Purchase Story

Gun Trek: The Next Generation

Poulin Antiques and Auctions Inc., Fairfield, Maine

 

Photos courtesy Poulin Antiques and Auctions Inc.

After James Julia sold his business, the gavel lay dormant at the Julia auction facility in Fairfield, Maine. But not for long. Poulin Antiques and Auctions Inc., begun over 30 years ago by Steve and Jeannine Poulin, Jim’s sister and brother-in-law, purchased the property last fall. Poulin held its second major firearms auction at that location from March 30 to April 2. The catalog described the acquisition of the “Former Auction Facility of World Renowned Hall of Fame Auctioneer James Julia.” It continued, “We are pleased to announce the purchase of our neighboring auction facility. This acquisition will give us one of the largest firearms auction compounds in the industry with nearly 50,000 square feet of space.” So the beat goes on.

Steve and Jeannine’s son Nick is the company’s chief operating officer, sales coordinator, and lead auctioneer, and he’s carrying on the strong tradition that was begun by his grandfather Arthur Julia (1927-2017). Another Julia tradition the Poulins are continuing and expanding is setting out a full buffet for all the days of the preview and the auction. I’m pretty sure that some people showed up on the third day just for the fish chowder. If they missed that they had to settle for other succulent fare such as beef tips, alfredo, or pork loin.

The Poulins are closing in on becoming one of the biggest, if not the biggest, firearms auction firms in New England. At the preview, Nick related, “When [Jim] announced he was going to sell it, there was a big opportunity here…because for years we’ve run in conjunction with one another. I’ve advertised with every single one of his catalogs…. I looked at the value of everything, and it was really important to keep it in the family where I grew up right there. I didn’t want to see someone else moving in here.” So the Poulins bought the real estate and all the remaining contents. They also rehired several of the Julia employees who had chosen not to relocate after the sale of the business.

The top lot of the auction was one of only 19 known extant Rigdon, Ansley & Company .36-caliber revolvers with the maker’s address “Augusta GA CSA.” This one was an “attic find,” coming forth with its original markings and finish. According to the listing, sometime in late November or early December of 1862, the manufacturing firm of Leech & Rigdon, then located in Columbus, Mississippi, contracted with the Confederate government to manufacture 1500 percussion revolvers of the Colt patent design. As Union troops were advancing on the area, the company moved to Greensboro, Georgia, where it restarted operations in March of the following year. The partnership dissolved in late 1863, and the new firm of Rigdon, Ansley & Company took over the contract and continued to produce the remaining 500 revolvers necessary to fulfill the obligation. The company was then commissioned to produce another 1500 Rigdon, Ansley & Company revolvers, with some modifications. The serial number 1610 pinned the one offered by Poulin to the first 200 of the last batch, and it sold substantially above the $25,000/30,000 estimate for $49,937.50 (including buyer’s premium).

A curiously fortuitous event confirmed to Nick that everything was on the right track. “Just before we bought the building, before we signed the contracts and everything, the building was struck by lightning,” he said. “It blew the cupola off the top of the building, blew a hole in the roof, blew the weathervane right off. So the insurance of course was good for Jim,” and it allowed the Poulins to make some other repairs and additions as well. But Nick believes he knows the real reason for what happened. “I think Gramps was looking down on us and said, ‘You guys need a new setup.’” So that was old Arthur, just helping out a bit, as always.

For more information visit (www.poulinauctions.com) or call (207) 453-2114.


This Rigdon, Ansley & Company .36-caliber revolver sold for $49,937.50 (est. $25,000/30,000). Sisco photo.


This Colt flat-top target revolver, serial number 20240, with engravings probably by William Gough and class “B” punch-dot acanthus scrolls, has a much traveled history. A factory letter confirmed that it was a sample or “loan order” model and was first shipped to Spaulding W. Arms, Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 31, 1938, in a single gun order. It was then returned and shipped six more times, finally ending up with the Bacharach Rasin Company, Baltimore, Maryland, on April 5, 1940. It eventually passed through several collections and ended here at $29,375 (est. $17,500/27,500). Sisco photo.


Fratelli Rizzini is regarded by some as among the finest of contemporary gunmakers, making each gun to custom order. This Rizzini 20-gauge shotgun, serial number 1732, proof dated 1981, with 3" magnum chambers, a single nonselective trigger, a checkered walnut hand stock and forend, and fine acanthus scroll and rosette engravings by Walter Patelli, sold for $41,125 (est. $40,000/60,000).


This Winchester cased side-by-side hammerless boxlock shotgun, serial number W38146, with engravings of bird dogs and pheasants and a feather crotch grain American walnut checkered stock, sold for $23,500 (est. $20,000/28,000).


As company chief operating officer, sales coordinator, and lead-off auctioneer, Nick Poulin is clearly the man in charge as Poulin Antiques and Auctions Inc. continues the third generation of auctioneering, building on the foundation laid by Arthur Julia. Nick alternates auctioneering duties with his father, Steve Poulin, and chief firearms consultant Dave Sanders. Sisco photo.


At age 83, master engraver Angelo Bee is still decorating firearms as he has done for over six decades, using simple tools such as hammers and chisels. He began his career at Browning Fabrique Nationale, Herstal, Belgium, and eventually immigrated to the United States. His work was represented by about 15 firearms to the auction, including this Winchester model 42 shotgun, serial number 3971, with nearly full-coverage engravings and inlays of scrolling leaves and vines, and mourning doves and quails in flight. Consigned by the engraver himself, it sold for $9987.50 (est. $10,000/14,000). Sisco photo.


This cuirass is a piece of armor consisting of a breastplate and backplate fastened together. This one dated from the period of Louis Philippe, king of France from 1830 to his abdication in 1848, and it appeared to be equally functional and ceremonial, with a heavy steel body with riveted chains and a sunburst emblem. Markings identified it as manufactured by the royal manufactory of arms at Klingenthal in Alsace, in 1833. Along with it came a brass-bodied helmet with a tall brass and horsehair plume and a leopard fur band surrounding the base. Just what every well-appointed soldier of the king should be wearing, it sold for $3466.25 (est. $4200/4800). Sisco photo.


The so-called Johnson County War, also known as the War on Powder River, has become a symbol of conflicts and hardships of life in the Old West. It was a range war that lasted from 1889 to 1893 in Johnson County, Wyoming, when large cattle companies began attacking alleged rustlers, many of whom were actually smaller settlers, competing for land, grazing, and water rights. The larger ranchers hired armed gunmen, arousing the ire of the smaller ranchers, who along with state lawmen formed a posse of 200 men, leading to several bloody confrontations. The battles eventually ended when President Benjamin Harrison sent in the U.S. Cavalry. Owen Wister’s seminal Western novel The Virginian told the story from the cattle baron’s side and helped to build the mythology of the struggle. Fighting for the larger interests was a former Union officer named Major Frank Wolcott, who compiled a list of guns taken from his companions-in-arms that later formed a sort of collector’s wish list. The compilation included this Colt single-action revolver said to have belonged to one J. C. Johnson. Here, it sold for $30,550 (est. $20,000/30,000).


The Civil War Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, was fought on May 31 and June 1, 1862, and resulted in over 5000 casualties on both sides, including about 100 from the 61st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. This wool bunting flag was made by Brooklyn sailmaker George W. Gerau, and was deaccessioned from the Valley Forge Historical Society, now called the Museum of the American Revolution. It had been given to the Reverend W. Herbert Burk (1867-1933), the founder and curator of the Valley Forge Historical Society. The name of whoever gave it to Burk is lost to history, but a transcription of the original donation card related that it had been given by the widow of a soldier who had been wounded in the battle. The 77" x 157" flag flew to $4700 (est. $4000/5000). Sisco photo.


This item was estimated reasonably but took off like a rocket. This 18th-century Plains Indian tomahawk has a blade resembling a European spontoon with a pipe bowl that is removable via hand-cut screw threads. The minutely punch-decorated wooden shaft with raised ridges appears to be the original. The tomahawk blew past the $2500/3500 estimate and stopped at $14,687.50.


This curved blade of Damascus steel limned with gold graphics has a sculptural gold-plated hilt in the form of a bear’s head grabbing a stork or crane and a pair of rampant lions in a shield crest beneath a crown. Probably Russian or Hungarian and dating from the 18th century, it brought $4406.25 (est. $5000/8000).


This .22-caliber lever-action rifle, Winchester serial number F489311, was issued in a limited edition of 100 in 1984, said to be in commemoration of the voyages of Captain James Cook and to celebrate Australia’s bicentennial. One side of the engraving shows a scrolled map inscribed “Terra Australia,” and the other an image of Cook in the foreground of his ship Discovery with the title “Botany / Bay / 30-4-1770,” indicating April 30, the day after which Cook made his first landing there. So even though the dates don’t quite jibe, the rifle still made $8812.50 (est. $7000/10,000).


This collection of artillery shells includes a 12-pound howitzer cannon shot with a tin can container holding sawdust and lead balls, a canister of rifle shot with a round wooden plug, a 12-pound cannon ball with a spot for a screw-in fuse holder, a parrot rifle shell with an iron body, and several smaller balls, all which fired off simultaneously for $4347.50 (est. $1600/2200).


Large bowie knife with a clipped point, with etchings on both sides of the blade, one reading “Always Ready,” the other semi-legible, possibly reading “A Sure Friend.” The ivory handle, topped with a three-dimensional head of an African man, and the original sheath are both trimmed with gilded brass. Similarity to other known knives suggests a date circa 1838, placing it among the early bowies, and it drew $9400 (est. $8000/15,000).


This Confederate naval cutlass, marked with “CSN” and a fluted anchor in the pommel, is known to have been made near Shenandoah, Virginia, at Catherine Furnace by Charles Wellford and delivered to Confederate vessels as early as 1861. With the original scabbard, it took in $8225 (est. $5000/6000).


An “attic find,” coming fresh to the market, is this 1805 Harpers Ferry .54-caliber flintlock pistol, serial number 881. Such guns were made in pairs, with a total production of about 4000, in which each pistol was joined with a mate of the same serial number. It is marked with a spread-wing eagle and “US” and with inspector’s initials “V” and “J. S.” for James Stubblefield. The companion to this one is forever lost; standing alone, it missed the $15,000/20,000 estimate and sold for $14,100.


Originally published in the June 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest

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