Both online and present, the serious and curious Jan. 21 will be bidding and watching as a Tommy Gun and Winchester shotgun linked to bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow at a Kansas City, Mo., auction house.
The family decided they had no interest in owning the guns anymore, said Robert Mayo, president and co-owner of Kansas City’s Mayo Auction and Realty.
Mayo, who will be the auctioneer of the entire catalog of roughly 100 firearms that day, said, “The father and the grandfather had passed away and they felt it was time that the guns go to somebody who would appreciate them.” From 1973 to just a few months ago, Mayo said the family lent the two guns to the Springfield Police Museum.
Although the two guns appear in good working order, the auctioneer said they most likely had not been fired since May 23, 1934, when the two were cut down in a Louisiana firefight with a Texas Ranger-led posse sent to hunt them down.
Mayo said, absentee and online bidding is available by going to the auction website.
Missouri car dealer Mark Muller, the owner of Max Motors, said he registered for the auction Jan. 6, as soon as he heard about it.
Muller said the chance to buy a Bonnie & Clyde Tommy Gun is going to be too much for people to pass up.
“I will buy up to $50,000, but that won’t get it done,” he said.
“Those weapons will break the bank, out of my league I think,” he said.
“Bonnie & Clyde were murderous thugs who along with a few others at the time were the beginning of the media glorification of a degenerating American culture, whose results are obvious today,” he said.
William M. Douglas, the executive director of the National Armed Service and Law Enforcement Memorial Museum, based in Dunedin, Fla., said in he has sold 40 to 50 Thompsons.
“The most I have ever gotten for regular Colt Thompson, in the most pristine condition I have ever seen, was about $42,000,” he said.
“If there was no history attached to this one, and if it was in 90 to 95 percent condition, you’re talking about $25,000 to $35,000,” said Douglas.
“If enough serious collectors come up, it may get more than that,” he said. “As you know, in the heat of auction, some people will bid a lot higher than if it was a private sale or sold “as is.”
Barrow was said to prefer the Browning automatic rifle to the Thompson Sub Machine Gun, said R. Blake Stevens, an author and the owner of the publisher Collector Grade Publications, based in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.
Stevens said it good chance the Tommy Gun belonged to Barrow.
“They specialized in robbing military depots, where they would get other guns, like .45 automatics and stuff like that,” he said.
The Winchester 1897 is a pump shotgun, he said.
“It was designed by John Browning and it was a favorite then and today,” he said.
“They probably cut it, normally it’s got a 28-inch or 30-inch barrel and would be unwielding for use in a car or under your coat,” he said.
Stevens said he will be watching the auction online, but because of Canada’s oppression gun laws, there is no way he would be placing a bid.
Douglas said, “The gun Bonnie holds in the famous photos is the Remington 11 semi-automatic shotgun, cut-down; it is not a Winchester 1897.
The museum executive said he had a friend who used to go to shows and auctions with him. “He told me: ‘Bill, if you have an item that has a lot of history—but the piece, not the history.”
“The problem you always run into is provenance,” he said.
“I am assuming that even though the grandkid knows that the grandfather got it from another cop—I am assuming the grandfather didn’t get anything in writing either,” he said.
“I’ve been collecting and dealing for a long time, went to a lot of gun shows,” he said. “You hear a lot of stories, of course, but this is a lot more reasonable and believable than a lot of the stuff you hear.”
There were 15,000 Thompson submachine guns manufactured for the Auto-Ordnance by Colt in 1921, he said.
When the Navy ordered its own Tommy Guns in 1928, Auto-Ordnance made simple modifications and stamped “Navy 1928” over the original “1921” stamp.
This Tommy is a Model 1921A, part of the 15,000 batch, and not a gun that the Navy ordered, he said.
The gun’s serial number is “4208,” however, is one of the guns that has shown up in books devoted to tracing the members of this class, he said.
One-third of the Colt Thompsons were registered with the government, one-third have been exported overseas and one-third went underground, Douglas said.
“That means that there are only 5,000 Colt Thompsons transferable in the United States—a very small number compared to several million Thompson’s made during World War II,” he said.
A law was passed in 1986, which said any machine gun imported or manufactured after 1986 could only be held by machine gun dealers as sales samples for military and law enforcement customers, said Douglas, who holds a machine gun dealer’s license.
“If you were overseas and somebody handed you a mint-condition Colt Thompson submachine gun, there is no legal way you could bring it into the United States,” he said.