Here’s is an amazing story from the Washington Post about a very old Winchester Model 1873 in .44-40 caliber found lying against a very old tree in Great Basin National Park.
Though in its day the rifle could be bought for less than $50, today the value of such a rifle in excellent condition would run from $2,500 to $5,000.
Of course, this particular rifle is far from being in good condition, let alone in excellent condition.
Still, I suspect there are collectors out there who would be more than willing to pay the premium simply because of its existence and how/where it was found.
The mystery of the 132-year-old Winchester rifle found propped against a national park tree
By Elahe Izadi January 14 at 6:59 PM, The Washington Post
The Winchester rifle was spotted leaning against a tree in Great Basin National Park. (Courtesy of National Park Service)
Archaeologists conducting surveys in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park came upon a gun frozen in time: a .44-40 Winchester rifle manufactured in 1882. It was propped up against a juniper tree.
“They just happened to notice the rifle under the tree,” said Nichole Andler, Basin National Park’s chief of interpretation. The public will get a chance to view the rifle over the weekend.
Although staff have no idea how the rifle ended up there, “it looked like someone propped it up there, sat down to have their lunch and got up to walk off without it,” Andler said.
It’s remarkable that anyone was able to spot the gun back in November, as it had blended in so well with its surroundings. The unloaded gun appears to have been left undisturbed for more than 100 years; its wooden base had turned gray and was partially buried, and the barrel had rusted.
Though not in very good shape, the rifle is certainly salvageable, Andler said, and it will be preserved so it remains in its current state.
While the rifle’s back story remains a mystery, the history of the place offers some clues: Great Basin was primarily a mining site at the time, but could have also been home to grazing cattle and sheep. The gun may have also been the relic of game hunting in the area.
This particular model of Winchester rifle was quite popular at the time, so it wasn’t necessarily a rare and precious item for a person to leave behind. The year this particular rifle was made, 25,000 others were also manufactured. In fact, the prevalence of the gun may have contributed to a massive price drop, from costing $50 in 1873 to $25 in 1882. Here is a close-up of the rifle:
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- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn