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SPECIAL OFFERING - SHARPS RIFLE COMPANY GREEN LABEL 5 ROUND BOXES OF .45- 2 4/10 INCH CALIBER, 550 GRAIN PAPER PATCHED CARTRIDGES – COMPLETE WITH ORIGINAL CARTRIDGE CASES FOR SHARPS RIFLES:  Recently in an old estate, an original Sharps Rifle Company ammunition crate was found with a few of these very collectable original Sharps Rifle Company packets of .45-2.6” cartridges.  The crate and its contents had obviously lain undisturbed since the man who roamed the buffalo plains finally returned home, setting aside his Sharps rifle and the crate of big cartridges to live out the remainder of his life in tamer pursuits in “the settlements”. 

 

The Sharps Rifle Company introduced the .45-2.6” cartridge (also known as the .45-100) in November of 1876, however it had a short life span being replaced by Sharps in June of 1877 with the .45-2.4” cartridge case.  Nonetheless, the .45-2.6” Straight Sharps Cartridge would have been available in the inventory of the dealers and hide buyers supplying the commercial buffalo hunters on the Western Frontier during the buffalo hunting era.    

These packets bear the desirable “early style” labels as identified by Sellers in his Sharps Firearms, featuring the heavier shading on the text.  This style of label was used until 1878 when it was replaced with a label printed with a finer font and this dating is consistent with the production of the .45-2.6” cartridge.  Bearing the desirable Sharps Rifle Company green label, each of these packets contain five .45-2.6” cartridge cases.  As the notated on the labels, the cartridges were loaded with a 550 grain paper-patched bullet.  The style of label, the caliber, and that the bullets were paper patched make these packets one of the most desirable among Sharps collectors and one of the more difficult packets to find.    

When I acquired the crate it contained fifteen matching packets – all with the same label and containing the same caliber.  Eight of the packets have been offered with the crate, and the remaining seven are offered here as individual packets.  Each of these packets contains five empty cartridge cases, and all of the cartridge cases are the correct Berdan primed cases without headstamps as were sold by Sharps.  Some of the cases had been reprimed in preparation for reloading prior to storing them, others not – the contents of each packet are described in detail below.   

The cartridge cases had not been properly cleaned before storing them, probably no more than casually rinsed off with water as was typical of the buffalo range hunters who reloaded the cases frequently.  As a result, while in storage and subjected to moisture, the hygroscopic nature of the black powder residue remaining in the cases caused an acidic reaction, forming heavy deposits of verdigris on the cartridge cases and affecting the paperboard of some of the packets to one degree or another.  I was able to remove the verdigris deposits, and the cases are now clean, smooth, full form and bright with no damage to the brass.   

Among the related tools and the powder can that was found in the crate with the cartridge packets were a number of cast lead .45 caliber bullets from the period.  The majority of the bullets are of the paper patch type, and I have placed one of these bullets in each packet so far as they would go.   

As often seen on these early Sharps Company labeled boxes, the cartridge caliber and component data, printed for a .44 caliber loading, was crossed out and the caliber, cartridge length, and bullet weight was amended with the .45-2.6” data in period script.  This commonly encountered practice was likely employed by Sharps to use up available stocks of the boxes and labels as the company struggled with its financial situation.   

Several of the packets are annotated in pencil on the bottom with the size of the powder charge loaded in those cartridges in that particular packet – “90 Grains”, “100 Grains”, etc.  The hunter likely loaded the cartridges with these various charges, and knowing the characteristics of his rifle, would choose the loads appropriate for the range at which he was working.   

These boxes vary in condition and are priced accordingly.  Considering they survived the handling and repeated use by the hunter as the cartridges were fired and reloaded out on the plains, it is remarkable that they survived at all.  There is some of the wear one would expect to see in such a grouping; however the two piece boxes retain their full form, with all of the corners and edges intact.  The graphics and text have been affected to one degree or another by use and the passage of time, and the extent is reflected in the price.   

The verdigris which formed on the cartridge cases as described above reacted with the paperboard from which the packets are made, and had the most effect on the bottoms of some of the packets – seen below in the photographs as dark spots on the bottom panel of the affected packets.  The paperboard was weakened, and in some cases the corrosion dissolved the paper leaving holes.  These affected packets have been restored by attaching a piece of matching paperboard inside the packet.  This restoration was carefully done and unless the cartridges are removed from the packets, the visual affect is negligible.  Given the rarity of these packets, such a restoration was an acceptable alternative to allowing those weakened packets to continue to deteriorate.  The packets are now stable and can be displayed or handled without fear of damaging them.   

As the Sharps Company was effectively out of business in early 1881, boxes of cartridges which bear the company’s proprietary label were produced during a fairly narrow window of time and in limited numbers.  In addition, the Sharps Company found it difficult to compete with the larger ammunition manufacturing companies such as Winchester and UMC.  The comparatively limited ammunition production by the Sharps Company combined with the harsh conditions of the buffalo range where so much of their ammunition was shipped, accounts for the relative low survival rate and scarcity of these packets on the market today.  

In spite of the wear and aging they exhibit, these are rare specimens of the very rare packets of paper patched cartridges manufactured by the famous Sharps Rifle Company, which seldom appears on the collector market, and this is an opportunity to acquire a specimen to display with your Sharps Rifle at a substantial savings. 

Each packet is shown in the photographs below with an accompanying description. 

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No. 1 SHARPS RIFLE Co. .45-2.6” CARTRIDGE PACKET: This packet is in very good condition with a full, legible cover label showing only minor scuffing and discoloration.  All five of the original cartridge cases are present, and all are primed.  One original period cast paper patched bullet is included.  The two piece box retains its full form, with all of the corners and edges intact.  The bottom panel has some damage as described above, but is now restored and very stable.  (0356) $450

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No. 2  SHARPS RIFLE Co. .45-2.6” CARTRIDGE PACKET: This packet is in very good condition with a full, legible cover label showing only minor scuffing and discoloration.  All five of the original cartridge cases are present, and all are primed.  One original period cast paper patched bullet is included.  The bottom of the packet bears the handwritten pencil notation “95 [Grains]” indicating the weight of the powder the hunter loaded in these cartridges. The two piece box retains its full form, with all of the corners and edges intact.  The bottom panel has some damage as described above, but is now restored and very stable.  (0357) $450

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No. SHARPS RIFLE Co. .45-2.6” CARTRIDGE PACKET: This packet is in very good condition with a full cover label, mostly legible text, and showing some loss due to  scuffing and discoloration.  All five of the original cartridge cases are present, and all are primed.  One original period cast paper patched bullet is included.  The two piece box retains its full form, with all of the corners and edges intact.  The bottom panel has some damage as described above, but is now restored and very stable.  (0358) $350

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No. SHARPS RIFLE Co. .45-2.6” CARTRIDGE PACKET: This packet is in good condition with a full cover label.  There is a hole in the top cover which obscures only a small spot of the label.  The balance of the label shows only minor scuffing and discoloration.  All five of the original cartridge cases are present, and none are primed.  One original period cast paper patched bullet is included.  The two piece box retains its full form, with all of the corners and edges intact.  The bottom panel has some damage as described above, but is now restored and very stable.  (0359) $300

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No. SHARPS RIFLE Co. .45-2.6” CARTRIDGE PACKET: This packet is in good condition with a full cover label.  There is a hole in the top cover which obscures only a small spot of the label.  The balance of the label shows only minor scuffing and discoloration.  All five of the original cartridge cases are present, and three are primed, two are not.  One original period cast paper patched bullet is included.  The bottom of the packet bears the handwritten pencil notation “100 [Grains]” indicating the weight of the powder the hunter loaded in these cartridges. The two piece box retains its full form, with all of the corners and edges intact.  The bottom panel has some damage as described above, but is now restored and very stable.  (0360) $300

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No. SHARPS RIFLE Co. .45-2.6” CARTRIDGE PACKET:   This packet is in good condition with a full cover label.  There is some water staining, but the majority of the label text and notations are legible.  The balance of the label shows only minor scuffing and discoloration.  All five of the original cartridge cases are present, and all are primed.  There is no bullet in this one.  The two piece box retains its full form, with all of the corners and edges intact.  The bottom panel has some damage as described above, but is now restored and very stable.  (0361) $250

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No. SHARPS RIFLE Co. .45-2.6” CARTRIDGE PACKET:   This packet is a good representative example in spite of the obvious wear to the label.  There is some water staining which obscures much of the text, however “SHARPS RIFLE COMPANY” and the Bridgeport, Connecticut address is legible.  All five of the original cartridge cases are present, and none of them are primed.  One original period cast paper patched bullet is included.  The two piece box retains its full form, with all of the corners and edges intact.  The bottom panel has some damage and surface loss as described above, but is now restored and very stable.  (0362) $200

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