The Auction Insider

It was months ago that my father, Brad, fielded a call from Humboldt State University asking if we might appraise a collection they owned. Dad suggested the items be shipped to our Sacramento location to save both time and money for the University. We started to imagine what might be found but, after several weeks of waiting, no delivery arrived and we went on toother discoveries. Then, just days ago, I received another call from the school advising me the collection was on its way to Sacramento. Within 24 hours a FedEx truck rolled up and left us with a crate that looked as if it hadn’t see the light of day for many decades. My dad and I pried open the box with great excitement and unpacked early California history.

We appraised the collection that contains all manner of firearms from the earliest days of California – tiny silver pistols to revolvers and very rare rifles. We unwrapped holsters, belt buckles and, particularly outstanding, a Colt Dragoon Powder Flask. Other makers include icons of the West such as Derringer, Smith and Wesson and others. There’s an 1887 Sharps Borchardt Full Stock Military Rifle and even firearms from France, England and the Middle East.

Very intriguing is a gun from Union City Humboldt Bay, a gun that no one has been able to identify. In the 1850s Union City (known as Arcata today) attracted miners and loggers from all over the world and it’s fun to imagine its origin. It’s a half-stock Plains Rifle, Barrel marked C. Schumaker Union H.B. We welcome any information from readers about this unusual rifle.

This collection, safeguarded by the University represents a bygone era when men and women of the Old West carried guns and rifles like our generation carries cell phones. Firearms back then were a functional accoutrement, as basic as boots and hats. They most assuredly occupied a different place in American culture than does today’s gun ownership. But, as a category, guns remain the most collected genre in the nation.

Witherell’s had hoped to represent the collection in an upcoming online auction and help raise funds for this Northern California institution of higher learning. But, after serious consideration University authorities decided to donate the entire collection to a museum. We, of course, support that decision as it keeps the collection in tact and offers an opportunity for the public to appreciate this important part of our heritage in the American West.

Next up – watch for our Summer iGavel Auction where we’ll offer more exciting and Fabulous Finds!