View Full Version : On collecting shotguns....

Dave McC
June 8, 2002, 07:08 AM
The voice on the other end of the phone line said something like,"Dave, I got your number from Jim Bob who says you know an awful lot about shotguns. I have this _____ shotgun, and I wonder if it's a collector's item. Can you help me?"....

Filing a mental note to rebuke Jim Bob for giving out my unlisted number, I gave speech # 23078B, the one on collecting shotguns.And I was nice, nicer than I'll be to Jim Bob. So, here's 23078B....

A collector's item is one a collector wants, so marketability is a given. Some shotguns are way more in demand than others, like the Model 12 Winchester vs the equally well designed and made Remington 31. Some niches are multiples, like a Model 12 Trench gun that appeals to Martial and Winchester collectors is so popular and rare forgeries occur.

Shotguns with historical connections are well worth big money to collectors. Years ago we went to dinner at a co worker of Wife's, her husband had an ancestor's firearms from the Civil War. These included a brass frame Confederate copy of a Navy Colt and a ML shotgun with very short bbls. Those relics of a long dead Rebel Cavalryman, his uniform and a couple of Daguerrotypes made a nice display and a great heirloom.

Condition is of paramount importance to collectors. NIB shotguns of certain makes are worth big money, while used but not abused guns of the same make and model aren't worth much though they may be excellent shooters.

And factory new is much better than restored, no matter how well done it is. However, a fine gun with a bit of honest wear still has some collector value. Modifications however, do lower the value rather than add it except in a few cases, upgraded wood comes to mind...

And collectors greatly vary. I know one gent who collects only "Ranger" shotguns, another single bbl hardware store 410s. For every Purdey collector, there's 10 guys happily collecting Savage SXS shotguns or their Model 24 combo guns.

Can one shoot a shotgun with some collector value w/o diminishing same?

Sometimes. I wouldn't take a Parker Invincible (Only 3 made) on a sea duck hunt, but I might take a middle grade Parker on a dove hunt where dings and high humidity aren't that likely. And classics like the Rem 31 and Win 12 are made to be used, again and again.

Here's a list of shotguns I expect to see gain collector value,some already have a bit. Remember, condition is critical. And note I left the classic doubles out, Parkers, LeFevres, Foxes, etc, are already up there.

Also, I left out the non US guns, that's a morass I don't navigate well.

Browning A-5s, the Sweet 16 especially.

Browning Superposeds.

Ithaca 37s, especially in the small gauges.

Remington autos prior to the 11-87.

Remington 870s prior to 1980(arbitrary cutoff).

Remington pump models 31 and 17. The old 10 doesn't seem to be in demand.

Winchester X-1 autos, especially the trap model.

Winchester 37s, which are already bringing high prices from card shooters.

Winchester 101s, which seem to have a cult following.

Early SKB O/Us, same cult following.

Savage pumps, in the Martial and Police versions, but only in good shape. Beware of forgeries.

Savage SXS shotguns, the workingman's double. Even the 311, the last and crudest, is a dependable and rugged piece that forms part of a lot of folks' history. I'm gonna catch heck for this last part, 311 users are loyal(G)...

Also remember demand varies by region.

HTH, now to call up Jim Bob and straighten a few things out....

June 8, 2002, 04:07 PM
Because some of my friends know I'm into guns I get the same question once in awhile. Here's my take on collecting:

To the collector of anything, condition and rarity are everything. If you have an unaltered gun that you believe is collectable, clean it and store it to prevent any corrosion or damage. If its been permanently altered in anyway, keep shooting it because collector value is sharply reduced. (Old British shotguns are the exception to this rule. They are routinely refinished without damaging value.)

A case in point is Parker collectors. While the high grades bring a lot of money even the lower grades are of interest depending on condition. A couple of years back, I mentioned to a Parker collector that I'd seen a Parker Trojan at a gun store that appeared unfired going for a reasonable price. The Trojan was the lowest grade and most common Parker but because they were working guns to find one unfired is very rare. My friend was delighted at the find particularly because the gun came with the tags and box. The same gun in 80 per cent condition without the paraphenalia would not be as nearly interesting to a collector.

After condition comes rarity. A 12 gauge Parker is worth less than a 28 gauge simply because there weren't that many 28 gauges made. A 28 gauge in average condition will be worth more than a mint condition 12 gauge.

What you have to do though is distinguish between what is truly collectable and what is simply desirable. An old gun isn't necessarily either. An old Winchester or Colt has a cachet and guns we wouldn't consider worthy of a trip to the range will make some collectors reach for their wallets. Meanwhile, a Belgian shotgun from the same era might be worth a scrap metal price but a British double gun of the same vintage from a top line maker, say Holland and Holland, would be worth less than a new gun from H&H today.

As Dave noted, all of this goes out the window if there is a proven historical connection with a gun. For example, a hardware store shotgun from the 19th century in rough condition becomes a lot more valuable if it can be positively proven that it was carried at the Little Big Horn. In this manner, a common gun becomes one-of-a-kind.

There are certain guns that have cult status but aren't truly collectable. Belgian-made Brownings and the Sweet 16 Auto 5 come to mind as do Remington Model 32s. They are desirable because they aren't made any more and nothing as good has replaced them in the minds of many shooters. These are desirable shooters but not quite collectors yet.

The world of true gun collectors is a tough one. Fakes abound and I've seen refurbs that would fool all but the most expert collectors. I've also seen collectors con the unknowing into selling a gun for far less than it's true value. There is a mercenary aspect to gun collecting that leaves me cold. If you must jump in however get the Blue Book because it offers pictorial guides to determining condition and can give some guidance on what's rare and what isn't.

Personally, I don't collect guns. I like to shoot them. And if I have one that might be worth serious money as far as desirability or rarity is concerned, I would probably sell it and get something I can use without worrying about.


June 8, 2002, 05:19 PM
"Your Honor, I swear that I do not now nor have I ever in the past collected shotguns. They have just been following me home for the last 50 years or so."

Dave and PJR.....both excellent and informative posts.


June 8, 2002, 05:29 PM
OH NO dave, if production Remingtons and Ithacas become the next true collectables shotgun collecting is in trouble :( what's next Mossy's ? :rolleyes:

June 8, 2002, 11:48 PM
Remington 32's not collectible! Ha, have you seen the prices on them lately. Try and find one, especially the Trap model. Last one in good condition in these parts went for 3.5K. There are a lot of beat up worn out ones for about 1.5K around:D

I hate collectors. They force the prices up.

Parker Trojans were the mossbergs of their day and even a beat up rusted old duck boat beater Trojan commands way too much money. Same with the Model 12 Winchester. Maybe I should of hung on to my Peerless, it might be worth something someday :rolleyes:

A pox on "Collectors"

Guns are meant to be shot, not locked in a vault as an investment.

Dave McC
June 9, 2002, 07:04 AM
Thanks, folks...

Geoff, 32s have been collectors for a while, just like Model 97s and 12s.

Huntsman,Ithaca 37s and 870s are outstanding pumps, and while still made, some folks regard the older ones as better made, kinda like pre-64 Model 70s or pre-CBS Fender Telecasters and amps.

You may want to remember that the original MSRP on the Model 21 Winchester was $37.50.Things change.

At PGC yesterday, I ran across an acquaintance from the Geezer League. He has 5 Model 21s at last count,a Browning Broadway I mentioned here before this, and numerous other fine guns. However, he was toting an AYA SXS, a Spanish "Best" Sidelock with gorgeous wood and engraving. I hefted and swung it, tried not to drool on it, and said the tragedy was that it was too pretty to hunt with and too damn well made to leave home. He was shooting Sporting Clays with it.

Me, I shoot them, not collect them. If I ran across a real collector piece that shouldn't be shot (Think NIB and made first day of production), I'd sell it in a heartbeat and buy some shooters with the cash.Or more likely, turn it over to the various colleges various McCs are attending.

OTOH, if I turned up a used but not abused Fox Sterlingworth or NID at a yard sale, I might keep it for a bird gun.

June 9, 2002, 07:56 AM
I've had some of the same discussions, relating to automobiles over the years...I used to customize, as well as restore cars...The customizations aspect is similar to "sporterizing" old milsurps (which is a cardinal sin to some collectors)....And the "shoot vs. collect" reminds me of a discussion I had w/ ex-wife...I bought her a rather rare MG, low mileage, but suffering from lots of neglect, fixed mechanical problems, and she drove it in the summer time for 3 years...Then I found out that it was one of only 4 ever made (to best ability to research) with an automatic transmission..In short, I decided to restore it totally....So, a few months later, she says to me: "I can't wait to drive it, when you're done.... My reply "DRIVE IT. YOU CAN'T DRIVE IT! SOMEONE might run into it!"...(We got divorced a few months later.) As for me, I built alot of neat cars for myself, but not a single "show" car....They're made to be driven.... If collecting rare guns turns you on, great...I just wanna shoot 'em.

Al Thompson
June 9, 2002, 08:34 AM
Four years ago I sold a Lefever SxS. Book was 2k to 4k. I did a *lot* of research and talked to a bunch of folks. Offers were absolutely all over the map. Had a couple of state wide guys who didn't want it at all and some folks from out of state who wanted me to send it to them for evaluation.

I ended up putting it on consignment with a fellow who only does highend SGs. It brought me the 4k figure.

Moral of this story? Do your research, have a thick skin and patience.

If your on the other side - collecting - the same applies. If someone had whipped out 2k when I first got started, they'd of had a great deal.

June 9, 2002, 08:43 AM
I stand corrected on the Model 32 although it could be regional differences. Where I live a Remington 32 would not draw much of a premium over an almost identical Krieghoff Model 32.

It could also be a difference in our definitions. To me collecting means acquisition, preservation and display. I know a man who has an extensive collection of Lee Enfield rifles, most of them in mint condition. When I first saw the collection, he responded with a stricken look when I asked if he ever shot his rifles. I suppose from the collector's viewpoint, this is no different than asking a hostess if she serves dinner on the antique china platter she has in a glass display box on her bookshelf.

There is something soleless about acquiring a gun only for the sake of having it. If I don't feel comfortable shooting it, I don't want to own it. I will make some accomodations -- my sxs doesn't go out in the rain or in very rough terrain but by God it does go out. Yes, it has collected a scratch or two and in the sterile world of the collector it's value is diminished. And yet I recall the morning hunting pheasants with a very close friend as the sun glinted off the blued barrels and the light warmed the walnut stock and I scored an honest double.

The collector has his definition of value and I have mine.


June 9, 2002, 09:04 AM
Inflated prices for guns that are nice, but not worth the money asked for them. Collectors and dealers ruin everything.

One local MD has a collection of Remington 32's, including one with four barrell sets! Never shoots them, uses a citori on the SC course. Hate that, those guns should belong to someone who would use them and give them some history.

The Winchester Model 21 is a sturdy and nice gun, but not up to the best of the British/Spanish guns. Too heavy and clunky. Nowhere near the quality for the prices they go for. Know several folks who had one but sold it to pay his mortgage/divorce/kids braces/etc. Collectors get 'em and then they will never be used for what they were intended for. Former owners wail and cry about selling them:rolleyes:

Of course, this sometimes works to my advantage. Recently picked up a Colt Python from a guy getting a divorce:D But this one will be shot regularly I guarantee you!

I wonder of any other countries have "Collector mania" the way the US does. Everything is becoming "Collectible":(

June 9, 2002, 11:14 AM
Gizmo sez..."...Do your research, have a thick skin and patience."

Yup...buyin or sellin.


June 9, 2002, 11:47 AM
I don't know I might piss off some people with my take but hear it is.

I don't think the true collectors are a problem most seem to stick to the highend original condition rare guns that command value. Who I think is really screwing up the market is the accumulator who thinks he's a collector . This is the guy who will drive up the price on good servicable guns that were made to be used.

It seems to me that the only real legit reason for a certain gun to increase substantialy in price is if there is nothing comparable on the new gun market. We cannot say this today about any production grade gun.

The only other reason could be rarity, but even in the double world the knockabouts, the field grade Smiths, Ithicas and the parkers, are all plentiful not to mention the fact that Remiginton made well over 3 million 870 wingmasters before 1985 .

I think the real reason is emotional, come on folks isn't nostalgia at any cost just foolish ? if most guys shopped for guns like they do for a car or other tools the markert would be lower.

Like someone said guns are meant to be used so let's not pretend that production guns are anything more than useable tools. And I hope that when and if ruger brings the gold label to market it will drive used double prices down.

Dave McC
June 9, 2002, 05:15 PM
Obviously, if I were able to do it all over again I'd have collected Parker doubles, Leonard fly rods, Fender Twin Reverb amps and Gibson Les Paul Deluxe guitars, driving them around in a 57 Chevy ragtop.

But hindsight's always 20-20.

Sometimes something turns up. Last year, I was pleased to tell a good friend that his old double "Rabbit gun" was a W&C Scott worth a coupla K. Made his day for sure.

OTOH, I'd love to have a dollar for every homegrown clunker that someone has shown or told me about that they were convinced could bring in Purdey prices just because it was old.

I did have the pleasure of telling a dolt that bobbing the bbls of a mid grade LC Smith as he had done had taken a thousand dollars or so from the value of his shotgun.

And finally, I wouldn't own a firearm I couldn't shoot as I saw fit, so the rarefied heights of collectordom shall never see me.

Al Thompson
June 9, 2002, 08:34 PM
Things seem to twist and turn at odd intervals. I purchased the new bride a new M10 3 inch HB RB S&W in 1982 for $179.00. Three years ago I got a like NIB M13 3 inch HB RB for $189.00. These days, most K frame S&Ws (police turn-ins) are on the the other side of $225.00.

My first 870 was under $200.00 NIB in the late '70's. Today I can get the functional equal at Wal-Mart for $259.00.

Wonder when the 870 police trade ins will run out?

Buy now before the hoarders stock up.....

Hey Dave and C.R., remember the toilit paper run in the late "70's? :D

June 9, 2002, 09:20 PM
Runs ?
Terlet paper ?


Dave McC
June 10, 2002, 04:55 AM
TP Shortage? Nope.

The first model Trooper (Target sights, Python action) that is Wife's WOC was a turnin. IIRC, it was going for $85 or so in the late 60s. Still looks close to mint, tho a few K rounds have been through it.

Police turnin 870s are more endangered by Hoplophobes and liberals than by any threatened scarcity. Depts keep rotating inventory.

But turnins are not collector's itme, defined as more for looking at than shooting.

Had I some spare cash(insert cynical laugh here), I'd be picking up some classic WMs.

Does that make me a hoarder, Giz?