Thursday, August 25, 2011

Singing bird pistols

Although the consensus is that the price realized at auction for this pair of antique singing bird pistols (be sure to watch video here) is exorbitant, even the firearms aficionados acknowledge the craftsmanship that went into making these toy guns (that don't actually shoot). Below are comments from the discussion boards:

"The 'pistols' are incredible....No description from me will do them justice..."~The Firearm Blog

"Whether or not you are an antique gun aficionado, you'll be glad you took a moment to watch. They are like great paintings...only on a much grander scale."~The Firing Line

"...I'm sure that, like myself, most folks here can appreciate a fine work of art, especially when it is designed in the manner of a firearm."

"Wow...that is some impressive craftsmanship."

"Those things are AMAZING! I'm just dying to take one apart..."~Long Island Firearms

" extremely remarkable piece of engineering and machining art work. What is most amazing is they were made in 1820!!! Those things would be hard enough to manufacture today, but those guys back in the day did not have CNC [computer numerical control] machines. Those pistols were probably crafted completely by hand with files, chisels, and sand paper. You just don't see that level of detail and craftsmanship in many modern day things. I can't imagine how big of a pain in the ass the mechanical gears and linkages were to make and then tune for the unit to function properly. The little bird that pops out of the end appeared to be about the size of a pencil eraser, but its beak and wings moved. The linkages inside of that alone had to be a true nightmare to manufacture and tune."~Tallahassee Gun Forum

"WOW!!! Work of art is not enough of a statement, they are a work of fantastic engineering, almost 200 years old!"~The Guns Network

"Astonishing! To think that these were done almost 200 years ago is amazing and depressing at the same time. Depressing because the ability to manufacture such artistic finery and the desire to have it produced is disappearing at such an alarming rate."~Shotgun World

According to Christie's, the price paid for the auctioned items ($5,866,499) is justified by their age (made in 1820), their materials (gold, diamonds, pearls), their detail (real feathers on the birds, which move and sing), their condition (pristine), and their rarity (2 of only 6 known, and the only matched pair). If this sort of thing strikes your fancy, but your pockets are not that deep, The Automaton Blog suggests that there are other antique singing bird baubles that can be had for a fraction of the price.

Thanks to Sandra for the link!

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