At 11:30 PM on January 19, 2019, Milestone Auctions lived up to its name and then some by ringing up its first-ever million-dollar sale. Reaching seven-figure territory was an achievement the Cleveland-area company had been striving for since first opening its doors in August 2014. At its conclusion, the 809-lot sale of historical militaria and firearms, which lasted 13 hours due to extremely active bidding on almost every item, reached and surpassed its lofty goal, hitting $1.1 million inclusive of 20% buyer’s premium.
The top lot of the sale, a cased 1939 German SA presentation dagger with an E.F. Horster Damascus blade, was engraved on the obverse in high-relief gold: “Alles fur Deutschland” (All for Germany). The rare Nazi piece came out of the collection of WWII veteran Master Sgt. Dominick J. DeMaggio, who was an American interrogator and interpreter of Italian POWs. In its fitted box, the historical dagger sold for $66,000 against a presale estimate of $15,000-20,000.
“There was a lot of competition for that dagger, but as any auctioneer will attest, it only takes two determined bidders to drive the price of any item way beyond expectations – which is what happened once the bidding hit a certain level,” said Milestone Auctions co-owner Miles King. “The dagger was the shocker of the day, pricewise, but all of the German World War II material was strong. It always is, and in my opinion, the category has never been stronger than it is now, especially the very rare items.”
In fact, half of the sale’s top 10 lots were World War II German items. A double-sided, fringed cloth 1st Fallschirmjager Divisional trumpet banner, chain-stitched with the image of a devil figure riding a pitchfork, came with important provenance, having once been part of Luftwaffe historian George Peterson’s collection. Against an estimate of $10,000-15,000, it sold for $25,800. A black and white embroidered standard used by the German motorized infantry reached $15,600; as did a Waffen SS M-40 combat tunic with ribbons and cloth insignia. A brown leather flight jacket identified to Luftwaffe ace pilot Josef Priller realized $9,300.
In the firearms section, Colts and Smith & Wessons continued their hot streak. A Colt Gold Cup National Match semi-automatic pistol in .45 ACP, made especially for George Strichman, Colt’s chairman of the board from 1962-1987, raced to $9,300. Smith & Wessons were led by a Schofield 2nd Model .44 caliber military-issue revolver, $6,600; and a pearl-grip 6-shot double-action revolver engraved by Billy Bates, $4,400;
Other firearms highlights included a Browning Renaissance engraved-silver 3-pistol set in its original fitted case, $9,900; and a Civil War Confederate Kerr-patent .44 caliber revolver, $5,160. An intriguing entry was the Winchester experimental or prototype .32-.40 caliber lever-action rifle that was found in a California gun shop that closed in 1942. It went out the door for $9,600.
At the end of the day, Milestone not only had a landmark auction to celebrate, but Miles King also had the t-shirt to prove it. Unbeknownst to King, the firm’s antique gun specialist, Dave Stewart, had arranged for a t-shirt to be imprinted “Million Dollar Club.” The minute the tally flipped over into seven-figure territory, the t-shirt was presented to King, who needed little encouragement to try it on.
“We had bidders from all over the world and a record number of sign-ups, so I was reasonably confident that this might be the sale that would make history for us. It’s a very satisfying to achieve a goal of this type when you’ve worked as hard as (co-founder) Chris Sammet, Dave Stewart, and the rest of our team have done for the past four and a half years. But now it’s a new day and we’re on to the next big sale,” King said.
Milestone Auctions is a full-service auction house that handles all categories of antiques, art and vintage collectible items. To discuss consigning to a future sale, contact co-owners Chris Sammet and Miles King by calling (440) 527-8060 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.