View Full Version : Old Pistol Values

October 18, 2001, 10:56 AM
I have a question about the valuation of older firearms, particularly as it applies to old semi-automatic pistols.

I just acquired a Mauser HSC as described in "Need Help With Two Old Pistols". The offer I made was a bit below book value for two reasons. First, the pistol's finish was worn, although I will be the first to tell you that I am no expert in evaluating this grading criteria. While the blueing was worn, the pistol was still in good shape. I estimated abouty 75-80%. As far as I could tell, it was mechanically sound.

But the biggest drawback was the lack of a magazine. Now, I can buy a replacement from Numrich for $27, but I have been advised that this will most likely be a reproduction, not an original Mauser magazine.

Approximately how much would the value of a semi-automatic pistol be lowered for lack of an original magazine? I understand some pistols came with serial-numbered magazines? Is this a factor?

Any help in this area will be greatly appreciated.

James K
October 18, 2001, 02:28 PM
A good question and I will try to give a good answer.

First, an item (pistol in this case) must be collectible, that is, some people must want to own it as part of a collection, not for use. Rarity is one factor, but I can make a one-of-a-kind Keenan Special, and its value will be nil. There must be some indication that the maker's products are collectible, are of sufficient number and variety to be of interest and must be at least relatively uncommon. The more variety, the more likely an item is to be collectible; military use or some other "romantic" use ("Old West" for example) adds to the value.

Beyond that, as a general rule, the closer an item is to its original factory condition, the higher its value will be. Many collectors will not touch anything that is not in new or nearly new condition. Most of us, however, if we want to own items that interest us, must settle for items that are in lesser condition and cost less.

There is a contradiction here. A gun which was actually used in military service or in the West will usually be in very poor condition; its historical value will be high, but unless it is associated with a historical person, its dollar value will be less than an identical gun in new condition that "sat out the fight" in a depot or bureau drawer.

Originality of parts and finish is obviously part of this issue. If an item has parts replaced, or if the finish is worn or the item refinished, the value dips sharply. Many value guides use a percentage of original finish (80%, say, or 60%) as an indication of value; functionality, as well as originality of parts and finish is assumed. For example, a reblued pistol obviously has 0% of its original finish, no matter how good the reblue work is. Replacement of a part by a factory original part does not reduce value as much as replacement by an after-market ("reproduction") part.

One factor for arms collectors is functionality. Most collectors want a gun that is functional, that works, even though they would never dream of shooting it. Some gun control laws, such as those in England, require that handguns be either turned in for destruction or made inoperable by being welded almost solid; gun control advocates see no problem with this as they believe collectors are only interested in having something that looks like a gun. This is like a stamp collector being told that he must deface his stamps with a marking pen so they can't be used to mail a letter.

For an auto pistol, a magazine is an integral part of the gun; the gun cannot work as designed without it. For guns which had the magazine numbered to match the pistol, the "matching mag" is obviously the most desireable. An original, but not matching, magazine is less desireable, but better than a reproduction magazine which was never made by the original factory.

In some cases, reproduction magazines have been made that are as well made as originals; they are the exception. Most "repro" magazines are inexpensively made, and often are not even functional, let alone adding to the collector value.

Pardon the long message, and I hope this helps.


October 21, 2001, 11:21 PM

Thanks for an informative and intelligent reply.

I think you can see where I was going with this question. The guy I bought this pistol from had another friend who apprarently kept pumping him on this pistol and stating that it was much more valuable then what I was offering him. But the other friend did not see the condition, nor did he address the lack of an original magazine.

To me, the pistol was worth about what I offered, simply because I like older firearms, especially WWII specimens. And it turned out that what I offered him covered what he wanted to get, a new pair of hunting boots for the winter season.

Thanks again.

October 22, 2001, 10:33 AM
Well spoken Jim.

November 14, 2001, 04:57 AM
Agreed, well spoken.
If I may add one small point, regardless of the type, condition or what the value is said to be, something is only worth as much as another is willing to pay for it, no more no less. I’m not trying to be pessimistic it’s just a fact of life.

November 14, 2001, 08:02 AM
You have made a very good point, one I have spoken to many other people myself. It does not matter how much some "authority" claims something is worth, it only matters what another person is willing to give you for it. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as far as the seller may be concerned) there are those will pay ridiculous amounts of money for something because they feel, for whatever reason, good or not, that something is "valuable".

As an example, there is a nice Mauser HSc for sale on Auction Arms. It is a Navy model as mine is, and the last time I checked the price was up around $715. Some knowledgeable people I know feel that it will go higher towards the end of bidding.

Is this pistol worth that much money? I guess that is a very individual question.

My own philosophy of what something is worth tends to include as a large part of the equation, just how much use I can get from something, or how important it will be when times go bad (kinda like the SHTF times). If it will not help me survive lean or tough times, then it's value to me is less than something which can be used/traded/etc during those times.

James K
November 14, 2001, 02:55 PM
When it comes to gun values, there are two kinds of "friends".

One always says, "Oh don't sell it for that, it is worth much more". But he does not offer to buy it himself at either price. (If it really is worth more, why say so? Why not just buy it and make a profit selling it.)

The other kind of "friend" says, "Oh, don't pay that much, I know where you can get those for half that." (If he really knows, he would buy it and sell it to you for what you were willing to pay.)

With both kinds of friends, you never sell or buy anything. But you can wish.


November 14, 2001, 03:14 PM
Your description of the kinds of friends makes me think of getting information from the horse. You need to know which end of the horse you are speaking to.

November 14, 2001, 05:45 PM
I was in on the early bidding on that HSc Navy pistol, but it got way too rich for my blood! It was a very nice pistol, but that price was a bit out of hand!.