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Old June 15, 2019, 05:26 PM   #1
TruthTellers
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Antiques with non-matching numbers- worth it?

There's a few antiques that I keep my eye out for, Snyder-Enfield, Burnside carbines, Gras and Lebel rifles in 8mm Lebel. The ones with matching numbers usually look beat up, but the ones with non-matching numbers look good and are priced well too.

So, what's the rub with antiques that have numbers that don't match? Are they ever worth considering if you're looking to shoot them and not just collect them for some sort of investment?
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Old June 15, 2019, 06:02 PM   #2
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Are they ever worth considering if you're looking to shoot them and not just collect them for some sort of investment?
Those are the ones you WANT if you want to shoot them and not just collect them. Shoot old guns, even the most carefully possible, and sometimes, things just break. Break a part on a matching # gun and it changes the value, perhaps HUGELY. Break the same thing on a non-matching gun, the only concern is getting a replacement part that works.

Want to turn a $3000 Luger into an $800 Luger? break a matching # part!

ALSO, beware of "force matches". The value of "matching #s" is the assumption that all the matching # parts are the original parts of that gun.

When only the last two digits are on the parts, you can (sometimes) find "matching" parts from other guns with those same last two digits. Nothing wrong with that, UNLESS the seller pretends they are all original to that gun, and priced at that level. It's fraud if they do. But it has happened.

There are all kinds of fakes and frauds out there, its basically up to you to know what is, and isn't worth the asking price.

If you just want to have an example of a certain gun, to shoot, a mis-match # gun or a reblued gun are the practical way to go.
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Old June 15, 2019, 07:44 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by 44 AMP View Post
Those are the ones you WANT if you want to shoot them and not just collect them. Shoot old guns, even the most carefully possible, and sometimes, things just break. Break a part on a matching # gun and it changes the value, perhaps HUGELY. Break the same thing on a non-matching gun, the only concern is getting a replacement part that works.

Want to turn a $3000 Luger into an $800 Luger? break a matching # part!

ALSO, beware of "force matches". The value of "matching #s" is the assumption that all the matching # parts are the original parts of that gun.

When only the last two digits are on the parts, you can (sometimes) find "matching" parts from other guns with those same last two digits. Nothing wrong with that, UNLESS the seller pretends they are all original to that gun, and priced at that level. It's fraud if they do. But it has happened.

There are all kinds of fakes and frauds out there, its basically up to you to know what is, and isn't worth the asking price.

If you just want to have an example of a certain gun, to shoot, a mis-match # gun or a reblued gun are the practical way to go.
Awesome, that's great to know for people who are getting into buying antiques to shoot and not just make into safe queens hoping they double in value in 10 or 20 years.

Would be great for "experts" to say what you just told me, but so much of the focus with those types of people is authenticity, conditions, and values more than just shootability.
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Old June 15, 2019, 11:03 PM   #4
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While there are as many variations as collectors, and of course there's a lot of overlap, there are basically two different kinds of collectors.

Those that was a certain, specific gun, as original in all aspects as possible, and willing to pay to get it.

Then there are the others, myself included, who just want some shootable example of the gun(s) we are interested in. And we're willing to have wear, poor finish, mis numbered parts, reblue or about anything else as long as the gun is mechanically sound, and not pay top dollar for it.

Examples abound of what are technically "fakes" or "repro" in certain guns, and no harm is done at all, provided they aren't made out to be something they're not.

I always wanted a Luger P.08 Found a 1936 s/42 that looked brand new. one mismatched part (sideplate, of course) wrong (aftermarket) grips, but looked brand new. Story with it was "it was refinished during the war",, but one buys the gun, NEVER the story, unless there is certain documentation included. Anyway, the seller didn't try to claim all original, sold it for $750. Had it been all original it would have been $2200 (at that time). Good deal for me, got a pristine looking Luger, I could shoot without risking its market value, and that's what I wanted.

Another guy would sneer, and pay $2200 for a beat up one that was "all original".

Some guns are worth more as rusted hulks of post battle debris than the same gun refinished to look new. The collector is paying for the HISTORY more than the gun.

A friend of mine wanted a Winchester made M1 Garand. Couldn't find one completely Win at any price he was willing to pay. Bought a Winchester M1 that was a mix of parts, and spent a year or three tracking down and getting Winchester made parts to replace those others on his gun. Wound up with an all Win gun, but never claimed it was all original.

With US military arms, there are two different and historically correct versions. Those intact as originally issued, with all the original parts from the original maker(s) and those as found "in service" with mixes of parts, because that's what we did. We (servicemen, including repairmen) never tracked individual parts by maker or anything else. We didn't ser# parts like Germany and some others did. Some of our guns were never assembled from parts of a single maker.

A 1911A1 with all Colt made parts is historically correct. For a certain time period, it is the only historically correct version. In a different year, a 1911A1 with a Colt frame, Ithaca or Remington slide, and small parts from half a dozen different makers is ALSO correct. Each one has a different value to the collector, depending on what the collector values most.

I once had a Broomhandle Mauser, the Bolo variant. Originally .30 Mauser, made in the 1920s. When I got it, it looked new, and had been bored to 9mm Luger. Worked fine, looked good and was worth about half what a beat to crap but never reworked one was. And about of quarter of what the really rare new looking original brought.

Ok, I buy the cheap stuff "real" collectors don't. But they work for me, and give me a chance to own and learn guns I'd never be able to afford otherwise...AND, I've never lost even a penny on any of them that I later sold off.

Actually having and shooting a gun teaches you things reading about them never can.

Nobody ever seems to mention that the Walther P.38 ejects to the LEFT!!!
Or that shooting a 9mm C-96 Bolo without the stock is PAINFUL unless you wear a glove! or, as a little known tidbit, that you can cock an M1 Garand or M14 without working the bolt!! (no idea why you ever would, but you CAN do it,)

Also having one for your own is better than just seeing one on Utube.
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Old June 16, 2019, 12:21 AM   #5
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The HISTORY part is what I understand now. It'd be like the gun that killed Lincoln if every piece of it was there, but the nipple was a replacement all of a sudden it's not some divine relic anymore and no longer worth millions of dollars. Of course I don't see it that way, but I have trouble seeing it because I see the GUN not the HISTORY.

Owning is indeed way better than seeing on youtube. I see these rifles like the Snider, Burnside, Chassepot, Lebel and I just say to myself, "I have to shoot them." Why? Idk, maybe it's something I have to do to appreciate how far we've come, maybe it's because they're just cool things, maybe it's because I can buy an antique and have it shipped to my door and do my happy dance and taunt the invisible ATF agent in my head that he can't touch this.

Alright then, I'll troll the auctions sites and my local stores and find shooters for these cool antiques and enjoy them. About the only one I'm re-considering is the Burnside given how odd the brass is for them.
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Old June 16, 2019, 07:47 AM   #6
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Nobody ever seems to mention that the Walther P.38 ejects to the LEFT!!!
Walther's P5 also ejects to the left.
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Old June 16, 2019, 08:05 AM   #7
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Reminds me of when George Washington's hatchet went on the market. You know, the one he chopped down the cherry tree with. The darn thing was in great condition. If fact, it looked like it had never been used. When asked about it, the auctioneer responded that the handle had been replaced three times and the head twice....but it was the original. Yep, it had history.
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Old June 16, 2019, 06:57 PM   #8
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The Burnside can be fired, just takes a little more effort.
Dixie had the cases, and proper bullet mold.
A cool piece of Civil War history.
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Old June 16, 2019, 11:19 PM   #9
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ALSO, beware of "force matches". The value of "matching #s" is the assumption that all the matching # parts are the original parts of that gun.
If you look for something specific on gunbroker, you can usually find a “force matched” example within mere minutes. To be fair, they usually post plenty of picture and they don’t title advertise “matching numbers.” But the price on those articles usually coincide with a numbers matching firearm in similar condition. Then you look close enough and you can tell the bolt handle has been ground underneath the current “matching” serial number. While not a criminal fraud if it’s not specifically advertised as “all matching,” it’s certainly an ethical fraud.

I value both shooting and collecting older war relics. So far I’ve only collected items that won’t be particularly valuable for years if ever. I like numbers matching artifacts, and I will shoot them. I do, however, tend to treat them with kid gloves and they’re not shot frequently. I don’t even have the kind of money needed to have much of a “collection,” but if you work at it over time you’d be amazed at what you can accumulate.

I’m probably unique from many others in this game in that I view these guns as a form of investment as well as a fun hobby. Imagine if your dad had left you an excellent condition example of every major individual weapon platform (purposefully excluding crew served weapons such as cannons) used during the civil war? How much would that be worth? How much would it be worth to your kids or grandkids one day in the distant future? Would you liquidate or pass it on? Would your kids or grandkids liquidate or pass it on? I hope my grandchildren have that dilemma one day, but with WW2 firearms. Numbers matching has its place.
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Old June 17, 2019, 09:41 AM   #10
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Lebel rifles aren't necessarily antiques. Sniders can be repro's too. An original Burnside is probably far to valuable to even consider shooting. Don't think 19th Century firearms had S/N's on the parts anyway.
"...the ones with non-matching numbers look good..." Have been refinished by Bubba. Any refinished milsurp is of no interest to collectors. Little or no investment value either. Except as a shooter. For those find a source of ammo or brass before spending any money. Prvi supposedly only make the rifle ammo seasonally. 8mm Lebel is revolver ammo too. Ain't the same thing, so if you're buying on line you need to pay attention.
Do not get your education on YouTube either.
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Old June 17, 2019, 05:28 PM   #11
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Nobody ever seems to mention that the Walther P.38 ejects to the LEFT!!!
Walther's P5 also ejects to the left.
Walther P1s do as well.
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Old June 17, 2019, 10:48 PM   #12
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Problem is, the excellent condition matching number guns have retreated into museums and rich collections. All that is left for the working man are the dregs. And a number of fakes and frauds.
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Old June 18, 2019, 03:57 PM   #13
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Ok, I buy the cheap stuff "real" collectors don't. But they work for me, and give me a chance to own and learn guns I'd never be able to afford otherwise...AND, I've never lost even a penny on any of them that I later sold off.

Actually having and shooting a gun teaches you things reading about them never can.

Nobody ever seems to mention that the Walther P.38 ejects to the LEFT!!!
Or that shooting a 9mm C-96 Bolo without the stock is PAINFUL unless you wear a glove! or, as a little known tidbit, that you can cock an M1 Garand or M14 without working the bolt!! (no idea why you ever would, but you CAN do it,)
This is why I love to collect and shoot old guns. I love the mechanical eccentricities, and as you have mentioned, even very well-known firearms can reveal traits that you never knew about until you have one in hand.

For the most part, I find matching numbers to be a bonus, but, with a few exceptions, it's not something that would necessarily prevent me from acquiring a good example at a good price.
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