This is one of the nicest Marlin 1894's we've ever had and certainly the best we've come across in the past several years. When I found this at a show, I was set up two tables away from an advanced Marlin collector who's seen it all. That said, it was fun seeing how excited he got when I showed this 1894 to him. To find something over 120 years old in close to new condition means it was kept in a dark dry place that was sustained with no interruptions is a small miracle. It has nearly all of its original case colors on the frame and they are VIVID. Best of all, it is one of the very few Model 1894's out there you will find with an antique serial number that dates before January 1, 1899.
The 1894 was designed by LL Hepburn, formerly of Remington Arms as an improved version of his 1889. Even though the company had introduced the 1894 to replace the Model 1889, Marlin seemed content producing the 1889 in larger numbers during the mid-late 1890's than the 1894. Simply put, as someone who puts his feet on the ground going to show after show, these Model 1894's just don't turn up very often with antique serial numbers and almost never in this condition. To make things more interesting, this Marlin is chambered in 25-20 which had just come out from Marlin around 1893 and later Winchester in 1895 for the Model 1892. Essentially, it was a necked down 32-20 but being relatively new and in the midst of an economic recession in the mid-1890's, it took years for this caliber to take off. Again, antique pre-1898 Winchester 1892's and Marlin 1894's are rarely found in this caliber. We called the Cody Museum which now houses the original Marlin Firearms Records and they confirmed this rifle's configuration just as it is. Their records reveal the following:
Marlin Model 1894 - Serial Number 134.149
Barrel Type: Round
Barrel Length: 24 inches
Date Shipped: August 05, 1898
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Excellent Plus with 98% original case colors on the frame and bolt, 50% colors on the lever, 70% buttplate, and 80% hammer. The frame still has most of its original protective factory lacquer over the case colors. The barrel and magazine tube retain 99% of their original blue as does the forend cap. The sights consist of a Lyman Short Range Tang Sight, Lyman Combination Globe Front, and a filler blank in the rear sight dovetail. These appear to be period to the rifle and were probably upgraded by the dealer or installed at the factory. Unfortunately, Marlin Records rarely mention special order features such as sights, fancy wood, engraving, etc. The action is perfect and the bore is Excellent. The wood is excellent, retaining 99% original factory lacquer with only minor handling wear. It has perfect wood to metal fit. This is a fabulous Marlin and any case colored Winchester lever action rifle in similar condition would easily fetch five figures and it is 100x rarer! Guys, I only have one of these. We find these one at a time and the last one we had similar to this was about five or six years ago. For an antique in this condition and price range, this is one heck of a rare rifle.