|By Carole Deutsch
MUNICH, Germany – An important private collection of firearms, billed as “Carl Walther - A Century in Legendary Firearms,” and a subsequent sale of Fine Antique and Modern Firearms received worldwide attention at Hermann Historic on May 1-3, which resulted in fantastic realized prices across the board.
It was auction at its best, an iconic sale hosted by an industry leader in grand style. Not only were there a great number of rare and highly coveted items, but they were impressively presented in a strikingly photographed and informative catalog that read like a Carl Walther chronological production inventory, and is well worth archiving for any serious collector.
Hermann Historica GmbH has been central to the historic collectors market for more than 50 years. It was originally founded in Nuremberg by Count Erich Klenau von Klenova, Baron of Janowitz, and in short order became recognized internationally by prestigious museums and important private collectors. Its field of expertise includes arms and armor, firearms, orders and decorations, antique items of historical importance, including historical militaria, and hunting collectibles.
This sale was in a class by itself as it represented a progressive account of items in 379 lots as they were produced by Carl Walther, a global leader in the firearms industry for almost 130 years. Prototype items and samples that never came to market, and articles of which only a few are known to exist, highlighted the private lifetime collection of a Northern German. His fascination with the Walther family history and engineering inspired him to follow the technical evolutions and product development of the Walther Company, which created the first semiautomatic pistol and was at the forefront of other ground breaking developments.
“It would be difficult for the success of this sale to be repeated in the next several years,” said Ernst-Ludwig Wagner, a consultant for Hermann Historica. “For instance, if there are only four examples of a particular model known to exist and we just sold one, how likely is it that one of the three left will come to auction in short order? Restrictions on the sale of guns has limited our market. Forty years ago we used to sell 70 percent in Germany, perhaps 20 percent in Europe, and 10 percent worldwide. Now if we sell 24 percent in Germany it is a lot. Due to internet access the greater majority of the market is global, with American buyers topping the list. However, regulations have cramped our ability to trade internationally without tremendous effort and many buyers are backed off by the ordeal. That said, the most collectible items still bring very high prices and even set new records as passionate collectors are determined.”
Chief among the Carl Walther collection was a circa 1939 Walther PPK, Zella-Mehlis, deluxe model 7.65 mm pistol that was gilded, factory-engraved, and presented in a brown leather casket lined in velvet. The seven shot pistol had a bright bore and a breech that was finely engraved with leaf and vine embellishments that were centered by flower blossoms. The piece was in almost new condition and sold, with a spare gold-plated magazine with extension, three dummy cartridges, and gilded cleaning rod, for the handsome price of $13,191. The Walther PPK was first made in 1931 as a more concealable version of the PP. It was the handgun of choice for James Bond, 007.
A Walther Model 6, caliber 9 mm Luger, No. 734, Achtschüssig, sold for $11,726. The self-loading pistol was marked with Walther’s patent and “Carl Walther, Waffenfabrik Zella St. Bl.” and came with a matching, but unrelated, magazine.
Highlighting the Fine Antique and Modern Firearms, which was offered in 1368 lots, was a deluxe grenade gun, South German, circa 1610 to 1620, that commanded a strong $175,885. It had a cup-shaped bronze mortar barrel with a reinforced lip and stepped cylindrical chamber. The barrel-top was completely engraved with trophies and blossom decorations. The walnut stock was richly inlaid with engraved and blackened bone and the butt was carved out in the shape of a sculptural dragon head. It was cataloged as an extremely rare weapon for firing grenade iron balls and noted that a similar specimen from the same workshop can be found in the collection of the Musée de l’Armée in Paris.
A pair of important deluxe flintlock pistols from the armory of the Princes von Lobkowitz, Paul Ignazius Poser and Franz Matzenkopf, Prague, circa 1730, brought $87,946. Both 15mm caliber pistols had round barrels with stepped center rails and smooth bores. The barrel tops were engraved and embossed with the signature “Paul Poser in Prag” and the barrel roots had two gold-inlaid “Poser” marks each below a crown and horse depiction. The stocks were made of grained walnut root wood with silver relief noses. Other embellishments included a battle with the Turks, ancient mythological figures, and finely engraved arms of the Princes von Lobkowitz. The catalog description stated that the high grade pair combined the late work of one of the best gunsmiths of his era with the talent of the young steel chiseler Franz Matzenkopf, who was a resident of Prague around 1730.
A rare four-barreled flintlock pistol, circa 1660, was signed “Peter Meesen Utrecht” on the lock plates. The 12.5mm caliber pistol had octagonal two-stage barrels that were round and smooth after a girdle with finely engraved flintlocks that portrayed figures and flowers. It had a slightly curved walnut stock with an inserted horn nose and sold for $58,619.
An 18th century 11 mm caliber iron-cut flintlock from Sardinia, with a long and smooth octagonal barrel, realized $35,171. It was elaborately cut and engraved and in excellent condition with a length of approximately 5 feet. Half of the upper half of the barrel was inlaid with ornamental and figurative silver and signed “M Frano Saragatto - ANESSUN LO DIA - D Gauino.”
For more information visit www.hermann-historica.de/en/