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Prime examples of extremely shaky provenance (Bonham’s Auction)
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August 30, 2021 - 12:47 pm
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It really doesn’t matter what I think, these Winchesters, and other firearms in this auction, hammered at extremely high prices, and will probably sell at even higher prices at a later date, but…

First, a notarized letter means nothing other than the notary confirmed the person signing the letter is the person presented before the notary.  Most of these firearms are supported as to provenance by notarized letters by individuals who stand to financially gain from the affirmation.  Many times decades later during an era prior to Social Security.

I heard that bidder 3000 purchased many of the lots and this person was supposedly representing William I Koch.  Only four firearms had appropriate provenance and supporting documentation:  Bat Masterson’s Single Action Army revolver, as identified as shipped to him in a factory letter; a DA Frontier Smith & Wesson on John Wesley Hardin and the Colt Single Action Army revolver used by John Selma to murder him, both identified by serial number during the trial, and Bass Outlaw’s Merwin & Hulbert identified by serial number in a period affidavit, State of Texas.

Let’s not even bother with the firearms stated as “attributed to”.

Are some of these notarized letters true?  Probably.  Are some outrageous lies?  Probably.  You tell me which is which and prove it definitively.

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/8/?category=list&length=12&page=1

Pat Garrett’s Winchester taken from Billy Wilson.  Provided the photocopied letter isn’t a fake or altered, at least Pat Garrett may have owned this one and whether or not it was Billy Wilson’s, as attested to 26 years later May or may not be true.

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/10/?category=list&length=12&page=1

Billy the Kid’s 1873, again supported by notarized letter.

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/15/?category=list&length=12&page=2

Bob Dalton’s Winchester, identified by contemporary bill of sale as ‘1 Winchester’ and no serial number specified, and then subsequent notarized statements.

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/16/?category=list&length=12&page=2

Dalton Bros Winchester 1873.  Again, supported by notarized letter.

NONE of these have particularly good provenance, except possibly Pat Garrett was telling the truth in his affirmation.  For this kind of money, any of these should be able to pass a defense of a Master’s thesis in History and none would as a notarized letter is meaningless.

Now, in contrast, I will present the only four I noted with ironclad provenance, none being a Winchester:

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/14/?category=list&length=12&page=2

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/18/?category=list&length=12&page=2

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/19/?category=list&length=12&page=2
 
https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/20/?category=list&length=12&page=2

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August 30, 2021 - 1:20 pm
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Like you said, notarizing a signature means nothing except that the person who affixed it was who he claimed to be; not that he knew what he was talking about, not that he wasn’t mistaken or lying.

On the other hand, who cares about fat-cats getting fleeced.

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August 30, 2021 - 2:03 pm
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You would like to think the fat cats got fleeced, or it may have been just one billionaire individual who wanted virtually everything, but I would wager 10:1 odds that when everything sold last week in this auction comes up for sale again, despite extremely questionable provenance, it will sell for even more.

In wealthy circles, the provenance doesn’t really matter, it’s all about bragging rights.  Money can be easily replaced, there’s only one Billy the Kid revolver.  Maybe another one, but very few.  Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter.

A news story recently said that for the wealthiest billionaires, a million dollars is like  a dollar to you and I.  Bill Koch’s net worth, like any billionaire’s, is just a guess, but appears to be 1/100th or so of the tilt wealthiest in this country.  So a $6 million revolver is like you or I spending $600.  For someone such as him, his net worth probably fluctuates by more than $6 million one way or another on a daily basis.

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August 30, 2021 - 6:59 pm
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Thoughts…

“Provenances” need to be conjured from at least two fundamental aspects. Content and methodology.  The content is here perhaps most apparent. Seeking concurrence of the ‘story’, whatever, to reasonably established historical facts; timelines, etc. “Continuity.” Documents which suggest acceptance as requiring rewriting history… more obviously suspect.  But too easy as here, to get involved with such substance to omission of ‘other’. ‘Procedure’, the other aspect, involves scrutinizing the physical document itself, separate from content. Too often content focused, to ignore. 

As usual, I haven’t looked critically at all the documents presented here. Obvious excuse, my own aged eyesight. I selected one, more at random, and just did a bit of ‘shopping’ (aka Photoshopping) with small amateurish program gratis with Windows 10 Pro.  Results below.  I made this document considerably clearer & easy to read.  I then continued on to bring out any other details. I now don’t know what I have. 🙂  At first appearing “Rampant Colt” watermark. Now… ?  But ‘connecting the dots’, noting they correspond pretty much exactly as overlay to the printing. Again, meaning???  Point, at least to keep in mind, “document forgery” as possibility aspect. 

Bottom line… What does it all mean… If anything.  What I’m getting at, the ease nowadays to produce dramatic quality forgeries. Computer and no more than good office quality/versatility color printer.  My belief that about anyone good with Adobe Print Shop and like programs could well turn out a great forgery. More, likely illicit programs in the wind, specific to such goals!  The other and greater problem, paper and to some extent ‘possibly’, ink. Forgery increasingly likely nowadays, where the rubber meeting road ease and sufficient cash motive!    

Some decades ago, working my money laundering case colliding with Secret Service counterfeiting case! Learning curve tech exchange!  Even in those days, factory letter provenances such as here; piece of cake. Now, ‘usual tech office printers’ & savvy operator, ‘likely’ child’s play!  Contemporary ‘net’, ‘net’.  If the dollars to be had sufficiently ‘alluring’, objectively relying investment potential heavily on paper document provenance; I’d not wish to be there. At best, the ‘hot potato’/musical chairs, analogies!

Where, in gun collecting, fraudsters to swap major components, alter nomenclature in steel, etc…  “Effort!” Nowadays likely ‘dumber crook’ syndrome’ compared to smarter crooks with ‘computers & clicks’; achieving magic “provenances”!  

Golden rule we all know… Remaining…  Buy the gun, not the story!  

Post point…  Hey Clarence… Friend!  How about focusing on the ‘unlawful deeds’ of the crook instead of condemning ‘wealth’ of victims!  If wealth equated to a ‘get out of jail free’ for perps, soon crooks enjoying free hand to steal all the wealth and such formula insulating prosecution from their deeds!  Too…  Some of our largest billionaires, also huge philanthropists!  Eg: MacKenzie Scott, “Gates Family Trust”, etc.  How about just ‘us’, to thank The Man for our disposable income made available hobbies!   

Just my take and…

Best!

John

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August 30, 2021 - 7:58 pm
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iskra said
 Some of our largest billionaires, also huge philanthropists!

Yes, Mike Bloomberg has done a lot for us, too. 

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August 31, 2021 - 1:31 pm
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  If the provenance of a gun  is documented by the serial number in a Cody letter or Springfield Research then the originality of the gun’s serial number is everything. With these sources the original document exist to prove the copy, the letter. Without the existence of the original document, provenance becomes the opinion of the person signing the notarized letter. His provenance is everything. T/R

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September 1, 2021 - 4:26 am
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I remember seeing Bob Daltons 1886 being sold before, it has been a long time ago and it was iffy then as well.  Guess what it wasn’t this rifle on the Bonhams auction either, it was a 40-82 with a serial number in the 38,000’s and they claimed that Emmett, Bob’s younger brother, had ID’d it and that it was used in Coffeyville.  Who knows anymore, maybe someone just has a shooter that has been owned or stolen by some famous or not so famous person, there is almost zero chance in proving anything.chrome_2021-08-31_23-25-30.jpgImage Enlarger

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