Reviewed by Herb Houze
One Hundred Years of Winchester Cartridge Boxes 1856-1956, by Ray T. Giles and Daniel L. Shuey. Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 4880 Lower Valley Rd., Atglen, PA 19310. ISBN 0-7643-2541-8. 312 pp.; 8 ˝” x 11”; 1,290 color and 112 b&w ill.; hdbnd.; index. $69.95 (+ $3.95 s/h) available from R. Giles, P. O. Box 670894, Dallas, TX 75367-0894 (www.rtgammo.com); or, D. Shuey, P. O. Box 4512, Rockford, IL 61110-4512 (www.WCFPublications.com)
While combustible, paper, patent ignition
cartridges have been the subject of study for a number of decades, mass
produced metallic cartridges have only recently come into their own.
Leading this research is Daniel Shuey, whose two-volume analysis of
Winchester center-fire ammunition set the standard for publications
dealing with cartridges. Ray Giles on the other hand is widely
recognized as the foremost expert on Winchester cartridge boxes.
To say that this study is a virtuoso performance would be an understatement. The authors describe, as well as illustrate, a truly bewildering variety of cartridge boxes. More importantly, they clearly identify the printing variations that are encountered within the boxes used for specific ammunition. As a result, collectors or anyone researching Winchester boxes will be able to quickly determine which box variation they may have. For example, the three distinct patterns of vine and leaf borders found on the 100 round boxes of .44 Henry cartridges are described, as well as illustrated (p. 29). The progression of caliber call-outs or the numeric designations used to identify specific cartridge types are likewise pointed out where appropriate (pp. 31, 34, etc.). Changes in the overall label designs are presented in chronological order so that their dates of production can be easily determined.
Giles and Shuey have arranged the boxes in chronological order by the rifle models in which they were to be used. Thus, .44rf is to be found under the chapter heading “The Henry Rifle and Model 1866” and the .270 under the “Models 54, 70 and 88”. In certain instances minor label variations are included under major type sequences rather than the caliber involved (e.g., those for the .25-35 [pp. 167-171] are included in the .30-30 section [pp.172-183]).
To their credit the authors identify the various box types by rarity using a 1 to 5 scale. They also have included valuation estimates for all the boxes discussed. The presence of these two elements greatly increases the work’s usefulness to collectors.
While the assignment of approximate values is important with respect to early ammunition boxes, it is of no less significance for those made during the 20th century since rare variations are to be found in that ammunition.
Although documenting all of the Winchester company’s cartridge boxes must have been a daunting task, it has been accomplished in fine style. The textual descriptions are clearly written and the accompanying illustrations are all of superb quality. The absolute wealth of information makes this book an indispensable reference and while it is a tightly focused work, it nevertheless is a major contribution to the study of American ammunition. More importantly, Giles and Shuey have set a standard for others to follow.
Herbert. G. Houze
Herb Houze, ex-curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, is a well-known researcher, historian and author of several Winchester and Colt-related books.
Review by Larry Mayer
Rifle and pistol ammo collectors who have seen Ray Giles' and Daniel Shuey's new book most likely have already bought it. Those who have not yet seen it are in for a treat!
First of all, this is an extremely handsome book, lavishly done, with no attempt made to "cut corners." It is unusual for such a serious and comprehensive book in terms of its content to have been produced in such an absolutely "first class" way. Its 312 pages of full-color cartridge box photos and text are printed on 100 pound glossy stock, a real, but happily discovered, extravagance.
In their "Introduction" the authors point out that "Until the mid-1980s cartridges and their boxes were largely ignored as collectibles." Of course we all know that in the last twenty years collector interest in shotshells and cartridges and their boxes has multiplied incredibly. Giles and Shuey sum it up this way: "The growing recognition of the rarity of many of these boxes, as well as their aesthetic and historical appeal, has led to a tremendous increase in interest in antique cartridge boxes." One might quickly add that the "tremendous increase" applies not only to collector "interest in," but also to "value of"!
So this new book seeks to add enlightenment to the interest that now exists with regard to these old (and now highly collectible) cartridge boxes. The authors tell us: "This is the first detailed study ever done on cartridge boxes from the era of the modern gun." They define that time period as "the 100 years that Winchester and its predecessor companies, Volcanic Repeating Arms Co., and New Haven Arms Co., produced cartridges in New Haven."
The books' breadth of coverage is stunning since it encompasses "all the calibers cataloged for every rifle model from 1856 to 1956." The research carried out by Giles and Shuey has "unearthed a wealth of new and significant information on this under-researched, fast growing aspect of gun-related collectibles"
But the really wonderful thing for collectors is that this newly discovered historical information is all documented visually with the more than 1400 color photos of an unbelievable array of antique cartridge boxes. The authors say, "It is unlikely that the incredible number of varieties of Winchester cartridge boxes pictured will ever again be assembled for presentation to the collecting public."
But with all that this extraordinary book is, it is important to point out what it is not.
The authors state in their "Introduction" that although "shotshell boxes and .22 boxes... have long had their respective, and very active, collecting fraternities, this present book does not cover them "in any detail." Instead, the great majority of this volume is "devoted to boxes for the centerfire matallic cartridges, so many of which, along with the legendary .44 Henry rimfire, were developed by Winchester and made famous throughout the 40 years that encompassed the Civil War, the Indian Wars, the building of the transcontinental railroads, the decimation of the buffalo herds...etc."
Cartridge boxes for more than 100 different calibers manufactured by Winchester are shown in this volume. The rarest boxes include the Volcanic pistol cartridge box and the 100-round .44 boxes for Henry's repeating Rifle. These have been valued up to $27,500 each. Collectors will appreciate the fact that the book includes a "Pricing Guide" and also a "Rarity Guide." "Price Ranges" and "Rarity Scales" are given for all boxes.
Because author/collector Richard Rains was doing his book, Winchester Two-piece .22 Boxes: 1873-1927, at the same time that Giles and Shuey were writing this book, they chose not to give detailed coverage to .22 boxes. These two books complement each other, and both belong on the bookshelf of every cartridge and cartridge box collector.
Review in the January-February 2007 issue of Rifle magazine, Wolfe Publishing Company's Sporting Firearms Journal:
"We are continually reminded that the Internet is the repository of all knowledge. Books are obsolete. Any information desired can be obtained by pushing plastic buttons on a plastic keyboard. While there is some truth to this, one must be very careful.
There is no guarantee any of this information is correct. It might be purposely distorted, someone's opinion or totally fabricated. Content and meaning can change from day to day or disappear overnight. Nobody knows what happened; no one is responsible. Unfortunately, a great many folks today aren't able to accept this fact.
Reference books are exactly the opposite. When an author writes such a book, his name goes on the cover. Lots of people read it. If there are a few obvious errors or information that can be shown to be incorrect, word gets around fast. All information in the book then becomes suspect. Folks will remember this, and the author will hear about it until the day the sun dies. This is far different from the Internet, or "garbagenet" as some researchers refer to it.
The book reviewed here is a perfect example of why reference works are far from obsolete. Both authors are well known in the collecting field. Both have also been involved for many years, which is as it should be, because in any collecting field, there is simply no substitute for experience.
As the title indicates, the book is about Winchester cartridge boxes. These boxes (and those of other makers) are a fascinating, beautiful and startlingly diverse field for collectors. Not all Winchester boxes, however, are covered. The reason is that it would be impossible! Consider that Winchester's April 1900 catalog indicates over 400 shotshell loads, 105 rifles, 51 handguns, 36 rimfire and 22 smokeless handguns are available. Each had a box or box label that in most cases was unique. And there were many more not cataloged.
For this reason the book is laid out in 13 main chapters, each headed by a Winchester rifle or rifles (Volcanic, Henry and Model 1866, Model 1885 single shot, etc.). The boxes for the cartridges for which that rifle was chambered are then covered in both text and superb full-color photographs. Winchester introduced many of these cartridges, and several are still available today. This allows establishing a long sequence of box availability for specific cartridges. Collectors can then compare boxes for the many less popular rounds in order to establish an approximate manufacturing date for them. Every large caliber and centerfire Winchester rifle from the Volcanic to the Model 70 is included. Many collectors will never see a full box of .44 Henrys, but over two dozen are among the books 1,400+ photos.
There is other interesting information as well. Chapter One covers box construction, labels and label colors, label codes (Did you know the little perforations in some old Winchester box labels was a code for the manufacturing date?), add-on labels and other markings. Another strange fact is that handgun ammunition from the 1880s to early 1920s sometimes had box labels that read "Rifle Cartridges." These rounds were sold in states having heavy taxes on handgun ammunition. Obviously bureaucrats in those states were not the brightest bulbs on the string.
Chapter 15 covers Winchester boxes for cartridges not chambered in Winchester firearms. It's a cross section of oddities that show the detail put into the box labels -- each one of which appears to be unique.
Chapter 16 looks at boxes for Winchester-chambered rounds made by other manufacturers. It is an excellent addition, as it shows how other companies handled label artwork. Perhaps most surprising is how frequently box labels up to the 1920s show similarities to postage stamp work. Indeed, the authors often attempt to describe label background colors that are known by specific names to stamp collectors. Dyes and paper are probably similar or maybe identical.
This brings up an interesting addition to future books on the subject. What types of boxboard were boxes made from, label paper composition, dye colors, and who made the paper and boxboard? Also, who designed the labels, and where and how were they printed? Then again, perhaps it is too late. This knowledge might be lost forever.
Finally, we must mention that the authors assign a rarity number to each box pictured and a dollar price (a "value" in today's antique-speak). Here is where experience counts. A couple of pages are dedicated to explaining how this has been done. Failure to read this carefully is sure to start a lot of conversations.
All in all, One Hundred Years of Winchester Cartridge Boxes is a must-have reference for anyone seriously interested in sporting arms and ammunition history. Hopefully it will inspire volumes of equal quality on other makers' boxes, entice new collectors and motivate current collectors to keep on searching."
"Cartridge collecting is nearly as big a field of endeavor as firearms collecting, and is just as dependant on a good command of facts. The myriad variances in cartridges and cartridge boxes can be, at the very least, confusing to the collector; in some cases it can be expensive also. It pays to know what you are looking at and this is where this new offering by Ray Giles and Dan Shuey comes in.
Their new book, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF WINCHESTER CARTRIDGE BOXES, is an exhaustive study of the many different cartridge boxes sold by the Winchester company from 1856 to 1956.
Obviously, these dates take in years specifically interesting to the readers of this magazine. If you are like me, you run into old cartridges and boxes, and are never really sure what they are worth. This new book on Winchester cartridge boxes can solve much of that problem due to a rarity factor and price guide that is included in the text.
This great new hard cover book has over 1,100 color photographs covering Winchester production cartridge boxes from the Volcanic to the Winchester Model 88; not to mention being crammed with information on Winchester's ammunition production. I've often said that one cannot have too many gun books... this is one that really needs to be in your reference library. You'll be going through all your old ammo boxes, looking for hidden treasure!"
Review by Lou Behling:
For many years collectors have been asking for a book on Winchester ammunition boxes. Here it is with a price guide, rarity factor, and in Full Color!
It is an absolute must that the reader take the authors’ advice to read all of the introduction and chapter one before going on to the rest of this book. This information forms the basic foundation to understanding condition, rarity scale, value factors, box construction, labels, label codes, etc. Without a complete understanding of this basic information, the reader will be at a loss to understand the wealth of information contained in the remainder of the book.
Chapters are arranged in chronological order by gun model numbers/calibers.
Chapters two through fourteen begin with basic information of the arms that utilized the cartridges in each chapter. The authors do not attempt to describe the many variations of each model of firearm. These have been well documented in other publications and are outside the scope of this work. Chapter fifteen covers Winchester boxes made in non-Winchester calibers. Chapter sixteen covers a small sample of Winchester calibers made by other manufacturers.
Covered are an almost unbelievable number of box label variations. There are more box label variations, from the very rare (3 different 100 round Henry boxes) to the fairly common, in any given caliber than most box collectors have seen in a lifetime of collecting. Throughout this book, what is really impressive is the color of the hundreds and hundreds of box photographs.
Fully indexed, this book is an absolute must for anyone collecting ammunition boxes or gun collectors wanting to identify a contemporary box to display with their gun. If the date of the gun’s manufacture is known, the appropriate box should be found.
Cartridge collectors would also do well to add this book to their library for the wealth of information these box labels contain.
Lou Behling is a well-known expert in the field of cartridge collecting and has written numerous articles regarding cartridges and cartridge boxes. Also, he was, for many years in the 1970s-‘80s, the Cartridge Corner editor of the Gun Report.
Ray Giles - RTG Ammo - "Turning lead