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Unique, according to Mr. Webster's dictionary, means one and only.

That book also states that unique means ``rare' even though many people do not accept that meaning while others use it to mean rare in everyday language.In either case, Kevin Cherry knows unique guns when he sees them. That's why he was high bidder for his Cherry's Fine Guns, a Greensboro company, when he paid more than $30,000 for a pair of Colt single-action army revolvers which were displayed last weekend at the Greensboro Gun Show. The guns will be shown in two other North Carolina shows before they are sold.

What makes each of these guns unique is that one is the last, the other is the first.

The highly engraved guns are the works of Colt Firearms, the old company, and the newly formed Colt's Manufacturing Co. Each has the serial number 1.

``We were really happy to get this pair of guns,' Cherry said as he showed them for the first time, even before a specially made $4,000 walnut display case arrived in Greensboro. ``These guns were not sold at a public auction, but by sealed bids. They were contributed by the companies with the money going to the education fund of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. I didn't think our bid would be high enough to get the guns, but it was.'

The last revolver by Colt Firearms is a nickel plated Model P2950 in 44-40 caliber with a 5 1/2-inch barrel. The scroll work was done by master engraver Dennis Kies. The left side of the barrel depicts a broken spear running through it with the Colt insignia in blue enamel. Other sections of the barrel and cylinder are engraved with the ribbons and spear and the loading gate is engraved with the famous Colt dome. The stocks are ivory and the scrimshaw art features Sam Colt on the left side and a flying eagle carrying a banner reading: NSSF Shot Show. A nickel butt plate is engraved with the NSSF logo and 1991.

The first revolver by Colt's Manufacturing Co. is a single action Army revolver in a blued model P1850 in 45 caliber. It has the company's name and serial number plus the firm's motto ``The Legend Lives' engraved on the barrel. The left side of the cylinder has a gold inlaid portrait of Sam Colt, the work of master engraver Steve Kamayk. The ivory stocks are scrimshaweed with a picture of the Colt Dome and a United States shield. A gold-plated butt plate is engraved with the Armsmear crest, the name of Sam Colt's home.

The price Cherry paid for the revolvers seems high to people who have owned only a .38 Special, a .357 Magnum or a .22 High Standard plinker. But Cherry said he knows of many pistols that have sold for much more. And a few years ago, an exhibitor showed a pair of pistols in the Greensboro Gun Show that he had priced at $104,000.

``The most I have seen paid for a pistol, let me think,' said Cherry, who follows the footsteps of his grandfather and father in the gun business. ``There was a Colt single action .45 with a 7 1/2-inch barrel that sold at a Christie's auction in New York for $242,000. A man from Richmond bought it, and he kept it for only three or four months and sold it for $300,000.'

Cherry, now 40, came to Greensboro in December 1985 when Davidson Supply Co. purchased Cherry's. He and three partners purchased the company from Davidson Supply Co. and moved it from the High Point Road location to West Wendover in 1989.

Cherry began working in his grandfather's full-line sporting goods store in Genesco, Ill., on a part-time basis when he was 12 years old. After college, he joined the firm.

``My grandfather started the business selling fishing tackle and guns and the store was also a gas station and had a lunch counter. The company built a new store in 1964 and went into a full-line sporting goods business.'

It was Cherry's father, Robert, who took the company into the fine gun business in the 1950s, and it is that tradition Cherry is continuing with the Greensboro store. In addition to working with the sporting arms in the store, Cherry knows them from the shooting end. He doesn't shoot much today, but during his college days at Murray State in Kentucky, he shot smallbore rifle competition well enough to make the Olympic tryouts.

His interest in fine guns and collectible guns has spread to the point that his company recently signed an exclusive contract with Winchester for the company's commemorative Model 94 lever action rifles.

``We hope to come out with about three issues a year and limit each issue to no more than a thousand guns,' Cherry said. ``In recent years, commemoratives were issued in such high numbers they didn't have a lot of meaning to collectors. Some issues numbered as many as 20,000. We don't want that with the 94s.'

While Cherry is working on a Wyoming edition of the 94, he isn't worried about having more than $30,000 tied up in the pair of Colts. He already has two offers, but will not sell them until they have been displayed in at least three North Carolina shows.

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