A New and Unique Authentication Technique on National Television
One of the many perks of devoting years to a project is the innumerable array of surprises along the way. In the process of coauthoring with Robert M. Lee, Guy Wilson and Ian Eaves the miniature and the mega The Art of the Gun® Series, the marketing of the finished books has offered new opportunities.
While we were still in the final throes of proofing of Magnificent Colts™, the phone rang at Yellowstone Press – from my old friend and publisher of The Book of Colt Firearms and many other projects, Steve Fjestad. As publisher, editor, and author including particularly of the 2,320-page Blue Book of Gun Values (2012 will be its 33rd edition) – Steve is smack in the middle of virtually every aspect of the firearms business.
Steve was very enthusiastic about a new Discovery Channel series, “American Guns,” starring the Wyatt Family – Rich, his wife Renee, son Kurt, and daughter Paige. The 10-part series began in 2011, and the Wyatt’s and the Discovery Channel’s production company, Gurney, wanted to do a segment of the one-hour program on authenticating a Colt First Model Dragoon and a Walker Model.
Rich called Steve, and Steve called me. “How about coming to Denver – we’ll stay for about three days, heading over to Golden to the Gunsmoke shop, and authenticating for national TV these two pieces.”
The idea was intriguing – something that had never been done on a major TV show. These authentications can be very complicated, requiring taking the guns apart, comparison to known authentic examples, measurements, checking of patina, and so forth.
But the new Magnificent Colts™ Selections from the Robert M. Lee Collection provided the perfect tool: Bob Lee’s Colt holdings include two of the finest Walkers, the only known cased set (No. 1022), and a superb Military Series revolver (serial no. D. Company 204).
Since – uniquely – some 80% of the firearms in our new 600-page landmark book are in actual size, this offers the opportunity to authenticate any of these important Colts by comparing the pistol in question directly with the myriad of illustrations.
Steve was enthusiastic about this, and straight away called Rich Wyatt to let him know of this special opportunity.
Soon we had our tickets and met in Denver. Fortunately, that night Discovery was broadcasting one of the “American Guns” shows, so we had the chance to view this and get a feel for the format and content.
We liked what we saw: this was a family values broadcast about our beloved world of firearms. No bleeps every few seconds due to outrageous language, and rarely any tattoos – a very welcome and wholesome contrast to so many other reality shows.
We also were delighted with the family aspect, an all-American family that loved guns, and had a team of specialists, including gunsmiths, of comprehensive talent.
Gunsmoke has a federal manufacturers license, besides the dealer’s license. The stock of the store ranges from a full array of modern (including military) arms, replicas, and antiques.
The day before filming our Colt Dragoon and Walker sequence, Rich and his assistant took the owner of the guns, Wylie, out to the range for a shooting session, using black powder and lead .44 caliber balls. That would become a part of the show. In the full hour, the shooting and authentications and Rich dealing with Wylie were spread over about 30 minutes, with other action and shop dealings intermingled.
On the morning of the shoot, we were impressed to meet the film crew, led by Mr. Bresenhan, of Gurney Productions. There was a total of at least 18, including two camera crews, plus still photographer, lighting experts and all the rest.
None of this was scripted. It was all ad lib. One might say this was an “authentic authentication.”
As we walked through the entrance to Gunsmoke, cameras were rolling. First we met up with Rich and his assistant, exchanged pleasantries. Steve Fjestad and I had along our tools – printouts of proof pages and the dust jackets of Magnificent Colts™. These were all in actual size, perfect for the comparisons that were key to identifying these Colts.
Our initial project was the First Model Dragoon, in about the 12000 serial range, and in very good condition, with sharp cylinder roll scene and an overall brown patina, all parts original. This was so clearly real that we did not need to compare it against any photographs or images from the book. But if it had been hand engraved, the comparisons could easily have been done with superb Dragoons in the Lee Collection.
Next we were shown the Walker, which on first glance before the TV cameras looked very convincing, having an even gray patina.
We are very proud of our Magnificent Colts™ book, and believe that $375 is a bargain when a collector, dealer, or historian can use the superb illustrations to authenticate fine Colts from the company’s spectacular and exciting 175 year history.
Although the writer has relied on his extensive collection of photographs to authenticate firearms of various makes and models in the past – this was the first time he was able to do be involved in doing this, on national TV, with Magnificent Colts™ as an “authenticity gauge.” This technique worked so superbly that we knew if the Walker was real within a matter of minutes. That kind of tool for collectors and others wanting to know if their guns are authenticate is unprecedented.
Which gives us yet one more reason to be proud and delighted with Magnificent Colt™ Selections from the Robert M. Lee Collection.
Here is a synopsis of the sequence of events in the Walker and First Model Dragoon “American Guns” segment:
1. Gunsmoke client Wylie brings in the two Colts.
2. Rich makes an offer to buy – subject to whether or not the Colts are authentic.
3. Being a keen shot, and trained gunsmith and mechanic – and an all-around gun crank – Rich wants to shoot the two revolvers. So the day before our TV filming, he takes Wylie into the countryside. Most colorfully, with noise and smoke and orange flame, they blast away, with both revolvers.
4. Rich has Steve and I come into Gunsmoke as the experts.
5. We do our thing, using proof pages from Magnificent Colts™ to make our determination of authenticity, and values.
6. Then Rich advises Wylie of our conclusions.