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Posted By: CJF Advice on selling older custom 1885 high wall - 12/05/20 05:38 PM
My wife's uncle passed a few years back and I'm trying to help the aunt sell off his remaining guns.

There are a few I don't know what to do with, all of which started as relatively interesting guns and were customized, including restocking. While I need to figure what to do with a 28ga Ithaca Flues #1 grade that's been nickeled and restocked, here I'd like advice on a rife. It's a customized Winchester 1885 high wall in a 22 caliber chambering, with a Unertl 20x scope. (I've got 223, 222 and 22 hornet ammo that I will try, and I haven't taken the forearm off to see if the chambering is listed there.)

The gunsmithing work was well done, including the engraving on the action, but it's not my style nor in my regular collecting sphere. The stock has a very high comb and the forearm is relatively fat, and flat on the bottom, so I would think 1960s vintage varmint rifle. But I don't know.

I want to get her a fair price. Based on looking at closed Gunbroker auctions, I suspect she'd realize more if the scope were sold separately from the rifle. What factors for the scope and rifle influence value? Or just put it up with a decent starting price and find out?

I'm not posting pictures yet as I haven't found a suitable replacement for Photobucket. I'll try to get that sorted asap. I'd welcome any advice on image hosting services too. I don't mind paying a small monthly fee for a good site.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can share on either topic (selling or image hosting services)
For the scope, definitely best to sell separate. Overall amount of bluing and lack of rust or freckling is always valuable. If the rubbing from the scope mounts as the scope slides back is not too severe, that indicates the scope was not used a lot and that also has some small positive value.

Clarity of the optics is important and you should try to photograph that.

If the crosshairs are intact and clean of dust, that will positively impact value as well and should show in the photograph if you can.

Last perhaps, are the clicks nice and crisp on the adjustments in all directions? If not it probably needs a serious cleaning, most do. But it's nice to pick up one that is nice and crisp and clean when you turn the knobs.
The rifle does indeed sound like a varmint rifle from the fifties or sixties. Good photos of the engraving would be nice because most of those are not engraved at all. Perhaps next most important is the trigger, or triggers. Set trigger are very much valued. There are four basic configurations.

Knowing who (or where if not whom) did the work is also valuable.

There has been a small resurgence in interest in collecting these varmint rifles. While they do not interest me, there are others who really love that style.

If you want to send me pictures, I'll be glad to comment more on them and/or post them for you. I use for a photo host come up, but I do not recommend it and would not choose it again.
Don't be surprised if the rifle is chambered for one of the many wildcats, popular at the time.

Once you figure out the cartridge for which the rifle is chambered, consider offering it and the scope, either separately or together, on the ASSRA web site. Those guys are mad for both the scopes and High Walls. If the scope has the recoil spring, you’ll get a bit more for it. Original caps add value as well, as does the box the scope came in.

One more thing: given the era of customization, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it chambered for .219 Zipper (a cartridge with the same rim size as a .30-30), one of the improved versions of the .219, or a .219 Donaldson Wasp, a shortened and blown out .219 Zipper that was quite popular as a bench rest cartridge in the era. All are relatively easily formed from existing brass and dies for all are fairly easy to come by.
Brent, Mike and Rem - thank you so much for the quick replies and help. I'll address the pictures tomorrow. Yes, there is a external spring on the scope. There is also a very long sunscreen tube at the front, aluminum, marked A.Freeland. Adjustments on scope have discrete clicks.

Is there a trick to mounting the scope on the barrel's blocks? Does this slide from the front back or reverse?
The scope slides onto the bases, and there is a knob for each base you loosen to allow the scope to slide off. They can slide either direction, but normally slide forward. If the fit is snug, and they've been there awhile, you might loosen the knobs quite a bit, and then tap at the bottom of the rings with a small plastic, or brass hammer. Those Unertl posaloc bases need to have the knob backed out a fair amount before they disengage the cuts in the base.
The scope should definitely be sold separate for the most value, but I personally would list it as so much for the whole package, and then price for gun and scope separate. This might appeal to a buyer who wants the gun, and scope, and save you some hassle dealing with two separate buyers.
A 20x Unertl often goes around $750-$800, unless it's really minty, or has it's original box, which adds value.
I'd like to see the gun before making any guesstimate on it's value. The type of stocks, and how they're done, plus the barrel contour, length, etc. will all have some effect on the value of this 1885. And as mentioned, single trigger, set triggers, all add to the value.
Sorry for the delay in starting to post some pictures. Here are a few I took when I first picked this up from my wife's aunt. I will post some proper pics shortly.

So far looks very interesting. Hope you post full length pictures too.
Some say that engraving through the blue is not the best way. Some finish should be added to prevent rusting. Maybe this gun is "in progress". Very nice gun. We need more pictures. Search for the engraver's name.
Hard to tell much but that fore end is definitely not original, so I would imagine the whole gun has been restocked. It's value will be strongly affected by how well that restocking was done. There was a bit of an upsurgence in collecting varmintized singleshots, especially highwalls, but whether that continues to be the case, I do not know. It does have a single set trigger, so that will add a bit to the value.

More and better pictures are definitely needed, including one of the breech with the action open. Is it chambered for a rimmed cartridge and if not, what is the extractor situation?
And the Elephant in the room....Those engraved initials are a real detractor unless you can find a buyer with the same. In many case they are tantamount to using a vidro pen to engrave a police crime tracking number on your gun as was popular 30-40 years ago.
Or find an engraver who can remove the center panel of the left side and remove the initials. A lot of expensive work that sorry the rifle just won't care the value to recover.
My suggestion is list on Gunbrroker in an auction put a $1000 start and see if you get any bids. If not you know the value is less and if you do get bids you will get what its worth. IMHO
Very reasonable approach, with LRF's thoughts. Put your hopes down as a start and put it to auction, together or separated from the scope. It appears to be personalized, and not necessarily customized, which may put it in the market of bargain hunters looking for a project action.

A long shot might be requesting the Cody papers on it. If it was originally a rare configuration, it may appeal to someone thinking to do a recreation. Best of luck with it.
Here are some pictures. I was able to ease the scope onto the rifles bases about halfway and then there's a lot of resistance that I didn't try to overcome.(I had backed out the mount screws that lock the scope on without improving the fit. I also tried it from the front and rear.)

The sunscreen for the scope is really long and when installed, would extend quite beyond the muzzle.

Single trigger. No caliber designation under the forearm unfortunately. (Am I the only one here who doesn't feel comfortable using cerosafe? I can do it, I just don't like it. Will need to get that out now.)

I've found a scope manual for it online. Will need to study to understand if scope adjustments work as they should.

You know, the guy here that might know the most about this era of wildcatting singleshots is probably buckstix. You might PM him for his opinion.

Without getting out a book I can't say for sure but that may be a Unertl "Programmer", which is a pretty high dollar model.

Your trigger is not a single trigger, but a single SET trigger, which is a plus. Push it forward (hard) and it should click. Then try the trigger pull.

The lever is custom and not a plus in my opinion.

To me, this is an action and a scope. The action has two demerits (initials and lever). The rest - not of any value to me and most of those that I know.

Your scope may be worth more than your rifle (in my case that is a certainty).

Sorry about that.
I couldn’t agree more with your assessment that this is really just an action and a scope that I need to sell for my wife’s aunt. I will reread everyone’s input and research both the scope model and set trigger and then get this listed on GB.

The renewed interest in mid-century modern decor hasn’t extended to firearms yet!

Thank you and thanks to everyone who has helped
Go ahead and use the cerrosafe. Knowing what it is chambered for could be a big plus.
CJF, I think your best bet is to research the scope a bit and then put it on ebay.

For the rifle, I would take LRF's suggestion.
Not a Programmer, looks like 2in target should sell well.
Any 20x Unertl will sell. I think Ebay would be best but Gunbroker will work or one could sell it on the ASSRA forum
It's the 1" Unertl vs. the more common 3/4" tube. Still a desirable scope, and depending on where it's sold it might be worth almost as much as the rifle.

I personally disagree on the talk that this is simply a action and barrel. Yes, it's not a factory original gun, and there are things that detract from it if each is looked at individually. But when you look at the custom stocks, bent lever, rebarrel, engraving, (including initials) it's a nice old sporter done up in the style found in the 50's and 60's. And done up better than many, yet not as nice as some.
I personally would be surprised if it didn't go around $1500 without the scope, just because it's a neat 1885. I don't find the initials to be that big a detriment myself, and I think any attempts to alter the initials would be a bigger deficit than leaving them alone.
It's refreshing to hear from someone who shares my opinion on removing initials from a fine gun. Lots of recent Unertl prices in Morphy's December sale. Search "unertl".
Initials discretely engraved on a silver stock inlay is one thing, but carving up the entire side of an action, may be another. It may be an issue with the photograph, but the engraving does not look that good to me in the first place.

It would be interesting to see what it brings at auction.
I'd still like to know the cartridge for which the rifle is chambered. It's likely to be more valuable if it's factory or a commonly used wildcat (.219 Donaldson Wasp, for example) than if it's a complete one-off. I have and shoot a custom (J.W. Van Patten) high wall chambered for .219 Zipper Improved, topped with a 12x Lyman Targetspot. It's a fine varmint rifle, although not nearly as elaborate as the one under discussion here.

It would also be interesting to see if the maker's name, or at least the stock maker's name, appears anywhere. Sometimes, the marking is nothing more than a rubber stamping concealed under a butt plate or inside a forearm channel. The name of the engraver, if it's marked anywhere, would also be interesting.
The biggest detriment to me would be the poorly executed lever, but that can be fixed. I too could live with the initials if need be.

Count me as one who would like to know the chambering. Those .22 wildcats from another era have always fascinated me. (I'm currently shooting R2 Lovell's in two rifles, a custom High Wall and a 1903 Springfield. And a .22 Maximum Lovell in a single shot Krag, built by Hervey Lovell himself. God please, let my stash of brass hold up!)
It may get a few more bids if there was a picture of a chamber casting and some measurements. I would talk to my aunt and see if I could play with it for a while if it turned out to be chambered in something new to me. Maybe, give her a resonable starting bid down payment with any balance when it goes to auction later?

If the execution of the lever would be a potential stumbling point in the market, then probably the stock fit and engraving execution would also hold the rifle back, maybe not purely the style. It looks like a local smith was given a little reign, and not a top tier conversion. It'll work out.

If aunt didn't care what she gets for it, I think a thousand or maybe twelve hundred is a thought through starting point for an auction, likely without the scope. Then, the only thing to hope for is if two or more bidders see something interesting. I think it's a shooter, and doesn't look like it has inherent collector value?
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
The biggest detriment to me would be the poorly executed lever, but that can be fixed. I too could live with the initials if need be.

The lever is poorly done, but also an easy fix for me. It doesn't bother me since it's something easily changed, or reworked.

Of course I've seen (and own) guns with much nicer engraving. But this engraving isn't crude, or poorly done. Just not on the level of a Guild engraver's work. It doesn't bother me at all.
If I wasn't so set in my ways with Ballard and Remington single shot rifles, I'd be trying to buy this 1885.
I think there's an engravers signiture/initials on the edge of the pattern on the right side of the frame.

Looks like 'jb' or JD perhaps.

The pattern that forms a point going forward and to the rear of the frame.
On the point facing rearward, the upper edge,,,it's formed by 4 major scrolls. All the scrolls wind clockwise.
On the outside edge of the 2nd scroll from the point are what I think are the 2 initials.

The pic is tilted sideways of course so take that into consideration when looking at it.
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