Cowan's Auctions To Sell the Most Important Private Collection of Confederate Arms Ever Assembled on April 26-27th

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The items have already drawn widespread interest due to their rarity, condition and historical significance.

Extremely Rare Confederate Cofer Third Type Revolver in its Original Holster Captured by 11th Maine Captain S.H. Merrill - estimate $250,000/350,000

"They were traded among the high-end Confederate collectors and were never offered to the open market," said Lewis. "Collectors have seen these guns photographed in books for years and have never had an opportunity to buy them."

The most important private collection of Confederate firearms ever assembled will be offered by Cowan's Auctions as part of a two-day sale April 26-27. The items have already drawn widespread interest due to their rarity, condition and historical significance.

Assembled over 65 years, the Cliff and Lynne Young collection of Confederate arms includes some of the scarcest and best known examples in existence -- Cofer, Dance, Leech and Rigdon, LeMat and others. Many of the items were acquired nearly 60 years ago and have never been available to the public. Forty-two lots from the collection will be offered in April, with others to follow in November 2016 and spring 2017.

This is no ordinary group of Civil War guns. "There are collectors who just buy Confederate revolvers. Cliff went deeper than that. It had to have quality. It had to have historical significance," said Jack Lewis, Cowan's director of Historic Firearms and Early Militaria.

Young, who died last year, vigorously documented the weapons. "Some of them have a file of provenance two feet deep," Lewis noted. Almost all the guns have been pictured and described in literature focusing on arms made for the Confederate states.

The emphasis on research fit perfectly with Young's overall interest in Confederate firearms. He was past president and a longtime member of the American Society of Arms Collectors, a well-known published author and lecturer, and a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Massachusetts Antique Arms Collectors.

For the most part, however, Young collected quietly, buying unquestionably authentic material at a time when the best items were sold privately. "They were traded among the high-end Confederate collectors and were never offered to the open market," said Lewis. "Collectors have seen these guns photographed in books for years and have never had an opportunity to buy them."

Although Young never viewed his collection as an investment, values for premiere Confederate firearms have risen exponentially over the years. The potential hasn't dimmed.

"Confederate arms have always been a blue chip of collecting," said Lewis.

Part of the allure is the scarcity of weapons made for Southern troops during the Civil War. At the outbreak of the conflict, most American arms makers were based in the North. In the South, raw materials were scarce and skilled labor difficult to find. As a result, Southern companies producing weapons for Confederate troops had low output, and relatively few of those guns survived. While the Colt Manufacturing Co. of Hartford, Conn., sold almost 130,000 Model 1860 revolvers to the United States government during the Civil War, the T.W. Cofer Co. of Portsmouth, Va., produced an estimated 80 revolvers for Confederate forces. About a dozen of those Cofers remain. Of those, the Young collection contains two examples.

That type of rarity exemplifies the firearms Young acquired. "We all like to brag the best of the best, but the God's honest truth is it's there in the Young collection," said Lewis. "It's the guns he selected. He was very meticulous about what he chose."

The auction presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to obtain items from a legendary collection. Highlights of the April sale include:

  • A Cofer Third Type revolver in its original holster, captured from a Confederate signal officer by Capt. Simeon H. Merrill of the 11th Maine Regiment on July 21, 1864. Young purchased the revolver in 1953 for $395, a considerable sum at the time. Cowan's estimates the gun at $250,000 to $350,000.
  • A cased Second Model LeMat percussion revolver in near-mint condition, one of the best known, estimated at $70,000 to $110,000.
  • An engraved Paris Second Model LeMat percussion revolver, one of about a dozen Baby LeMats known to exist, estimated at $75,000 to $100,000.
  • A LeMat Krider percussion revolver, serial no. 2, likely used in the 1859 weapons trials in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., estimated at $60,000 to $80,000. It is one of only two LeMat revolvers known to have been made in the United States.
  • A Spiller & Burr rounded frame percussion revolver, $50,000 to $100,000. Of the three examples known to exist, Young owned two.
  • A Leech & Rigdon percussion revolver captured in August 1864 from the C.S.S. Tennessee at Mobile Bay, estimated at $50,000 to $100,000.
  • A Tarpley breech-loading carbine identified to Waul's Legion, estimated at $70,000 to $100,000. It is the finest of 20 known to exist.
  • An engraved Robinson Sharps carbine, the only known surviving example, estimated at $50,000 to $70,000.

Beyond the Young collection, the April auction contains an array of quality firearms and militaria, including the Raymond Geddes collection of Civil War arms and the second installment of the Mel Flanagan collection of European and American arms.

Top lots include a Zouave uniform identified to Charles Reisser of the 9th New York Hawkins Zouaves, estimated at $65,000 to $95,000; Sharps New Model 1869 sporting rifle, estimated at $50,000 to $75,000; massive Samuel Bell Bowie knife, circa 1830, possibly the largest Bell knife known, having a 14-inch blade, estimated at $40,000 to $60,000; Second Model Hoggson engraved Henry rifle, estimated at $35,000 to $60,000; First Model Henry rifle, estimated at $30,000 to $50,000; Marlin factory-engraved Third Model 1892 rifle belonging to Wild West Show sharpshooter T.H. Ford, estimated at $25,000 to $35,000; Lt. Col. Porter S. Cox Model 1840/60 presentation sword, estimated at $20,000 to $30,000; dueling pistol once owned by John Wilkes Booth, estimated at $15,000 to $30,000; and a mid-17th-century wheellock blunderbuss, estimated at $15,000 to $25,000.

The sale will be held at Cowan's Auctions, 6270 Este Ave., Cincinnati. Public previews are noon to 5 p.m. Monday, April 25; and 8 to 10 a.m. both days of the sale, Tuesday and Wednesday, April 26-27. The auction starts at 10 a.m. each day, with the Cliff and Lynne Young collection of Confederate arms selling on Tuesday. Bidding is also available by phone, absentee and live through BidSquare.com.

For more information, phone Jack Lewis at Cowan's Auctions at (513) 871-1670 or visit Cowans.com.

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Evan Sikes
Cowan's Auctions, Inc.
+1 (513) 871-1670 Ext: 230
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