8 Most Expensive & Valuable Guns in Existence

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The history of guns starts more than 1,000 years ago with the invention of gunpowder. Experts think this event may have taken place in China as people hunted for “an elixir of life.” One Chinese alchemist documented the dangerous properties of this new concoction, describing “smoke and flames” as well as the burned faces of those developing the mixture.

Gun powder (which was first known as black powder) was originally used for fireworks. But over time, the substance made its way into weaponry, resulting in early gunpowder-powered machines like cannons.

As Europe, Asia, and colonial America became more connected through trade, ancestors of modern guns became more common across the globe. As a result, new inventions were created — morphing early exploding weapons into the firearms we know today.

In today’s world, the most expensive guns are typically rare symbols of historical events. Guns used by important figures like American presidents and soldiers can sell for thousands if not millions of dollars.

Learn more about the most expensive guns ever sold with this top eight list.

  1. The Gun That Killed Jesse James
  2. Estimated Value: $350,000
    Brand or Maker: Smith & Wesson
    Time Period: The 19th century
    Interesting Fact: More than 20 people bid on this gun
    The Gun That Killed Jesse James
    photo source: truewestmagazine.com

    Jesse James was born in Clay County Missouri in 1847. As the son of a slave owner, James joined the Civil War in support of the Confederacy in 1864. During the war, James participated in the Centralia massacre (a bloody event resulting in the death of 22 unarmed soldiers by Confederate hands) and many other atrocities.

    After the Confederacy lost in 1865, James continued to wreak havoc across the States, starting with the robbery of a bank in which an unarmed cashier was killed.

    Over the years, James and his gang continued to rob and murder across the country. In 1873, James led the world’s first robbery of a moving train — injuring several passengers and killing the engineer. James tried to paint himself as a “Robin Hood” figure, but the outlaw’s legacy is defined more by murder than concern for the poor.

    James’ reign of terror finally ended in 1882 when he was shot by Bob Ford, a member of his gang. Ford killed James to collect a $10,000 award offered by Missouri Governor Tom Crittenden. In 2003, the gun used by Ford sold for $350,000.

    Did you know?

    Ford used a .44 caliber Smith & Wesson to kill James.


  3. The Rare .34 Percussion Colt Paterson
  4. Estimated Value: $358,645
    Brand or Maker: Samuel Colt
    Time Period: The 19th century
    Interesting Fact: This gun is engraved Patent Arms Mg. Co. Paterson N.J. Colts Pt.
    The Rare .34 Percussion Colt Paterson
    photo source: bonhams.com

    Samuel Colt is considered one of the most revolutionary gun makers in the United States. The inventor and designer won the groundbreaking patent for a revolving mechanism that allowed multiple rounds to be loaded into a single hand-held gun — a big change from previous firearms that only loaded a single bullet at a time. Similar inventions were created before Colt’s, but Colt’s design significantly improved upon the function of these earlier versions.

    In December 2020, a rare example of Colt’s design was sold at an auction held by Bonhams. The weapon commanded an intense bidding war, pushing the price to nearly $360,000. The firearm itself features an engraving on the barrel pointing to its origin and was sold alongside its original case. The case, the gun, and its accessories are thought to be from around 1840.

    Did you know?

    Samuel Colt received a British patent for his design before earning an American patent.


  5. Theodore Roosevelt’s Shotgun
  6. Estimated Value: $862,500
    Brand or Maker: The Fox Gun Company
    Time Period: The 20th century
    Interesting Fact: This gun was used during Roosevelt’s trip to Africa
    Theodore Roosevelt’s Shotgun
    photo source: morphyauctions.com

    Theodore Roosevelt (or Teddy Roosevelt) was born in 1858 in New York. In 1897, William McKinley became President of the United States and Roosevelt served as the vice president. Just a few years later, in 1901, McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt ascended to the presidency.

    In 1909, Roosevelt traveled to Africa to hunt and collect specimens in collaboration with the museum of the Smithsonian Institute. Before the trip, Roosevelt was given a shotgun by the Fox Gun Company. The gun was used by the president during his expedition before it was passed along to his son after Roosevelt’s death in 1919.

    In 2010, Morphy Auctions offered the one-of-a-kind gun to bidders during its fall firearms sale. The auction ended with a final price of $862,500, making Roosevelt’s shotgun the sixth-most expensive gun ever sold.

    Did you know?

    Theodore Roosevelt is known for expanding the powers of the president’s office.


  7. John Reese Kenly’s Gun
  8. Estimated Value: $920,000
    Brand or Maker: Colt
    Time Period: The 19th century
    Interesting Fact: This gun was originally owned by Sam Wilson
    John Reese Kenly’s Gun
    photo source: morphyauctions.com

    John Reese Kenly was a lawyer and member of the Union Army born in 1818. Before the Civil War, Kenly fought in the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848). Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Kenly served as colonel of the 1st Regiment Maryland Volunteer Infantry, which was organized in his hometown.

    At some point during his life, Kenly received Sam Wilson’s handgun. The gun has a K carved into the grip for Kenly, and the auction house that sold the gun said the firearm was accompanied by documents proving its authenticity.

    John Reese Kenly’s gun sold for $920,000, making it the fifth-most expensive gun ever sold.

    Did you know?

    Kenly is buried in Baltimore, Maryland at the Green Mount Cemetery.


  9. The Rare French Pistols From 1825
  10. Estimated Value: $1,805,000
    Brand or Maker: Nicolas-Noël Boutet
    Time Period: The 19th century
    Interesting Fact: These pistols were made by Napoléon’s gunsmith
    The Rare French Pistols From 1825
    photo source: christies.com

    Nicolas-Noël Boutet was Napoléon Bonaparte’s official gunsmith (a person who makes and repairs firearms). This particular set of guns was made in 1825, about four years after Napoléon’s death.

    In 2016, Christie’s auction house sold Boutet’s guns for over $1,800,000. That high price tag was the result of the guns’ historic value. This wasn’t the first time a weapon connected to 19th century France sold for more than a million dollars — in 2007, Napoléon Bonaparte’s personal sword sold for a record $6,400,000.

    Did you know?

    Napoléon Bonaparte was a French military leader and emperor. Bonaparte came to power in 1799 and crowned himself emperor a few years later. The ruler held France and much of Europe in his grip until around 1815 when he was exiled. Bonaparte eventually died at the age of 51.


  11. The Danish Sea Captain Walker
  12. Estimated Value: $1,840,000
    Brand or Maker: Colt
    Time Period: The 19th century
    Interesting Fact: The maker of this gun promoted his creation in a conversation with President James K. Polk
    The Danish Sea Captain Walker
    photo source: rockislandauction.com

    This handgun from the 19th century was made by Colt, the gun manufacturer run by Samuel Colt who patented a groundbreaking revolver system. In mid-April 2018, Rock Island Auction Company sold the rare gun for $1,840,000, making it the third-most expensive firearm ever sold.

    After a meeting with President James K. Polk, Samuel Colt secured a deal to provide the military with 1,000 revolvers. Soon after, Colt made a special line of just 100 revolvers for civilians. This gun is number 22 from that ultra-limited line.

    Did you know?

    Colt decided to make a limited line of civilian revolvers to promote his company.


  13. George Washington’s Guns
  14. Estimated Value: $1,986,000
    Brand or Maker: Jacob Walster
    Time Period: The 18th century
    Interesting Fact: These guns were also owned by Andrew Jackson
    George Washington’s Guns
    photo source: christies.com

    Coming in at number two are George Washington’s personal guns. The Founding Father’s pistols were given to him by Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783).

    After George Washington died in 1799, these guns were inherited by William Robinson, a relative of Washington. The guns were eventually gifted to Andrew Jackson in a show of support for his campaign for the presidency.

    These guns were owned by many other people over time, but one of the most recent sales occurred in 2002 when the duo sold at auction for a record-setting $1,986,000.

    Did you know?

    George Washinton was born on February 22, 1732.


  15. The Gun That Killed Billy the Kid
  16. Estimated Value: $6,030,312
    Brand or Maker: Colt
    Time Period: The 19th century
    Interesting Fact: This gun was owned by Sheriff Pat Garrett
    The Gun That Killed Billy the Kid
    photo source: bonhams.com

    The gun that killed Billy the Kid is the most expensive gun ever sold.

    On July 14, 1881, Sheriff Pat Garrett finally caught and killed Billy the Kid. Billy was an outlaw who murdered at least 27 men before his death at the age of 21. Sheriff Garrett had caught Billy once before, but the outlaw escaped custody after he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang. After Billy’s escape, Sheriff Garrett tracked Billy down and shot him to death in New Mexico.

    In 2021, the gun used by Sheriff Garrett was sold at auction for a record-breaking $6,030,312.

    Did you know?

    Billy’s real name was Henry McCarty.

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