The 2010 Roanoke Airgun Expo – Day two

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The airgun show continued on Saturday, and a firearms show opened in the same civic center complex. Paying admission to the firearms show also got you into the airgun show, so we saw several of those buyers walking in our aisles. It’s odd to see a guy carrying a firearm at an airgun show, but that’s what happens when two shows are run at the same time.

On this day, I got a first-time attendee’s appraisal of the show, which is always interesting. He said he came to the show with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I guess that about sums it up for most of us. If you came to buy just a Beeman R11 and didn’t find one, you might think the show was a bust despite being in the presence of some of the rarest, most collectible airguns ever assembled. If they didn’t have what you wanted, for you the show was bad.

No expectations
But arrive without a preconceived notion of what you might find, and a show like this can bowl you over! For example, I’ve been wanting a Sheridan Supergrade multi-pump pneumatic to replace the one I had to sell years ago when The Airgun Letter went out of publication. Money was tight, so a number of firearms and airguns were sold. That was back in the days when a Supergrade in nice condition would bring $600. Only two years ago, the same gun might have brought $1,500-2,000. But at this show, I sat just 10 feet from a beauty that was listed at $1,300 — a very good price for a nice Supergrade. I’d just enough to buy it at one point, but it would have tapped me out completely, so I had to let it pass. That is the agonizing that Lloyd wrote about yesterday.

This very late model Sheridan Model A (called the Supergrade) was only a few feet away. The price was as nice as the gun!

A Sheridan Supergrade doesn’t shoot any harder or more accurately than a Blue Streak, but it does it with style.

I told you yesterday that reader and guest blogger Paul had found a special air rifle at the show. What he found was a boxed Walther Lever Action rifle, the one that looks like a Winchester 1894, that impressed him very much. In person, the Walther is quite stunning, with only wood and metal touching your hands. I could tell by his smile that this rifle made his day.

But, as he was telling Mac and me goodbye, he kept eyeing a Beeman C1 of Mac’s on the table. I think he expected his wife, who was with him, to talk him out of it, but when he returned to the table a short time later, he mumbled something about her being an enabler. In other words, Paul’s wife is a lot like my Edith! Long story short, he went away with another fine air rifle.

Fabulous Hakim
Remember me telling you yesterday about the Falke 90 rifle and how it may have been the gun from which the Hakim was copied? Well, I wanted to show Mac why I thought that, so I glanced around for a Hakim to use in demonstration. And there, in a rack close by, was the finest Hakim I’ve even seen — short of one that Larry Hannusch completely refinished! Its owner/seller said he had hand-picked it from a Navy Arms pile back when they were first imported to this country back in the 1980s. There was at least one other Hakim at the show, and it wasn’t too bad, but this one was exceptional.

More fine vintage stuff
Over at Davis Schwesinger’s table, I spotted not one but two rare Winsel bulk-fill CO2 pistols. I recently used one of these as an example of a rare airgun, so seeing two of them in one place is similar to seeing two Stradivarii at a fiddlefest.

The Winsel was a bulk-filled CO2 pistol that required the owner to mail in the reservoir for refills. The gun on the left is missing its reservoir.

Nearby was a beautiful Warrior air pistol. These are quite rare and very beautiful examples of a quality-made handgun. The bluing and heft of the gun is very firearm-like.

The Warrior is a heavy, all-steel sidelever air pistol that’s worth a used car.

But, perhaps, the best thing I saw on Dave Schwesinger’s table was a collection of old Beeman catalogs. Among them was a super-rare first catalog with a San Anselmo address. If you’ve followed my report on the history of Air Rifle Headquarters and Beeman you know that San Anselmo was the Beemans’ home, and they used a P.O. box for the business. Inside this catalog was a price sheet that reveals all the retail and dealer pricing for cataloged items in the first catalog. So, now I know how much my San Anselmo FWB 124 sold for in 1973. I’ll be covering that in another report very soon, as I have a little surprise for you coming in the 124 series.

So, I’m looking at this catalog that was valued at $500 about five years ago — and who knows what today — and Dave tells me, “They told me I should get $425 for that catalog, but if someone gave me $200 for it, I’d foxtrot around this hall.” So I gave him $200.

Davis Schwesinger dances with his wife, Luba, to honor our deal.

I know that seems like a lot for just a paper catalog, but this is the very hard-to-get first edition, and I’ll be using it for the rest of my life. And that, more than anything, is why I felt I could not spend all of my money to buy that nice Sheridan Supergrade. Because you never know when something pivotal, like this catalog, will pop up.

Rarest of all Beeman catalogs, the first edition was mailed from San Anselmo.

Elsewhere in the hall, I encountered still more fabulous deals on collectible vintage guns. One that really tickled me was a Crosman 150 pistol kit. The 150PK consists of a pistol in a metal case that doubles as a pellet backstop. In years past, these were always going for $150 when in good condition, but I found one at this show for only $100. And the pistol was a beauty!

Of course, there are always the bizarre guns, and this show had plenty of them. I saw things that nobody could guess what they were or how they worked. But collector Larry Behling probably sums up this category best with his bazooka.

No, it’s not a target gun. Collector and author Larry Behling holds his new acquisition, an air bazooka.

Vintage target rifles
Usually, there’s a theme to an airgun show, but I couldn’t see one this year beyond the memorial to Fred Liady. However, if I were forced to pick a theme, it would have to be vintage target airguns. I saw more of them than I think I’ve seen in many years. On my table, alone, Mac had two FWB 300s, an FWB 150 and an NIB RWS Diana 75. I’ve already mentioned some of the other great ones, such as the NIB HW 55.

Ten-meter target rifles were all over this show. Mac had four on his table, alone.

I managed to snag an HW 55 Custom Match that I’ll be showing you in the days to come. That’s a pretty nice version of the HW 55 that’s fairly scarce, considering the rifle’s long production history.

As Saturday grew old, people were asking whether the show would run again next year. Dee Liady told me right at the end of the show that her brother and Davis Schwesinger are planning to hold the show again. So, apparently there will be a 21st year gathering at Roanoke. I hope that many of you will be able to factor this into next year’s plans and join us in this beautiful southern Virginia city for the world’s largest and oldest continuous airgun show.

A safe strategy for no-loss – mostly gain – airgun collecting – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

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.

Modified guns
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.