This article covers types of expensive guns, with mentions of particularly interesting models or guns that actually sold for gigantic sums. If you are looking for more practical firearms for prepping purposes, see Steve Markwith’s Survival Guns series of books.
Guns Tied to Historical Figures
Simon Bolivar is widely recognized as the catalytic figure who sparked revolution and the eventual gaining of freedom for several South American countries. His matched set of flintlock pistols sold at auction for more than $1.8 million USD after auction fees.
Theodore Roosevelt (Former President of the U.S.), an unapologetic safari hunter and lover of firearms, had a double barrel shotgun made by A.H Fox, presented by Ansley Fox to the President a year before his term in office ended (about 1908) sold for more than $865,000 USD . That’s an expensive gun!
Brigham Young had a Colt Pocket revolver (which more closely resembled a full-sized revolver) that sold at auction for more than $650K USD. The Second President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had this impressive gun by his side at nearly all times after the difficulty of the LDS members was quantified in the wake of Joseph Smith’s death, and after the issuance of the extermination order by Governor Boggs. It holds special significance to members of the church but is an impressive specimen on its own a piece of history and as a firearm.
Guns such as these are not common firearms and hold both intrinsic and speculative value to collectors.
Guns Tied to Historical Events or Eras
What might be a surprise to some, is anything firearm to the top tier of the Third Reich or a major revolution are some of the most expensive types of guns. There is legitimate historical value, and as unpalatable as some of the events or history tied to the guns are, the value will never go down. (See touring a Nazi bunker.)
There are some very interesting aspects to this facet of the article. For instance, the gun that killed Alexander Hamilton, one of the most polarizing founding fathers of the United States, and which also killed Hamilton’s son (owned by A.H’s brother-in-law John B. Church) is in private hands. The gun is held by J.P. Morgan Chase, which awkwardly also owns the founding documents of Aaron Burr’s Manhattan company, the very same company that is J.P. Morgan Chase now. How the dueling pistol that killed Hamilton (but was kept in his family), ended up in the hands of the bank that was essentially started by the guy who killed him, we do not know.
The point? Many amazing artifacts that also happen to be firearms aren’t publicly for sale and aren’t going to have that kind of financial record; and yet, their value, were they to go onto the market, would exceed most other firearms auctions in history. The value of a set of guns like the dueling pistols that were involved in Hamilton’s death (which are a Wogdon & Barton, English made flintlock set), would be exceptionally high – easily into the millions of dollars.
These pistols, being owned/controlled by a public company, are in one of the most secure vaults in the world, and there is no monetary catalyst to bring them to market. Are they the most famous, potentially most expensive guns in the world?
Maybe, but maybe not. The gun that changed the modern world – that which killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand – is also unlikely to be sold publicly. It has an argument as the most important gun in the modern era, considering the incredible depth of the change the bullet it delivered set in motion. In what was likely a private transfer of wealth between the “owners” the Austrian Jesuits, and the Vienna Museum of Military History, the gun was handed over to the Museum for maintenance and caretaking.
In American History, another gun stands out too. While it may not be the best .308 rifle, the 6.5mm rifle that was used to kill John Kennedy would fetch quite a price, and seems to be historically relevant, and even though it’d be hard to prove provenance given the conspiracy theories, is not for sale. But judging by the Jack Ruby revolver that sold at auction for $200K, the Carcano rifle originally purchased for $20 by Lee Harvey Oswald would fetch 10 times that number with ease.
Ultra-Rare Guns Produced in Small Numbers
Guns of this type were produced in small quantity whether it be because of age, difficulty to maintain the gun, or events that took some of the guns out of circulation.
In fact, the only guns that really achieve the status necessary to top the market in this area, must have been mainstream enough and well-enough made, and had enough volume to create a social value such that it could be recognized as something special. There are thousands of guns that are one-off; made by a competent gunsmith or producer that are rarer than the guns on this list, but they can’t command the same prices because no one knows about them (or cares).
Sheer low numbers, from an original production perspective will not produce the kind of pricing value that these guns will command.
Guns that Represent the Height of Artistic Gun-Making
When Winchester/Henry was producing factory embellished firearms, they made creative beauties that are hard to match from an aesthetic perspective, even with technology more than 125 years later. One such beauty is the John Ulrich signed Grade 1 Winchester 1886 takedown that was embellished and has factory letters to signify the provenance.
This particular rifle went for more than $1.2 million USD after auction house fees. It’s as beautiful as it is expensive, a true specimen of 19th century engraving and woodcarving.
Guns Made from Rare Materials
Officially the most expensive gun for sale in the world? Maybe. At $4.5 Million USD, the pair of Cabot 1911’s made from (mostly) meteorite are something to behold. Meteorite in small sizes is not particularly rare, but to have enough of it to craft two full-sized 1911 pistols from – that’s something special, not to mention how tough it is to machine meteorite. Cabot has something truly special, if not a complete novelty made only for the purposes of headlines and absurdity.
In a world where dot-com millionaires and other elites have more money than they know what to do with, it’s not hard to see guns get auctioned at record levels year after year.
Rumors of solid gold guns made for drug cartel leaders in the 1970s, 1980s, and 90s have fueled buyers in this speculative topic. A gun made from 40+ ounces of gold is something quite extraordinary, because it’s made from such a precious material in such a large amount, but even more so because of the audacity that it takes to craft something like it.
The novelty and rarity of it exceeds the material melt value. But such is the case with many guns typified in this article.
So many fine examples of rarity and craftsmanship exist in the gun world and justify being the most expensive types of guns. Most will eventually find their way to the auction block as the heir to the family fortune loses interest, or as money dictates the necessity. These will be the clear majority of guns in the upper echelon of the market.
Others may never see the auctioneer’s gavel because they are too historically valuable or are controlled by well-off individuals or corporations. It is these that are constantly being speculated about. Which is the rarest? Which would be the most valuable? Which one had the most impact on history?
For collectors with more money than I will ever see, these are some of the most expensive types of gun with excellent, thought-provoking stories.