The serial numbers marked on the revolvers are “1” and “2” respectively. It is not known whether they were the actual first and second off the production line or if this was a special custom order number. The fine engraving etched into the Remington Revolvers was done by master engraver Louis D. Nimschke of New York. The fine floral patterns are present throughout the entire frame of both guns, with the antique ivory grip including a raised relief carving of General Grant on one side and an eagle on the other. 

General Ulysses S. Grant’s Cased Remington New Model Army Revolvers

Both guns have remained in exceptional condition. The crisp engraving is apparent throughout, with 90% of the original blue finish shining through. The hammer, trigger, and trigger guard retain 95% of the original case colors, with minor patches of oxidation showing. There is some cylinder drag present and storage marks, as well as some minor dings on the grips. Other than that, the grips are in near perfect condition. The deluxe rosewood case and accessories are also in fine condition, with minor storage and handling marks present. The accessories include a pheasant and dog pattern powder flask, oiler, blued bullet mold, combination tool, cleaning rod, key, and an Eley Brothers cap tin. Both revolvers are still mechanically excellent.

This exquisite pair of Remington New Army Revolvers carries an immense retelling of history. With the help of these revolvers, General Grant’s stories of heroism and bravery will never be forgotten. 

Leave a comment