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Q & A with Harry Rinker: Winchester Model 101 Pigeon-Grade Shotgun

by Harry Rinker (10/03/12).

QUESTION: I own a Winchester Model 101 Pigeon Grade over-under 12-gauge shotgun. It still is in its period shipping carton. Although shot a few times, it is in excellent condition. What is the shotgun’s resale value?

– L, Reading, Penn.

ANSWER: In 1852, Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, founders of the Smith & Wesson Revolver Company, joined with a number of investors, including Oliver Winchester, to create the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company. When the company moved to New Haven, Conn., in 1856, Smith and Wesson were no longer associated with it. A year later, Winchester and John M. Davies bought the company’s assets and renamed it the New Haven Arms Company. An 1866 ownership battle resulted in Winchester gaining control. New Haven Arms Company became the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

John Browning joined Winchester in the early 1880s, designing a line of lever-action and pump-action shotguns. The Great Depression forced the company into receivership. The Olin family rescued it from bankruptcy. John Olin, an avid sportsman, introduced the Model 21 double-barreled shotgun. Following the Second World War, Winchester’s Model 12 pump shotgun and other weapons required intricate forging and engraving to the point where their cost made them uncompetitive. Today, Winchester brand firearms are made by Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Belgium and Browning Arms Company in Morgan, Utah. FN and Browning are members of the Herstal Group.

The website of the National Firearms Museum contains a detailed history of the Model 101. Winchester introduced the Model 101 over-and-under double-barrel shotgun in 1964. The model had more than eight grades, ranging from Field to Diamond. The Model 101 was designed to compete with similar shotguns from Browning and Remington.

I researched the Internet to determine where “pigeon grade” fits into the overall grading scale. A pigeon-grade shotgun is a step above a trap/skeet-grade gun. It is just above average, usually heavier in weight.

Olin-Kodensha in Japan made the Winchester Model 101 between 1963 and 1988. Changing economic conditions that made predicting future sales demand difficult led Winchester to cancel Model 101 production in 1990. FN in Belgium made a Select Model 101 in 2007 and then used a simple Model 101 designation for Model 101 shotguns made from 2008 to the present.

EBay does not allow the sale of firearms on its site. As a result, several specialized gun sale sites such as Guns International, Gun Auctions and Cabelas—which list new as well as used weapons—were established. The three websites contain examples of the Winchester Model 101 Pigeon Grade, over-under, 12-gauge for sale. One dealer is asking $1,699, a second $1,799.99 and a third $1,999. It is critical to remember these website prices are asking prices. They are not necessarily selling prices. A skilled negotiator almost never pays list price. The same holds true for buying firearms at a gun show.

When attempting to determine a workable secondary market value, finding sell-through prices is more helpful than dealer list prices. A Gun Auction sale (#10679741) for a Winchester Model 101 Pigeon Grade shotgun ended on Dec. 4, 2011. The high bid was $976. While this number seems high to me, it is a more workable number than the dealers’ list prices. The price includes the auctioneer’s commission, usually between 15 and 20 percent at this dollar level. Deduct this from the final sale price to determine what the seller received.

My advice, as it often is, is to think conservatively. The secondary market resale value of your gun is between $800 and $900.

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QUESTION: In a “Q and A with Harry Rinker” column several months ago, you answered a question about a piece of furniture made by Empire Furniture in New York. I have several pieces of furniture made by the Empire Chair Company in Johnson City, Tenn.. The furniture’s appearance suggests 1950s. How can I find out about this company?

– C.A., via e-mail

ANSWER: The Internet is the most obvious place to start. I found a picture of the Empire Chair Company factory in Johnson City online. Clicking a link beneath the picture, showed three marble slabs, one reading EMPIRE, a second CHAIR, and the third 1927. Most likely this is the date the factory was built and may (but not necessarily) signify the founding date. I found a street address of 1200 East Fairview Avenue in Johnson City in an online business directory. I called the phone number, but it was out of service.

I found a reference indicating that the company was a subsidiary of Vaughan Furniture Co. of Galax, Va. The history page of the company’s website does not specifically refer to the Empire Chair Company. However, it does note: “During the mid-1950s, when Taylor’s son George was elected president, improvements were made in manufacturing and efficiency. By 1964, Vaughan orders had doubled and so had the manufacturing space. In the years that followed through 1997, the company continued to grow and acquire manufacturing plants at a high rate that may never be seen again.” One of those acquisitions was most likely the Empire Chair Company.

I called the Johnson City Public Library (100 West Millard Street, Johnson City, TN 37604) and spoke with Wendy, the reference librarian. She checked the city directories. The earliest listing for the Empire Chair Company was 1928. The company appeared in the 1940s and 1950s directories. She eventually found a listing linking the company to the Vaughan Furniture Company. Unfortunately, the library has no catalogs or other records for the company.

I could find no record of a Johnson City (Tenn.) historical society. The closest historical society I found was the East Tennessee Historical Society in Mountain City. I doubt it would be of much help. Normally, I would advocate a visit to Johnson City to do more research. In this instance, I am hesitant. Wendy has agreed to keep looking. If she comes up with anything substantial, I will share it in a future column.

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QUESTION: I have a 10-inch-high primitive wood sculpture of a farmer. The bottom is marked “Wolf Creek / Irene Ballard / ‘04.” What information can you provide about this object?

– J, Janesville, Wis.

ANSWER: I found a listing on WorthPoint for a 1984 Wolf Creek folk art African-American couple that contained this information about Wolf Creek located in Beaman, Iowa: “It has since changed hands more than once and is now located in nearby Eldora….The Wolf Creek, Beaman, Iowa stamp is on the bottom of the figure, along with the handwritten signature of the artist—Irene (?) Ballard. According to the Wolf Creek Web site, the company was started in 1978 by a young man named Rick Sharp who began making wooden toys in his hometown of Beaman with the help of local retirees he hired as his production workers. His reputation grew, and the firm gained national attention. According to the Web site, Wolf Creek’s products can today be found on several continents, and on the sets of such TV shows as L.A. Law and Mr. Belvidere.”

WorthPoint has listings for more than a dozen Wolf Creek figurines and groups that sold between 2010 and 2011. Artists’ names included Karen Rankin and Linda Sbuage (spelling uncertain). Individual figurines included Blacks, fat ladies, Indians, males and females of various types, patriotic (Uncle Sam), Pilgrims and sailors. Civil War, circus and farm scenes were among the groups.

I tried to find the website mentioned in the above reference, but had no success. I found a reference for Wolf Creek Products, 1425 Washington Street, Eldora, IA 50627. The listing was for a carpentry company. I called the telephone number and talked with the owner. He informed me that he stopped making the folk art sculptures more than a year ago.

A Wolf Creek African American couple sold on eBay on Nov. 27, 2007, for $15. The selling price for most individual figures ranged from $15 to $24. The groupings sold in the $25 range. The one exception was a Noah’s ark which closed at $225.

Your primitive, perhaps a far better word to describe it than folk art, farmer figure has a value between $15 and $18.

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QUESTION: I have a 3-inch-high can of Handy Hatter cleaner. The text reads, “Handy Hatter, a ‘Perfect Powder’ used as a ‘triple action cleaner for felt hats.’” The manufacturer is Hawley and Jones located in Philadelphia. The background color is a bright orange. Does it have value?

– M, Manuet, N.Y.

ANSWER: The American Hatter, Vol. 33 (August 1903, page 75) had a note that reads: “The handy felt hat cleaner manufactured by J. Kriese, 400 Broome Street, New York, is becoming more popular all the time, and many hatters are ordering it this season for the first time. Hat wearers have found the cleaner so useful in the past, that they are demanding it now from their hatter, who must have it or be considered behind the times. The cleaner is an excellent ‘ad’ for any hat store, and is furnished in one gross lots or more.” Hawley and Jones must have made a similar product.

The practice of powdering felt hats survived into the 1950s. The color tone of your tin suggests it is from the 1920s or early 1930s. Examples closing at between $5 and $10 appear on eBay from time to time.

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Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site..

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site..

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2012

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