Benjamin "Centennial" model 87
With thanks to D T Fletcher for the heads up.
Discussion on the American Vintage Airguns forum included these comments (by Mr Fletcher and other authors):
"The model 87 was a huge flop for Benjamin. In the original Benjamin advertisements Benjamin stated that the production of this model was going to be only 6,086. This number came from multiplying the number counties (3,042) in the 50 states. Well, they never came close to that. At least some of the guns are marked xxx of 550. There just was not that much demand for a collector's Benjamin model at the super premium price of $250. It also hurt that, other than the polished brass finish, it was nothing other than a standard model.
"Another interesting note is that the whole Benjamin "Centennial" thing was mostly an indication of how little Benjamin knew about their own history. Where they got the 1887 year from is that is the year of Walter Roger's Benjamin's first patent:for a device to turn dead ducks into decoys (one of the weirder patents I've ever seen.) The first ever WR Benjamin air rifle was produced in 1899 by the St Louis Air Rifle Co.: which failed after only a year or two. The first "Benjamin" air rifle was produced in 1902. Interestingly, the St. Louis Air Rifle Co. failed because of too much success. They contracted with some mail order catalogs and when the orders started rolling in they couldn't produce the guns which bankrupted them."
"There was certainly more to them than the brass finish (which was actually brass plating over brass to cover up the solder joints. The application was expensive and often went wrong.) The beefy stock set with angular fore-end and pump handle junction was unlike that on 34x's and C's. And the rear tube cap was different as well. I guess the brass medallion and red-rubber recoil pad count mainly as window dressing. For my money, BJ-SH would have been further ahead if they had produced that model without the bling. The Centennial is a nice shooter that was certainly an improvement on the appearance of the 342 and 347 as then configured. It might have sold if offered in blue or nickel and with an ordinary buttplate. I believe the Centennial's initial price was actually $200, but quite a few blems were sold out the back door for $100. That's how I got mine, and sometimes I wish I'd kept it."
"My friend owned a sporting goods store in Racine WI and got the info right from Benjamin/Sheridan corporate. There were huge QC issues with the gun. First the plating was bad on some and the stocks had problems as well. They wanted the gun to be perfect and worthy of the asking price. I paid $225 for mine when it came out - serial #178. They were to make 2 for every county in the US - about 6,000 or so but stopped production before 1,500. They are rare birds in some parts of the country. I thought they were only available in .22 but have some to find them in .177 and perhaps .20 as well. The power plant is the same as the 342/347 but the stock is much nicer. The forearm matches the stock and this is where there were production problems. The cut and grain match up perfectly on mine. The gun also carried a Williams peep over the conventional (bad) iron sights of the regular models. Looking at and comparing one side by side with a standard model, it becomes apparent at where the cost differential comes into play. I had seen them selling for up to $600 before Ebay banned gun sales. Recently, I saw a beater go for $350 on GB and another in .177 for a bit more. It all depends how bad someone wants one."