Gun Collecting: For Fun and Profit

The Six Rules Of Smart Collecting

After World War II, there was an awakening to the quality of Japanese arms when returning soldiers brought thousands of them home as souvenirs. Today, they are highly collectible. This Type-14 Nambu was manufactured at the Nagoya Army Arsenal in February 1927. Rock Island Auction valued it between $950 and $1,100 (Lot 169) and said that “while the magazine is nickel and mismatched, the gun is in excellent condition. It retains approximately 90 percent original blue fi nish and 75 percent straw colors. The grips are very good with small chip out of left grip on bottom, the usual gouge from the safety lever and minor handling marks….the right side grip screw is locked up and the head is slightly marred.”
After World War II, there was an awakening to the quality of Japanese arms when returning soldiers brought thousands of them home as souvenirs. Today, they are highly collectible. This Type-14 Nambu was manufactured at the Nagoya Army Arsenal in February 1927. Rock Island Auction valued it between $950 and $1,100 (Lot 169) and said that “while the magazine is nickel and mismatched, the gun is in excellent condition. It retains approximately 90 percent original blue finish and 75 percent straw colors. The grips are very good with small chip out of left grip on bottom, the usual gouge from the safety lever and minor handling marks….the right side grip screw is locked up and the head is slightly marred.”

1) Read and Learn. The rules of satisfying collecting are perhaps everywhere the same. They begin with identifying your interest and – before collecting any firearms – collecting information, building a storehouse of knowledge. If you are enticed into the field by the romance of the American Frontier era and enjoy looking at old Colt firearms, your fi rst purchase might be Doc O’Meara’s book on the Colt SAA.2 O’Meara’s book will both inspire you to collect and alert you to some of the nuances of the field, Bisleys to Buntlines.

The more you read and learn, the easier it will be to narrow your interest and objective when you get that itch to write out a check. And the more secure you will feel when you return home without that sulkingly familiar “buyer’s remorse.” Every bookstore has an outdoor section that contains a sample of gun books, but the best references for these invaluable collector’s aids can be found online with a minimum of searching.

2) Find People with Similar Interests. A second rule of good collecting is to affi liate with others and learn from them…or allow them to learn from you. While any group can exhibit a “flock mentality” and carry you over the edge to a disastrous purchase (the lemming mentality of group-think), there is strength in numbers. Within
a group, the new collector can find a mentor and can, in turn, become a mentor. There are quite a few gun-collecting associations and we provide a brief listing of national groups in an Appendix at the end of this book.

3) Attend Gun Shows. At an early stage, it is a wonderful use of your time to visit local gun shows. Unless they are so designated, local shows will not have many antique firearms, although many curio and relic (C&R) guns and a ton of reproductions will be on view and on sale. Gun shows are a great place to make contacts, to pick up business cards of men and women who may take time with a newcomer, to learn about organizations that provide contacts and information.

They are not necessarily good places to make a purchase for a collection, however, because there is simply not time – and there are rarely facilities – to study and to thoroughly examine a gun. For that, one needs reference books, a good magnifying glass, good light and some peace and quiet, time without interruption to look and
think; time to just sit and stare at the gun….

4) Avoid Impulse Buys. The fourth rule of good collecting is to avoid the rush to make a purchase. Everyone is, on occasion, struck with the craving to buy now, as in “right now.” It is a strain of impatience that runs deep in the male species, men generally possessing the pro-buying, anti-shopping gene. Generally speaking, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Today, the field of American firearms holds many questions, but few surprises.

Still, every serious gun collector has a story about making an impulse decision to buy a firearm without thoroughly examining it or questioning its owner. It happens when one is distracted and can happen to an expert as well as a newbie. The field is littered – some say heavily – with altered and even downright faked firearms, and so when the impulse rises to make a snap decision that will cost hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars, your best course of action is to walk away.

Ninety-nine percent of the time this will be the correct long-term decision.

5) Make a Test Purchase. While avoiding the impulse buy, it ultimately becomes important to buy…something. As a youngster I wanted a telescope to look at the moon and stars. My father insisted that I read about telescopes first, learn the principles by which the mirrors worked and then once I knew what I was talking about, he
said, we would buy a great telescope.

Gun Digest Book of Firearms Fakes and Reproductions.
This article is an excerpt from the Gun Digest Book of Firearms Fakes & Reproductions. Click Here to learn more.

Learning somewhat in a vacuum with only pictures and nothing to actually handle, manipulate, enjoy, I found words about objectives lenses and diopters and image stabilization to be terribly frustrating. I never got a telescope and eventually lost interest. I did not want an expensive motor-driven refracting telescope anyway…just something to play around with. The recollection of that experience, and others since then, have led me to believe that nothing quite beats handling the real thing to stimulate interest. You must have something to “play around with.” Only by investing in more than moving our eyes and perhaps our brain, only by making a real purchase can we extend the learning and enjoying experience.

Perhaps it is a version of the “build it and they will come” philosophy. Your fi rst purchase does not have to be expensive; it probably should not be expensive, in fact, but it has to excite you. Stimulate you to want to learn more, see more and, yes, possess more. (Hint: For your first purchase, buy down in desirability, but up in quality or grade.)

6) Build Relationships. Finally, when one has read and looked at pictures as much as one can stand, when one has narrowed one’s interest and visited gun shows and even made an initial “test purchase,” it is time to establish a relationship with a seller. One of the best ways to avoid being stuck with a turkey is to know the person
who is selling to you; know where they will be two weeks after your check has cleared. By developing a long term relationship with a seller – whether it is an auction house or a private gun trader, 3 one begins to develop trust.

A serious caution is in order here, however. Even though you may be collecting for fun, money is changing hands and that makes some aspect of collecting a business. If it isn’t a business for you, it almost certainly will be for the person who is selling to you and in a business relationship you must, in the words of Ronald Regan, “Trust, but verify.” The first time your new best friend approaches with a Confederate Colt, show your interest and ask for the paperwork, the provenance, and for any independent evaluations that might be reasonable. If the seller is legitimate and the product is legitimate as well, your questions and requests for independent authentication will not be offensive. You might also ask for a written, 90-day money-back guarantee. If you are afraid to speak up, you lose.

NM Collector SoftwareThis gun collecting series brought to you by NM Collector Software.

 


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