There are expensive guns, and then there are these. Even the most wealthy of collectors will find it exceedingly difficult to procure one of these firearms, and each is a notable piece of history on its own. Due to their historical significance and desirability, these weapons are coveted by both collectors and museums alike, and finding one up for auction is very rare.
It comes as no surprise that some of the world’s most expensive guns are also the most notorious. Many of these firearms were once owned by assassins and thieves, but others have a gentler history.
Which of these guns would be in your dream collection?
10. Adolf Hitler’s gold Walther
Sold for: $114,000 in 1987
A gold-plated 7.65mm Walther PP that owes its hefty price tag not to the material it was made from, but to whom it belonged. This small handgun was once believed by some to be the very gun that Adolf Hitler, arguably the twentieth century’s most notorious dictator, committed suicide with. What is known is that Hitler was reportedly gifted the gun on his 50th birthday and hardly used it. According to historians, US Army First Lt. Ira Palm retrieved the pistol after a raid on Hitler’s apartment in April of 1945, far away from the bunker where the Fuhrer later ended his own life.
That said, the bold initials on the pistol’s grip cemented its place in history as one of the world’s most desirable firearms.
9. Wyatt Earp’s Colt revolver
Sold for: $225,000 in 2014
For auction houses, few items are as big of a draw as the guns of an Old West legend. In 2014, J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale, Arizona auctioned off two firearms reportedly owned by lawman Wyatt Earp. One of the guns, a Colt .45 revolver, is believed to have been used at O.K. Corral, the gunfight that propelled Earp to national fame in 1881.
“This is American history here, and not only is it that, it’s Western folklore. […] This gun, the O.K. Corral shootout, it’s lived on where other stories have not stood the test of time,” Levine told The Arizona Republic.
Earp remains one of the most famous—and infamous—gunslingers of the Old West. A hunter, miner, onetime lawman, and notorious killer, Earp forever remains a part of the tapestry that is the legend of the West. Similarly, his guns do as well.
8. The gun used to assassinate Jesse James
Sold for: $350,000 in 2003
The .44 Smith & Wesson Model 3 that Bob Ford used to murder the bandit Jesse James, this firearm drew high bids in 2003 when it was sold for a small fortune. Despite his numerous crimes, Jesse James has since been romanticized as a Western version of Robin Hood, which put his assassin, traitorous former gang member Bob Ford, in a darker light. Ford had made a deal with Thomas Crittenden, the Missouri Governor at the time, to murder James for immunity and a hefty reward. Ford used this gun to put a bullet in the back of the notorious outlaw after eating breakfast on one April morning in 1882.
The S&W Model 3 was later confiscated from Ford and he used a Colt Single Action Army to pose for pictures afterward. Historians eventually discovered that the Colt Ford posed with was actually made after the shooting, confirming this Model 3 as the gun he shot James with.
7. Teddy Roosevelt’s 12 gauge shotgun
Sold for: $862,500 in 2010
This F-grade A.H. Fox 12 gauge once belonged to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. An avid hunter, explorer, and conservationist, Roosevelt handled many firearms in his time—and even endorsed early suppressors, which he shot on his property. Of all of them, though, this shotgun has carried the biggest price tag. Believed to be one of the firearms he took with him on his legendary 13-month Smithsonian expedition in 1909, this gun may have bagged its share of exotic African animals.
6. Texas Ranger Sam Wilson’s Colt
Sold for: $920,000 in 2008
Why does this .44 Colt Walker fetch such an extremely high price? It’s probably due in part to its pristine condition, which makes it one-of-a-kind out of only the 200 or so models still left. Originally, about 1,100 Colt Walker revolvers were produced in honor of Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker, a hero of the Texas Rangers. This particular revolver belonged to Private Sam Wilson.
5. Jesse James’ Single Action Army
Valued at: $1.6 million
It has been more than 131 years since James’ death, yet there is still a demand for artifacts and memorabilia linked to the Wild West icon. James fought against Union forces during the American Civil War and later became known for his bold heists after the war ended. This revolver, a .45 Colt Single Action Army, is the most thoroughly documented of all of the outlaw’s firearms and once belonged to his son. In 2013 Texas-based Heritage Auctions attempted to auction it with a starting bid of $400,000 but it was left unsold. It is currently valued at $1.6 million.
4. General Simón Bolívar’s matching pistols
Sold for: $1.76 million
A revolutionary that wrestled much of South America from Spanish rule, Simón Bolívar is seen today by many as a liberator—although he still has his critics. These two matching flintlock pistols drew an outrageous price at auction in 2004, but that was to be expected for one of the most important figures in history.
3. George Washington’s matching pistols
Sold for: $2 million
Like Bolívar, this founding father was best known for liberating parts of the New World from the grip of a powerful European empire. These saddle pistols, which once belonged to George Washington, is now on display at Fort Ligonier in Pennsylvania after being sold for an astounding $2 million at auction.
2. The Kennedy assassination rifle
Sold for: n/a
The last two entries on this list are kind of cheating, since instead of being merely expensive, these particular firearms are in fact priceless. That is because both were used for the assassination of a head of state, and both guns had a dramatic impact on American history. The first and runner up on this list is the 6.5mm Carcano Model 91/38 carbine used by Lee Harvey Oswald to murder President John F. Kennedy.
The rifle was later discovered on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, where Oswald shot Kennedy during a motorcade in 1963. After undergoing testing by the FBI, the rifle was placed into storage. Oswald’s widow, Marina Oswald, eventually sold the title for the rifle to a gun collector by the name of John J. King, who sued the federal government—which refused to release the weapon—for an astounding $5,000,000 in the 1960s. By the end of the decade a 12-person jury agreed that since Oswald abandoned the rifle, his widow lacked any claim of ownership and so did King.
It is currently located in the National Archives and Records Administration building in Maryland.
1. The Lincoln assassination derringer
Sold for: n/a
On April 14, 1865, five days after the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union forces, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Easily one of the most notorious acts in American history, that placed this single-shot .44 caliber derringer pistol at the top of this list. A true pocket pistol, this weapon was manufactured by Henry Deringer himself and weighed only eight ounces. Since it will never be sold, experts can only guess at its value, yet there is little doubt that the pistol will likely outmatch any other weapon on this list. It is currently on display in the Ford Theater, where the assassination took place.