Antique weapons always draw enthusiastic collectors, often with deep pockets, during sales at the world’s most prestigious auction houses—especially when those weapons belonged to some of history’s most formidable figures. Here are just a handful of historic swords, pistols, and more that made history a second time for their extravagant price tags.
1. F-GRADE A.H. FOX 12 GAUGE // $862,500
Theodore Roosevelt’s Fox shotgun, which he brought along on a 1909 African safari, became the most expensive shotgun ever sold at auction in 2010. That year, the James D. Julia auction house sold the firearm to a private buyer for $862,500—that’s a price tag more than $200,000 higher than any shotgun previously sold.
2. WINCHESTER MODEL 1886 // $1.26 MILLION
As Popular Mechanics reported, a Winchester rifle fetched more than a million dollars at auction for a couple of reasons. For one, it was the very first Winchester model produced that year. But even more importantly, it was gifted to Captain Henry W. Lawton, the man responsible for the tracking and capture of Geronimo.
3. PRESENTATION SWORD // $1.67 MILLION
Heritage Auctions, ha.com
In 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was presented with a silver and gold diamond-encrusted sword "by the grateful citizens of Kentucky after his assumption as the General in Chief of the United States Army,” according to Heritage Auction Galleries’s curator Dennis Lowe. The sword netted $1,673,000 in a 2007 auction.
4. 19TH CENTURY FLINTLOCK PISTOLS // $1.8 MILLION
These pistols have quite the pedigree. Designed by Nicolas Noël-Boutet, Napoléon’s gunsmith, the Marquis de Lafayette carried them to America, where he befriended George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson. In 1825, Lafayette presented the guns as gifts to Simón Bolívar, the revolutionary who helped establish South American independence from Spain. In 2016, an anonymous buyer snagged them during an auction at Christie’s for $1.8 million.
5. SADDLE PISTOLS // $1.99 MILLION
Bolívar wasn’t the only comrade Lafayette bestowed fancy weapons on. In 2002, a pair of saddle pistols the French general gave to George Washington sold for a whopping $1,986,000 in an auction at Christie’s. The guns, according to the lot description, feature octagonal-to-round steel barrels with silver-and-gold wire inlay, and a base made from European walnut. Post-auction, the buyer was revealed to be the Richard King Mellon Foundation; the group went on to donate the pistols to Fort Ligonier in Pennsylvania.
6. DAGGER, MUGHAL EMPIRE // $3.3 MILLION
Only a handful of items remain from the reign of Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor (and the Taj Mahal’s creator). One weapon—a dagger forged in 1629 and inscribed with the emperor’s name, title, and the date and place of its manufacture—sold in 2008 for more than twice the starting bid during an auction at Bonham’s, bringing in a cool £1.7 million (around $3.3 million).
7. NAPOLÉON’S SWORD // $6.5 MILLION
Napoléon in the Battle of Maringo, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
This curved steel blade holds the Guinness World Record for most expensive weapon ever sold at auction, and for good reason: It once belonged to Napoléon Bonaparte, who brought it with him to the Battle of Marengo in 1800. The weapon, which features an ebony and gold handle, sold for $6.5 million during a 2007 auction in Fontainebleu, France.