Keith Thomas, one of the world’s top gun engravers…

Keith Thomas, Gun Engraver
Keith Thomas, Gun Engraver

Last April at the 2017 Southern Side By Side Spring Classic I had the good fortune to meet Keith Thomas, one of the world’s top gun engravers. Thomas began his engraving career in 1964 as an apprentice with Holland & Holland. He stayed with that famous London firm until he went own in 1975.

Since then, he has worked for most of the work’s top gunmakers, including, including Boss & Co, W. W. Greener, Hartmann & Weiss, Asprey, Peter V. Nelson, Watson Bros, and A. A. Brown.

The Hartmann & Weiss you see here features his work and is a great example of why Thomas’s rose & scroll patterns are considered to be among the finest ever.

You can see more of Keith Thomas’s work here.

Hartmann & Weiss 28 gauge over-and-under shotgun
Hartmann & Weiss 28 gauge over-and-under shotgun
Hartmann & Weiss 28 gauge over-and-under shotgun
Hartmann & Weiss 28 gauge over-and-under shotgun

Sleeper Alert: 12 gauge Otto Seelig O/U at Rock Island…

12 gauge Otto Seelig Over Under Shotgun
12 gauge Otto Seelig Over Under Shotgun

There are sleepers in every gun auction.  Smart buyers sit through sales and wait for them. When they comes up and the bids don’t appear, the smart buyers pounce in and get a great deal.

12 gauge Otto Seelig Over Under Shotgun
12 gauge Otto Seelig Over Under Shotgun

At Rock Island’s upcoming sale, I’m sure a few smart buyers will have their eyes on this Otto Seelig 12 gauge Over & Under. It’s definitely a sleeper, and I think it could end up being a great deal.

Otto Seelig was based in Weisbaden (a  city in southwest Germany) at the end of the 19th century and up to around World War II. He is recorded as being gun dealer and gun supplier and clients included the Danish Royal Court. He probably had his guns made by other German craftsman and then sold them to customers throughout Europe.

12 gauge Otto Seelig Over Under Shotgun
12 gauge Otto Seelig Over Under Shotgun

Today, shotguns, rifles, and drillings bearing his name pop up from time to time and they very from well built, workmanlike pieces to beautifully crafted, exhibition grade firearms.

The over-and-under shotgun you see here must of been one of the finest doubles he sold. This double was “made” by his firm around World War I –maybe a bit before or just after. The Germans like their shotguns to be stout and this Seelig is very Teutonic – thick horn triggerguard, full pistol grip, the Kersten locking system. A ton of time and skill went into making it, too.

The “Made in Germany” engraving on the side of the rib and the 30″ bbls are a good signs that it was made for the US market. It was probably brought into this country by a top American gunshop like Von Lengerke & Detmold, Abercrombie & Fitch, or Sloan’s Sporting Goods.

When new, this Seelig must have been very expensive. In the 1950s it was bought used from Abercrombie & Fitch for $600. At that time, a new Winchester M21 in the “Deluxe” model cost $419 and a Webley & Scott M700 was $295. Most new cars cost around $1500.

Today, German doubles are extremely under appreciated–especially ones with all the Teutonic bells and whistles like this Seelig. Even though this over-and-under is on par with the finest shotguns ever made in America (and probably superior), most people fail to recognize the quality and skill that went into making it. If you do, put in a bid. You just may come away with a steal.

12 gauge Otto Seelig Over Under Shotgun
12 gauge Otto Seelig Over Under Shotgun

Here’s more about the gun from Rock Island’s online catalog:

Description: This is a nice example of a relief engraved and gold inlaid Otto Seelig shotgun. The shotgun features double red bead sights on the matte solid rib marked “OTTO SEELIG, WIESBADEN” in a panel near the breech and “MADE IN GERMANY” on the left side of the rib. 2 3/4 inch chambers, chokes gauge at full/extra full, (an attached Abercrombie & Fitch tag lists the chokes at strong modified/full), with ejectors.

The left rear of the upper barrel is nitro proofed and the side feature relief floral vine engraving. The scalloped box lock action, break lever and forearm latch assembly are engraved with a relief floral vine design with twenty gold inlaid game birds and a fox on the sides and bottom. Double cross bolt, cocking indicators, tang mounted automatic safety, double triggers with hinged front trigger and horn trigger guard.

Blue barrels and casehardened remaining parts, and mounted with a nicely figured, checkered walnut two piece forearm and pistol grip stock with relief engraved grip cap, checkered flats, cheek piece, leather covered English recoil pad and gold initial oval inscribed “P”. Length of pull is 14 3/4 inches, drop at the heel 2 3/8 inches and drop at the comb 1 3/8 inches.

Condition: Excellent. The barrels retain 95% original blue finish with some thinning to a smooth plum on each side of the lower barrel at the muzzle. There are some flashes of the original case colors on the top of the engraving, otherwise the action has a dark brown appearance. The wood is also excellent with some overall scattered minor dings and handling marks. The engraving is sharp. Mechanically excellent.

Original vs. redone: the real cost of a restock…

A little while ago, this discussion came up over at Doublegunshop.com regarding how a new stock on a double barrel shotgun would affect the gun’s overall value.

I contend that when all’s equal, restocked shotguns are always worth less than comparable, 100% original models. This is regardless of who restocks the gun or the quality of the work (in the online disussion, I’m the PITA who goes by Obsessed-with-Doubles).

Others disagreed. They felt that a properly restocked shotgun was just as valuable as one with the original wood, especially in the UK markets.

This leads us to the point of this post. On 4/18, we have the chance to put the BS to the test.

The following Boss sidelock ejector double barrel shotgun is at Gavin Gardiner’s 4/18 Spring Fine Modern and Vintage Sporting Guns.

Boss at Gavin Gardiner's, Lot 178
Boss at Gavin Gardiner's, Lot 178

Catalog info: 29-inch replacement barrels by the maker (no. 9995), with 2 1/2-inch chambers, about 1/4 and 1/2 choke boring, the frame, locks and gold numbered top lever with fine bouquet and scroll engraving and retaining traces of hardening colour, gold lined cocking indicator, rolled edge trigger guard, 14 1/4-inch well figured replacement stock, 6lb. 11oz., nitro proof, lightweight leather case with reproduction label.

The maker confirms that the gun was rebarelled in 1988 and restocked at the same time. Bores/walls: Rt: 729/28 & Lt: 729/28.

Estimate: £16,000-20,000

To clear things up a bit, I emailed a few more questions to the auctioneer. Here’s the response I received from Gavin Gardiner:

“As you can see, the gun is a very attractive example, that was rebarreled and restocked by the makers in the late 1980’s. Since then the gun has been little used. The barrels have not been re-blacked since that time and neither has the furniture(lever, guard etc… though this will have been re-blacked when the gun was rebarreled). The hardening colour that remains on the action is the original. The barrels remain as new and are free from any pits bulges or dents and measure as for new. The gun is clean, crisp and tight and everything is functioning as it should. As I said, it appears little used since refurbishment, and is an excellent example that is ready to be used right away.”

Granted, this Boss has been more than restocked. It has also been rebarreled. But all the work has been done by Boss – the side-by-side’s original maker. So this should be the ultimate test of the “if it’s done right, it’s fine” line of reasoning.

Once this auction ends, we’ll compare this lot’s final price to what all original Boss sidelocks are bringing. This will give us a sense of how the market values restocking & new barrels.

For now, here’s a list of vintage Boss sidelock doubles on the US market. Take a look and check out what you get for your money.

12g Boss at Osprey Arms

12g Boss on Gunbroker.com

12g Boss at Barnett’s

Even those these guns appear to be all original, I think they’re all overpriced by about $10,000. A couple have been on the market for 1 year+, so the market seems to agree with me.

London auction alert: Gavin Gardiner, April 18th…

Gavin Gardiner’s Spring Fine Modern and Vintage Sporting Guns sale on April 18th. I poked through the catalog and pulled out a few lots for a further look. Here’s the first one that caught my eye.

Boss at Gavin Gardiner's, Lot 178
Boss at Gavin Gardiner's, Lot 178

Lot 178: Boss & Co., 12-bore single trigger assisted opening sidelock ejector, No. 6364

Catalog info: 29-inch replacement barrels by the maker (no. 9995), with 2 1/2-inch chambers, about 1/4 and 1/2 choke boring, the frame, locks and gold numbered top lever with fine bouquet and scroll engraving and retaining traces of hardening colour, gold lined cocking indicator, rolled edge trigger guard, 14 1/4-inch well figured replacement stock, 6lb. 11oz., nitro proof, lightweight leather case with reproduction label. The maker confirms that the gun was rebarelled in 1988 and restocked at the same time. Bores/walls: Rt: 729/28 & Lt: 729/28. Estimate: £16,000-20,000

Pros: Original gun was made around 1915 (a good period for Boss) and the new barrels and stock were done by Boss. The barrels are modern and they have excellent measurements.

Cons: Some parts probably reblacked and the forend was probably refinished . The case isn’t original. Estimate seems high. Also, the auctioneer has left out a lot of important info and the pic shown says very little about the gun.

Another thing, this side-by-side shotgun is not an “assisted opener”. Boss never mad assisted-opening shotguns. The auctioneer is referring to a by-product Boss-patent ejectors. Because of the way these ejectors work, the luggers (I think that’s what they’re called) press against the face of the action. This force helps open the gun a bit- when the gun is cocked. After the gun has been fired, the ejectors do not do this and they have no effect on the opening of the gun.

BTW: before you think these guns are fantastic deals, consider this that when buying in the UK, you should double whatever you’ll pay in £  and add 5-10% to get a good estimate your total costs in $s.

 

%d bloggers like this: