With a history pre-dating the founding of the country, Alexander Hamilton’s pistols are expected to draw a record-breaking price.
More so than the guns themselves, their provenance drives the price. Prove a heater was once in some historical person’s hand and it goes from mere specimen to peerless artifact faster than you can say John Hancock. Or in this case, Alexander Hamilton.
A pair of the Founding Father’s flintlock pistols are set for the block at the Rock Island Auction Company’s May 14-16 Premier sale. And already, the renowned marketplace for some of the world’s rarest firearms anticipates a blockbuster take for the first Tresurary Secratary’s muzzleloaders. In a press release, Rock Island foresees the pistol raking in between $1 million and $3.5 million, putting the guns in the running for a world record for highest priced firearms ever publicly sold. Not surprising given the legacy of the flintlocks and the renewed interest in Hamilton, since the popular musical bearing his name.
The pistols were a honeymoon gift to then Colonel Hamilton by his father-in-law General Philip Schuyler during the Revolutionary War, sometime after the Battle of Saratoga. According to the company, the flintlocks were Schuyler’s personal arms and saw action with the officer and the eventual United States Senator in the French and Indian War that preceded the American Revolution. Though not officially documented, there is a likelihood the guns were with Hamilton in his triumph at the Siege of Yorktown, where his battalion of light infantry played a key role in forcing the British surrender.
“These pistols represent Hamilton’s physical ability to wage war on the enemy. They are his physical ability to achieve Revolution and start the Republic,” RIAC President Kevin Hogan said. “However, they also transcend arms-specific collecting. They are an American institution in and of themselves and an intimate way to be a part of the past.”
The pistols were passed down through four generations of the Hamilton family until in 1942 they were sold to pioneering firearms collector Robert Abels. Rock Island does not list the present cosigner, though he provides affidavits of ownership through the Hamilton family to contemporary owners, one of which happened to be former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon. Auctioned alongside the pistols are the epaulettes Hamilton wore as an officer.
As for the pistols themselves, they are described as 9-inch barreled .58-caliber flintlocks with a bright blue finish and walnut stock. As pointed out in Rock Island’s write-up, the guns are incredibly austere with very sparse ornamentation. Logical, given the pistols were not presented to Hamilton as a mark of achievement or rank, but to wage war. In short, they are a fighting man’s guns.
This is not the first historically significant firearm to pass through Rock Island Auction Company. Previously, the auction house sold very desirable guns owned by former United States Presidents, including John F. Kennedy’s M1 Garand, Ronald Ragan’s Colt revolvers and Theodore Roosevelt’s factory-engraved Colt Single-Action Army. The last set a world record price for a public-sale firearm, when in 2020 it sold for an unprecedented $1.46-million. Impressive as that is, there’s a fair chance it won’t hold a candle to what Hamilton’s flintlocks will draw when the gavel drops.
For more information on Hamilton’s pistols, please visit rockislandauction.com.
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