1.4.1 The Texas Connection: Above is the enthusiastic opening statement of Wayne Driskill1) on occasion of our first phone conference of February 20, 2017. A former gun dealer Driskill specialized a few years ago on buying and selling miniature guns. He lives and operates out of Pearland near Houston, Texas, U.S.A. "Aldo initiated this program. Miniatures making and the replica production ran in parallel for some 25 years at the factory."
Two Colt 1851 Navy miniatures: NB barrel marking -ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW-YORK CITY - readable from the right (#12) and the left side (#PM3)
184.108.40.206 Prestige (the best that Uberti ever offered, the quality of the engravings and gold
inlays are first rate): For example charcoal blued, silver or gold plated parts, deeply engraved
frame, barrel lug, hammer, triggerguard, backstrap, loading lever, with gold inlays, diamond cut
ivory grips. This corresponds to the USHS Prestige Edition.
1.4.2 Small Scale Productions Please the Collectors: These miniatures like the replica assortment were distributed through the global Uberti dealer network. It does not come as a surprise that the output of miniature guns never reached that of the replica production despite subscription programs of HEGE in Germany and by the United States Historical Society (USHS) in the USA.
1.4.3 Aldo Uberti's Personal Collection: Many miniatures exist in his private collection only and then in one or two specimens. No further details are known because parting of these pieces by the family is a rare event. Example: Colt Paterson, which was way too expensive for volume production.
1.4.4 Miniatures "in the White": Such variants were used for internal or external embellishment (selected wood for the grips, ivory or sterling silver grips, surface bluing, nickel, silver, gold plating, engraving), conversion projects, or for cut-away models.
External projects noted are the cased Colt Flat Top Targets by US artist Terry Ferrand i.e. conversions of Uberti Colt SAA miniatures to Flat Top Targets. Also, the Imperial Miniature Armory (IMA) company of Richmond, Texas, U.S.A., laser engraved particularly Colt SAAs with 4 ¾" barrels with the correct two-line barrel markings.
Finding a model "in the white" for sale is rare!
1.4.5 Manual Volume Production: Before manual volume production of a model or variant was kicked-off a preproduction run of ca. 10 specimens of the lowest grade of embellishment ("plain Jane" version) called "Cowboy-Quality" according to Driskill, i.e. traditional bluing and case colors and/or nickel plated, was produced for market acceptance tests. The objective of the test was to determine the likely offtake with particular view to the subscription programs of HEGE and/or USHS.
If these market evaluations did not indicate unit sales of at least 1,000 (!) specimens the project would not be pursued any further! Examples for projects that were "buried after market test": two (2) Colt 1860 Army variants - rebated/engraved and fluted cylinder variants - with 4-screw frame and shoulder stock, or the 1860 Henry Rifle.
220.127.116.11 Production Against Firm Orders: The team of Uberti's miniature gun artists started production against firm orders if market tests confirmed a sales volume of at least 1,000 specimens/model or variant.
HEGE promoted "limited editions of 999 specimens" whereas USHS advertised editions between 1,500 and 3,500 specimens.
NB: Driskill advised the advertised total sizes of the editions were never reached. This probably has a number of reasons. Particularly, it can be traced back to these special options subscribers of both the HEGE or USHS programs could select. Because they could reserve their personal serial number over all editions issued during the (total) time of their subscription. Everybody who is aware of this scheme knows the clients' preference to have only special groups of serial numbers reserved. For example one-digit serial numbers, digits reflecting birthdays, serial numbers ending with zero(s), etc. These preferred (combinations of) digits are unlikely to add up to 999 specimens in the case of HEGE, or 1,500 or 3,500 for USHS.
Hence, we have to assume a total production of a few hundred specimens per model or variant only has been realized eventually.
18.104.22.168 Subsribers' Options: Subscribers of the HEGE or USHS programs who elected to have their personal serial numbers and/or grade of embellishment reserved would receive all miniature models or variants during the complete time of their participation in the subscription with identical serial numbers and/or the same grade of embellishment.
However, after termination of the subscription programs this Uberti strategy of reserving serial numbers was canceled (note details and consequences in chapter 1.8 titled Diluted Total Production Projections and other Unexpected Findings) with unpleasant effects for today's collectors.
22.214.171.124 Authorized by Colt: The USHS Colt models were promoted with the justified claim that their making was authorized by Colt.
Therefore, Colt provided special certificates with these models. They were printed on Colt stationary which enhanced the value of the offer. As applicable the certificates would comprise important information like serial numbers, model, type of edition, finish, grade of wood used for the grips, grade of engraving, a list of accessories and the shipping date to USHS.
126.96.36.199 Termination of the USHS Subscription Program: Due to the saturation of the U.S. market USHS terminated their subscription program in 1997/98 and dropped out as an important Uberti key customer.
Colt 1851 Navy miniature #530: Squareback triggerguard, cased, Classic Line from the USHS subscription program. Note brass plaque with details of edition
1.4.6 Three Grades of Embellishment during Volume Production: Basic, Engraved and
188.8.131.52 Basic: Meaning traditional finish blued and case colors, or nickel plated, low grade
wood of the grip ("Cowboy Quality" according to Driskill). This corresponds to the USHS Classic
Right side view of Colt 1973 SAA Old Model miniature #PM3399: Basic grade of embellishment or "Cowboy Quality"
184.108.40.206 Engraved: As examples note case colored combined with charcoal blued barrel and
cylinder, silver or gold plated parts, simple engraving, selected wood of the grip, or sterling
silver. Ivory or mother of pearl grips with Colt logo are mentioned, too. This corresponds to the
USHS Presidential Edition.
Right side view of Colt 1861 Navy miniature #PM290: Transitional embellishment from "Engraved" to "Prestige" grade
Colt 1848 Whitneyville Hartford Dragoon #PM87: "Prestige" grade embellishment
220.127.116.11 Fluid Transitions of the Grades of Embellishment: Charcoal blued barrels and
cylinders or gold plated triggerguards and backstraps or selected wood for the grips in the 1st,
or diamond cut ivory grips in the 2nd grade of embellishment, etc.
A Caveat? Although the Uberti miniatures are in 47% scale here is some bad news. Their prices are not 47% of their replicas. Unfortunately, they never were. Not back in the days when Aldo Uberti's team of miniature artists made them and certainly not today. Sorry, folks.
1. Driskill, W.: CORRESPONDENCE, February-April 2017
December 18, 2018/WDN