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Is provenance worth more
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April 30, 2022 - 12:03 am
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I think the answer to your question has to be, “it can matter.”  Remember, if someone is selling a gun, it only takes one buyer.  If, out of 100 potential buyers, for 99 of them provenance doesn’t matter at all, but for one, it does – and that was a factor in deciding this is the rifle for him, then it did work.  And if there is any provenance, why not mention it?  It really doesn’t cost anything.  

I’m reminded of very high gunbroker prices we mention around here.  The fact that none of us would pay some of those prices… how relevant is that if other people actually do pay them?

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Here’s a Colt 1878, ex Felix Bedlan collection sold September 2013, $11,500 with buyers premium.  Advertised as formerly in the collection of Felix Bedlan:

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/59/1185/colt-1878-revolver-476-eley

Sold again last October, no mention of ex Felix Bedlan collection, $3300 including buyer’s premium:

https://www.cowanauctions.com/lot/rare-476-caliber-colt-model-1878-revolver-with-dual-hartford-london-addresses-4100656

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April 30, 2022 - 1:33 am
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steve004 said
I’m reminded of very high gunbroker prices we mention around here.  The fact that none of us would pay some of those prices… how relevant is that if other people actually do pay them?  

Knowledgeable folks tend to frequent forums such as this one and spend money wisely.

Gunbroker is for the ignorant seeking instant gratification.

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April 30, 2022 - 2:04 am
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mrcvs said

Gunbroker is for the ignorant seeking instant gratification.  

If truer words have ever been spoken, I have yet to hear them.

Again & again & again, I see guns that are OBVIOUSLY faked, or screwed-up in some way that can be seen at a glance, sell for twice, maybe thrice, what any knowledgeable buyer would pay.  How, if you’ve spent a lifetime studying the subjects of your particular interest, can you compete against such on-line idiots?

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April 30, 2022 - 2:42 am
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clarence said

mrcvs said

Gunbroker is for the ignorant seeking instant gratification.  

If truer words have ever been spoken, I have yet to hear them.

Again & again & again, I see guns that are OBVIOUSLY faked, or screwed-up in some way that can be seen at a glance, sell for twice, maybe thrice, what any knowledgeable buyer would pay.  How, if you’ve spent a lifetime studying the subjects of your particular interest, can you compete against such on-line idiots?  

And that’s my point – such buyers are more likely to attach more value to provenance than the collectors around here.  Hence, provenance (which most here would not consider significant) can, and often does, make something worth more.  

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April 30, 2022 - 3:54 am
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steve004 said

And that’s my point – such buyers are more likely to attach more value to provenance than the collectors around here.  Hence, provenance (which most here would not consider significant) can, and often does, make something worth more.    

Steve, the exhibitions of idiocy I’m referring to have NOTHING to with “provenance,” which most of these on-line idiots have never heard of!  Descriptions of the messed-up guns I’ve repeatedly seen sell for ridiculous prices never even refer to “provenance.”  It’s “rare,” “mint,” “museum quality,” & similar flagrant BS, that seals the deal. 

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April 30, 2022 - 5:58 pm
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clarence said

Steve, the exhibitions of idiocy I’m referring to have NOTHING to with “provenance,” which most of these on-line idiots have never heard of!  Descriptions of the messed-up guns I’ve repeatedly seen sell for ridiculous prices never even refer to “provenance.”  It’s “rare,” “mint,” “museum quality,” & similar flagrant BS, that seals the deal.   

Here I go – another very crappy weather day stuck inside.  I haven’t been to the range since last fall as the weather will not cooperate.  So, instead of the range as I hoped today, it’s the internet (again) to keep me occupied.

As much of a cesspool as gunbroker is, I don’t think we should use too broad a brush to cast all bidders and sellers with the same brush strokes.  Heck, I’ve been a bidder (and winner) on GB.  However, it’s been quite a few years since that occurred.  We know of honest sellers on GB such as Austinsguns and Chayn’s who offer well-described, quality merchandise – much of it rare, desirable and top shelf stuff.  Their items receive a lot of bidding and this is primarily because they have repeat buyers who know the seller can be trusted and the merchandise is very desirable.  The fact that these buyers routinely pay more than I would pay doesn’t say something negative about them.  For one, it might simply mean they have more money than me.  I can’t blame them for that.  Or, they simply want the item more than I do.

As we’ve discussed, “provenance” can mean different things.  It could be historical data and history, the rifle featured in an article – like in the WACA magazine,  the rifle pictured in the Madis book, past ownership by a historical person, a celebrity, a famous collector, a well-known collector, a lessor-known collector.  My point is, if any of these things are connected to the article, the seller is of course going to try to leverage it.  Why not?  It may have meaning to someone.  For example, if I am looking at a rifle and find out it had been in the Tommy Rholes collections, I’m going to be a bit more drawn to it.  Granted, a ton of buyers out there don’t know who Tommy was, but some do.  And he likely has meaning to those people.  I’m going to have a warmer feeling about that rifle and in the sea of rifles out there that could be purchased, a Tommy connection adds some points.  Likewise, if the rifle had been in the Burt Humphrey collection, my attention is going to perk up a whole lot.  It provides me with a connection vs. a completely anonymous rifle.  “Connection” is an emotional term and I would submit that for much of the collecting we do (why we are drawn to what we collect) emotion is a piece of it.

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April 30, 2022 - 8:01 pm
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steve004 said

Here I go – another very crappy weather day stuck inside.  I haven’t been to the range since last fall as the weather will not cooperate.  So, instead of the range as I hoped today, it’s the internet (again) to keep me occupied.

As much of a cesspool as gunbroker is, I don’t think we should use too broad a brush to cast all bidders and sellers with the same brush strokes.  Heck, I’ve been a bidder (and winner) on GB.  However, it’s been quite a few years since that occurred.  We know of honest sellers on GB such as Austinsguns and Chayn’s who offer well-described, quality merchandise – much of it rare, desirable and top shelf stuff.  Their items receive a lot of bidding and this is primarily because they have repeat buyers who know the seller can be trusted and the merchandise is very desirable.  The fact that these buyers routinely pay more than I would pay doesn’t say something negative about them.  For one, it might simply mean they have more money than me.  I can’t blame them for that.  Or, they simply want the item more than I do.

As we’ve discussed, “provenance” can mean different things.  It could be historical data and history, the rifle featured in an article – like in the WACA magazine,  the rifle pictured in the Madis book, past ownership by a historical person, a celebrity, a famous collector, a well-known collector, a lessor-known collector.  My point is, if any of these things are connected to the article, the seller is of course going to try to leverage it.  Why not?  It may have meaning to someone.  For example, if I am looking at a rifle and find out it had been in the Tommy Rholes collections, I’m going to be a bit more drawn to it.  Granted, a ton of buyers out there don’t know who Tommy was, but some do.  And he likely has meaning to those people.  I’m going to have a warmer feeling about that rifle and in the sea of rifles out there that could be purchased, a Tommy connection adds some points.  Likewise, if the rifle had been in the Burt Humphrey collection, my attention is going to perk up a whole lot.  It provides me with a connection vs. a completely anonymous rifle.  “Connection” is an emotional term and I would submit that for much of the collecting we do (why we are drawn to what we collect) emotion is a piece of it.  

This thread has taken some interesting twists and turns. According to Webster, provenance is “a record of ownership used as a guide to authenticity or quality”. Let’s remember something Bob (1873man) said early on – “there have been big time collectors who had questionable guns in their collections”. This is a very true statement and it does not matter who may have been the previous owner or owners, their ownership does not guarantee originality or correctness. There is no substitute for doing your own thorough evaluation before you buy a gun and I would never buy a gun through the mail without a clear understanding between parties about an inspection period. This basically means that gun auctions would not be my preferred method to buy a gun unless I could physically attend the auction and preview the gun. I agree with those who have commented about a gun not being more valuable just because it may have previously been in a certain collection, but my experience indicates most guns with great provenance just end up selling for more money. As an example, I offer this photo of a Model 1866 carbine which has been in my safe for 30 years and was prior to my ownership in the Tommy Rholes collection for a long time. I have a hand written letter from Tommy which describes the gun and its originality, condition and rarity. Does any of this make the gun more valuable? It should not but what is says is that both Tommy and I thought the gun was right or we would not have had it for the past 50 years and that may provide some assurance to a buyer regarding the authenticity of the gun and may correspondingly result in a higher price. But, you never know until you try to sell it.

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Burt Humphrey said

This thread has taken some interesting twists and turns. According to Webster, provenance is “a record of ownership used as a guide to authenticity or quality”. Let’s remember something Bob (1873man) said early on – “there have been big time collectors who had questionable guns in their collections”. This is a very true statement and it does not matter who may have been the previous owner or owners, their ownership does not guarantee originality or correctness. There is no substitute for doing your own thorough evaluation before you buy a gun and I would never buy a gun through the mail without a clear understanding between parties about an inspection period. This basically means that gun auctions would not be my preferred method to buy a gun unless I could physically attend the auction and preview the gun. I agree with those who have commented about a gun not being more valuable just because it may have previously been in a certain collection, but my experience indicates most guns with great provenance just end up selling for more money. As an example, I offer this photo of a Model 1866 carbine which has been in my safe for 30 years and was prior to my ownership in the Tommy Rholes collection for a long time. I have a hand written letter from Tommy which describes the gun and its originality, condition and rarity. Does any of this make the gun more valuable? It should not but what is says is that both Tommy and I thought the gun was right or we would not have had it for the past 50 years and that may provide some assurance to a buyer regarding the authenticity of the gun and may correspondingly result in a higher price. But, you never know until you try to sell it.

66cbn-1.JPGImage Enlarger  

Burt – I enjoyed your thoughts.  I think all of us understand the scrutiny you put a gun through before you add it to your collection.  That is why if a gun had been in your collection, I would pay more for it because I would know the gun was right.  And let’s face it, that means a lot these days given all the guns out there that are not right.  This would be particularly true if I couldn’t handle the gun in person before buying.  Knowing that it had passed the test to make it into your collection would mean more to me than my own in-person assessment of the rifle.  

By the way, that 1866 carbine from Tommy – I seem to recall you didn’t buy it – rather, your wife did!  

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steve004 said

Burt – I enjoyed your thoughts.  I think all of us understand the scrutiny you put a gun through before you add it to your collection.  That is why if a gun had been in your collection, I would pay more for it because I would know the gun was right.  And let’s face it, that means a lot these days given all the guns out there that are not right.  This would be particularly true if I couldn’t handle the gun in person before buying.  Knowing that it had passed the test to make it into your collection would mean more to me than my own in-person assessment of the rifle.  

By the way, that 1866 carbine from Tommy – I seem to recall you didn’t buy it – rather, your wife did!    

You have a good memory Steve. My wife did buy that carbine and gave it to me for Christmas. She did so after watching me sulk for about 2 months after I procrastinated too long and missed a Model 1873 carbine in 44-40 which Tommy described in a letter to me as “the best 1873 SRC he had ever seen – 99% both wood and metal”. This was one of those situations in which “when you  snooze, your lose”! After I got the 66 I called Tommy and thanked him – he told me that he would never have sold “me” that gun!

Getting back to the provenance issue, I guess I have always preferred guns that I knew where they had been for a long time and I often pursued guns over a long period of time. I tried to buy this Model 1873 for along time before I finally got it done. The gun came from a collector/dealer who has had some of the finest Model 1866 and Henry Rifles in the country. His stellar reputation and the fact it was in his personal collection for a long time helped provide me with the kind of provenance I needed to pull the trigger. Did I pay more for it because of who it came from? I probably did and I probably paid too much because I wanted the gun and the owner was content to keep it in his collection. But what I have learned is that if you are young, you have time on your side. The important thing is to buy guns that are right – but, that is a topic for another day.

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Burt – that is a beautiful special order deluxe ’73. A very top piece. It does make me wonder what happened to that 99% 1873 SRC you missed out on.  Anyone here have it? 

Some of the nicest guns sit in collections for a long time.  Generally, when collectors start to, “sell a few” they don’t start with their nicest stuff.  The items you really want are the ones they have their hands gripped around the tightest.  If they are willing to loosen their grip, there won’t be any bargain pricing involved.  I suppose this is why some of the nicest stuff comes out when a widow contacts a big auction house and says, “come pick-em up.”  It’s also why if you really want some rare and top shelf rifles, the big auction houses are usually the option.  I can think of several Burgess and Whitney-Kennedy rifles that I had wanted for years.  I knew where they were and had handled some of them.  Both collectors never did loosen their grip on the rifles I wanted the most.  Eventually, all of their pieces came up for sale – one collection at Amoskeag and the other at Rock Island.  I didn’t end up with any of these rifles.  As Clarence often correctly points out, the big auction houses are mainly for the high rollers – particularly when we are talking about very rare and desirable items.  

I’ve enjoyed the discussion of provenance.  It’s prompted me to expand my thinking on the topic.  

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Burt Humphrey said

I procrastinated too long and missed a Model 1873 carbine in 44-40 which Tommy described in a letter to me as “the best 1873 SRC he had ever seen – 99% both wood and metal”. This was one of those situations in which “when you snooze, you lose”! 
 

Ya I don’t think I would ever get over that one Burt. The timing has to be right also when high value condition guns surface for sale. In my situation, timing and money go together. No deep pockets here so I’m not always able to acquire the expensive guns. It depends on the timing. 

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RickC said

Burt Humphrey said
I procrastinated too long and missed a Model 1873 carbine in 44-40 which Tommy described in a letter to me as “the best 1873 SRC he had ever seen – 99% both wood and metal”. This was one of those situations in which “when you snooze, you lose”! 
 

Ya I don’t think I would ever get over that one Burt. The timing has to be right also when high value condition guns surface for sale. In my situation, timing and money go together. No deep pockets here so I’m not always able to acquire the expensive guns. It depends on the timing.   

Rick – the vast majority of us are in the same boat. I am not a filthy rich guy but did have a good job for over 40 years and an understanding wife so I was able to buy a few good guns when they became available. I generally tried to add at least one gun a year to my collection but it did get out of control – at one point I had 7 Model 71’s, all different – nobody needs 7 Model 71’s unless you are strictly a Model 71 collector. At first I wanted one of each model lever, then both carbines and rifles, then both standard grade and deluxe, then various configurations – it is easy to get out of control. When I got to the point where I was pushing 70 and had about 65 guns, I knew I needed to thin the herd – yes, it was hard to figure out what to keep and what to sell. I finally decided I would keep one of each model made in the 19th century. I am happy with that decision now that I am there. I can still be a collector and if something surfaces which I would rather have than what I do have, I can upgrade. Your comment on “timing” is spot on. When something that really trips your trigger becomes available you need to be able to jump on it because if you don’t, somebody else will. I looked for a deluxe 53 for over 30 years and only saw one – I finally ran across one at a show in Billings, Montana but passed on it because even though it was original and correct, it was only about 70% and I did not think it was good enough. That was a big mistake and I regretted passing on it to this very day. There are certain guns that are just hard to find and when the opportunity to own one presents itself you have to be ready and able to acquire it. As an example, I offer this checkered Model 1892 – these are really hard to find, especially with condition and I looked for a long time before I found one. Just like every other collector, I wanted a 44 caliber gun but was smart enough to jump on this 25-20 when I found it.

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I was told about a rifle recently where the provenance and the gun didn’t quite match. The story was about a somewhat famous rancher and his several trail drives but according to Cody records the 1892 rifle was made about two decades after this rancher’s last drive. If the rifle had been an 1873 the rancher actually carried on one or more of the trail drives the provenance would have made more sense. The condition of the 92 was consistent with a more than a few years of ranch use but it had little to do with the elaborate bio written by heirs or a friend of the family. In the end the heirs could not decide whether to offer the rifle so I was unable to handle or even get a good look at it. Yes, the provenance made the gun more interesting as I had run into a more famous relative of the rancher a time or two. But did the provenance add to the rifle? Probably not near as much as at least one heir seems to believe, apparently. 

I suppose we could have a thread about “the one that got away”. I’ll bet we all have “ground shrinkage” stories about guns we’re told about that turn out to be much less than advertised. I suppose that’s a hazard of putting out the word to our non-collector friends that we are interested in buying old Winchesters. 

 

Mike

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Burt Humphrey said

Rick – the vast majority of us are in the same boat. I am not a filthy rich guy but did have a good job for over 40 years and an understanding wife so I was able to buy a few good guns when they became available. I generally tried to add at least one gun a year to my collection but it did get out of control – at one point I had 7 Model 71’s, all different – nobody needs 7 Model 71’s unless you are strictly a Model 71 collector. At first I wanted one of each model lever, then both carbines and rifles, then both standard grade and deluxe, then various configurations – it is easy to get out of control. When I got to the point where I was pushing 70 and had about 65 guns, I knew I needed to thin the herd – yes, it was hard to figure out what to keep and what to sell. I finally decided I would keep one of each model made in the 19th century. I am happy with that decision now that I am there. I can still be a collector and if something surfaces which I would rather have than what I do have, I can upgrade. Your comment on “timing” is spot on. When something that really trips your trigger becomes available you need to be able to jump on it because if you don’t, somebody else will. I looked for a deluxe 53 for over 30 years and only saw one – I finally ran across one at a show in Billings, Montana but passed on it because even though it was original and correct, it was only about 70% and I did not think it was good enough. That was a big mistake and I regretted passing on it to this very day. There are certain guns that are just hard to find and when the opportunity to own one presents itself you have to be ready and able to acquire it. As an example, I offer this checkered Model 1892 – these are really hard to find, especially with condition and I looked for a long time before I found one. Just like every other collector, I wanted a 44 caliber gun but was smart enough to jump on this 25-20 when I found it.

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Burt, That’s a beautiful 1892. Glad you didn’t let it get away.

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Burt Humphrey said

Rick – the vast majority of us are in the same boat. I am not a filthy rich guy but did have a good job for over 40 years and an understanding wife so I was able to buy a few good guns when they became available. I generally tried to add at least one gun a year to my collection but it did get out of control –   at one point I had 7 Model 71’s, all different – nobody needs 7 Model 71’s unless you are strictly a Model 71 collector. At first I wanted one of each model lever, then both carbines and rifles, then both standard grade and deluxe, then various configurations – it is easy to get out of control. When I got to the point where I was pushing 70 and had about 65 guns, I knew I needed to thin the herd – yes, it was hard to figure out what to keep and what to sell. I finally decided I would keep one of each model made in the 19th century. I am happy with that decision now that I am there. I can still be a collector and if something surfaces which I would rather have than what I do have, I can upgrade. Your comment on “timing” is spot on. When something that really trips your trigger becomes available you need to be able to jump on it because if you don’t, somebody else will. I looked for a deluxe 53 for over 30 years and only saw one – I finally ran across one at a show in Billings, Montana but passed on it because even though it was original and correct, it was only about 70% and I did not think it was good enough. That was a big mistake and I regretted passing on it to this very day. There are certain guns that are just hard to find and when the opportunity to own one presents itself you have to be ready and able to acquire it. As an example, I offer this checkered Model 1892 – these are really hard to find, especially with condition and I looked for a long time before I found one. Just like every other collector, I wanted a 44 caliber gun but was smart enough to jump on this 25-20 when I found it.

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Burt – now I understand why you found that factory engraved Model 71 we recently discussed in another thread – so very intriguing!

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TXGunNut said

I suppose we could have a thread about “the one that got away”.

 Mike  

Mike that’s a good idea. I love reading the stories here from all the members about their experiences buying whether negative or positive. It’s an enjoyable read and sometimes a lesson. 
I think I’ll start that thread. 

RickC

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This has been great! As a younger and aspiring collector I truly have enjoyed the input from everyone, young and old. I never expected this to go this far, but am awed that it has. The knowledge to be found here is amazing. I only wish I had a guardian angle to keep me from making to many un-wise choices. Thanks again.  

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Oldcrankyyankee–you may already have a guardian angel.  Problem is, we don’t always listen!  And no doubt you will have to learn at least once the hard way.  That makes you more prone to listening to that angel!  Tim

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