On Nov. 17-18, Morphy’s will proudly present its fall 2021 Extraordinary Firearms Auction, the latest in a series known for its premier consignments from long-held private collections. As always, a historically important firearm will serve as the marquee piece, following in the footsteps of such icons as the flintlock musket that fired the first shot at the Battle of Bunker Hill (sold by Morphy’s for $492,000, Oct. 23, 2019). The November sale’s signature firearm is one of the most renowned and coveted of all known Colt single-action Army Revolvers: Mel Guy’s “Buntline Special.”
A dedicated collector of more than 300 antique Colt six-shooters, the late Mel Guy spent decades trying to track down an elusive Buntline, visually distinctive for its 16-inch barrel and linked to a legend involving famous lawmen of the Old West. As the story goes, in 1931 author Stuart Lake released a largely fictionalized biography titled Wyatt Earp – Frontier Marshall. According to Lake, 19th-century dime novelist Edward Judson (pen name: Ned Buntline) once commissioned Colt to produce five single-action Army revolvers – known as Buntline Specials – to present to Dodge City lawmen in appreciation for sharing their frontier yarns with him. One of those recipients, Judson said, was Wyatt Earp.
Guy became obsessed with the possibility that one of those five Buntlines might actually exist. He spent decades searching until he finally found what he believed to be the genuine article, and it is the very gun to be auctioned by Morphy’s later this month. At the time of Guy’s acquisition of the Buntline, some questioned why a serial number did not appear on its cylinder. This was resolved by further research and old Colt factory records which confirmed that some Buntlines were, indeed, manufactured without serial numbers on their cylinders. Furthermore, Mel Guy’s revolver was definitively identified as the last of the first generation of Buntlines that Colt shipped. Were any of the original Buntline Specials gifted to Wyatt Earp? “That has never been proven or, for that matter, disproven,” said Dan Morphy, president of Morphy Auctions. “However, Stuart Lake wrote in the Wyatt Earp biography that, of the five who received Buntlines from Judson, only Earp kept his pistol at its original length. The other four men supposedly cut the barrels of their guns down to the standard 7½ inches or shorter.”
The Buntline Special became inextricably tied to the enduring Wyatt Earp myth. In the 1955-’61 TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, the Old West lawman and gunfighter is rarely seen without the studio version of his trademark long-barreled weapon. This media exposure led to a revival of interest in Buntlines and inspired Colt to introduce a limited number of large-bore Single Action Armies with 12-inch barrels, which they named "Buntline Specials."
Accompanied by extensive provenance and numerous letters from well-known Colt collectors and experts attesting to the revolver’s authenticity and originality, Mel Guy’s Buntline Special comes to auction with a $400,000-$800,000 estimate.
“The November auction is one of the best offerings of high-end firearms we’ve had in quite a while and includes a fantastic selection of single-action Colt revolvers, the sidearms that became known as the guns that won the West,” Morphy said. “They were favorites of the military, lawmen, and criminals alike.” A prime example from the auction trove is a historic 1906 Colt deluxe factory-engraved single-action Army Revolver and gun rig that was owned by Sheriff C.A. Farnsworth of Silver City, New Mexico, but later lost in a poker game. Accompanied by 1963 Colt Archives letter, this very well-documented gun is estimated at $150,000-$250,000.
An extraordinary Revolutionary War archive consisting of the personal and military effects of Union Brigadier General Moses Porter (1756-1822), includes a pair of 1805 US (Harper’s Ferry) pistols with a lock date of 1807. Porter saw action in some of the most pivotal battles of his day, including Saratoga, Bunker Hill, Brandywine, Germantown and Valley Forge. This lot is a time capsule of Porter’s career and is estimated at $100,000-$150,000.
The auction includes a stellar grouping of “Henry”.44-caliber lever-action rifles, which are famed for their use at the Battle of the Little Bighorn and also for being the basis of the Winchester rifle used during the 19th-century westward expansion. Within the grouping is a Henry Rimfire Model 1860 manufactured in 1865 by The New Haven Arms Co., New Haven, Connecticut. Distinctive with its Henry octagonal barrel and stamped with the serial number 8359, it could reach $30,000-$40,000 on auction day.
Also steeped in American history, Lot 1140 is the personal silver pocket watch of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Stripped of his assets after the Civil War and facing a death-penalty charge of treason, Davis was released from prison on a $100,000 bond paid for by several anti-slavery advocates. He fled to Canada with the knowledge that he must return at some later date. In the small town of Lennoxville, Quebec, Davis traded his timepiece to a cobbler for a pair of boots. The watch remained in the shoemaker’s family for over 100 years and, from 2006-2010, was displayed at First White House of the Confederacy in Alabama. Together with extensive documentation, the Jefferson Davis pocket watch is estimated at $50,000-$100,000.
Every type of premier rifle and shotgun imaginable, both modern and antique, can be found in Morphy’s sale. Just one of many beautiful and ultra-high-quality examples, a circa-1970 Fabbri (Italy) 12-gauge side-by-side shotgun two-barrel set with case and paperwork is estimated at $35,000-$45,000.
Additionally, there are more than 100 NFA (National Firearms Act) lots from which to choose. Conjuring images of Al Capone nemesis Eliot Ness and his “Untouchables,” a spectacular high-original-condition Colt 1921A Thompson 1921 machine gun, described by Morphy’s cataloger as “the finest [he] has ever seen,” was originally shipped in 1929 to the Chief of Police in Bowling Green, Ohio. Now headed to auction during the 100th anniversary year of the model’s introduction, this quintessential weapon of the Prohibition/gangster era is transferrable upon BATF approval as a curio/relic and carries a $50,000-$100,000 estimate.
Morphy’s Wednesday/Thursday, Nov. 17-18, 2021 Extraordinary Firearms Auction will be held live at Morphy’s gallery in Denver (Lancaster County), Pa., starting each day at 9 a.m. ET. All remote forms of bidding will also be available, including live via the Internet through Morphy Live. View the fully illustrated auction catalog online, with detailed descriptions and multiple images per lot, at www.morphyauctions.com. Questions: call 877-968-8880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About Morphy Auctions
Morphy Auctions is a full-service auction company based in Denver, Pa.