A Newcomer’s Guide to Antique Firearms

Collecting antique firearms became popular after World War II. It is one of the fastest-growing antique collection hobbies, and has been since the 1950s. Prices for a firearm collection continue to increase as supplies dwindle. Whether you enjoy shooting sports or history or seek a viable antique investment in Mill Valley, CA, you could do well with antique firearms. Here are five factors to consider as you build your collection:

  • Make and model: There are highly desirable models out there due to their limited production or scarcity. Even mass-produced guns from 1885 may now be worth more because most of them are out of circulation. Manufacturers like Colt or Winchester continue to see high demand and values to match. Non-American brands like Enfield make the list, along with post-Civil War makes and models, including Luger, Smith & Wesson and Merwin & Hulbert. You cannot go wrong if you focus on these makes and models first.
  • Condition: Antique firearms are rated using one of two scales: the NRA Condition Standards and a percentage system. A firearm with all original parts, 100 percent of its original finish and perfect condition rates “new” on the NRA scale and 100 percent on the percentage system. Generally, your best firearms contain all their original parts and at least 30 percent of the original finish. Firearms rated “poor” contain both major and minor replacement parts and require extensive restoration. Unless you want merely a functional firearm, buy the highest condition rating you can afford.
  • Provenance: A firearm with a documented history or famous background is worth more. For example, a Colt .45-caliber revolver that was linked to Wyatt Earp and had a high likelihood of having been used during the O.K. Corral shootout sold at auction for $225,000 in 2014. These firearms come with documentation that support this history, including historic records and photos—not just a claim by the seller. You can also find provenance by doing serial number searches and using other research tools to see if a firearm has a backstory. If you can confirm these details, you gain not only a piece of history but a major investment!
  • Rarity: If you ask three firearms dealers to explain what they consider rare, you will likely receive three different answers. Also, just because a gun is rare does not necessarily mean it is valuable. So, you will find that this will matter for some firearms, but not all of them. If you encounter a “rare” firearm, do not pay more just because someone says it’s rare. Instead, weigh its value with the other factors listed here.
  • Artistic appeal: Much like jewelry, you should purchase an antique firearm because you will enjoy it. That can include shooting it, but also merely looking at it. The craftsmanship of 19th and early 20th century gun manufacturers is celebrated, and many models display the attributes of this golden age of firearms engraving. Never underestimate the value of aesthetics—these lovely pieces are prized highly among many collectors.

If you’d like to build a firearm collection in Mill Valley, CA, start with a visit to Collectible Coins & Jewelry. We specialize in many types of collectible antiques and can help those interested in collecting antique firearms. Call or visit today to ask about or view our current inventory.

Leave a Reply