It’s a lot of money for an auction catalog: one costs $60 in the USA and $75 overseas, and it’s $165 or $210 respectively for a subscription for three Premiere Auctions (which also gets the Regional Auction catalogs, containing pieces without such nosebleed prices as the one-of-a-kinds that fill the Premiere auctions). What chump would pay those prices, and why?

We do, and we’ll tell you. First, there’s getting a package that weighs something like 8 pounds, and that makes you take out your letter opener.

Then, there’s what you see when you pop the lid.

This catalog, for the Premiere Auction taking place from 09-11 September 2016, is actually three glossy, beautifully printed volumes. They are spiral bound to lie flat, and inside there are hundreds and hundreds of heirloom  and investment-quality guns. The photographs are made with a technician’s craft and an artist’s eye, and the page layout rivals the best work in coffee-table books. And it’s an auction catalog, for crying out loud!

The catalog cover above is a row of historic early semi-auto prototypes, of which any one could b the centerpiece of a million-dollar collection. They have enough of these that reading the catalog is an education in early semi-auto blind alleys and also rans.

Rare Walthers? This is one of two AP prototypes, more or less identical and consecutively marked, that are being offered individually and as a pair. Each is likely to

bring a six-figure sum.

There are more rare and historic Colts and Winchesters than you can shake a peace pipe at:

And Lugers. See what we mean about the photography and layout?

Here’s a Luger to conjure with — marked with The Man’s own monogram, (GL), it’s an experimental designed to work with heavier loads. The toggle is “reversed,” with the finger-grip cocking pieces normally attached to the rear link of the toggle attached to the front one instead.

Rock Island’s interest in getting the greatest possible amount for these firearms means they go all out to photograph them well and document their unique features and provenance.

There are a few lots in this auction that ran our Czech firearms gong. Along with a couple of ZH29s, an interwar semi rifle designed by the great Vaclav Holek and built in very small quantities for tests (including in England and  the USA), there were some great Czech and Bohemian pistols.

We’ve featured this very Bittner repeating pistol, built by the ethnic-German gunsmith Gustav Bittner in Weipert (Vejprty), Bohemia Province of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the late 19th Century. At the time (if we recall rightly) it was offered for sale by Horst Held. This strange early pistol fit into the same sort of niche as the Volcanic pistol, in the interstices between single-shot and semi-automatic pistols. The trigger ring worked like a lever-action’s lever to reload from a Mannlicher-style en bloc clip. These pistols in any condition are rare; this is the nicest one we’ve seen.

Several Weipert gunsmiths worked on similar ideas. This next is a lesser-know Czechoslovak-related pistol:

In the period between the wars, the Czechoslovak Republic required a difficult-to-get permit for small pistols, defined by barrel length. This produced a quantity of domestic and imported guns with longer barrels. Most of the interwar long-barreled pistols, whether of Czechoslovak, German, Austrian, Spanish or other manufacture, tend to sport Czech proof marks.  There’s no mention of whether this Walther Model 1 has the Czech proofs, but we’d bet the guys at Rock Island a beer that it does.

Of course, not all good stuff is Czech! There’s also a good offering of Class III firearms.

Clockwise from upper left: Japanese aircraft MG; MP-40; German MG tripod; Madsen LMG with tripod and on bipod. There are actually a couple of MP-40s, including a DLO tube gun.

Yes, the catalog will make you lust after guns you can’t afford. C’est la guerre, Legionnaire! But as a wish book and reference it stands alone.

This entry was posted in Consumer Alert!, Industry, Pistols and Revolvers, Rifles and Carbines on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

13 thoughts on “Why are Rock Island Auction Catalogs so Expensive?

Cap’n Mike

Nice letter opener.

I bet there is a post on that waiting to happen.

Those Catalogs are beautiful.


Yeah. Are the spots on that Randall the “character” you’ve mentioned in the past?

[…] Seems those catalogs ought to be perused under the covers, with a flashlight 😛


Unless we get the story, I’ll say that that letter opener needs some polishing with very fine grit paper put on a very flat surface.


I… I just had a knee-jerking Lugergasmn.

Tom Stone

If I won the lottery I could easily spend the proceeds at RIA.

Hognose Post author

And there’s James Julia, and Amoskeag, and… and… Hell, I could bankrupt myself with either Horst Held or Bob Adams, sometimes.


Get the mailer too. The freebie 20 pgs of wow. Some day…

Hognose Post author

Yeah, the mailer is a freebie and it’s the highlights, but I don’t think most of the images I snapped from the catalogs made it into the mailer (the twin Walther APs, they did, but the rest of that stuff is NOT the highlights. The highlights are things like a Hermann Göring PPK and a Himmler-presented Sauer 38 trophy, John M. Browning and Winchester prototypes, and other works of wrought unobtainium.


They are amazing gun porn. I can’t really justify getting a subscription yet, but i got lucky and a guy gave me ALL of the old catalogs he had along with the sell price list for each auction. It was on par with getting a free gun, but i love books and I have an entire book shelf now dedicated to RIA catalogs. One of these days, I’ll open up a box emblazened with the RIA banner thats actually addressed to me.


Accepting the premise that gun rags = gun pR0n, the RIA catalogs are about as close as the genre can get to the hooker you turn honest and marry; they are truly the ne plus ultra of gun pR0n, and photographed with more TLC than a Playmate of the Year pictorial.

Which, given that the features of the weapons last longer than those of a PMOY, is altogether fitting.

And, to be fair to their market price, they’re far cheaper than getting to most of the nation’s premier firearms museum collections, with the added bonus of being delivered to one’s manor house door.

And are an even better black hole of time suck than getting lost on the internet for hours.

Looking at them is a reminder that there is a better life across the tracks, and a pretty good indication of a heaven in the afterlife.

I knew a deacon and fellow firearms enthusiast who suggested as much, and was scoffed at with the protest that there’d be no need for guns in the hereafter, because there would be nothing to shoot at in heaven.

Without missing a beat, he said “I have no doubt I’ll be able to see Hell with a good scope, and I hear the targets there are self-resetting and last forever.”

Hognose Post author

The Playmate of the Year will have cellulite, a nasty attitude, and half your money in ten years. The selection from RIA’s Premier Auction will have held its value, at least.


Well as there toys for uber rich folks I’m not surprised at the quality of the catalog.

Hognose Post author

I’ve bought guns from Rock Island for less than I’d have paid locally or on GunBroker. Indeed, I got in trouble last auction by lowballing several bids — and winning most of them. Wasn’t expecting that! Some things are out of reach for anybody… who spends $200k on a gun? Not me, but I’m glad to live in a country where someone can.