One of the people in American history least likely in need of an introduction is Elvis Aaron Presley. His life is one of constant dichotomy: down-home country boy and provocative rock-n-roll superstar.
The dusty roads of Tupelo, Mississippi, contrasted with the neon and rhinestones of Las Vegas. Military fatigues to pink Cadillacs. He also blurred lines musically, combining country, blues, gospel, and R&B into a rock and roll style that made him The King.
It resulted in an unmatchable career. 150 albums that reached gold, platinum, or multiplatinum status, 114 Top 40 hits, 31 feature films, 14 Grammy nominations, three TV specials, and numerous performances in Las Vegas.
But even numbers as lofty as these fail to capture the man’s musical influence, charisma, charitable nature, sensuality, good looks, magnetism, or kindness. Nor do they come anywhere close to indicating his social significance in the realms of modesty, race, musical stylings, and sheer pop stardom.
It is perhaps ironic then, that a man so difficult to categorize is readily identified by first name alone.
It is with this immense significance that Rock Island Auction Company is proud to present Elvis’ revolvers and other significant pieces of memorabilia in their May 2017 Premiere Firearms Auction.
Smith & Wesson Model 19-2
This elaborate, exhibition grade .357 magnum revolver was once part of the personal collection of Elvis Presley. It is accompanied by a mountain of documents and receipts establishing its direct and unbroken line of provenance.
This gun was licensed to the King by serial number on Nov 6, 1970. Likely already planning the handgun’s presentation, he then had it sent to Friedrick Wilhelm Heym Co. in Germany for custom embellishment.
They clearly spared no expense, slathering the little K-frame revolver with relief leaf and scroll engraving, gold and silver inlaid borders, and five incredible raised gold North American game animals. An expected sight on a fine large game rifle perhaps, but a rare and opulent touch for this small Smith & Wesson.
Such exquisite work also extends to the staghorn grips which have been elaborately engraved in a similar vine and scroll pattern and feature two engraved game animals of their own. Not a square inch of this gun was left undecorated, a feat not unsurprising to those familiar with Elvis’ style during that time.
Once completed, he brought the Smith & Wesson along on a trip to Washington D.C. and presented it to Vice President Spiro Agnew that same year. Unfortunately for Agnew, he was only able to keep the presentation revolver for a short period of time before returning it as he was under investigation for corruption, which would eventually result in his resignation and other penalties.
With the Smith & Wesson back in the King’s possession, it was only a matter of time before he would find occasion to present the handgun created for such a purpose.
That opportunity came when some of Elvis’ friends were going to be stranded at a local airport. Elvis called the sheriff, Gene Barksdale, to call in a favor and have his friends picked up.
Such close communication was not irregular as Presley was a great friend to law enforcement, frequently gifting local departments donations, cars, equipment and uniforms for their softball team, and even paying the funeral expenses for a fallen officer.
That night, Sheriff Barksdale left with his nephew, an administrative assistant, picked up the hapless travelers and shuttled them to Graceland. While Elvis was talking to Sheriff Barksdale the subject of guns was brought up, and before long he said, “Well, sheriff, I got something for ya.”
The King left the room and when he came back, he had this very Smith & Wesson Model 19-2 in his hand and presented it to Sheriff Barksdale, much to the sheriff’s complete surprise.
At a later date, Sheriff Barksdale passed that Smith & Wesson Model 19 on to his nephew, the administrative assistant who helped ferry the travelers that night. From that nephew, this incredible collector firearm comes to Rock Island Auction Company and to gun collectors and Elvis enthusiasts around the world.
Colt Python of Elvis Presley
It’s no secret that in recent years the popularity, and resultant prices, of Colt Python double action revolvers has skyrocketed. Add to that the ever-present demand and the consistently high prices of Elvis memorabilia and you’ve set the stage for a bidding war at auction.
This Colt Python was also owned by Presley and is accompanied by its original registration to the King. Even as early as 1973 it was featured in Guns Magazine, so while it has been in the public eye for some time, it has not been available for public sale since Elvis himself bought it. Until now.
As can be seen, it is decorated in the same style as the Smith & Wesson Model 19-2, with the work again performed by Friedrick Wilhelm Heym Co. in Germany.
This sumptuous snake gun was presented by Elvis to Richard Grob, the Director of Security and Operations for Elvis Presley Enterprises. Grob worked for Presley from 1967 until his death in 1977 and in that time became a close personal friend and confidant. He advised the King on many of his firearm purchases and frequently accompanied him to firing ranges.
This Colt Python enjoys 95% coverage of the same masterfully executed relief leaf and scroll engraving that was ordered on his Smith & Wesson Model 19. Silver and gold inlays abound, often serving as borders, and again five raised gold North American big game animals make their presence known around the frame.
The scrimshaw-esque grips are again a perfect compliment with their sweeping scrollwork framing a leaping stag on one side and a pouncing mountain lion on the other.
These incredible pieces of Elvis memorabilia are only the beginning of an incredible firearms auction that takes place May 5 – 7, 2017. The three-day event will include over 2,800 lots with spectacular, one-of-a-kind Winchesters, over 100 Class III items, remarkable Colts, and an unmatched selection of sporting arms.