Don’t be fooled – shop for those vintage airguns
by B.B. Pelletier
I watch the gun auction websites looking for an airgun bargain or two. Sometimes, I see the most ridiculous things, and I hope you’re not being taken in by them.
Be wary of “Benjamin Franklins”
When a dealer lists a Benjamin airgun as a Benjamin Franklin, it’s a sure bet he doesn’t know what he has. The words “Benjamin Franklin” on the side of the receiver were just a play on the name and have no meaning at all. Usually, the same dealers will ask $250 for a common model 130 pistol that’s lost all its finish and has had the brass metal shined up. They look nice but are worth about $50 to $70 in working condition.
Beware of RARE!
Many gun dealers list common airguns as rare because they have never seen one. I see all sorts of Daisys and Crosmans listed as rare, but I know they’re very common. Currently, the big deal in rare airguns is the S&W 78G and 79G in like-new condition in the box. Folks, those guns are almost ALL in that condition! If you find one that isn’t, it drops from a $175 gun to a $90 gun pretty quick.
Another currently “rare” air pistol is any Webley Senior, Mark I or Mark II. You see these being offered at $300+, but you can pick them up at airgun shows for half that. Gun dealers just don’t know the airgun market that well, and anything that looks well-made is likely to get an inflated price tag.
Ignorance can work in your favor, too
The same gun shop that thinks their “Benjamin Franklin” front-pump rifle is rare and valuable may not give a second thought to the Daisy 1894 Texas Ranger Commemorative BB gun standing in the corner. While the all-brass Benjamin is worth about $70, the Daisy can be worth up to $600! And, there are many others like it.
A “Christmas Story” Daisy Red Ryder can bring up to $350 in the box. This is a model Daisy never made until author Jean Shepard mistakenly wrote it into his now-famous book that became a classic Christmas video. Shepard blended the classic lever-action Red Ryder with the compass-stocked Buck Jones pump gun in his novel, and Daisy built a few guns to honor the movie’s success. Most were purchased by collectors. Once again, expect nothing less than new-in-the-box when it comes to these.
Be on the lookout for the strange and different
Not all airguns are known and documented. You might stumble across one that’s never been seen by collectors. If so, you are probably sitting very pretty. There were hundreds of airgun makers in the 1920s and not all of their guns have been located, so there is a good chance of finding something unknown. At an airgun show, there are enough deep pockets in the aisles to reward the finder of a new type or model of airgun – especially if it is American.
So get out there and turn the rocks over. It can be very rewarding! Just remember that not everything you read on the internet is true!