Most Expensive Pre-1900 Military Items Ever Sold

As a matter of pure collector’s curiosity, we have decided to start researching the most expensive items ever sold in our field. There have been some amazing items on the lists, so please do browse the articles. In this article we will explore the most expensive military items that from the 19th Century and before.

The difficulty in determining the most expensive pre-1900 military items ever sold lies in the fact that many of these items are held in private collections. As such, they are not publicly available for sale. Unlike modern military memorabilia or artifacts, which are often sold through public auctions or specialized dealers, many pre-1900 military items have been in private ownership for centuries and are rarely offered for sale. This means that the market for these items is relatively small and when they do become available for sale, prices can be very unpredictable.

Additionally, the authenticity of military items of this age can be difficult to verify, particularly when dealing with items that have been passed down through families or acquired through other means. This can make it challenging to determine the true value of an item and can lead to discrepancies in the prices paid for similar items.

Despite these challenges, there have been some notable sales of pre-1900 military items at auction in recent years, as demonstrated by the examples given below. These sales are often driven by the historical significance of the item, the rarity of the piece, and the provenance of the item, which can be used to authenticate its history and value.

Interested in some rare pre-1900 militaria items? Check our C&T Auctioneers who have some amazing items through their auctions.


No.5 – Helmet of the Duke of Wellington – $400,000

In 2002, the helmet of British General Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, was sold at auction for an impressive $400,000. This helmet was worn by Wellington during the Battle of Waterloo, one of the most significant battles in European history.

The helmet is a classic example of the type of headgear worn by European military officers in the early 19th century. It is made of brass and features a distinctive crest with a gilded lion holding a baton. The helmet’s provenance is well-documented, and it is accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Wellington’s family.

The Duke of Wellington is standing at half-length, wearing Field Marshal’s uniform
The Duke of Wellington is standing at half-length, wearing Field Marshal’s uniform

Wellington is considered one of the greatest military commanders in British history, and his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo was a turning point in European history. Wellington’s use of infantry squares to repel French cavalry charges is legendary, and his leadership and strategic genius earned him the respect and admiration of soldiers and civilians alike.

The helmet’s value is not only due to its historical significance but also its association with one of the most celebrated figures in British history. Wellington’s legacy continues to resonate today, and his name is synonymous with bravery, leadership, and military expertise.

Painting of the Battle of Waterloo by William Sadler

The helmet’s sale in 2002 was not the first time it had been sold at auction. It had previously been auctioned in 1890 and 1933. Both times, it had been purchased by members of Wellington’s family. The 2002 auction was the first time that the helmet had been sold to a private collector outside the family.

In conclusion, the helmet worn by the British General Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, at the Battle of Waterloo is an iconic piece of European military history. Its sale at auction in 2002 for $400,000 is a testament to its historical significance and the enduring fascination that people have with military memorabilia. The helmet will likely continue to be admired and treasured by collectors and history enthusiasts for generations to come.


No.4 – Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver – $977,500

In 2013, one of the most famous revolvers in American history, the Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver used by Henry H. Walker, was sold at auction for an astonishing $977,500. This revolver, manufactured in 1854, was designed by Samuel H. Walker during his service with the Texas Rangers. Coincidentally, his revolver is also on this list.

The Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver is a classic example of the firearms that played a significant role in American history. It is a single-action revolver that fires six .36 caliber balls. This revolver was known for its accuracy, reliability, and firepower, and was widely used by both the Union and Confederate armies during the American Civil War.

Colt 1851 Navy Revolver

Henry H. Walker was a Confederate officer during the Civil War who was known for his skill with the Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver. He was said to have carried two of the revolvers on his person at all times and was known for his deadly accuracy with the weapon.

This revolver’s value is not only due to its historical significance but also its provenance. It was acquired by a collector in the early 1960s, who later sold it to the individual who auctioned it in 2013. The revolver was accompanied by a letter of provenance from a descendant of Captain Walker, which confirmed its authenticity and provided additional historical context.



No.3 – Colt Walker 1847 revolver – $1,840,000

In 2008, the Colt Walker 1847 revolver carried by Captain Samuel H. Walker during the Mexican-American War was sold at auction for a staggering $1.84 million. The revolver is one of the most iconic weapons of the American West, and it played a crucial role in the expansion of the United States during the mid-19th century.

The Colt Walker 1847 revolver was actually designed by Captain Samuel H. Walker, who served in the Texas Rangers during the Mexican-American War. He worked with Colt to develop a revolver that could deliver a powerful shot and be easily carried by cavalry soldiers. The resulting revolver was a massive six-shot pistol that weighed over four pounds and could fire .44 caliber bullets.

Captain Samuel H. Walker’s service with the Texas Rangers was legendary, and he was known for his bravery, resourcefulness, and fighting skills. He led a group of Rangers known as “Walker’s Mounted Rifles” and played a significant role in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico. Later, he became a Texas Ranger and participated in numerous campaigns against Native American tribes and Mexican bandits. The revolver he carried during these campaigns was a testament to his skills and bravery.

 

U.S. Colt Model 1847 Walker Revolver

The revolver was quickly adopted by the U.S. Army and was used extensively during the Mexican-American War. Its accuracy and power made it a favorite of soldiers, and it became an essential weapon for American soldiers in the West.

The Colt Walker revolver sold in 2008 was particularly notable because it was carried by Captain Samuel H. Walker himself during the Mexican-American War. Walker was a legendary figure in the American West, and his association with the revolver only added to its historical significance.

The revolver’s provenance is well-documented, and it is accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Colt. The revolver has also been featured in numerous books and films, including the classic Western movie “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

U.S. Colt Model 1847 Walker Revolver

The price paid for the Colt Walker revolver in 2008 is a testament to its historical significance and the enduring fascination that people have with the American West. The revolver is a tangible reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought in the Mexican-American War, and it remains a powerful symbol of American history and heritage.


No.2 – Eagle Standard of the 4th Regiment of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard – $2,400,000

In 2018, the 1812 Eagle Standard of the 4th Regiment of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard was sold at auction for a remarkable $2.4 million. The Eagle Standard, which served as a symbol of the regiment’s loyalty and bravery, is one of the most iconic military artifacts of the Napoleonic era.

The Eagle Standard was introduced by Napoleon in 1804 as a way to inspire loyalty and pride among his troops. The standards were made of gilded bronze and featured an eagle with outstretched wings, holding a thunderbolt in its talons. The eagle was perched on top of a staff, which was adorned with the regiment’s number and decorated with the French Tricolor.

Eagle Standard of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard on display at Les Invalides.

The 4th Regiment of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard was one of the most prestigious units in the French Army, and the Eagle Standard was carried into battle by the regiment’s most elite soldiers. The regiment participated in some of the most famous battles of the Napoleonic era, including Austerlitz, Jena, and Friedland.

The Eagle Standard’s value lies not only in its historical significance but also its rarity. Few of these standards survived the Napoleonic Wars, and those that did were highly prized and sought after by collectors. The Eagle Standard of the 4th Regiment is particularly notable because it is one of the few that survived with its original staff intact.

Provenance

The provenance of the Eagle Standard is also noteworthy. It was acquired by a French collector in the early 20th century and was later purchased by a private collector in the United States. The Eagle Standard was accompanied by a letter of provenance, which confirmed its authenticity and provided additional historical context.

The 1812 Eagle Standard of the 4th Regiment of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard is an iconic military artifact that reflects the bravery and loyalty of Napoleon’s soldiers. The price paid for it is a testament to its historical significance and it will likely continue to inspire awe and admiration for generations to come.


No.1 – The Sword of Napoleon Bonaparte – $6,500,000

In 2007, the Sword of Napoleon Bonaparte was sold at auction for a staggering $6.5 million, making it one of the most expensive pre-1900 military items ever sold. The sword is not only a remarkable work of art but also a significant historical artifact that speaks to the life and legacy of one of the world’s most famous military leaders.

The sword was created for Napoleon in 1799 by the celebrated swordsmith Nicolas Noël Boutet. Boutet was known for his exceptional skill in crafting blades, and the Sword of Napoleon is one of his most famous works. The sword is made of steel and gold, with a grip adorned with intricate designs and a blade that is etched with ornate patterns and inscriptions.

A group of Napoleon’s weapons that were sold in the same sale.

Napoleon wielded the sword during many of his most famous military campaigns, including the Battle of Austerlitz and the Battle of Borodino. The sword was an emblem of his power and prowess on the battlefield and was a symbol of his status as Emperor of France.

After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the sword was surrendered to the British authorities, who placed it in their national collection. In 1978, the sword was sold at auction to a private collector, who owned it until its sale in 2007.


Artist:Alexis Chataigner Title:Bonaparte, First Consul (1769-1821) Replacing his Sword in its Sheath after the General Peace

The sale of the Sword of Napoleon for $6.5 million is a testament to its historical significance and the enduring fascination that people have with Napoleon Bonaparte. The sword is not only a remarkable work of art, but it also serves as a tangible reminder of Napoleon’s life and legacy and his impact on the world.


The final results.

  1. The Sword of Napoleon Bonaparte – Sold for $6.5 million in 2007
  2. The 1812 Eagle Standard of the 4th Regiment of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard – Sold for $2.4 million in 2018
  3. The Colt Walker 1847 revolver carried by Captain Samuel H. Walker during the Mexican-American War – Sold for $1.84 million in 2008
  4. The Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver used by Henry H. Walker during the Civil War – Sold for $977,500 in 2013.
  5. The helmet of the British General Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, worn at the Battle of Waterloo – Sold for $400,000 in 2002

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