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 nickel 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."
Benjamin "Centennial" Model-87 collection
With thanks to Marty.
Marty adds on the American Vintage Airguns forum, in November 2021:
To reiterate, the total projected number of Commemorative edition Benjamin Centennial Model 87’s was 6086, for an average of two guns for each of the 3,043 counties in the 50 states. However, a costly plating process never before attempted by Benjamin whereby nickel was applied over brass, brass over nickel, followed by a protective layer to prevent the brass from tarnishing caused major quality control issues. There were also complications with the stock and forearm whereby both were fabricated from the same block of walnut and often times matching up both proved difficult.
In addition, many have mentioned “back door sales” in previous discussions where some guns or parts of guns left the factory for whatever reason, perhaps because these guns did not meet quality control standards. As a result the actual number of limited edition models manufactured was but a fraction of the projected number, most of which were .22 calibers and of those only a small percentage were .177 calibers.
Due to the issues stated above collecting data for this model for the purpose of determining the actual number of special editions sold is futile although perhaps we can at least attempt to determine the highest number of each caliber sold. To date none exceed the projected 00XXXX numbers. The highest number at this point is 000XXX.
Below are the latest entries into a BCM87 registry. The last report was dated back in April of this year. Since then three more Model 87’s have been added, two of which are .22 Cal (serial numbers 72 & 109) both yesterday. The other one is also a .22 Cal and is listed under “Seconds”. To clarify, the Commemorative Centennial Model 87 has the special 00XXXX sequence whereas the Model 87’s listed under “Seconds” have the standard issue serial numbers.
Finally, if anyone has seen or owns one of these guns not in the registry please forward me photos of your gun; one full length photo and a close up photo of your guns serial number and caliber combined in the same photo. My email address is;email@example.com. Thanks in advance.