A collection of Confederate militaria, which has taken over 65 years to build, is coming to the auction block this month at Cowan's.
42 lots from the collection will be offered in the sale this month, with more going under the gavel in November of this year and spring 2017.
This collection really is out of the ordinary, when it comes to Civil War guns. "There are collectors who just buy Confederate arms. Cliff went deeper than that. Quality and historical significance were paramount," said Jack Lewis, Cowan's director of Historic Firearms and Early Militaria. “These are truly the best known examples of some of the rarest Confederate weapons ever produced.”
Young, who passed away last year, meticulously documented the weapons he collected. "Some of them have a file of provenance two feet thick," Lewis noted. Almost all the guns have been pictured and described in literature focusing on arms made for the Confederate States.
The emphasis on research is a perfect fit with Young's overall interest in Confederate firearms. He was past president and a longtime member of the American Society of Arms Collectors, a well-known published author and lecturer, and a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Massachusetts Antique Arms Collectors.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, most American arms makers were based in the North. In the South, raw materials were scarce and skilled labor difficult to find. As a result, Southern companies producing weapons for Confederate troops had low output, and relatively few of those guns survived. While the Colt Manufacturing Co. of Hartford, Connecticut, sold almost 130,000 Model 1860 revolvers to the United States government during the Civil War, the T.W. Cofer Co. of Portsmouth, Virginia, produced an estimated total of 80 revolvers for Confederate forces. About a dozen of those Cofer’s survived the War. Of those, the Young collection contains two examples.
For the most part, Young collected quietly, buying unquestionably authentic material at a time when the best items were sold privately. "Most of Cliff’s weapons were traded privately among high-end Confederate collectors and were never offered on the open market," said Lewis. "Many collectors have seen these guns photographed in books for years but have never had an opportunity to buy them."
Although Young never viewed his collection as an investment, values for premiere Confederate firearms have risen exponentially over the years. The potential hasn't dimmed.
"Confederate arms have always been a blue chip of collecting," said Lewis.
That type of rarity exemplifies the firearms Young acquired. "Collectors like to brag they own the best of the best, but the God's honest truth is it's there in the Young collection," said Lewis. “The auctions of the Young Collection will present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to obtain items from a legendary collection” said Lewis.
Cowan's sale Firearms & Militaria sale will take place on April 26, 2016. Check out Cowan's catalog on Barnebys here.