Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone is probably the most famous gangster of all time. Operating in Chicago primarily from the early 1920s to 1931 (when Prohibition was in force) his gang mostly smuggled liquor, and became involved in increasingly violent turf wars over the trade including the Valentine's Day Massacre.
Capone was eventually imprisoned on tax evasion charges - the authorities thought these were the only ones they had a good chance of proving - and passed a comfortable eight years in prison including at Alcatraz.
|An ongoing fascination - Capone was 're-tried' just last month|
Now a truly exceptional piece of memorabilia relating to the mobster is up for sale: his personal Colt Police Positive .38 Special revolver.
The silver chromed revolver, serial no. 384221, bears a four inch barrel, Colt logo stamped on the left side, with factory-original wood grips with Colt logos in relief. Colt records indicate that this pistol was manufactured in 1939, the year Capone was released from federal prison.
"You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone." Capone was once quoted as saying (referred to in Forbes, 1986).
The weapon originates from the estate of Al Capone's brother, Ralph "Bottles" Capone (1893-1974). Ironically nicknamed because he had a legitimate bottled water business, he is thought to have had some involvement with his younger brother's criminal activities - the two were close.
Ralph far outlived his brother, who died of syphilis in 1948, and the gun has passed from the elder sibling to long time friend Edmund Koeski, then sold to the current owner at Butterfields in 2000.
Weapons relating to notorious criminals have proved their value as an investment at auction in recent years.
In December, 1991 Jack Ruby's Colt Cobra .38 Special, the gun used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, was sold at auction for in excess of $200,000, and Buffalo Bill's pistol sold in 1998 for in excess of $120,000. In 2009 John Dillinger's derringer fetched $96,000 at auction.
The revolver will be sold by Alexander Autographs in their Fall Historical auction this Saturday, October 9 which takes place in Connecticut and online (check your local gun laws before bidding). The piece is listed at $30,000-40,000.
As we've reported, the sale also includes some extraordinary Presidential memorabilia.