A safe strategy for no-loss – mostly gain – airgun collecting – Part 2
by B.B. Pelletier
I wanted to follow up with this second part right away to keep the lesson together and fresh. Yesterday, when I closed, I mentioned some huge pitfall to be avoided, so let’s begin there.
Avoid modified airguns if you want to get your money back! There are a few exceptions that prove the rule, but let’s explore this first. Any modification will sit well with the one who did it or for whom it was done and a percentage of the general public, but the rest of the folks won’t like it. For example, barrels cut short to boost velocity in spring guns. It doesn’t pay to do this and it often ruins accuracy, but the flat truth of it is, it makes the gun no longer standard. Do you want a Beeman R1 with an 11-inch barrel? Most people don’t, and if you buy one you’ll soon find that out.
Avoid guns that have been modified/gunsmithed by their owners. That 2240 with the 14-inch barrel, the custom wood grips and the dot sight might make you all warm and pink inside, but it won’t ever be worth what you have to pay for it. Buy it for yourself if you want, but don’t try to fold it into this buying plan, because it won’t hold its value.
One exception to this that proves the rule is the LD modification of the Crosman Mark I. That’s a safe investment as long as you buy it right. But the same sort of thing converted by Joe Blow isn’t going to carry water. So, in general, modified airguns are money pits.
Guns in poor condition
I see it all the time. Some dealer unrolls a blanket with the battered and rusted components of a gun that would have great value if it were in nice condition. Then he hunkers down over the remains of his former treasure and demands top price for something that belongs in the parts pile.
Condition really matters in airguns, as it does in most other hobbies where collecting is involved. The only way out is when the gun is also valued as a shooter, such as the 124 I mentioned yesterday. My rusty find for $35 had value as a shooter but never as a collectible. A sale price of $185 might be possible for a slicked-up shooter, but don’t even think of trying to get $200 or more. On the other hand, an excellent condition 124 with a rotten seal should still bring $250. Condition is everything.
Let’s look at some other things to be on the lookout for. Rarity is one. If a person tried to sell you a 1953 Corvette in nice shape are you smart enough to know what you’re looking at, or are you a person who thinks that somewhere along the way somebody stuck a six-banger engine in this Vett to save on gas? Because the first several years of Corvettes all have six-cylinder engines; but if you don’t know that, you’re oblivious to their value.
What do you do when someone hands you a Brown Pneumatic in the box with the instructions that look like blueprints? What’s one of those worth? Or a guy has two Winsel jet-powered pistols in boxes he wants to sell for $25 apiece because he can’t get them filled anymore. What are they worth?
Collector Larry Hannusch owns this beautiful Brown Pneumatic air pistol in the box with the original instructions. This is such a desirable airgun that it heads the Vintage Airguns Forum page.
Ever see one of these? Would you know what to do if you did see one for sale? It’s a Winsel.
Or, you walk into a consignment store, like a friend of mine did a few years ago, and there sits a Quackenbush Lightning with a $500 price tag on it. The store owner researched Quackenbush airguns on Gun Broker and he found that Model 1 and 2 guns bring $400-500 in good condition, so he figured this one should do the same — whatever it is. Actually, this Quackenbush is one of the rarest of all airguns, at least as rare as a Plymouth Iron Windmill BB gun that predated the First Model Daisy wire stock gun. Wes Powers said he only knows of half a dozen Lightnings that still have their rubber-band-propelled sliding rear chamber that builds the compression. So, here sits a gun worth, conservatively, $5,000 to $10,000, and however much more the next ardent buyer is willing to spend to get it. Do you know enough to spend the $500 to buy the gun, or will you wait and ask somebody days later, only to find out you alerted the neighborhood and the gun is gone.
Knowledge is power
In this business, you have to know the merchandise, and the Blue Book of Airguns is a great place to begin. Yeah, it’s full of contradictions and errors and omissions, but there’s nothing else on the market to replace it. And the people who criticize it the most are the same ones who won’t give you a straight answer to save their lives. So, buy the freakin’ book and be done with it.
Along with that, the more you know about the shooting sports in general, the better off you’ll be in this business. I have a library filled with old Stoeger catalogs and Gun Digests from decades past that tell me things about airguns that no other books contain. I go to gun shows and talk to the guys who have a couple old Crosmans on their table.
Maybe, if I do that, one of them will level with me that he has a Sheridan under his table that looks different than the modern Sheridans. It has a big aluminum receiver! Trouble is, it won’t hold air when he pumps it, and he doesn’t want anyone to get a bad deal from buying a gun that doesn’t work.
A fine Sheridan Supergrade needs to be cocked to hold air. But how many people know that?
I’ll buy it because I happen to know that the Sheridan Supergrade this guy has under the table has to be cocked before it will hold air. That’s what I mean when I say knowledge is power.
Don’t do this!
The kiss of death at a gun show or an airgun show is to insert yourself into the conversation between two people talking business. But why does it continue to happen? I’ll be closing a super deal and some motormouth will queer it with his comment about the gun I’m trying to buy. It doesn’t take much, because when a deal is closing either one or both the buyer and seller are as nervous as a teenaged girl on her first serious date.
The proper etiquette is to wait for the conversation to stop before asking one of the persons, now disengaged, your question. There’s no call for a smart remark in this situation. Save that for the party at the roadhouse this evening.
Now that’s not to say that you can’t follow a guy who’s trying to sell a gun you want to buy and stopping him in the aisles, but wait until after he’s left the dealer’s table.
Do make the shows!
If you really want to go far in this hobby, you owe it to yourself to make the airgun shows. Especially the really big one in Roanoke, which will be happening this month on Friday, October 22, and Saturday, October 23. That’s where all the action is. This is where I once saw a $60,000 military Girandoni change hands for $3,500 in the aisles. This is where three BB guns once sold for in excess of $40,000. This is where Robert Beeman once walked the aisles (when the show was in Winston-Salem) and Olympic double gold medalist and current CMP chief, Gary Anderson, once had a table. People fly in from around the world. If airguns are your thing, this is the show to attend.
You don’t have to have a table to have fun at this show. And by all means come on the first day when the dealing is the hottest. Here’s a flyer on the show with all the information.And if you do come this year, please stop by my table and introduce yourself. I’d love to meet you.