Investing in Guns: Some Tips (But It’s a Bad Idea)

A lot of people see the constantly-increasing price of collectible firearms, and assume that guns must be a pretty good investment. Well, they really aren’t. The stock market outperforms collectible firearms with ease. But if you want to buy guns with an eye to increasing prices, there are a few things I would suggest.

1) Know your subject. The more specialized knowledge you have in a particular area, the better you will be positioned to find the best and rarest examples.

2) Be discriminating for condition. The highest condition examples are always the most desirable. They will increase in price the most if the pattern becomes more valuable, and decrease the least if it becomes less valuable.

3) Be willing to sell things, or else acknowledge that you are either collecting or building a nest egg for your survivors to sell when you die (or both, typically).

4) Don’t buy “commemorative” guns. They are worth nothing.

47 Comments

  1. Hi Ian, congratulations. I applaud you.
    Yes knowledge knowledge and more knowledge is everything in collecting.
    A very big topic (what I know is not your field of study) you forget: American made guns before Dec/31/1898!
    Because of their historical value to the biggest gun market world wide and exception from any gun law they never lost value since I follow the market in 1988.
    I for my self start hardcore collecting antique Colt and Winchester in 1999 and invest about $125.000 until 2015. Then I decide finish work and immigrate to the south pacific. So I sold all that stuff in 2015/16 for about $280.000. Well outperform my stock investments.
    Regards.

  2. addentum to my previos post
    If somebody look for the real sleepers in antique US handguns with the chance of three digit percentage rise then go:
    Colt 1889, Colt 1892 and Colt 1894/95 made before Dec/31/1898.
    And for knowledge of that topic be sure you have the book from Robert Best about that family of guns (I know it is harder to find then the guns itself).

  3. Excellent advice, especially about knowing your subject. A wise friend told me to buy a good reference volume each time you buy a gun.

  4. Maybe another recommandation : do not forcedly buy very scarce guns beccause you may experience difficulties in selling them or selling them at a desserved for its scarcity price. Who knows of a pre 1915 94 Winchester still with the original 64 rear sight or a Witten carbine?

  5. NFA guns might be an exception. IMHO, you could buy at any time, enjoy shooting them, then sell and perhaps make a profit.

  6. One potential influence is Government legislation.
    The creation of import bans can boost the value of the existing pool of the firearms of the type being banned.
    On the other hand, banning ownership of certain types of firearm can wipe out your “investment”overnight.
    Here in the UK ownership of all semi-auto and pump-action center-fire rifles was banned, followed, some years later, by a total ban on handguns, (only partial compensation was paid on both occasions). After all of that the government classed self contained air cartridge guns as prohibited weapons thus wiping out their value and without compensation.

    • Yes, and such “sanitization” of the populace makes people USELESS in fighting a war against any invading power. They’d just sit around and get killed while waiting for some mythical governmental superhero to make the nasty invaders disappear. I could be wrong.

    • History recently repeated itself in the UK with certain cartridge revolvers that had formerly been regarded as freely transferable antiques being reclassified so they had to be held on a firearms licence. UK lawmakers published an economic impact statement regarding the proposed change that predicted that reclassified guns would halve in value. The legislation took more than a year to progress from proposal to law by the end of which the pistols that were to be reclassified (such as those in .44 Russian) dropped in value while that of guns that were to retain their antique status (such as those in .44 American) rose sharply.

      So UK investors in high end antique pistols had the opportunity to avoid big losses and make good profits by carefully watching the legislative proposals as they progressed.

  7. Yes, in France we are committed ti give to the state or destroy before the end of the year all auto guns convertedf to semi auo, without any money compensation. It mus t be notices that at the end tthje 80’s those guns could be freely acuired , provided theyy were in “civilian caliber”, while now anyway guns are just accessible to hunters and officialy sport ,shooters.

    • On a side note, the tightening laws in France are due to crimes committed with a Slovakian re-activated blank firing VZ-58, and a number of Kalashnikov derivatives that were taken from Albanian army caches during the 1997s crisis.

      • problemis that laws restrictives for correct subjects (no more citizens) do not alter circulation of full auto kalachnikov for bad guys.

  8. My father bought a custom .257 roberts on a 96 mauser action in 1963 for 350.00cnd That was the same price an acre of land was selling for in south western ontario canada in those days.Now an acre of land is about 30.000cnd and the rifle probably less then a 1000.00 cnd

  9. “Investing” in guns is a foolish rationalization of excessive indulgence. You’re much better off being honest with yourself.

    Buying guns you can afford because you like them makes sense. Buying guns you can’t afford or don’t like doesn’t.

  10. Depends on the land. Have invested in both land and firearms. Land definitely went up faster, but I didnt have to pay an annual tax on the firearms, never had to cut the grass or pick up trash on a gun. It sits in the safe and that is that.

    Agree only specialized guns are worth it, unless you are talking NFA. As noted before, that is a govt enacted scarcity due to the 1986 act. If you bought M16s in 1993, they were running around $2K each. Now pushing $30K. As the old finance line says, don’t fight the fed or the trend is your friend.

    Also think Warren Buffets maxim of “buying what is scarce” is a good philosophy, but others have alluded to it in this thread (if not the guy). WW2 German weapons seem to do well, American ok, British less so with Japanese and Soviet bringing up the rear. But even the Nagants are starting to appreciate.

    Just my .02

  11. In France buying colt single action army revolvers with I believe serial numbers under 90000 is legal
    They will always be antiques I HOPE and will rise in value like Luger carabines

        • Only citizens or permanent legal residents may buy any gun here, including NFA, and if you’re one of those the whole U. S. financial system is open to you.

          I’m not saying someone with a green card doesn’t own a machine gun, he’s not “parking money” there. Buying an NFA gun calls a lot of attention to you. There are plenty of less “look at me, federal government!” ways to invest in the U. S.

          • Untrue. As mentioned above, hunting license from any state explicitly bypasses the requirement. It’s on every 4473. Can also be owned by a trust.

  12. Only buy guns/ammo that interest you for whatever reason, and don’t expect any large return on investment. enjoy the gun/ammo for what they mean to you and look at other areas of potential investment for making money/ expanding wealth. When in doubt find a reliable honest financial advisor and pay attention to what they tell you.

  13. If you are looking for a shooter you can often buy a commemorative for substantially less than one that isn’t defaced with “Engraving” or plating.

    • There’s a suggestion that “commemorative models” were assembled from rejected parts

      They weren’t likely to be fired very often, so it didn’t matter so much that tolerances were a bit too loose, or that the Engraving was camouflaging mistakes.

  14. All values are subjective

    If you really must have it, go for it

    Just Don’t expect to sell it on for anything like what you paid for it

    There are niches
    Eg, knowing some very wealthy customers and well funded museums, then keeping an eye out for things that really appeal to them.

    That sort of personal service can pay.

    Using a restaurant analogy, that’s the Michelin star level.

    There’s also the Subway sandwich level. It’s sold as “tuna” but it might be difficult to find any tuna DNA in it…

    You might also have a Subway standard product

    – a Sub Standard

  15. Price-

    When there’s a finite quantity of anything, its price is driven solely by demand.

    Go to a gun show. Look at the proportion of people under 50. That’s where demand is long term.

    The prices of ordinary household antiques- china, glass, furniture- utterly collapsed a few years ago. Things worth four figures literally can’t be sold nowadays. No one gives a dinner for twelve or plays the real piano.

    The price in dollars may go up, because the value of the money goes down. But the prices of guns in real buying power are heading for a fall when the boomers finally go away.

    Value- If you buy a stock or a lump of gold, its price is its only value. When you buy a thing you can use, price is only a part of its value. That gun that you can shoot or otherwise enjoy, like a car that you can drive, has a value to you which is independent from its price. That value is peculiar to you, and maybe only to you and not to the market. But it’s still a value, and you, not the market, get to set it.

    I’ll bet if you asked a bunch of people which gun would be the last they’d sell, or the one they wished they had back, it wouldn’t be the one with the highest price.

    It would be the one they valued the most- grandmother’s shotgun, the beater .45 they carried in the war, the .22 their father taught them to shoot on.

    There are different kinds of investment.

    • Price doesn’t equal value

      Value is entirely subjective

      If the price is well below what I value something, I might buy it. If I don’t have any ends that are higher on my personal value scale.

      If the price is higher than my personal valuation. Then I’m not going to buy.

      Interestingly, I cannot own the sale price of something untilthesale goes through- as that is in someone else’s head.

  16. Something else I’ve been musing about is hoarderism. Depression survivors are the champion generation of hoarders. They raised the boomers and mammals generally copy parental behaviour. There are a LOT of boomer hoarders, far more than there are in the post boomer generations. When those pack rats die, there will be lots of 100-200-300 gun accumulations on the market and fewer people who want a 100-200-300 gun collection. Supply up AND demand down.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8x8eoU3L4 at 1:36

    • “…there will be lots of 100-200-300 gun accumulations on the market…”(C)

      Don’t even hesitate.
      Will not be.
      Freaks will make every effort so that this weapon does not enter the market but is destroyed.
      France is an example.

      • Two months ago I watched an ordinary elderly collector send 228 guns off for auction. Nothing special, there probably weren’t a dozen four figure guns in the lot.

    • Um! Not sure about “antiques” not being banned. It all depends on Media hype and politicians jumping on ” band wagons”.
      Who would have thought that low powered air guns would require a licence (I’m in Scotland) and that air cartridge guns would be placed alongside machine guns,mortars and flamethrowers as “prohibited weapons”.
      As a friend of mine often remarks on firearms regulations “don’t look for logic”.

    • “…politicians ban guns simply to get votes from people who think thanks to tv that they live in Chicago or Marseille…”(С)

      Everything is much simpler and more cynical.
      “Look for a motive. Follow the trail of money.” (C)
      Many (if not most) people acquire weapons “just in case”.
      In nine cases out of ten, the layman will buy a used, but no less effective (and possibly more reliable and durable) gun for 200-300 bucks. Instead of throwing 800-1000 on newfangled junk that spends more time at the gunsmith than at the shooting range.

  17. Buy surplus guns that were dirt cheap (not anymore).
    Its never ever gonna happen like in post 1990s when warsaw pact armories were cleared of guns collected in last 50 years. Of course, goes for unused guns, there always gonna be battered and thousand times fired ones

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