Woody Hawkinson spent a lifetime collecting guns. Collectors from as far away as Belgium converge on Billings Thursday to bid on his exquisite selection of firearms.
One of them is golden, and auctioneer Rick Kniepkamp and members of Woody's family expect the bidding to be spirited.
The premier offering is an 1860 Henry rifle, factory engraved with a well-retained gold wash. The left side plate features an engraved deer chased by a dog.
The .44 caliber rimfire "did not get fired very often," said Kniepkamp. "This was one of the very first lever-action repeating rifles. It has a spring load magazine."
It has been locked in a safe for a long time. "I saw it for the first time last week," he said.
The sale has been seven years in the making.
Hawkinson died at 80 in 1998 and left a will, but setting up the auction has involved "extreme difficulties," said John Hawkinson, of Miles City, one of four siblings.
"The details have been very involved."
Preparing for the sale "took up all our spare time," said the younger Hawkinson. His wife, Karen, a typesetter and graphic artist, put the catalogue together between the end of October and the first week in December, he said. Advertising was placed in all of the gun publications and the sale precedes the annual Billings Gun show that opens Friday for three days.
The firearms are classified as antique, curio and relic and modern. The latter two classifications come under the purview of federal law. Billings Gunsmiths will handle the record keeping for the auction, said Kniepkamp.
In addition to the firearms, there are offerings of coins and currency, knives and axes, and leather goods - saddles, scabbards and wooly chaps.
The collection is in Miles City and will be moved to Billings prior to the auction.
Security is tight, said Kniepkamp.
"I have plenty of guns and ammunition of my own," John Hawkinson said.
Both owner and auctioneer are pleased that the sale stayed in Montana, rather than being shipped to one of the auction houses on the coasts.
Kniepkamp said he has not had a sale like this before.
"I had to compete with an international auction company. But the family did not want to send it off, to lose control of the items."
The 1860 Henry is Lot 41 of 98 items on the sale list.
"The tempo of the sale is best then," said Kniepkamp, who operates out of Circle where Woody Hawkinson owned a bar and then a hardware store that served as his base of operations for 30 years.
A number of antique weapons are in the sale - a Civil War forager musket, a Harper's Ferry flintlock, a Hudson Bay trade musket, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police carbine.
Kniepkamp said he has 10 buyers from around the United States who will take part in the auction on the phone. "These are serious buyers who intend to stay online for the whole sale."
It begins Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark.
The items for sale can be viewed online at www.woodysguns.com.