Hi Paul.....welcome to TFF.
Trying to value your friend's Colt SAA is going to be quite a challenge.
it were in it's original caliber of .45 Colt (or possibly .44-40), it would be fairly straightforward.....
Your friend's SAA is what's known at an Intermediate Blackpowder SAA
, manufactured from 1876 to 1890, in serial # range 22,000 to 130,000, in calbers .45 Colt, and .44-40 (after 1878). Your friend's gun, #97xxx was made in 1883, and the original caliber would've been .45 Colt.
.38 Special wasn't even invented until 1902. And, there's the problem.
the gun were in it's original caliber, and IF
that's the original finish, the gun would be quite valueable.....easily in the 5-figure dollar range.
the caliber conversion was a Colt FACTORY
job, and IF it has a FACTORY
refinish, all is not lost! It would still have quite a bit of value, but probably not quite as much as if it were in original condition and caliber.
For this particular gun, I'd say that a Colt Historical Archive Letter (http://www.coltsmfg.com/cmci/historical.asp
) is an ABSOLUTE MUST
to determine that this was a factory conversion.
As to whether or not to reconvert it, I'd say to LEAVE IT ALONE
until you can determine what've you've got! (via an Historical Letter)
I don't believe Colt does this sort of work anymore, and if a reconversion were to be done by somebody else, I believe it would ruin the present value of the gun.....whatever that is!
I can give you the Blue Book value of an original gun in original caliber and with the original finish.....but that would no longer apply to this particular gun.
Please let us know what you find out from the Historical Letter.....and maybe we can go from there.....