Watch CBS News

Al Capone's "sweetheart" gun is up for auction again — and it could sell for over $2 million

Al Capone's personal items up for grabs
Al Capone's favorite pistol, jewelry, furniture to be auctioned off 06:37

A pistol that the notorious Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone nicknamed "sweetheart" is once again up for auction. This time, prospective buyers can place bids in South Carolina on the weapon that Capone's family members credit with routinely protecting his life, after a Greenville-based auction house acquired what is now considered by some to be an iconic collectible.

The winning bid for Capone's pistol is expected to come at an exorbitant cost. Richmond Auctions will host a round of bidding on the gun next month, estimated that the final price will land somewhere between $2 and $3 million. Their auction on May 18 will take place less than three years after it sold for just over $1 million at another auction in California. Bidding starts at $500,000.

The .45 Colt semi-automatic pistol was manufactured in 1911 and became one of Capone's most prized possessions when he rose to infamy as a seemingly untouchable Chicago crime boss during the 1920s. According to the FBI, Capone's legacy includes a litany of criminal accusations involving gambling, prostitution, bootlegging, bribery, drug trafficking, robbery, racketeering and murder. It is believed that Capone, who was sometimes known as "Scarface," was behind the brutal St. Valentine's Day massacre in 1929.

In this Aug. 25, 2021 file photo, Brian Witherell displays a Colt .45-caliber pistol that once belonged to mob boss Al Capone, at Witherell's Auction House in Sacramento, California. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

He evaded law enforcement for years before eventually being convicted of multiple charges related to tax evasion and prohibition violations in 1931. He ultimately servied roughly seven and a half years in federal prison in Atlanta and at the notorious Alcatraz penitentiary off the coast of San Francisco. Capone's health deteriorated during the incarceration, and he died in 1947 at 48 years old. 

The mobster's .45 pistol, supposedly his "favorite" gun, was turned over to his wife, Mae Capone, historians say. She handed it down to their son, Sonny Capone, who in turn left it to his daughters Diane and Barbara Capone following his own death in 2004. 

Al Capone's granddaughters initially put the pistol up for auction in 2021, alongside about 200 of their grandfather's personal belongings. Witherell's auction house, based in Sacramento, facilitated the bidding on a broad range of items Capone had owned during his life that by then were part of his estate, including jewelry, watches and numerous weapons of varying types. The .45, which sold in the end for hundreds of thousands of dollars more than anticipated, went to a private collector.

Al Capone (left) sits in a train compartment with an unidentified associate during his transport to prison in October 1931. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"This gun was kind of his protection and I think it saved his life on a number of occasions and so he called it his sweetheart," said Diane Capone during an interview with CBS News ahead of that auction. She said that as far as she knew, her grandfather carried the pistol with him everywhere he went. 

Critics have denounced the family's decision to auction off items from Capone's estate, and for turning a profit considering the gangster had a hand in many violent and deadly crimes during his reign in Chicago. But others point to the historical significance of Capone's belongings in the present day, and especially that of his treasured "sweetheart" pistol.

"This particular Colt 1911 is more than just a firearm. It's a relic of an era marked by lawlessness and larger-than-life personalities," said Kimmie Williams, a firearms specialist at Richmond Auctions, in a statement. "Its profound connection to Al Capone adds an extra layer of allure, making it a must-have and trump-card for any world-class collector." 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.