Going once, going twice, sold! An interesting mix of Arizona history — old law enforcement and new lawbreaking — goes on the Internal Revenue Service’s auction block this Saturday.
Up for bid are 26 custom gold-plated and engraved pistols commemorating the 26 original Arizona Rangers. Proceeds from the auction of the Colt .45-caliber revolvers will be used to retire the massive tax debt piled up by Scottsdale businessman Jim Acridge, the founder of Giant Industries and former owner of Rawhide.
These guns are for looking, not firing.
“You wouldn’t even want to pull the hammer back,” said Fidel Atencio, the property appraisal and liquidation specialist who will be handling the auction for the IRS.
Of the 12 guns that are complete, intricate engravings cover almost every inch of the gleaming, golden met- al. The handles are made of ivory, and on each handle is a gold star with the name of an Arizona Ranger.
The Rangers were turn-ofthe-century precursors to the present-day Arizona Department of Public Safety. Brought into existence by the Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1901, the Rangers cleaned up crime at the Mexican border until they were disbanded in 1909.
Because of the Endangered Species Act and Interstate Commerce rules regarding elephant ivory of undetermined origin, nonresidents of Arizona are prohibited from buying the finished pistols. The 14 unassembled weapons are not subject to these restrictions.
Also for sale is the mesquite display case custom-built to house the guns.
When the auction opens at 5 p.m., a minimum bid will not be set. Instead, Atencio said, the only guideline is that the sale must make as much money as it can. If selling the guns off one by one is more profitable than selling the set as a whole, so be it.
A local dealer in antique weapons said a reasonable price for a finished gun is about $3,000.
C.W. Slagle said he was asked last year whether he was interested in purchasing the collection, which he believed was to be displayed at Rawhide. But the guns were made about a decade ago and, aside from the plating and engraving, were unremarkable.
“It’s just not my cup of tea,” Slagle said.
How the weapons came to be in the possession of the IRS is a tale of not the Old West, but of the modern Valley.
In 1961, Acridge started out small, operating a sole gas station.
Over the years, his business expanded with more stores and revolutionary ideas, such as Phoenix’s fi rst completely automated self-service gas station. After the crippling Arab oil embargo of 1973, Acridge determined the only way to ensure a steady supply of fuel was to build his own refinery.
With Acridge as chief executive officer, the Giant empire continued to grow.
In 1998 he decided to buy Rawhide, Scottsdale’s Old West-replica town. Needing money for the deal, Acridge got Giant to loan him $5 million.
But that purchase sent Acridge’s fortunes to an early grave at Boot Hill.
There were operating problems, such as charging admission for the first time and a carnival ride erected without the city’s permission.
Acridge eventually defaulted on payments for the property, and that stuck Giant with $4.5 million in reserve for a potential bad debt to cover the loan.
In April 2002, Giant fired its founder. A month later, Acridge filed three foreclosure notices totaling $28.8 million. By August, he was declaring bankruptcy.
Since then, Acridge has kept an extremely low profile — so low, not even his former attorney or business partner knows where to reach him.
It would seem that Acridge, before riding into the sunset, left behind only the guns.