Elvis Presley’s Smith & Wesson’s Model 53 revolver was appraised earlier this year at between $60,000 and $90,000, but when the gavel fell on Aug. 26 during a Rock Island Auction sale it went home to a winning bidder who paid $199,750. The well-documented, Russell Smith exhibition-engraved handgun was originally purchased in 1974, but it returned to the factory in 1976 to be transformed into the masterpiece it is today—one once owned by “The King” of rock and roll himself.
The .22 Magnum pistol was customized for the nation’s bicentennial celebration and features a gold-engraved minuteman on one side of the receiver and an American Eagle and flag on the other above the words “The Spirit of 76.” Other touches include the Liberty Bell on the backstrap, gold plating on the cylinder and much more. A matching .22 LR cylinder was included.
Along with the gun, the winning bidder now owns Smith’s original pencil drawing of the proposed engraving, along with handwritten notes and a job card listing Presley as the owner. The sketch provides additional insights into how the striking design came into being. Also included is the Smith & Wesson company newsletter prominently featuring the firearm as “Elvis Presley’s Bicentennial Model 53 done by Russ Smith.”
The revolver’s surface wears Smith’s striking floral scrollwork with gold inlaid bands at the muzzle and breech. Its adjustable rear sight has a gold outline, a gold bead is on the front sight and, combined with the handgun’s walnut presentation case, it’s undoubtedly one of the most striking rimfires ever crafted. Appraisers estimate more than 99 percent of its original, bright factory-blue finish remain on the gun.
Unfortunately, Elvis didn’t have much time to enjoy this work of art, though. The finished revolver was delivered on Nov. 16, 1976. Presley died in Graceland, TN, on Aug. 16, 1977, although doppelgangers sightings at UFO crash sites and gas pumps continue to this day.