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Vetting Auctioneers
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May 16, 2021 - 2:53 am
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I don’t have any experience with on-line auctions.  I started following auctionzip a few months ago and I’ve put in a lot of low ball bids, never winning, which I expected.  However, I see quite the spread in starting prices with the different auctions and I was wondering if I, per chance, happened to win, are these guys straight up?  How protected am I?  Do people get ripped off?  Is there a place where you can read reviews or otherwise know who to steer clear of?

For example, I noticed “Old Barn Auctions” usually has a low start, whereas “Poulin Antiques & Auctions” starts much higher.  Naturally, as a low ball bidder, I bid a lot with the former.  I got to thinking “Old Barn Auctions” kind of sounds like “Dad’s Old Guns” or whoever that guy was that you all used to trash.  I started getting spooked and thought I’d come here and get some advice, if you are willing to share some expertise.

Thanks for any wisdom you might share. 

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May 16, 2021 - 2:59 am
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Ethics is to auctioneering as oil is to water.

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May 16, 2021 - 3:08 am
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Most of the auction houses are safe to deal with just you have pay the juice and make sure what your bidding on. They have a reputation to keep up. The auctions where you can get burned is a auction web site were anybody can sell their guns with no repercussion of screwing someone. In those auctions you have to do your Due diligence to vet the person.

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May 16, 2021 - 3:44 am
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Clarence, What the OP is asking is if he buys a gun from a auction will he get the gun and if you read my post I think I clarified that as to the two types of auctions a person can run into. You buy a gun from RIA they are going to send you the gun you bid on, it may not be a great deal or have hidden problems but its what you bid on. Its up to you to look at the pictures or ask questions to make your minds up. The other type of auctions, you are at the mercy of the individual to send you what you bid on. The auction site my not protect you from a bad seller.

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May 16, 2021 - 3:46 am
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1873man said
Most of the auction houses are safe to deal with just you have pay the juice and make sure what your bidding on. They have a reputation to keep up.

If you mean they won’t keep your dough & skedaddle, yes, that’s true.  But that’s not the main problem in buying in auctions–it’s misrepresentation, maybe “unknowingly,” but misrepresentation all the same.  Rock Island–as big a “reputation” as they come–has sold countless altered (if not faked altogether) guns misrepresented as “original,”  esp. US military.

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May 16, 2021 - 12:28 pm
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This is a complicated topic with many variations.  At one end, there is out and out fraud.  One example is Henry’s rifles (e.g. his heavy barreled M1894) on gunbroker.  Here, someone hacked an established seller’s account and then stole photos and descriptions of Henry’s rifles from gunsinternational.  The fraudster offered them at a favorable buy-it-now price.  We mainly recognized the deception because members here recognized the rifles.  For potential buyers who did not recognize he rifles, this auction looked pretty legit.  An established gunbroker seller with many years of people leaving feedback that they had received their rifles and liked them.  From my view, there was only one tip-off that he was a fraudster, but it was a big one – he requested payment in the form of bank transfer.  Anyone specifying payment in the form of a bank transfer is extremely likely to be a fraud.

There’s a lot of variability among among sellers when it comes to honesty.  Some sellers don’t provide accurate descriptions, some will provide excellent photos but not include a photo of of a defect, and some will leave out important details.  For example, the gun happens to have a bad bore, but they don’t mention the bore at all.  And of course there is the subjective piece.  For example, one person’s opinion of what a, “excellent bore” is can be very different than another’s.  

It’s not fair to say that all auction seller’s operate with substandard ethics.  Austinsguns and Chayn’s (gunbroker dealers) have stellar reputations of of honest dealing, accurate descriptions and satisfaction guaranteed.  I would buy from either of these guys without hesitation.  They’re not the only ones out there but seller’s as good as these guys are the minority.

Here’s a recent example of a fraud sale on gunbroker that I picked up on when I clicked on the feedback for the seller.  It looks like the first buyer to leave feedback is a guy who lost his money:

Recent Feedback Ratings
User Feedback
F
ThorBroker474 A+(8)
 
05/08/2021
User was a scammer. Found out the hard way and should’ve known better.
 
F
Valterus NR
 
05/07/2021
Stop trying to steal people’s money.
 
F
abberley1 A+(631)
 
05/07/2021
CRIMINAL SELLER, outright cheat intent on committing fraud. Avoid at all costs.
 
F
abberley1 A+(631)
 
05/07/2021
This CHEAT keeps posting weapons that he does not have, the listings having been stolen from another site. CRIMINAL IN THE ACT.
 
F
abberley1 A+(631)
 
05/07/2021
This cheat stole the listing from Florida Gun Trader and passed it off here as his own. So stupid is this guy that he copied the FL text in which the real seller states that he is in Central Florida!
 
F
abberley1 A+(631)
 
05/07/2021
Dishonest seller stole listing (same pistol, same serial number) from another site and passed it off here on GB as his own. A crime in progress.
 
F
abberley1 A+(631)
 
05/07/2021
Fraudster seller stole this listing and passed the weapon off as his own. Beware.
 
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May 16, 2021 - 12:54 pm
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Thanks, folks.  I have several outstanding bids that are almost sure to lose ($500.00 range) and once they lapse, I think I’ll just pull in my horns and go back to in-person stuff.  I appreciate the input.  I wasn’t what you would call a real player anyway, so no one loses by my absence.  Just one of those guys looking for a unicorn, and that can’t be done on an advertised sale.

Best to you and yours.

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May 16, 2021 - 1:38 pm
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steve004 said

It’s not fair to say that all auction seller’s operate with substandard ethics.  Austinsguns and Chayn’s (gunbroker dealers) have stellar reputations of of honest dealing, accurate descriptions and satisfaction guaranteed. 

 

Steve,  These aren’t at all what we usually mean by “auction houses” or auctioneers; they are individual dealers making use of the Gun Broker service.  I’d think more of them, however, if they sold at fixed prices on Guns International, or some similar non-auction site that doesn’t promote crazy irrational bidding; if they know their stuff, they should know what their guns are worth.

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May 16, 2021 - 1:39 pm
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Huck Riley said
Thanks, folks.  I have several outstanding bids that are almost sure to lose ($500.00 range) and once they lapse, I think I’ll just pull in my horns and go back to in-person stuff.  I appreciate the input.  I wasn’t what you would call a real player anyway, so no one loses by my absence.  Just one of those guys looking for a unicorn, and that can’t be done on an advertised sale.

Best to you and yours.  

Huck –

I don’t see that what you are doing is particularly risky.  As long as you are dealing with established auction houses, as others here have suggested, if you win and send them the money, they will send the gun.  It may have been inadequately described or have hidden problems, but you will get it.  And, if you won it with a very low-ball bid, you can come out ok.  I do know some people who routinely do what you described – they put in a large number of low-ball bids on the chance that on one particular item, interest happened to be low.  On occasion they win.  It depends a lot on the venue.  For example, I mentioned Austinguns and Chayn’s in my earlier post – you can put in all the low-ball bids you want on their stuff and you will be completely safe – you will never end up the winner.

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May 16, 2021 - 2:04 pm
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There are plenty of auctioneers that have no idea what they are selling whether online or in person. They do all they can to make the item (firearm or otherwise) sound like you are getting a great deal when in fact they might only know the brand and perhaps the model. I have bought from an auctioneer in Anchorage online only to discover the Winchester I bought had a broken stock that was conveniently not in the photos or description. Have been in person at auctions by the same guy and seen stuff completely misrepresented whether on purpose or just out of ignorance. Know what your looking at. Make sure you can see the entire item. Ask questions.

Shoot low boys. They're riding Shetland Ponies.

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May 16, 2021 - 3:00 pm
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Old Logger said
There are plenty of auctioneers that have no idea what they are selling whether online or in person. They do all they can to make the item (firearm or otherwise) sound like you are getting a great deal when in fact they might only know the brand and perhaps the model. I have bought from an auctioneer in Anchorage online only to discover the Winchester I bought had a broken stock that was conveniently not in the photos or description. Have been in person at auctions by the same guy and seen stuff completely misrepresented whether on purpose or just out of ignorance. Know what your looking at. Make sure you can see the entire item. Ask questions.  

There are also occasions where auctioneers and sellers have no idea what they are selling – and that can spin to the buyer’s advantage.  Sometimes the buyer is able to figure out that what is presented is more valuable than the auctioneer (and perhaps other bidders) are aware of.  

There is another aspect here – how much risk are you prepared to take?  Some might ask, why take risk?  Well, why invest in the stock market?  Why invest in something with a secure yet low yield vs. high yield (with higher associated risk?).  With gunbroker type auctions, most of us are leery of bidding on an item from a seller who has no feedback.  Sometimes the item offered is every bit as good and the seller is every bit as honest and reliable as known well-established and respected sellers.  Sometimes not.  Oftentimes not.  But, if you’re willing to take the risk, the bidding will be likely be lower than it would be for respected seller – and you might end up with a great deal.

I recall years ago when The Shotgun News and Gun List were main venues for firearms sales.  You usually had a very brief description and a phone number.  I can remember times I would call a seller and he would agree to send photos.  A short while later the seller would call and say another guy called and said he’ll take the gun without seeing any pictures.  

I also recall a dealer I knew for many years wh put out his own gun list to subscribers and advertised in Shotgun News and Gun List.  He was notorious for very bad descriptions.  But, this doesn’t mean he didn’t sometimes have nice and straight items.  A friend of mine ordered a Winchester one time and after it arrived he commented he and his friends looked it with a fine-tooth comb and couldn’t find a thing wrong with it.  He was quite surprised but it only made sense.  This dealer was quite active and some of his guns would be good.  

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May 16, 2021 - 3:13 pm
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steve004 said

I also recall a dealer I knew for many years wh put out his own gun list to subscribers and advertised in Shotgun News and Gun List.  He was notorious for very bad descriptions.    

Were his initials J. G.? Notorious for his outrageously false descriptions, even after you questioned him carefully by phone. Probably not, because while he did obtain excellent guns, they weren’t put into his ads–they were sold directly to customers on his sucker-list.

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May 16, 2021 - 3:20 pm
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clarence said

steve004 said

I also recall a dealer I knew for many years wh put out his own gun list to subscribers and advertised in Shotgun News and Gun List.  He was notorious for very bad descriptions.    

Were his initials J. G.? Notorious for his outrageously false descriptions, even after you questioned him carefully by phone. Probably not, because while he did obtain excellent guns, they weren’t put into his ads–they were sold directly to customers on his sucker-list.  

Nope.  That’s not him but I am sure there are great many contenders out there.  I can still recall one of his trademark phrases when called after the rifle was unpacked and inspected, (in a big dumb voice – filled with fake surprise), “oh, did I make a mistake?!”).  

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May 16, 2021 - 4:07 pm
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steve004 said

Nope.  That’s not him but I am sure there are great many contenders out there.  I can still recall one of his trademark phrases when called after the rifle was unpacked and inspected, (in a big dumb voice – filled with fake surprise), “oh, did I make a mistake?!”).    

The naive among us may wonder how dealers with such reputations managed to stay in business, & in the case of J.G., make a LOT of money.  The answer is a sad commentary on the hobby:  the ignorance of so many so-called collectors who can’t recognize a badly reblued gun or refinished stock, can mistake wirebrushed steel for faded case-color, don’t recognize glaring alterations, & on & on, or are simply too weak-willed to dispute what the dealer, the “expert,” has told them.

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May 16, 2021 - 4:26 pm
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One other thing to consider.  Some auction houses hire professional auctioneers for their auctions.  These hired guns have no idea what they are selling. They are just there to sell.  So, the actual auctioneer may not be the problem.  It is the house.   The house has employees do a lot of the descriptions and they aren’t always experts on what they are describing.

Don’t buy guns you haven’t actually picked up and looked at first.

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May 16, 2021 - 7:08 pm
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I’ve been looking at and bidding on the guns as wall-hangers that I’d pay the amount I bid even if they were crap.  One didn’t even have pictures, but the bidding started at $5.00 so I bid $100.00.  It said it was an 1892 rifle in some caliber I can’t remember, octagon etc.  I figured it would be hard to go wrong for a $100.00.  Someone out bid me and I let it go.  $100.00 is about my limit without pictures.

But what got me scared was, I had about 10 bids in on 10 different guns (with pictures) at about $500.00 each with one auctioneer.  I thought, what if this guy is a scam and I won on all of them but didn’t receive any guns at all?  I’m the kind of guy who will honor my end, so $5k is out the window and I don’t get anything in return.  I’m willing to do the old “Fool me once . . .” thing on $500.00 but not on $5k.  So, I’m going to let this go away.

I’d love to have a bunch of old relics laying around collecting dust just because it looks good.  But I don’t want it so bad that I’m going to spend any more time looking.  If I happen across a deal, I’ll grab it up.  If I want to fill a hole (Henry/1876/1892) I might try a little harder, but I don’t even want to pay Uberti prices for a Uberti, so I guess I’m not a real buyer.  Laugh

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May 16, 2021 - 9:12 pm
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Huck you wouldn’t believe the prices that rusty relics will bring.

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