Cowan’s is honored to offer 45 magnificent swords from the collection of William I. Koch in its two-day fall Historic Firearms & Militaria auction to be held in Cincinnati on October 30-31. The $2 million collection features a stunning array of ornate British and American ceremonial and presentation swords ranging from the Napoleonic Wars, the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.
“I have always been fascinated by historical artifacts and have managed to collect a number of swords associated with famous people and important events,” said William Koch. “I am now ready to share these fabulous objects with other collectors who will appreciate their significance and beauty.”
Koch’s collections are legendary. His collection of historical firearms, western art and artifacts, photographs, nautical memorabilia, America’s Cup ephemera, fine art, and wine have all been the subject of multiple books, television shows, and documentary films. Koch became an avid reader of military history when he was a high school student at Culver Military Academy and has been an ardent collector ever since. Over the years, he has amassed one of the finest private collections of military and ceremonial swords now being offered in this auction.
“Bill Koch has been a friend and customer of Cowan’s for almost 15 years,” said Wes Cowan, Executive Chairman and Principal Auctioneer of the eponymous company he founded 24 years ago. “Over the years, I’ve witnessed Bill’s passion for historical artifacts, and his keen eye for the extraordinary. We are delighted to bring this collection to market. It is without a doubt the finest assemblage of British and American swords ever sold in America.”
Cowan’s sentiments were echoed by Jack Lewis, Cowan’s Director of Historic Firearms and Militaria. “I’ve been in this business for almost 50 years, and I can say with certainty that the Koch collection represents the best of the best. These are not simply historical artifacts, they are works of art meant to convey their original owner’s status within society and the military.”
Considering their great rarity, it is unlikely any of the swords will come to market again in the near future. “I don’t think in nearly 25 years I’ve ever used the words ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ to advertise an auction. This sale marks the exception,” said Cowan. “Virtually every sword on offer is a unique work of the jeweler’s and swordsmith’s art. There simply aren’t duplicates of any of these.”
Among the many highlights of the collection, is a spectacular Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund sword rewarded to Captain Robert Redmill, CB for his actions against the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. This is one of just twenty-three 100 Guinea Swords that were awarded to captains by the British Empire for service during the famed naval battle. With two of the twenty-three swords lost to history and the majority in museums, there is expected to be heavy interest in this rare piece of British history. It should sell for upwards of $300,000.
Another highlight from the British Empire is an exceptional gold and enamel sword presented by His Royal Highness the Prince Regent to his brother, the Duke of Cambridge, in 1816. One of, if not the most spectacular solid gold 19th century swords ever offered at auction in America, this gift from the future King George IV to his brother is of the very highest quality and in pristine condition throughout. The sword is expected to sell for $200,000.
The top selling American sword of the collection is expected to be a sword presented to Brevet Captain Schuyler Hamilton by the citizens of New York. Hamilton was General Winfield Scott’s Aide-de-camp during the Mexican-American War and was the grandson of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The sword has an especially ornate construction with several artistic flourishes that are unusual for military blades and almost unheard of during the time period. It is estimated to sell for $300,000.
In the Civil War category, the top lot is expected to be an extraordinary gold presentation sword given to General Rufus King by the 19th Indiana Volunteers. This exquisite single-edged, slightly curved spear-point blade features a gold gilt hilt with beaded crown pommel cap and beaded globe finial. In addition to its beauty, the sword is extremely rare as there are very few presentation swords by its maker: Bailey & Company of Philadelphia, known to still exist. The sword will be offered on the second day of the auction during the Treasures of the Civil War session and is expected to sell for $150,000.