For years, Sharlene Perez had a rosewood case containing two Civil War era revolvers with ivory handles on a shelf in her closet, the guns had been a gift to her late husband.
They held no real sentimental value for her so in June, she decided it was time to sell them.
She slipped the case into a sturdy Lord & Taylor shopping bag and took a taxi six blocks to meet appraiser Greg Martin in midtown Manhattan, NY, reports the LA Times.
Perez optimistically hoped that the guns might bring $20,000.
When Martin told her their actual value, she "about keeled over."
He informed her that the guns were Colt 1851 Navy revolvers and might be worth 10 times as much.
There were engravings on the barrels, the grips were monogrammed and an inscription on the lid of the case indicated that townspeople in Watertown, NY, had given the guns to William C. Browne, a local man heading off to serve as a colonel in the Civil War.
Perez was advised that the appraisal value was $125,000-250,000.
Mr Martin, a San Francisco auctioneer, was excited, "because of the unlikelihood of finding something like this. These could have been a nice couple of unengraved guns and gone for $10,000 to $12,000," he told the LA Times.
But the value of these guns, engraved by Gustave Young, a master of the time period, was boosted by their ivory grips, and the personalised nature of the Civil War connection.
"My husband knew nothing about guns," said Mrs Perez. "He only liked the looks of them." She thinks that the guns were given to her husband, Goltran, a doctor about 30 years ago.
"I thought there was only one gun," she said. "That's how much I knew about what was in the box."
Perez's husband died in 1995, and she put the guns away until she saw a magazine advertisement for gun appraisals, which led to the meeting with Greg Martin.
The guns sold at auction rising from $50,000 to $120,000 within 20 seconds.
Eventually, bidding stopped at $130,000.
Perez has no immediate plans for the money, and was glad to witness the lightning-fast auction in person.
"If I hadn't come, I wouldn't have had all this excitement," she said. "The auctioneers, they go so fast."
The buyer was Bill Katakis, a 47-year-old mortgage banker in Walnut Creek. "I feel incredible," he said in a phone interview a few minutes after the bidding ended. "My stomach's been in knots all day."
"Colts and Winchesters are the blue chips of all gun collectors," he said. "I'm buying them not just from the investment perspective. I'm buying them because they are pure artwork."
For Perez, now is the time to finally relax. "It's one thing to invest in something that you are interested in and see it sold," she said.
"But this is like a gift from up there. Something very unexpected."