NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Bidding was fast and furious this past weekend for hundreds of antique guns from the World Wars and the Wild West. They sold at a clip of about two guns a minute for a total price nearing $1 million.
The star at the sprawling auction house in Pennsylvania was an intricately engraved six-shooter from the 1800s, which commanded the top price of $33,600.
The Morphy Auctions room was crowded with gun enthusiasts, some wearing NRA caps, camouflage coats and dungaree coveralls. There were grandfathers with sons and grandsons, passing on a family passion for guns.
But the winning bidder was conducting his business via phone. He wanted the auction’s top gun: a .44-caliber Colt Model 1860 cap and ball revolver.
It was the type of gun used by the Union Army during the Civil War, giving the North a winning edge over the Confederacy. The .44 caliber model, engraved and silver plated had walnut grips and a velvet-lined case containing gunpowder flask, cartridges and bullet mold.
The representative sat in the room, speaking quietly to the buyer on his cell phone, as the auctioneer carried on with a rapid fire cattle auction cadence.
“$27,000?” asked the auctioneer. “Do I hear $27,000?”
The man with the phone hesitated.
“I’ll wait,” said the auctioneer. The gun (pictured here) finally sold for $33,600.
Almost 1,000 guns were on the block and were sold off at about 100 per hour.
Some buyers were on a personal mission. Jason Belz was after a very specific gun: the H&R .22 caliber top break revolver. His grandfather owned the same type of gun, but it was stolen from his house in the 1960s from a gun cabinet that his grandfather had built and the family still owned.
“I still have the receipt,” said Belz.
The receipt from the 1940s shows that the gun was purchased for $44.45. The gun has since been discontinued. Belz had been looking for it and noticed the hard-to-find gun listed in Morphy’s catalogue.
“I want to buy the gun and put it back in the gun cabinet that my grandfather built,” he said before the auction.
Belz bid successfully on the gun, paying $300 to fill the empty spot in his family’s cabinet and heart. Later, Belz called back to say he had also placed the receipt for the original stolen gun in the cabinet next to his new purchase.
He also bought some .22 caliber ammunition on his way home. “I haven’t shot it yet, but that’s the plan.”
Back at the auction house, two big screens flanked the platform, showcasing each gun.
But though the room was full, much of the action was actually taking place online.
The back row of the auction house was taken up by people with phones and computers, conducting the bids for people who were watching the auction from afar on web streams. About 75% of the winning bids come from these buyers.
On sale were flintlock muzzleloaders from the 18th century, lever action Winchester rifles from the cowboy days, and a myriad selection of Colt revolvers (like the one pictured below).
Ben Miller, a former Marine from Winchester, Va. in attendance, said he collected Winchester rifles and Colt revolvers.
“The Colt has a flowing, beautiful architecture to it,” he said, as he mulled over some potential additions to his collection. “The Colts are the creme de la creme.”
There were guns from World War I, including the German Mauser C96 “broomhandle” with detachable wooden stocks.
There were also guns that the Nazis and Japanese used against Americans during World War II like Lugers and Walthers stamped with tiny Swastikas.
Someone paid $2,280 for a Nazi Luger (pictured here).
A flintlock blunderbuss from the 18th century brought in $1,920.
“Everybody who collects guns has a specialty,” said Dave Bushing, a gun expert for Morphy, who held the auction. “There’ll be a guy in here who knows Lugers inside and out.”
An archaic pepperbox pistol (pictured below) from the mid-1800s, a precursor to the revolver, fetched $1,560.
Morphy Auctions also had the rifles on display in such a way that bidders could handle them and peer down the barrels with tiny flashlights.
Jim Monroe, who served in the Marines in the 1950s, had his eyes (and hands) on a military-issue 12-gauge shotgun with a bayonet, designed for war in the trenches.
“The Marines have bayonets on everything,” he said. “It’s not a gun made for war if there’s not a bayonet on it.”
Jerry Evans, a bidder whose uncle served in World War II and whose father served in Korea, collects M1 rifles and carbines, M1911 pistols, and other U.S. military guns from that era. He said he was looking for a “sleeper.”
“I call it a sleeper: a good gun at a good price, and everybody else must be sleeping that I got it at that price,” he said. CNNMoney couldn’t find him at the end of the auction to check if he got his sleeper.