More on collecting airguns

by B.B. Pelletier

I was watching American Pickers last week. That’s the show where two men called pickers travel around the country looking for old things to buy and resell at a profit. Pickers have been around for many years. I can remember my grandmother who ran an antique store buying from them back in the 1950s, but these two guys on American Pickers have put the show on television and made it interesting.

Except for one thing. Sometimes they walk right by the major find and act thrilled to find something on which they can make a couple hundred dollars. The show I watched last week was one set in Florida in which they were picking a bar that had closed. They stood in front of two antique BB guns on the wall and talked with awe about finding a risque neon sign. One of the BB guns was a Sentinel, worth perhaps between $1,500 and 2,500, depending on the condition. Okay, it was way in the background, so maybe it was trashed out and only worth $500. They didn’t even mention it on the show, despite the fact that BB guns is one of the categories on their buy list.

That got me thinking. Have I ever walked past some airguns worth a lot of money, only to dismiss them for some reason? The answer is YES. I passed on not one but two Sentinels at a local flea market years ago. They were priced at $100 and $110 apiece, and at the time they were probably not worth over $400 each. I passed on them because I didn’t know for sure what they might be worth. When I found out, the price was already beyond $1,100 and the two guns were long gone. This was several years before I started writing The Airgun Letter, and no Blue Book of Airguns existed so I may be forgiven my lack of knowledge, except that deep down inside I knew they were valuable. That’s why I caught them so quickly when they made a brief appearance on American Pickers.

I’ll never forget the Haviland & Gunn BB pistol Edith found at the same flea market for $5 (she won’t let me forget it). She sold it to a collector a year later for $500, and today they are worth over a thousand. It was in a case of “smalls” on a guy’s table that consisted mostly of Avon decanters. He thought it was an old squirt gun from a carnival game and had marked it $10, but Edith got him down to $5. I bet he never had an offer on that gun before she came along.


Edith paid $5 for this 1872 Haviland & Gunn BB pistol at a flea market. She sold it a year later for $500.

Decorative art
Most of you know that I’m not a fashionista. To me, style means a mechanical device for counting people as they board the train. I see on television that, besides gout, depression and retirement worries, I’m supposed to have something called a “man cave.” Back when I was still able to feed myself and hold my own drool cup, I believe such places were called dens, and every home had one. Today, the trend is toward diamond-plate refrigerators and vintage neon bar signs. Well, vintage airguns go with that decor quite well, I think.

Here’s where I’m going with this. You’re an airgunner. You can acquire airguns that every other airgunner knows are not worth the powder to … well, you know. But they look cool. So ,you take that old King Model D BB gun that looks like the airgun version of a handlebar moustache and you peddle it to an interior decorator as the perfect accent for some man’s wall. You paid $60 for the BB gun (and thought you took a bath), but the decorator pays $250 to acquire this rare and vintage piece that will set off her client’s I’m-a-man-and-don’t-you-forget-it wall to perfection. It’s crystalized testosterone in the eyes of the decorative arts community.


You might not pay very much for this common King model D BB gun, but where else is a decorator going to find one?


A few years ago, this Daisy Targeteer BB pistol with shooting gallery might have brought $300. Today they bring half that. But they still make great accent pieces.

Or do the same with that old Marksman BB pistol that you can throw faster than it shoots. Or the vintage Daisy Targeteer. Selah.

Do you see where this is headed? You go to an airgun show, buy up as many cheap but decorative airguns as you can find, then resell them for a good profit to an interior decorator. Do it again and again and soon you will have enough leather to make shoes for all your children — to mix a few metaphors.

Oh, but you don’t know any interior decorators, do you? Of course not. So you start a website where decorators can come to look and buy your items, knowing they can always count on you to supply those hard-to-find knickknacks for their clients.

But you don’t set up a table at the next airgun show. The airgun shows are where you go to buy. You sell elsewhere.

My last big tip
Okay, here’s my final tip for those who would like to make money in airguns. Buy the old beater guns, then cut them up and make cutaway guns for display. With some skill, time and a $50 beater spring rifle, I’ll bet you could make a display piece worth at least $500. Cutaway guns are always in demand, and cutaway airguns just don’t exist. Oh, I’m sure there are a few, but they’re very rare. Imagine if someone were to begin offering them as decorations!

There are plenty of other things that can be done with old airguns, I’m sure. The thing is, you know where to buy them, while the average person does not. You have the advantage. What you do with it is up to you.

52 thoughts on “More on collecting airguns

  1. Fascinating.

    I do some “picking” these days, I find stuff to resell, off the top of my head some recent deals:

    Ol’ typewriter, $15 in $50 out
    Costume bracelet $2 in $20 out
    Ol’ miter box, $5 in $50 out
    Ol’ flight suit with cool patches + two forage caps, $23 in $100 out
    Junque-y “gunne sax” jewelry bits, $0 in $50 out
    Bunch’a pewter-ish french-ish police-ish coat buttons, $5 in $70 (two silver eagles) out.

    And the beat goes on. I’m certainly on the lookout for old pellet/bb guns, trouble is, if it’s vaguely gun-shaped then everyone seems to think it’s worth a fortune. The cutaway idea is intrigueing.


  2. And oh yes, that HP 16C calculator I was talking about a while back, $1 in $150 out. It would have gone for $400 in a few days, a few years ago. It would have been foolish to pay more than $50 for it these days.


  3. BB:
    We get the ‘American Pickers’ show over here now.
    Great stuff,along with ‘Storage wars’ ‘Pawn Stars’ and now ‘American Restoration’ which has just started.
    It annoys me,when folk ring up the American picker guy’s and then refuse to sell them anything.
    They certainly appear to have better luck cold calling than making appointment.
    Apart from ‘Pawn Stars’ where Vintage firearms turn up fairly regular,there is next to nothing gun related on the other shows.
    I wonder if they edit that stuff out.Especially as finding a gun in an abandoned lockup is about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit.
    Dave



    • Dave,

      I’m sure they do edit out a lot of footage that has interesting stuff in it. And maybe the pickers did ask about those guns on the wall, but there was no way to know if they did. On another episode they pick up two diseased old spring-piston pellet rifles (one is a BSA underlever) that everyone calls BB guns. They overpay by about double what these pieces of junk are worth, and we are left with the belief that they made money on the deal.

      If they did, there are some pretty dumb people in the world.

      B.B.


  4. As a record collector, I’ve paid 25 cents for a demo copy (same song on both sides, even) of a rare record worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to other collectors, just because it had a single scratch 2 seconds into the song. Modern software can eliminate (filter out) that blemish. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, value is likewise. What I would have given to have to had the Winchester target air pistol fixed that my father bought for me. I think I might have thrown it away. What a shame!

    Victor


  5. Great food for thought – especially for those folks that have time on their hands or are looking to expand this hobby. Unfortunately, most newspapers here in the People’s Republik of New Jersey refuse to carry an ad looking for old air rifles or BB guns which leaves one to go from garage sale to garage sale and ask if anything is in the house that they want to get rid of. I’d rather ride my bikes or go shooting with my spare time than attend garage or yard sales. What a shame.

    Fred PRoNJ


  6. My best find (actually my only ‘find’ as I’m not into garage sales and such).
    Years ago (at least 20) I was browsing a used bookstore whilst on vacation in a smallish city in British Columbia.
    Found a copy, in great shape of James Joyce ‘Ulysses’, which looked old.
    Turned out to be a very early copy (1931) signed by the author. At $15 I was ecstatic…being how old it was, and the shape it was in even if the signature was a fake I figured it was way underpriced.
    It was…by about $1500. I had the signing authenticated and now it sits on my bookshelf, unread.
    I’ve tried…I admire anyone who has actually gotten through this book to the end ;-)



    • That is one incredible find. I’ve made it to the end of Ulysses under duress and you might find out that it is worthwhile. The book is all about an elaborate comparison between an unremarkable day in the life of a workaday guy in Dublin, Ireland and the mythological journey of the Greek hero Odysseus/Ulysses. In the final chapter, where the guy retires to bed, a professor claimed that his wife’s rear end is supposed to be the fabled Islands of the Blest which is like the heaven of Greek mythology….

      Matt61


      • Matt, at some point I WILL get through this book ;-)
        I consider myself to be a somewhat voracious reader. At the moment I’m reading a history of the American cowboy, The Secret Life (which studies the effect of constant conflict on the combatants and non combatants involved), as well as a number of photo and weapons related periodicals.
        But…Ulysses and Remembrances of Things Past…I just can’t seem to do.
        I have the complete Remembrances trilogy…have owned it for likely 20 years and have tried a number of times to read it. I get to about page 50/60 and he’s still going on about being sent to bed and mommy hasn’t come in to tuck him in yet…my god, it just goes ooooon!!


  7. I like these articles since they also encourage us to learn more about our hobby and provide ideas and incentive for ways that our hobby can pay for itself.

    I like buying and selling online since I don’t have much time for traveling and “physical picking”. I recently bought online and sold online an almost complete set of beeman catalogs for a profit of over $500.00.

    I really like the auction sites that allow you to set up notifications when items are listed that fit your custom criteria. No searching necessary. They come to you. Here’s an example that hit my inbox the other day:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Beeman-Precision-Pell-Size-177-cal-Pellet-Sizer-Tool-/180705270535?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a12df9b07

    Might be a good buy. We’ll see.

    kevin


  8. Hello, my name is Gene, and I am a hoarder.

    “Hello Gene”

    Well maybe not a hoarder but the wifey and I sure like our garage sales. How about a solid teak table and 4 chairs, 20 bucks. The lumber alone must be worth $100s. We went to a sale a few years ago and I saw this thing in the corner of his garage. It was about the size and shape of a garbage can, some 3 feet tall, 1.5-2 feet wide. Turns out the man worked for NASA. He helped develop the shuttle. The thing was a one of a kind mock up of a booster engine for the shuttle. It was made and used for testing aerodynamics he said. Mostly wood, with metal pipes and canisters on it. It wasn’t for sale, but o so cool.


  9. Congratulations to our own Wayne Burns. Wayne recently competed in the World Benchrest competition with airgunners from all over the world.

    Wayne took 33rd place in the world with a score of 703. Dan Brown took first place with a score of 739.

    kevin


    • Apologies to Wayne.

      That score was only first day LV. Seems Wayne took 19th place in HV with a 716. Wayne took 26th place in the AR 2 gun with a two day aggregate score of 1419.

      Well done Wayne. You make the USA proud. Go Team USA!

      kevin


      • Wayne,We all miss you and are very proud….not only what you just accomplished,but what you have
        brought to our sport and hobby! You make this world a better place.That you are a good shot is just gravy,my friend.



    • Wayne,

      You’ve come a long way, baby!

      Congratulations on your accomplishments. I’m guessing you must shoot about 10 hrs a day to achieve this level of accuracy in such diverse disciplines. What dedication!

      Edith


      • Thank you all!

        I would never have started down the air gun path without this group of friends..
        My list of friends in the air gun world has just expanded greatly with my journey to the World Bench Rest Championships. I’m writing up my story of the journey, and I’ll post it on the current site when it’s done. I took many pics that I haven’t even downloaded yet. I haven’t unpacked the car… nothing but business meetings yesterday upon arrival home… and that mode continues:-)

        Wacky Wayne,
        “B” team USA


  10. B.B.

    Got it done, but I want you to know that I had to trust chairgun. Some surprises and some not.

    R7…Exact RS vs. Raptor, R9 FTT vs. Raptor. Both .177.
    Chrono seperation 25 yds. FTT B.C. from Chairgun data file. PBA always had lower K.E..

    R7….
    MV 644 w/ RS, 654 w/ PBA
    B.C. .0195 w/ RS, .0104 w/PBA.
    Distance to equal velocity 28 yds
    Distance to equal drop 47 yds.
    K.E remaining at equal drop point …RS 3.5 ft/lb, PBA 1.65 ft/lb..

    R9….
    M.V. 925 fps w/ FTT, 1109 fps w/PBA
    B.C. .0220 w/ FTT, .0098 w/ PBA.
    Distance to equal velocity 26 yds.
    Distance to equal drop 68 yds.
    K.E remaining at equal drop point …FTT 7.4 ft/lb, PBA 2.65 ft/lb.

    twotalon


    • I guess I should also add….

      Velocity at equal drop point 480 fps w/ RS and 370 fps w/ PBA with R7
      Velocity at equal drop point 628 fps w/ FTT and 465 fps w/ PBA with R9.

      twotalon


  11. I’ve found a name for my home and it is “man-cave.” I’ll give Edith a lot of credit for finding that $5 deal on the pistol. It is said that genius is the ability to find similarities between unlike things, and there could be no clearer example of that than seeing a high dollar value in that pistol which looks like something I could knock together.

    Thanks for all the encouraging information about restoring a stock. I’ve looked around a bit and am just astonished that dings in wood can be expanded with heat. Between this technique, sawdust, resin, and glue it seems like just about any stock can be made good–sort of like this future human civilization that I read about that could repair any injured spaceman including a woman almost cut in half with an alien raygun. I don’t believe I’ll attempt the work myself, but I will be able to give directions to my gunsmith with new knowledge and confidence. This is especially reassuring since replacement stocks for the Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk I seem to be extremely hard to come by and cost a fortune.

    B.B., good heavens, thanks for the info about the persistence of Ballistol. I was noticing that the bolt on my Savage 10FP seemed to have a particularly heavy coat of oil. I will be swabbing out the chambers and bores of all my firearms before shooting. That’s another nice thing about airguns–not to have to worry about them.

    Victor, I think we’re on the same page although extensive mathematical notation in this format is a little hard for me to follow. Anyway, I was hoping to have the answer today for the angle of the rifling to the bore axis but when I ran the numbers on the calculator the answer was…error. I think the problem has to do with my choice of constants for the radius of the circle swept out by the helix and for the distance traveled along the axis of the helix. Certainly there is a huge disparity between travel along the helical axis and rotation around it which corresponds to a very small angle of deviation between the rifling and the bore axis. But just what these numbers are I have not figured out, and maybe I’m also foiled by the difference between radian and degree measure which I’ve always hated. Anyway, I’m calling in reinforcements and hope to have an answer soon. Meanwhile, what is a common twist rate for airguns? 1:9 is a fairly fast twist for a firearm. Airguns are much slower since the pellet is stabilized more by drag than spin, so the rate must be slower. How about 1:20? Once, I get my machine set up, I should be able to generate a rifling angle for this rate too!

    Edith, yes, these discussions get to sound very technical, but one mathematician says that the truly great ideas are distinguished by their simple inevitability, and as an example, I would nominate the Slinging Lead Conjecture which is: Crystal Ackley > Paul Costello. I think we can all agree on that and that Paul won’t take this the wrong way. :-)

    Matt61


  12. flea market find leonard fly reel, paid 40 and 40 for a replacement part. sold for 450. won’t mention the other buys that were less than nothing.


  13. I have this one on the way:

    http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=243303675

    Yes,I know it is rough but I found both an OEM stock and front sight for it. The stock is 75 euros which is about a $106.00 bucks. All totalled I should have around $290 in it with shipping.
    Could be a money maker as I understand that a lot of the older 50′s did not have the rekord triggers.
    If not, should have some fun and at least break even which is better than I do in the stock market.

    ( anyone else think that front sight looks like some of Tom’s handy work?)



      • The picture link doesn’t work for me?

        How long did shipping take?
        The HW parts are coming from the UK so I would guess the time will be similar.


      • SL,
        I tried to get the pic and it didn’t work for me either.

        I got this message:

        “Oops… there’s nothing to see here. Either you do not have access to these photos, or they don’t exist at this web address. Please contact the owner directly to gain access.”

        Do you have your privacy setting set on “private”? If so, set it on “anyone with the link” and re-cut and paste.


    • Volvo,

      Good find on the HW50. They just keep pouring in!

      That stock is not in that bad a shape. Should refinish nicely. Since you’ve got a gun with Paul Watts you should ask him if he has a take off front sight that would fit. I know he’s got lots of front sights since he’s been doing shrouds for so long.

      kevin


      • Kevin,
        When I ordered the stock I figured I might as well get the sight, but you are probably right about Paul. He told me once that he had a bucket of sights that he had pulled off, but this one didn’t have the usual dovetails of the newer HW front sights.

        As far as the stock, I don’t have your talent so for a little over a $100 a new stock is a bargain given my lack of skills.


        • Volvo,

          Trade the takeoff stock to Paul for the front sight. Whether it needs the old weihrauch side mount or the encapsulated front sight I’m sure paul has one laying around.

          kevin


          • Volvo,

            By the way you’re absolutely correct. Many of the early HW50/55 series had the pre-rekord triggers. The very early single stage ones are so so in my experience. The perfekt triggers are wonderful since they’ve been broken in. I have a hw55s that has the trigger that was post perfekt but prior rekord and it’s amazing. I keep slamming the butt of the gun after cocking since I’m sure it’s ready to go off by itself but it never does.

            kevin



            • Volvo,

              The best info I’ve seen on dates is on the vintage. I don’t have links. Sorry. Since Mike wrote that wonderful piece it’s believed that Weihrauch re-set serial numbers. There are many examples of late model guns with low serial numbers. Serial numbers on weihrauch’s are not a very good reference for this reason. The type of trigger and subtleties like shims or no shims along the block are helpful to get close on date of manufacture though.

              Mike Driskill is the weihrauch expert. He’s always willing to talk airguns.

              kevin


  14. Most of you know that I’m not a fashionista. To me, style means a mechanical device for counting people as they board the train. I see on television that, besides gout, depression and retirement worries, I’m supposed to have something called a “man cave.” Back when I was still able to feed myself and hold my own drool cup, I believe such places were called dens,

    Ah, but I think you are confusing “style” with “stile” (as in “turnstile”).

    As for the “man cave”… I’ll leave it to the neanderthals… This wolf will take a den…


  15. Possibly my best was dumpster-diving at an electronics junk place …. was going bicycle-only at the time, snooped in the bin and Oh, this looks interesting, but they’re not closed for a half-hour, and I’d been told, literally, it’s not OK to dive but when they’re closed, what will happen, will happen.

    So I bug off to Coco’s for a nice dinner involving steak and potatoes and so on, and when I’m done, Oh, by the way could I get two of your take-out bags? Coco’s’ take-out bags are strong and can hold 5 gallons. I go back to the dumpster, fish out what I think are IR diodes, and a bunch, a LOT, of somethings in “waffle boxes”. I know my customers want the “waffle boxes” alone. I go home on my bicycle at about 5MPH with a full messenger bag + one Coco’s take-out bag hanging off of each corner.

    I should have gone back for a second load since I left as much as I took.

    The “IR diodes” turned out to be IR beam rotators and sold quick for $250 or so. The other goodies turned out to be thermistors, gold-dipped ends, $100+ per waffle-box new and probably the gold off the ends worth more than that, 3X that now at least.

    The Archdruid Greer writes about the salvage economy of the future, he’s right. Look him up or miss out.


  16. I have a Hy-Score model 860 177 cal made in Germany, this is a youth size rifle that Santa Claus gave me sometime in the early 60′s. I was wondering if there is any value to his rifle, its in good condition and its still powerful and accurate. Thinking on selling or trading for a pistol. you can respond to my email at Rudy825@comcast.net
    Thanks Rudy


    • Rudy,

      I’m sorry, but I have not heard of a Hy Score model 860. Is it a rifle or a pistol? I’ll need you to describe it pretty well before I can tell you anything about it, because it simply doesn’t show up in the literature.

      B.B.


      • My mistake it is a Hy Score model 806. It is a rifle, has to be a youth rifle, the barrel length from pellet insert to end is only 14 inches long and its a rifled barrel. Total length of the gun is 36 inches.It says made in Germany for Hy-Score Corp. Brooklyn N.Y. U.S.A. Its an all wood stock and as a little gold button insert on each side that says Hy Score. I hope this helps.

        Thanks
        Rudy


        • Rudy,

          Well, now it makes sense. The Hy Score 806 is a Diana model 22 — definitely a youth gun. They can either be smoothbore or rifled.

          In excellent condition these guns are worth $75-100.

          To get it to shoot its best, drop several (up to about 10) drops of household oil down the hole behind the barrel when the barrel is broken open. Then uncock the gun and let it stand on its butt for 30 minutes. The oil will swell the leather piston seal and make it shoot its best. You should do this every month when you shoot it a lot or every 6 months if you don’t shoot much.

          What kind of pistol are you interested in? Perhaps I have something to trade.

          Can you describe the cosmetic condition of your gun? Does it have much rust? Is the bluing still there? Is the wood cracked or dented? Are the sights on the gun?

          Whatever you do, do not pull the trigger while the barrel is open. That will bend the barrel. And never shoot the gun without a pellet in it. Or try to shoot a steel BB in it.

          Is yours a rifled gun?

          B.B.


  17. B.B.
    The barrel is rifled and I kind of new not to pull the trigger with the gun cocked and still open, learned that lesson when I was 10 years old. Also found out since pellets where way more expensive then bb’s and my friends could shoot away, but the bb’s just rolled out the end of the barrel anyway, so It was useless to shoot them anyway.
    The barrel is 95% rust free, the back part where the air chamber is, is more life 80% rust free just small pits. when you put some oil it and wipe it down it looks good. The bluing is still there. The only part of the gun where the bluing looks shabby is the triggers and trigger guard.
    The sights are still there and the rear is adjustable and the gun is very accurate.
    The wood is good no cracks, and still as some what of a shine. does have small scratches and some nicks. Looks clean for a 50 year old gun that was used a lot by a ten year old. Rudy


    • Rudy,

      You are describing a rifle in very good condition. So it’s worth close to what an excellent one would be worth — maybe $90.

      You said you were looking for an air pistol. What did you have in mind? Tell me what you want to do with it.

      B.B.


  18. B.B.
    Thanks for answering back. I was showing the rifle to a friend who brought up the question wonder whats its worth and that’s what got me started searching for a value. I have a 19 year old daughter who likes to shoot pistols and that would be a cheap way and could do this in our back yard. Can you give me a idea what you have and what we could trade for. I would like to stay with a pellet 177 or a 22 open to both. don’t want a co2 if that’s possible but want something powerful. Style of Gun is optional Luger, revolver, automatic, etc.

    Rudy


    • Rudy,

      By eliminating CO2, you have eliminated most pellet pistols that are powerful. There are compressed air pistols, but they cost many hundreds of dollars and you will also need a scuba tank.

      What you are left with is a multi-pump pneumatic like the Crosman 1377 if you want power. A Beeman P1 is very powerful (it’s a springer) but it’s $460 new.

      On the other hand, if you want an accurate pistol but can tolerate CO2 and not so much power, there are a lot of guns available.

      Look at the Walther CP88, for example:

      the BSA Comet

      It’s accurate and very realistic-looking and feeling. It’s all-metal and weighs the same as the 9mm pistol it copies. Something like that would be possible.

      B.B.


  19. Nice looking gun. If it is a CO2 and you said not much power how much power does it have? What cal. is it and how many rounds does it hold. Is it semi auto and is this even up trade .

    Rudy


  20. Hello all, just found your site, it is great. I also ended up with a bb gun from a $5.00 box of smalls. I have had it for many years now wasn’t sure what it was then finally gave up and pulled the heavy wire that had a spring, dropped a BB in the hole under the back bottom of the barrel aimed and squeezed the trigger. it shot it out so straight I was amazed. It does not have a name and is made of cast aluminum. Only markings on it are PAT. APPLIED FOR. The gun is pop riveted together so can’t take it apart to check anything else. if you can give me any more info on it such as the manufacture or age and cal. would be great. I have pictures of it for anyone interested. Thanks Joe


  21. Hello B.B. Thanks for such a quick response. Yes that is what I have, pretty cool it was worth that much 10 years ago. That one is very shinny, I kinda like the dull aluminum finish better. One more question does it only hold and fire 1 BB at a time ?


    • Joe,

      I know next to nothing about a Boone. I even bought one once but I never shot it so I didn’t learn anything. I think it is a single shot and I know they typically bring about $30 at he airgun shows these days.

      B.B.


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