It’s confirmed: Fox collectors are nuts. The auction for this 20g A.H. Fox XE ended Monday, and the final price was $24,002. That’s a lot for a gun with almost no original color-case hardening and a stubby stock. At least its provenance is sound. That must be what drove the price so high.
For the same money, the winning bidder could have bought this 20 gauge Westley Richards droplock. Much nicer gun, but it doesn’t come with as nice a story.
1921 A.H. Fox 20 gauge XE double barrel shotgun: According to J.T. Callahan, the Fox records indicate that this gun, SN 201509, a 20 gauge XE, was shipped on August 7, 1921 from Philadelphia to Abercrombie & Fitch of NYC, the original consignee. The gun was made with 26” barrels, choked IC (r) and M (l) with a LOP of 13 ½” and DOH of 2 5/8”. Weight, 5 lbs., 12 oz. — FINAL HAMMER: $24,002
Over in Scotland, Gavin Gardiner held his annual Gleneagles Sale on the same day (Monday). This pair of 12g sidelock Wilkes shotguns did extremely well – pricey, but possibly worth it.
JOHN WILKES A MAGNIFICENT PAIR OF KELL-ENGRAVED 12-BORE SIDELOCK EJECTOR GUNS, NOS. 13802/3: 28-inch barrels with 2 1/2-inch chambers, about 1/4 and 3/4 choke borings, matted top ribs, the frames, locks and gold numbered top levers with best bouquet and scroll engraving and retaining virtually all of their original hardening colour, the inside of the fore-end irons with further bouquet and scroll engraving, gold washed lockwork, rolled edge trigger guards, 14 1/2-inch highly figured exhibition quality stocks, inlaid in gold with the entwined initials “W.D.”, 6lb. 9oz., nitro proof, in their maker’s presentation case with engraved fittings and canvas outer cover. ESTIMATE: £25000-35000 SALE PRICE: £53,900
The maker confirms that the guns were completed on 24th August 1935 for W. W. Dowding. The guns were engraved by Harry Kell with special flower and scroll work and the guns remain as originally built. The original cost was £220 with the case costing £13 15s and the matching outer cover a further £5 12s 6d.
W. W. Dowding
William W. Dowding, for whom these guns were made, was one of the Wilkes’ largest retail customers in the 1930s. He started to buy guns from them in 1931 and in the course of the next five years ordered a total of ten new guns as well as buying others and a wide variety of shooting requisites. The story passed down the family was that in 1933 Dowding challenged Jack Wilkes to make for him a pair of guns that were on a par with the best the London trade could offer. Guns 13802/3 were Jack’s response to that challenge. Many years later his sons viewed this pair of guns as his masterpiece.
To make them, Wilkes went to many of the best outworkers in the the London trade. George Lane and Bolter normally worked for Woodward; Mealey at the time was on Wilkes’ payroll, but had worked for Grant & Lang and several others in a very long career; and Willie Lane was shortly to join Grant & Lang’s payroll. The engraver Harry Kell is probably the only outworker now widely known.