Old SAA with weird numbers, need experts...

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 08/17/2012

I'm hoping an expert or
three on this board can help me. I am a dealer/pistolsmith (part-time), and buy
and sell for some of my customers. I am asking here because my expertise is
making 1911s shoot into little groups, not hoglegs. I know SOME about SAAs, but
not nearly enough.


One of my customers is
clearing out the unused items in his safe, and this is the one that intrigues
me most.


It is a Colt SAA, looks like
first gen., has LOTS of holster wear, and has been reblued some time in its


I have a Colt Archives
letter on the gun, and it is still in its original form: 4-3/4", .32-20,
shipped in 1905 to Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Company (a hardware store
in Chicago that was the forerunner of Ace/True Value), grips not noted.


What confuses me most is the
serial number and added markings.


The first digit in the
serial number is a "2" but has been obviously stamped over a
"1". The “2” is in the same type font and size as the other “2” in
the serial number, and looks factory. It was odd enough so that a fellow from
The Colt Archives called me when I wanted info on the both numbers. We both
agreed that there is little reason for a manufacturer to restamp a gun with a
new serial number. I have a S&W target revolver that was sent back to the
factory and rebuilt into a different model (from stock model 10 to a
single-action-only match gun with target hammer and trigger) and in that case,
the model number under the crane was overstamped to the proper model
designation. But even in that case, the serial number wasn’t touched.



So the fellow at The Colt
Archives said he believed that the “1” was a mistake at the factory that the
factory corrected by overstamping with a “2” before shipping it, because The
Colt Archives has it listed in their records as “2______” in the configuration
I have it in.


Any of you pistoleros seen a
real SAA with overstamped serial numbers? If it can be confirmed that it is
stamped with the factory dies, does that hurt the value at all? Add to it?


Second, and separate from
the serial number, are the markings on it after it was purchased: “1G1”



Anyone have any references
or knowledge of what that marking came from or was for? I’m guessing it would
be an armory or other inventory number, maybe even a police marking (although
I’d expect a “_PD” or some other department marking along with it).


Since it was purchased from
a retailer in Chicago and it was a .32-20, we can rule out most military
contracts. It spent a LOT of time in a holster (the ejector rod housing is
virtually rounded on the outside front edge, the barrel end is worn and there’s
a tiny bit of pitting under some of the blue) and it’s been handled a LOT (the
grips are almost completely smooth), but if the cylinder and barrel are
original (the barrel probably is looking at the wear, but it’s beyond my
knowledge-base about how to tell if the cylinder is orig.), it was almost never
shot – the bore and chambers are gorgeous.




Bank guard? Private
Detectives a la Bannerman, or Wells Fargo or other shipping? Warehouse guards?
Prison (see “PS”)?


Lastly, would it behoove me
to have it appraised? And who would you experts say is the best appraiser you
know, not because I think it’s worth a fortune, but because it’s a weird one,
and the appraiser would need to know about these guns’ usages and places in
society, not just model changes and dates and metal and rubber and finishes …


PS: If you look at the photo
of the bottom serial number, you might notice that the  inside/left grip has three notches in





Mak's picture
Joined: 03/01/2011

The style and depth of the "2"overstamp is indicative of the same die as on the second line-just hit quite a bit harder. It's actually possible that this number was altered, but to be sure you would have to compare it to the other serial # stamps, notably the one on the underside of the frame.
It is very unusual for a black powder arm to have survived all these decades with clean bore/chambers, thus it is likely that the 1 was a mistake, and the arm is indeed a smokeless specimen.
It is almost certain that this was not a Wells Fargo purchase, as they marked their guns distinctively, and this gun bears nothing close to their repertoire of marks. Lesser known agencies may indeed have used the code shown, or something similar, but this is speculation. It may be worthwhile to research if and what types of stamps were used by area police, detective, bank, and other such agencies.
The fact that this gun has been refinished, and exhibits considerable wear will diminish its value. If it were possible to establish some of its provenance, this could compensate for the condition, and even add a little more. Without knowing mechanical condition, and whether or not it uses original parts, its impossible to price this SAA accurately.
The stock may have notches, or it may just bear the scars of rough handling. Again, value depends quite a bit on what history can be documented. A gun without history, in good shape can fetch a few thousand on a good day. A gun with history, can exceed this several times.
These Colts today are very rarely purchased as shooters anymore. They are bought as embodiments of myth and mythic events. Still, if this SAA is in good shape, it can and should deliver as they always did, when in capable hands. It would be rewarding to retire to some natural setting with a fistful of 32 WCFs, and find out what she can still do. I know if she was mine, that's exactly what I would do.

Matchlock's picture
Joined: 09/28/2012
If in fact the information

If in fact the information you're talking about can be confirmed (IN WRITING) from the Colt factory then you have nothing to worry about. I have only ever seen one overstamping on a Colt SAA and it was not done at the factory.
Make certain that Colt verifies this information. As I said, in writing. Otherwise it doesn't count.
On the other side of the coin, the gun has (you mentioned) been re-blued at one time so the addition of an overstamped number by the Colt factory wouldn't hurt the value any more than the re-blue job.
Hope that helps.
I'm brand new here but I've been a gunsmith and a Colt, Smith & Wesson armorer for nearly forty years.

Mak's picture
Joined: 03/01/2011
Frame code

Ever seen anything like the number/letter code stamped into the side of the frame?

Matchlock's picture
Joined: 09/28/2012
Sorry, but I've never seen

Sorry, but I've never seen that particular mark before.
In 1963 my partner had a Colt SAA come in that had the letters "ATP" stamped in the same place and his research led him to believe the mark indicated use at the Yuma Territorial Prison around the time the Colt was manufactured, which was 1897. The marks were never officially verified by anyone of note so it was never authenticated although the Yuma prison at the time did issue Colt SAA's to their guards as well as the Winchester 1897 shotgun.
Sorry I couldn't be of help to you.

Matchlock's picture
Joined: 09/28/2012
I meant to add, since someone

I meant to add, since someone originally asked for a value. In my honest opinion.
The issue of the overstamping could have been corrected easily at the factory when the error was made by simply changing out the backstrap at the time. The cost of the part would have eliminated any future controversy that an overstamped serial number would have arisen.   If the overstamping issue cannot be verified by a factory archive letter then the serial number issue will surely hurt the appraisal of this Colt Single Action Army revolver.
Also please bear in mind that a proper appraisal is really not possible without the gun in hand, or at the very least, more, very detailed photos, so please consider this as a "non professional" evaluation only.
A Colt Single Action Army manufactured in 1905 (as this serial number indicates), and in fair condition, with all original parts and matching serial numbers could be worth as much as $2,000. to $3,000. There are some very good comparisons to be made from an Auction sight I've dealt with at: http://www.collectorsfirearms.com/colts/colt-revolvers.html Take alook at some of the Colt SAA's there.
This Colt SAA
1. has been cleaned (and/or buffed or steel wool rubbed) at some point (especially in the area of the right-side frame) as much of the original patina is gone in that area.
2. has been re-finished and re-blued at some point, and not a very long time ago.
3. Some of the screw head slots have been damaged by the use of an incorrect fitting driver at some point.
4. not that it's a huge point, but this Colt has also been dropped at one point. Note damage to the top of the (flattened) front sight.
I hope this is of some value to you, and thanks for asking.