Gun Ruby used to kill Oswald brings $220,000 at auction

December 27, 1991|By Newsday

NEW YORK -- When Jack Ruby bought it in the late 1950s from a Dallas gun shop, the shiny .38-caliber Colt Cobra revolver carried a price tag of $62.50.

Last night, as the showpiece of an auction at Manhattan's OmnPark Central Hotel, the handgun used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963, with a police evidence tag where the price tag was once fastened, brought bids starting at $100,000.

The bidding climbed quickly, and when it was finished, an unidentified New Jersey collector, acting through an intermediary, had bought the handgun for $220,000, of which $20,000 goes to the auction house.

"I'm purchasing it for a gun collector," the intermediary, Frank Roman, said as he hurried away from a crush of reporters. Asked what the buyer would do with the gun, Mr. Roman said, "I guess he's going to put it away."

For Earl Ruby, whose brother killed Oswald, the suspected assassin of President John F. Kennedy, the sale brought back bittersweet memories.

"I hate to sell the gun," he said before the auction, where the lightweight revolver with a tiny chip in the handle topped a list including Bugsy Siegel's 1937 Italian passport and Clint Eastwood's 1955 movie studio contract for $150.

"It was part of history, and it was my brother, and I would have liked to own it and leave it in my own will," said Mr. Ruby, who owns a dry cleaning business in Detroit. "That wasn't possible."

Mr. Ruby, 76, came into possession of the gun in August, after a 24-year estate fight with Dallas attorney Jules Mayer was settled with Ruby named executor. Mr. Mayer apparently had written Jack Ruby's 1950 will and had kept the gun in a safe-deposit box for nearly 30 years.

But Mr. Ruby, who said his brother was drafting a new will when he died in prison in 1967, charged that Mr. Mayer mismanaged the estate.

Motivated by mounting debt to sell the gun, Mr. Ruby said his brother's unpaid income taxes -- estimated at more than $80,000 -- and legal costs from the battle over the estate have put him deeply in debt.

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