A pistol retrieved from the skirt of Bonnie Parker of the infamous Depression-era outlaw duo of Bonnie and Clyde as her bullet-riddled body was stripped for embalming in 1934 will go up for auction on January 25 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I don’t know that it gets any better than this,” said John Case, president of Case Antiques, Auctions & Appraisals, which is handling the sale. “I am not aware of a more-documented item from that time period.”
The semi-automatic .38 caliber Colt, complete with the clip and six bullets, has a pre-auction estimate of between $125,000 and $175,000, Case said.
The winning bidder will also receive historic photos and documentation of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s last stand, when the partners in life and crime were ambushed by law enforcement officers in Louisiana.
The story of the desperadoes-turned-folk-heroes was celebrated in the 1967 Arthur Penn movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. The crime duo got fresh attention this winter in the television miniseries “Bonnie & Clyde” on the A&E channel.
Their weapons arsenal has attracted considerable interest in previous auctions.
A .45-caliber Thompson submachine gun and a 12-gauge Winchester shotgun seized by police after a shootout with Bonnie and Clyde in which two officers died fetched $130,000 and $80,000 respectively at a 2012 auction in Missouri.
Case said the detailed chain-of-custody documentation of the pistol makes this auction especially unusual.
“There are a few other weapons connected to Bonnie and Clyde that have sold in years past, but this one is one of the most extensively documented examples to ever come on the market,” said Case.
According to the affidavit accompanying the pistol, Charles Francis “Boots” Bailey, an embalmer who handled Bonnie Parker’s body, gave the pistol to Robert Dawson Hightower, the 12-year-old son of his colleague, Vern Hightower, at Louisiana’s Conger Funeral Home.
The younger Hightower went on to collect an affidavit signed by his mother, the wife of the funeral home director, and James Wade, the coroner who signed the death certificates for Barrow and Parker. A local judge witnessed the affidavit.
After Hightower’s death, the pistol was given to his son, who now lives in the Knoxville area.
Information on the auction has been posted on Case Antiques’ website, Caseantiques.com. The January auction will also include 730 election ballots that Union soldiers cast for President Abraham Lincoln in 1864.