The History of Modern Commemorative Firearms
Among collectors and firearms aficionados, there is no grander pleasure than possessing a unique piece of history that is an authentic special presentation model. Firearms have long provided artisans and master craftsmen with an optimal canvas for engraving patterns and portraits, landscapes, and wildlife. The distinguished gentlemen of previous centuries, who carried these masterpieces ornate with precious metals and stones, used them to display not only their status, but their refined taste in weaponry. This tradition continued into the 19th century as Samuel Colt gave foreign dignitaries, military officers, and heads of state specially engraved presentation pieces. Since those Colts are so rare, they are highly valuable to collectors, museums, and historians. They often bring a considerable amount of money when they are sold today, often at special auctions. The prestige of owning a finely decorated firearm is still envied by people today. Thanks to the growth of manufacturers that have a passion for special presentation models, those with the aspiration to possess such a handsome piece may do so.
Today, many of America’s leading firearms manufacturers including Colt, Ruger, Winchester, Browning, Smith & Wesson, Remington and Marlin offer an array of elegantly decorated special issue firearms. Specialty companies such as America Remembers, The American Historical Foundation, and Cherry’s also issue limited edition firearms for collectors.
Commemorative firearm companies go the extra mile when it comes to creating truly unique and highly collectible firearms. Through meticulous research and design, artisans transform a firearm into a work of art specially created to honor a legendary person or event. Today, companies that specialize in commemorative firearms, such as America Remembers, Adams & Adams, and The American Historical Foundation, commission and employ master craftsmen that painstakingly ensure that their engravings and decorative designs are an accurate portrayal of history. Accuracy is crucial to both those who create the artwork and the collectors who acquire the special commemorative issues. Most companies go to great lengths to verify that their firearms honoring the military, historic events, wildlife, and legendary individuals are issued on historically appropriate models and have historically accurate images portrayed on each issue. Often these special issues are authorized and licensed by museums, organizations, artists, and estates (such as the NRA, Mort Künstler, Frank McCarthy’s Estate, John Wayne Enterprises, LLC and Elvis Presley’s Estate). The licensing arrangements verify the authenticity of the commemorative firearm, but also provide collectors added assurance the artwork has been reviewed by the honoree or their representative prior to introduction of the specific issue.
With the popularity today of commemorative firearms, the appeal of owning one of these modern masterpieces has reached far beyond the general firearms aficionado. Specialized Tributes are handcrafted to honor branches of the military, Hollywood Western stars, great military battles and wars, the Wild West era, the Civil War era, famous generals and presidents, various wildlife and hunting themes, and many other areas of interest. Though there may be many categories of commemorative firearms, most contain a pre-specified number of firearms in the edition. Many collectors prefer smaller edition limits; often 2,500 or less. Just as Samuel Colt’s presentation arms are a valuable rarity today, commemorative firearms issued today in limited quantities may someday be unique and desirable firearms for future generations of collectors.