Four Factors When Valuing Your Gun
Make and model. Condition. Rarity. History.
These are the four factors that tend to appeal to collectors and help determine the value of collectible guns. Tastes differ as to which is most important.
Make and Model
Make and model tends to be the starting point for evaluating collectible guns for most collectors and will be a basic threshold requirement for those with specialized collections.
Factors here include the quality of a particular manufacturer’s products, the historical usage of the guns in question, and the brand’s aura of romance. As an example of that last — and most intangible – factor, consider that Colt Single Action Army revolvers were for several decades the most prevalent focus for collectors interested in full-size revolvers from the post-Civil War to turn of the 20th Century-era, and there is no question that Colts were widely used during that time.
Obviously, condition plays a major role in the value of a collectible firearm. The classic advice to new collectors in this regard has always been to hold out for guns in the best condition and pay the extra premium they demand. This condition-emphasis seems to have developed in the 1970s and 1980s. In the early post-WWII years of gun collecting there was more interest in rare variations and history, and fewer collectors to whom a few percentage point difference in remaining original finish was of much concern.
In terms of rarity, the well-worn saying that “just because a gun is rare doesn’t mean it’s valuable” remains true to a certain extent. There may only be five known examples of a particular gun, but if only three people care about it, the market is saturated. However, there does seem to be more interest in cornering the rare variations within established collecting fields. There is a bit of a resurgence of the collecting philosophy of completing a punchlist of models and variations within a specialization, and this lead to vigorous competition for the rarest examples in these fields. In emerging collecting fields, when new research is published revealing the rarity of certain variations there can develop a brisk interest in those guns.
Individual guns with a known history of ownership by a specific individual or usage in a specific historical event have always captured the fascination of collectors, as well as historians and the general public. This seems to reflect a basic human interest and shows no sign of abatement. A positive trend here seems to be an increase in general understanding of the type of documentation which must accompany a historically attributed firearm to give it the credibility to justify a premium price, and the importance of creating and preserving such documentation.