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The desirability of nickel plating...
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May 9, 2024 - 1:34 am
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… or undesirability?  

We’ve talked about nickel plating before.  Some here are fans.  Some are not.  One frequent criticism of nickel is that when it wears it is often unsightly. But it’s not always unsightly.

Here’s an example I was following.  It’s a M1876 that I found very desirable.  It’s a rifle with fancy (BEAUTIFUL) checkered wood, engraved by Ulrich, nickel trim and everything letters.  There is some flaking with this piece but I think it is still fairly attractive.  I thought the auction estimate of $60,000 to $90,000 was appropriate.  Yet, it doesn’t even hit the low end of the estimate – it sells (with the juice) at under $50,000.  Would it have been done better if it wasn’t nickel plated?  The paradox is the nickel plating is one more special order feature that adds to the rarity – which should increase the value?  The original buyer paid a couple dollars extra for that plating.  

https://auctions.morphyauctions.com/_A__JOHN_ULRICH_FACTORY_ENGRAVED_NICKEL_PLATED_DEL-LOT564924.aspx

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May 9, 2024 - 2:49 am
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Now that’s a neat rifle!  I would be pleased to own it.

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May 9, 2024 - 3:20 am
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steve004 said One frequent criticism of nickel is that when it wears it is often unsightly.

Not “often,” always.  Even this gun, probably handled with kid gloves since it was new, shows loss of plating.  For some reason I can’t logically explain, nickel on a handgun can seem attractive to me, but on a rifle, it’s pure gaudiness, even when in excellent cond.  But Franklin Mint has proven beyond doubt that gaudiness sells.

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May 9, 2024 - 1:44 pm
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Although a nice rifle Steve I’ve never been a nickel plate fan as most in my price range are well worn and gaudy as Clarence states. The few I have considered that had a decent finish, still didn’t appeal to me as I’m always thinking I know what’s going to happen to it someday!

 Rick C 

   

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May 9, 2024 - 2:02 pm
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Wow, I’m the odd man out.  I thought the rifle that is the subject matter of this thread to be nothing short of spectacular!

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May 9, 2024 - 2:04 pm
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   Winchester plated nickel over bare steel and gun metal, it flaked. Modern nickel usually has a copper flash making the nickel stick and the color is brighter on the modern nickel. Both are ugily, the old as it flakes and the new when it’s new. Silver and gold are not as hard, they wear thin but do not flake. They look good to me on an antique gun even if worn or tarnished. I think the antique gun market prices reflects this. T/R

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May 9, 2024 - 3:10 pm
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clarence said

steve004 said One frequent criticism of nickel is that when it wears it is often unsightly.

Not “often,” always.  Even this gun, probably handled with kid gloves since it was new, shows loss of plating.  For some reason I can’t logically explain, nickel on a handgun can seem attractive to me, but on a rifle, it’s pure gaudiness, even when in excellent cond.  But Franklin Mint has proven beyond doubt that gaudiness sells.

  

I’m with Clarence on this.  Nickel plating seems to work better on handguns.  That being said, this rifle has nickel plated trimmings.  I have never liked a fully plated rifle.  

This rifle is pretty spectacular.  I think as a blue/CCH gun it would have passed the $50K mark based on what I’ve seen of recent Morphy auctions.

I call myself a collector as it sounds better than hoarder

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May 9, 2024 - 3:10 pm
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I think that’s quite a nice rifle, would love to have it but I need both my kidneys. Someone recently told me that plating processes in the US at that time were significantly behind that of say, the UK, and that’s why their period stuff tends to wear better. (that’s repeating what I was told, can’t testify to that personally…)

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May 9, 2024 - 3:51 pm
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   Winchester plated nickel over bare steel and gun metal, it flaked. Modern nickel usually has a copper flash making the nickel stick and the color is brighter on the modern nickel.TR said  

Over gunmetal, if you mean a brass or bronze alloy, a proper plating job shouldn’t actually flake.  I don’t object to nickeled prong buttplates, but they were cast brass, so as the plating wore thin it might expose the base metal, but it didn’t detach in patches, looking like leprosy.  What I hate about them isn’t the nickel, it’s the prongs!

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May 9, 2024 - 4:55 pm
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I was drawn to the rifle as well.  However, I have appreciated everyone’s responses.  And my suspicion was confirmed:  many are not inspired by nickel plating on rifles. An aspect of this rifle I find interesting is that it is a, “no-excuse” rifle.  It letters as factory engraved, all the other features letter.  And to be Ulrich engraved (and stamped) is very desirable.  Hence, my speculation that it is the nickel plating (i.e. special order, original, lettered nickel plating) that likely held it back.  

This is a bonus for the collector who really likes the rifle – having other bidders not appear or hang back is a very fine scenario when you’re after something. 

Around a month ago, someone started a thread wanting advice on what Winchesters to buy (e.g. many lower-dollar rifles or a few higher-dollar rifles).  A concern of his was wanting to make selections that would hold the greatest value for his heirs to benefit from.  Seems we should have steered him away from nickel plated rifles.  

Or, for those that aren’t so fond of their heirs, if a nickeled rifle strikes your fancy:  go for it!

Wink

mrcvs said
Wow, I’m the odd man out.  I thought the rifle that is the subject matter of this thread to be nothing short of spectacular!

  

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May 9, 2024 - 5:16 pm
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Steve-

I like the gun, just not nearly as much as the consignor. It appears it did not make the reserve. Something in my body chemistry attacks modern nickel finishes so I’ve never wanted to keep one around other than the occasional chrome bolt on a rimfire. I think the nickel trim and engraving was very tastefully done, would be nice to see this gun in person.

 

 

Mike

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May 9, 2024 - 5:25 pm
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TXGunNut said
I like the gun, just not nearly as much as the consignor. It appears it did not make the reserve.  

How do you know this to be the case?

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May 9, 2024 - 5:49 pm
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I’m not a big fan of nickeled rifles, but this one does appeal to me.  The nickel has just enough wear to show it has been used, yet well cared for.  The engraving is also very tasteful with the nickel trim.  The engraving, nickel trim and overall finish is all brought together with fabulous wood.  I’ve owned several nice 1873 and 1876 deluxe guns with 3x wood, but this ’76 has extraordinary grain in both stock and forend.  I think it’s a great piece.

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May 9, 2024 - 6:18 pm
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Not a shiny gun fan.  Had a few but not anymore.  Do have a 1990’s S&W 357 that is brushed stainless.  My only modern revolver.

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May 9, 2024 - 10:13 pm
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mrcvs said

TXGunNut said

I like the gun, just not nearly as much as the consignor. It appears it did not make the reserve.  

How do you know this to be the case?

  

I don’t know, didn’t say I did. I read that bidding was stopped. It does not say the item sold. 

 

Mike

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May 9, 2024 - 10:37 pm
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I’m assuming it sold because the minimum bid listed was $30k.

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May 10, 2024 - 12:21 am
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I’m anxiously waitng for the one on R.I.A. to come , lot 26 with an estimate of $45,000.00 to $60,000.00 I have that ’73 factory nickel plated 15″ trapper and although it’s a different gun , it will reflect on the value of mine, to Me anyways.

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May 10, 2024 - 2:04 am
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Henry Mero said
I’m anxiously waitng for the one on R.I.A. to come , lot 26 with an estimate of $45,000.00 to $60,000.00 I have that ’73 factory nickel plated 15″ trapper and although it’s a different gun , it will reflect on the value of mine, to Me anyways.

  

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/4091/26/special-order-nickel-plated-winchester-model-1873-carbine

 

Here’s the direct link. Sure is nice condition plating….suspiciously nice? I’m not suggesting replating, just never seen one that…bright? 

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May 10, 2024 - 2:09 am
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Jeremy P said

Here’s the direct link. Sure is nice condition plating….suspiciously nice? I’m not suggesting replating, just never seen one that…bright?  

Why would you say that?  Merely stored in a vacuum-sealed nitrogen chamber since the day it was built. 

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May 10, 2024 - 4:22 am
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This rifle is renickeled (Henry Mero’s example in Post 17, link in Post 18).  Caveat emptor!

Look at the barrel address and patent dates and the numerous breaks in the lettering.  They did not leave the factory like this.

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