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The dire future of Winchester collecting
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May 9, 2024 - 5:28 pm
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I don’t know.  We all talk from time to time about the grey haired crowd at gun shows and how younger folks prefer black guns—and yet on Page 6 of the Spring 2024 Winchester Collector magazine there is a welcome to new members and well over 100 individuals are listed.

This hardly seems bleak.

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May 9, 2024 - 5:49 pm
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Not sure why you sent this to me.  But, I like and have all kinds of guns.  I do not collect modern guns.  In fact I have been weeding out some of my hunting guns.  I have 2 AR’s but rarely shoot them.  The M6 carbine is my personal defense gun.  What I shoot the most is my 2 target rifles.  Very technical loading, great accuracy, and I don’t have to worry about wearing something out.

I look at the new member list every issue and am really impressed the numbers that Mark, Cinnabar, brings.

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May 9, 2024 - 5:57 pm
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Chuck said
Not sure why you sent this to me.  But, I like and have all kinds of guns.  I do not collect modern guns.  In fact I have been weeding out some of my hunting guns.  I have 2 AR’s but rarely shoot them.  The M6 carbine is my personal defense gun.  What I shoot the most is my 2 target rifles.  Very technical loading, great accuracy, and I don’t have to worry about wearing something out.

I look at the new member list every issue and am really impressed the numbers that Mark, Cinnabar, brings.

  

Edit:  I probably messed up.  I was in my mail and your comment popped up. Sorry.

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May 9, 2024 - 6:15 pm
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mrcvs said
I don’t know.  We all talk from time to time about the grey haired crowd at gun shows and how younger folks prefer black guns—and yet on Page 6 of the Spring 2024 Winchester Collector magazine there is a welcome to new members and well over 100 individuals are listed.

This hardly seems bleak.

When the “gun you always wanted,” but could never afford, I mean you couldn’t even come close, becomes available at what you consider a bargain price for lack of collector interest, THEN you will know the tide has turned.  What I see is the “gun I always wanted” getting further & further out of reach; that’s what seems bleak to me.

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May 9, 2024 - 6:25 pm
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I surely have found some bargains in the last few years.  But, not any Winchesters.  Percussion Colts have been a good buy.  I want a Colt pistol to go with my period Winchester rifles.  Like a Henry and an 1860 Army or a Calvary pistol with a Hotchkiss carbine.

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May 9, 2024 - 6:39 pm
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Just my observation, but with the WACA membership growing at a positive rate, and the fact that a majority number of our new members being < 60 years old, I am not of the opinion that there is a decline in the interest in collecting old firearms (Winchester, Colt, S&W, etc.)

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May 9, 2024 - 6:43 pm
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Chuck:

I’m parting with my U.S. Military collection and will be taking a really nice Colt Model 1860 manufactured in 1862 to Greeley.  P.M. me if you have any interest……….

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May 9, 2024 - 6:44 pm
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I hate to say this or believe it, but i think Winchester collecting will fall to only wealthy people.  I have pretty much stopped collecting because it has become to expensive!    

 

What used to be fun is no longer.  FrownFrown

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May 9, 2024 - 7:18 pm
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When I finally realized I was a Winchester collector many of my acquisitions came from the Orphanage and I was generally one of the younger folks at collector shows. Sadly, we have lost many of the old, prolific collectors but I’m encouraged by the new members and collectors. Yes, I have more than a few modern guns but I’ve sold several to make room for more Winchesters. I think with the demographics change there are some other changes from the traditional collectors, not sure what to make of that but should keep things interesting.

 

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May 9, 2024 - 7:41 pm
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Manuel said
I hate to say this or believe it, but i think Winchester collecting will fall to only wealthy people.  I have pretty much stopped collecting because it has become to expensive!    

 

What used to be fun is no longer.  FrownFrown

  

BINGO!

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May 9, 2024 - 7:44 pm
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clarence said

mrcvs said

I don’t know.  We all talk from time to time about the grey haired crowd at gun shows and how younger folks prefer black guns—and yet on Page 6 of the Spring 2024 Winchester Collector magazine there is a welcome to new members and well over 100 individuals are listed.

This hardly seems bleak.

When the “gun you always wanted,” but could never afford, I mean you couldn’t even come close, becomes available at what you consider a bargain price for lack of collector interest, THEN you will know the tide has turned.  What I see is the “gun I always wanted” getting further & further out of reach; that’s what seems bleak to me.

  

I haven’t followed closely the prices of the most collectible Winchesters over the years but know they at least appreciate with the dollar’s ever-diminishing buying power. To the extent that some become lost to the marketplace as permanent museum artifacts or are destroyed by fire, abuse, or other casualty, the pool of these most collectible Winchesters probably diminishes slightly over the decades. The demand hasn’t visibly slackened  yet, so any diminished supply surely has had a consequent effect on prices.  

By “most collectible” I mean 98% or better specimens of high grade or optioned out models, excluding for the sake of this discussion elaborately decorated, unique, presentation guns with important historical provenance, which are essentially priceless and form their own market. 

The question (to me)  is whether, because ours is the last generation to have grown up with TV westerns, the demand will continue.  

As Clarence has said, the answer will lie in the prices themselves. 

The gray head count at collector functions doesn’t mean much if the membership continues to at least remain constant, and, in fact, WACA is growing.  The supply of gray heads is limitless. A new one joins, maybe two, when one of us falls off the twig. I’ll worry if the price of a nice 1886 drops precipitously but I don’t expect to see it in my remaining lifetime.

The greater ultimate risk for WACA is future disinterest because of a lack of supply of affordable collectible Winchesters. We don’t benefit from becoming a small group of collectors trying to impress a lot of younger wannabees who can’t afford to collect. 

It may just be the extent and quality of the advertising but two things persuade me diminishing affordable supply is affecting Winchester enthusiasts: The success of Doug Turnbull and other top shelf restoration firms; and the increasing quantity and quality of reproduction Winchester models. At one time, the earlier “Spaghetti Western” Henry and Improved Henry reproductions were smirk-inducing. The current “reissued” Winchester Model 73 made by Miroku for Browning Arms Co. d/b/a Winchester Repeating Arms is not funny. At all. Browning has made mistakes in the past but not very many.  They’ve been betting on a continuing, profitable demand for out-of-production Winchester lever models since 1988 and now increasingly so. 

- Bill 

 

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May 9, 2024 - 11:11 pm
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I feel fairly good about the future of Winchester collecting.  Marlin collecting concerns me much more.  However, piggy-backing on a point Zebulon made, maybe the prices of Winchesters will push newer (and dollar-poor) collectors toward other brands.  

I also agree Zebulon’s point regarding the diminishing number of us who watched all those old westerns on TV.  I’d love to know the mean age of those currently watching the reruns of those shows. 

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May 9, 2024 - 11:42 pm
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steve004 said
 —‘ I also agree Zebulon’s point regarding the diminishing number of us who watched all those old westerns on TV.  I’d love to know the mean age of those currently watching the reruns of those shows. 

  

I’m both old and mean and a man of eighty Winters.

I was watching Sky King fly his bamboo bomber, well before he traded it in for a Cessna 310. 

Ramar of the Jungle, too (“ehhhh, Sahib. It is best we leave this place. Evil spirits lie within…)

And Space Patrol. Got a pair of SP walkie-talkies for Christmas made in Japan before Lexus was a gleam in the eye of Sensei Toyoda.  They broke the second day.

No reruns. I did meet Sky when the Carson & Barnes Circus came to town and introduced him to crowds as their famous television personality. Unfortunately, Sky had taken too much of his medicine and was flying but not in the Songbird. 

But I digress

- Bill 

 

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May 10, 2024 - 12:36 am
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I also agree Zebulon’s point regarding the diminishing number of us who watched all those old westerns on TV. steve004 said

No reason to assume those “old Westerns” are the only or most influential ones.  Not one of them was as influential as Quigly, which created a new market for long range single shots & new matches to go with them.  Have you forgotten “the man with no name”?  Or if only TV productions are considered, there’s Lonesome Dove & others I can’t remember.  Last TV Western series I made an effort to watch was High Chaparral, broadcast in the ’70s I believe.  Anyway, MANY, if not most, of the high-rollers paying “new car” prices in the big auctions weren’t born when the ones you’re referring to were current.

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May 10, 2024 - 2:08 am
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clarence said

I also agree Zebulon’s point regarding the diminishing number of us who watched all those old westerns on TV. steve004 said

No reason to assume those “old Westerns” are the only or most influential ones.  Not one of them was as influential as Quigly, which created a new market for long range single shots & new matches to go with them.  Have you forgotten “the man with no name”?  Or if only TV productions are considered, there’s Lonesome Dove & others I can’t remember.  Last TV Western series I made an effort to watch was High Chaparral, broadcast in the ’70s I believe.  Anyway, MANY, if not most, of the high-rollers paying “new car” prices in the big auctions weren’t born when the ones you’re referring to were current.

  

I have to agree that those born after, say, the mid-Sixties and who are Western enthusiasts were almost certain to have been influenced by the productions you named. Where else would they have gotten it? 

It’s difficult to compare the influence of Quigley with that of Jimmy Stewart’s Winchester 73 but I’d have to give Quigley the nod for stimulating interest in long range shooting. In the Fifties it was fast draw contests and Colt and Ruger were the beneficiaries.  

However. I think we can agree that the reproduction firearms makers are the chief beneficiaries of the current cowboy/Frontier craze.  Most movie goers want one to own and shoot without taking out a home equity mortgage loan.

To the extent a rekindled nostalgia has jacked up the already steep price of collectible original Winchesters,  that is not necessarily a good thing for our hobby.  

- Bill 

 

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May 10, 2024 - 1:19 pm
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I think a lot of it comes down to money – and access to money.  Most of us are slipping behind.  Between inflation and many here now living on retirement incomes, discretionary funds are not on the upswing.  The demographics are moving.  While many are falling behind, for the last several years I keep hearing that the amount of millionaires and billionaires are steadily increasing.  Simply put, there’s more high rollers than ever.  The number of people who have made big money in the stock market over the past 8 years is a big number.  Bidding against these larger group of people with deep pockets results in most of us being excluded from the highly collectable gun market.  I think of Wes Adams.  He didn’t start out as a gun collector.  He made his money (a lot of it) and then got into gun collecting.  I think he had collected for about ten years before he passed.  And during those ten years he dug into his deep pockets and purchased an amazing amount of top collectible rifles.  

The high roller phenomenon isn’t new and there’s more than one variation. I’m reminded that several years ago I was reading about people (i.e. with deep pockets) with little interest in guns, converting stock market gains into the collectible gun market.  Again, bidding against these people (or their agents) is disheartening.

The result of the above is the market for the top collectables has remained very strong.  However, perhaps a silver lining is the high rollers are not interested in the lower level guns.  We’ve seen examples of dips in values of lower level rifles.  Even more so with non-Winchester brands.  For those pieces that are clean, original and decent, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Quite the opposite.  I have many rifles in that range and am quite pleased with them.  There’s also those rifles that have just the right character – character that you won’t see on a $50,000 rifle.  A $2,000 M1892 is still the same rifle as a $50,000 M1892.  In fact, you’ll surely have more fun with it.  

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May 10, 2024 - 2:09 pm
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Steve-

As you know we have similar tastes in collectible Winchesters, I’ve never been able to justify “investing” in the high end of the market as I feel they are artificially high and I’d hate to be caught with expensive holdings when the music stops. I’ll invest mainly in other areas, I’m a bit too emotional about Winchesters to invest effectively. I have been focused on the higher quality but more standard Winchesters in recent years, a slight shift from the guns I enjoyed with more character than condition. I still love a Winchester with lots of character but I try to avoid purchasing them. I can’t tell if the more modestly priced segment of the market has benefited from the upswing on the upper end but my limited observation is that there has been little impact in the few guns I’ve bought and sold. The lower end containing poor condition or modified examples is a tough place to play and I’m learning to avoid it.
For me, personally, my focus has shifted due to my retirement. I’m much more interested in shooting my old Winchesters and making ammo for them in the coming years. I have all the components and equipment I need to provide inexpensive entertainment for the foreseeable future and I want to take advantage of that situation while I can. I know many collectors are not shooters but I suspect I’m not the only one to understand the entertainment value of shooting old Winchesters instead of acquiring more. Matter of fact, there’s a range trip on my to-do list today!

 

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May 10, 2024 - 2:19 pm
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Have always bought what I liked and paid a bit more than I could afford

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May 10, 2024 - 2:31 pm
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steve004 said
I think a lot of it comes down to money – and access to money.  Most of us are slipping behind.  Between inflation and many here now living on retirement incomes, discretionary funds are not on the upswing.  The demographics are moving.  While many are falling behind, for the last several years I keep hearing that the amount of millionaires and billionaires are steadily increasing.  Simply put, there’s more high rollers than ever.  The number of people who have made big money in the stock market over the past 8 years is a big number.  Bidding against these larger group of people with deep pockets results in most of us being excluded from the highly collectable gun market.  I think of Wes Adams.  He didn’t start out as a gun collector.  He made his money (a lot of it) and then got into gun collecting.  I think he had collected for about ten years before he passed.  And during those ten years he dug into his deep pockets and purchased an amazing amount of top collectible rifles.  

The high roller phenomenon isn’t new and there’s more than one variation. I’m reminded that several years ago I was reading about people (i.e. with deep pockets) with little interest in guns, converting stock market gains into the collectible gun market.  Again, bidding against these people (or their agents) is disheartening.

The result of the above is the market for the top collectables has remained very strong.  However, perhaps a silver lining is the high rollers are not interested in the lower level guns.  We’ve seen examples of dips in values of lower level rifles.  Even more so with non-Winchester brands.  For those pieces that are clean, original and decent, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Quite the opposite.  I have many rifles in that range and am quite pleased with them.  There’s also those rifles that have just the right character – character that you won’t see on a $50,000 rifle.  A $2,000 M1892 is still the same rifle as a $50,000 M1892.  In fact, you’ll surely have more fun with it.  

  

Steve’s point is well taken.  A benefit of the stratospheric prices of what I’ve called “the most collectible Winchesters” can be keeping the lesser condition guns from being lost to history.

I think we can all agree our association’s goals and aspirations are best served by increasing our membership, which is best accomplished by encouraging all interested in the Winchester brand to participate, share, and learn by joining us, including those having a strong, enthusiastic interest but modest disposable income. 

Because we are fascinated by the most collectible Winchesters, it is all too easy to give the impression to otherwise interested, potential members that they and their constricted budgets are unworthy.  As much as I enjoy the Collector quarterly magazine, it can seem intimidating to the uninitiated.  

While “originality” is the sine qua non of the finest and most collectible  vintage Wincester guns,  closely followed by “condition”, irrefutable facts established by the marketplace, not our bylaws, these  should not be seen as an exclusionary rule that discourages membership. 

- Bill 

 

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May 10, 2024 - 2:56 pm
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I have never been able to afford a nice lever action collection, even the plain jane low-end rifles were out of my price range to purchase more than a few so I started collecting pre-64 Winchester .22s about 45 years ago.  When I first started that collection my rule was not to spend more than $100 and not buy a gun in less than 95% condition condition.  The pawn and gun shops were loaded with opportunities in that price range back then and I was able to accumulate a nice representative collection.  To this day you can still purchase a very nice condition original Model 67 made in 1935 with a finger groove walnut stock for about $200 so inflation has not hit that market too hard.  Of course the more rare .22 models and variations have gone up in price simply because everyone is now a bit more educated about them and can spot the differences between a common or unusual variation.  Back then I paid the same price for a 69 Match rifle as a common open sight 69.  No one knew the difference (or cared), they were just 15-20 year old used .22s that someone traded in to purchase a new plastic-stocked space age plinker.

I still can’t afford a lever action collection but on a lower budget have enjoyed a lifetime of Winchester collecting in my own niche.  I think there is still room for all levels of financial status in the Winchester market and there will always be a demand at some level.  

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