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Natural born Liars and other guns of ill repute!
March 15, 2013
1:32 pm
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I am new to this forum, sort of new to "collecting" Winchesters (I have four now, soon to add another - don't laugh!), but not new to firearms in general. I have a close personal friend who deals in lots of gun sales, gun shows, etc where I have helped out and who is somewhat of a collector of old cowboy guns. So I am fairly well acquainted with "The Art of Collecting" of old cowboy guns, inparticular old Winchesters.

What intrigues me about this post is the logic behind being a true collector. What I have preceived the rules are for "The Art" is as follows:

1. Older is good.
2. Older and rarer is better..
3. Older and rarer and original is the best!
4. Older and rarer and original in the best shape is better!!
5. Older and rarer and original in the best shape with provenance is better yet!!!
6. Older and rarer and original in the best shape with provenance and a history is ultimate!!!
7. Sometimes just having history or being very rare trancends all the rest!!!!!

So, I get the idea and I also get the point that there are a lot of individuals that will give up large sums of money in the pursuit of "The Art of Collecting" of old Winchesters. That's all good and well.

But I believe there is another side of the story that is outside of these strict rules. There are a lot of people, myself included, that like guns because we like to shoot guns. We like the way that guns look, the way they feel, small tight groups, and the smell of burnt gun powder and Hoppe's number 9.

To me, there is something also known as "The Art of Using" of old Winchesters. It is my opinion that the reason pieces of steel and wood were carefully machined and carved and intricately placed together into one functioning piece was so that a person would take it out and shoot it. The purpose and function of every single part of a firearm is to make it shoot as accurately and dependably as was humanly possible in the era that it was made. It all revolved around "The Art of Using", not "The Art of Collecting".

So, when logic is applied to "The Art of Collecting", it leaves a little room for questions to be raised. The first question that comes to my mind, is how old Winchesters are valued. I totally understand the history part. To have the pistol that General Custer had on him when he met his demise would be cool. I would put it in a museum and save it for it's history. But I wouldn't do that with the 1892 Winchester that I got passed down to me from my Grampa as it doesn't carry the history that anyone other then me or a few cousins would appreciate. Not museum worthy but definitely worth keeping in the family. So, I know that my Grampa (he was built in 1898 so would be considered an antique if he were still alive) owned this rifle but I don't know for sure if he bought it new or used (built in 1905, he was seven, probably purchased used). I do know that when I got it, the butt stock had been broken, three nails had been driven through it and then bent over to keep them tight, then the whole thing was wrapped with friction tape. The forearm was fractured and split. The barrel looked like it had been used as a hammer, every screw was buggered up, the crown was damaged, the rifling was almost nonexistant and the bore was black. The action was smooth as silk if you could get it to function without dumping oil into it (which I have been told is how my Grampa kept it functioning except he used 30 weight, not Breakfree). It was original, still had all the basic parts, but had been living behind the seat of his ditch rider pickup for years and was used to pot an occasional deer for the family stew. My mother told me a story where he was helping a friend guide a group of whiskey drinking, card playing dudes from back east that told him to fill their tags with deer, so Grampa and Gramma sat in one spot and shot 9 Muledeer in one setting while the dudes stayed in camp. Original with some provenance and some history.

But not worth more then what a few of the parts would bring on Ebay. When I received the rifle after my older brother passed away from cancer, I decided that I wanted to use that rifle to shoot some deer, to breathe a little life back into because I'm pretty sure Grampa and my brother would both like to see that happen. So I pulled it apart, cleaned it up, and carefully shot it hoping not to blow it up and to see how it shot. Turns out pie plates at 25 yards was out. So, in order to make it shootable, I had to reline and recrown the barrel. And like all old things that are beat, once you start, where do you stop.

Reline a barrel that was used as a hammer? What sense is that? Once you start down this path, you've changed the rifle from "original", so why look back now? But I wanted it to primarily be Grampa's gun, so I decided to keep as much metal as I could. The wood was trash (I doubt it would even burn well) so I had it restocked first with some plain, straight grained wood close to what was original. At least now you could pick it up without getting tar from the 50 year old friction tape all over your hands. And when I decided to have it relined, I decided I could afford to have the metal cleaned up and have it reblued. What I got back was a nice tight, well protected, fully functioning Model 92 that shoots around 1" groups at 50 yards when I do my part. And everything (except the wood and barrel liner) including the refurbished original screws were all owned and shot and abused by my Grampa.

Now, for some reason, those heavily invested in "The Art of Collecting" would say that I ruined this rifle. It was better to leave it in a closet or in the gun rack, non-functioning and unusable, rather then give it a good cleaning, bore job, and a new set of clothes. On the other hand, I have used this rifle to shoot three deer, I'm using it to shoot 1/5 scale silhouettes with my grandson, and will probably pass it down to him when the time comes. I would say that it is far more valuable to be used then hung on the wall.

So when you look at the value of an old Winchester, the older the better, original is best, and the better the shape is better. So, if you were to find a new in the box 1873 Winchester with a three digit serial number and was in perfect shape because if had been purchased and stored in a vault with proper humidity control, I would assume that you would have something of real value. Brand new, in the box, and perfectly preserved. But why is this any different then my 1873 38-40 that I bought off the internet from some fella in Texas for $550 because it was trashed, then had a local gunsmith reline, clean and reblue the metal, case color the action, added a beach front sight, marble tang sight, and had the most beautiful American Walnut restock job done to it so that I can shoot Cowboy Lever Action Pistol Cartridge Silhouette competitions with it. Very accurate and a real eye pleaser. Basically new in the box but with MUCH nicer wood.

The new in the box original would be worth thousands and thousands but you would be an idiot to take it out of the box and shoot it, where, if I understand most of what I have seen and read about "The Art of Collecting", my 1873 would hardly be worth what I paid for it off Ebay. And yet the original would have no history, maybe lots of provenance, and would be in perfect shape but you would be an idiot to shoot it. Mine has had lots of history (albeit unknown but the gun didn't get in the shape it was in originally by being locked in a gun safe), virtually no provenance, and was trashed and unusable, but now is beautiful, functions perfectly, and is a great shooter. How the value gets set doesn't seem to follow the preceived logic??

So I guess what I'm trying to get at with all this hogwash is that "The Art of Collecting" is really only in the mind of "The Person with the Money". What one person wants to spend their money on and finds true value in is quite personal and totally acceptable. I currently am looking for an 1876 Winchester in 45-60 to shoot Cowboy Lever Action Rifle Cartridge Silhouette and am struggling with what to buy. I could look for a very nice, well maintained rifle with a great bore to shoot that would cost somewhere in the $5000 and up (read that mostly up) range. Or, I can find a well used rifle for maybe $2000 or less with broken wood, beat barrel, and missing the sights, and have it rebuilt for about $2500 including knock your eyes out wood and shoot it until I die and then pass it on to my kids or grandkids. For what I want and for what I am willing to put down my hard earned money for will probably be the latter. It will match my Turnbull restored 1873 22, my restored 1873 38-40, my two restored 1892 38-40s, and my two consecutive serial numbered "4th" edition colt SAA 38-40 revolvers. I say 4th edition as they are the newer ones with the cylinder bushing. All almost new in the box, beautiful, fully functioning, and were intended to be shot, not stored away in a vault.

Now, don't get me wrong. I wouldn't even suggest that I am in the position to "burst any bubbles" or pooh pooh "The Art of Collecting" of true collections of fine vintage firearms. Some people really enjoy this and that is what counts. When we spend our money, we should be able to feel good about what we bought.

I do object, however, to the high and mighty attitude that some (most??) collectors take when seeing a "refurbished" rifle and think it has no value. They are pooh poohing "The Art of Using" which to me is wrong. I don't want to own any rifles that I don't shoot. And to me, a rifle that has been deemed as unusable to be destined for a mantel piece when it could be repaired and or rebuilt and made shootable again is a crime at least as bad as what the anti-gun people want to do by confiscating them and melting them down.

Had I not "redone" my Grampa's rifle, it would have been tossed out by either my mother or one of our family because "it's that old gun and not worth anything". Now it will continue on in my family for hopefully another 100 years or more along with the rest of my stable of "worthless, trashed out relics of an era gone by". I think that is what the original gunmaker intended is for the guns to be used. And I really like it which is what makes it of value to me!! And I think there are a lot of other people that like old Winchesters just like me as well and they shouldn't be looked down on or belittled.

And the last little "bitch" that I have is this term "dishonest gun". I understand what a dishonest gun is... And they stand right there along with all the guns that kill people all by themselves. Some guns are natural born liers, others are natural born killers...

It's not the gun that is dishonest, its the owner and what they intend to do with the gun that is dishonest. I would never try to pass my rifles off as originals and any idiot would see they weren't (although the comments at the gun show sometimes have to look up to see the term idiot!). And the term "dishonest gun" only applies to "The Art of Collecting". There are no "dishonest guns" in "The Art of Using". They either work or they need to be made to work. And the only folks that I have ever know that were producing "dishonest guns" were considered to be collectors and were preying on their collector or collector want-to-be compadres. And in passing, I'm not sure who is worse. The fella that screws a different barrel on a rifle to make it a rare caliber or another fella at a gun show that catches an unknowing gun owner with a family heirloom and buys it off them for peanuts of the real value. They are both defrauding another human being. Not much morals in either one.

And its generally brought about by "The Art of Collecting". The values are artificially inflated due to "desirability". Not usability but desirability. Which is only in the eyes of the beholder. So have fun collecting great old guns but don't look down on those gun owners that don't collect guns except for shooting. They are really the ones that keep the gun industry running and protect our gun rights because they are the largest group by far of gun owners. I was at a rifle range in Los Angeles not long ago and other then just a couple of hunting rifles and one unlimited target gun, the rest of the 50 or more rifles were AR15 and AK47 style weapons. I was surprised at the numbers and would have thought there would be more "conventional" rifles. Maybe a fella should be buying brand new, in the box, AR15s and locking them in a vault for the next 130 years and maybe they will be worth thousands in todays dollars... :o)

Thank you.... I feel much better now! From what I have read you are bunch of great, knowledgable folks with lots to give. Hopefully I didn't offend anyone as it was't my intention. Just wanted to point out that there are many of us that like old rifles that have been made like new again (dirty little guns of ill rupute!! :o). And are willing to pay good money for them... I think I know a few women that fit that category!

March 15, 2013
6:37 pm
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WOW!! 😯

March 15, 2013
8:58 pm
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Gunrunner said
There are a lot of people, myself included, that like guns because we like to shoot guns. We like the way that guns look, the way they feel, small tight groups, and the smell of burnt gun powder and Hoppe's number 9.

I like that description.

March 15, 2013
9:37 pm
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Bravo! Could not have ever, ever, said it better myself. You my friend are a true wordsmith...

March 16, 2013
1:06 am
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Thanks for your effort, Gunrunner. It is not hogwash. I am pretty new here also and I share your views on repairs and restorations and the crooks who would take advantage of the unwary.

The "original condition and patina" crowd seems to concentrate on guns and wooden furniture, and, to a lesser degree, on vehicles.

Locally, there is a guy who has his grandfather's 1930s Plymouth in original condition, meticulously cared for. He drives it or hauls it to car shows and wins trophies & awards in for cars in his class. But no one criticizes the guy because he installed new tires or brakes or shocks or wiper blades.

If you watch the "Restoration" shows on TV, you don't see anyone claiming that some rusted out Coca-Cola cooler is more desirable than the same thing cleaned up, returned to operating condition and sporting new red enamel.

If you re-wire the antique lamp so that it won't start a fire and burn down the house, the appraiser does not bat an eye.

I have an old Low Wall .32-20, a 5-digit rifle that I first saw when I was 16. I admired the rifle for years and on my 32nd birthday, I succeeded in trading for it. The old man who owned the rifle said his father bought it before he (the old man) was born in 1897. It stayed behind the kitchen door when he was a kid and it was still behind the kitchen door when he came back from WW1. The old man married and eventually took over the family farm and the Low Wall stayed behind the kitchen door.

Some time in the 1950s, the old man's wife died. The old man was looking for a project to occupy his mind and decided the rifle needed upgrading. He took a torch and bent the lower tang, making the SN unreadable. Then he added a Bishop pistol grip stock. His eyesight was failing, so he drilled & tapped the action for a Lyman receiver sight, and then for a Weaver N-mount. He polished and hot blued the rifle. He added a J-2.5 Weaver scope. And made a new fore-arm from an old military stock because the original Winchester wood was too nice to carve up. The rifle kept the deer out of the kitchen garden from the mid-1890s until I got it in 1972 (along with the original fore-arm). It fed a farm family through a couple of depressions. When he was in his teens, the old man started making tally marks on the back of the kitchen door whenever they killed a deer. There were 435 marks on the back of the kitchen door when I got the rifle. Cleaning the rifle must have been a high family priority, because the bore looks pretty much like it did when it left the factory.

It is not a family heirloom. The old man shot smallbore in the league I joined when I was a teenager. He was also a considerable poacher, insofar as Illinois did not have a deer season from about 1905 on. The rifle does not have much going for it as a collector piece, but in terms of "The Art of Using", it's a dandy.

March 16, 2013
8:59 am
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Your grandpas 92 has value. Value to you. Where the "problem" comes in is when the "value" is applied by someone else.

I have things of my grandfathers that goodwill would throw out. Yet to me they are worth a fortune.

When two collectors talk about and look down on a firearm for it being restored they are concerned with the firearms value to them not the original owners grandson.

There is also another catagory to slip in here. The firearm restored not by a lovong grandson but some guy who ended up with the firearm. The two are very different.

As I assume the cherrished family heirloom will not be on the open market it actually has no value. Value is assigned when ownership is transfered.

Enjoy your model 92 don't sweat the details. This is a hobby not brain surgery "you don't have to get it right the first time"

March 16, 2013
10:01 am
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Thanks for the comments.. I have to admit I got on a roll when I was reading all the other comments from a couple years back on the subject of "restoring" old rifles. After I posted I felt like I overdid it, which I probably did, but like Horton the Elephant, "I said what I meant and I meant what I said!". (Dr. Seuss reference! :o)

Its kind of surprising that 130 year old rifles even made it intact. I am having a Colt Lightning in 38-40 rebuilt (hope to pick it up in a couple of weeks) with all new wood and a total rebuild. It was in terrible shape when I bought it. It is also missing the slide lock, which was common as metal was hard to come by back in the "olden days" and the slide lock was routinely taken off and turned into a scrapper or knife blade or something else. I have been told the same is true for the dust covers on Winchester 73s and 76es. You hear lots of things. Not sure if that is true but I know when I was looking for a Lightning and my 73 that it was pretty common to find them missing those parts.

And Waterman, (Love your comment, "The "original condition and patina" crowd seems to concentrate on guns and wooden furniture, and, to a lesser degree, on vehicles.") I like to hear about the old boys that used stuff as tools or built what they could because they had a need. Sometimes it was properly thought out, sometimes not. This story took place back in the early 60s. A friend told me the story where these two brothers that he hunted with up in the Big Hole country above the Wise River in Montana had built a hard floor for a wall tent and had hauled in a large wood fired cook stove to use in their hunting camp. Now, these fellas really, really liked to hunt and were wolves in woods and when these boys went to hunting camp, it was normally for most of the fall hunting season. And they wanted some amenities which is why the big cook stove. Gave heat, cooking, and hot water. But this thing was big, really big, and they needed to move it back aways to the wall. Looking around for a couple of pry bars, they spotted their two brand new Pre-64 model 70 Winchesters and proceeded to pry the stove to its final resting place. Well, as normally happens when you abuse stuff, they bent both barrels and had to send the guns to a gunsmith to have new barrels either replaced or the original ones straightened, which I'm not sure you could do. Probably replaced. Kind of funny now but I wonder how this would affect the price of these guns 50 years later when a collector saw the replacement barrels?

My earlier passion ran to custom rifles. My Dad had started with an old military Springfield 03A3, had the stock "sporterized" as they called it back then, and had the action cleaned up and mated to a new custom barrel. The fella that did the work had a last name of Dupuis and lived up behind the little town of Evaro just north of Missoula, MT. Dad has killed a lot of elk with that rifle. He grew up in the Ovando country and lived at the time when if you got into the elk, you filled the tags in camp if you could. Might even end up with one or two extra so you might have to run down to Trixie's Bar to call the wife and have her get a kid or two to go buy licenses to make it all work out even. And hopefully someone else on that same day didn't wander into another bunch somewhere else! My Dad was a tremendous walker, having chosen in his day to walk rather then ride a horse. As a result, he got through more country then most of his hunting buddies and routinely shot everyone's elk for them. He showed me a spot on Ovando Mountain where he shot three raghorn bulls that were bedded from about 350 yards. Neck shot each one and they just flopped their heads over in the snow. When he passed away at 93, I was the recipient of his old "Aught Six". I need to go shoot an elk this fall with it in his name... Miss my Dad.

But, as I digress, I was sort of spoiled on the idea of taking gun parts apart and rebuilding them into beautiful custom rifles. I have several rifles that a gunsmith in Plains, MT has done for me. I have a custom 22 long rifle made from a Chinese Norinco rifle and beautiful wood that is totally awesome and shoots like a house-a-fire! I also had him trim down the stock and clean it up with better checkering on my first Ruger Model 77 22-250 that I bought back in my first year of college. This rifle fed my family for the better part of 20 years until I was able to afford another rifle. He also has built me a custom .204 Ruger built on an Interarms mini-mauser action made by Zastava arms with a Dan Lilja fluted barrel. It was then inletted into one of Dennis' petite mountain rifle stocks made from a laminated American Walnut blank supplied by Mel Smart from Kalispell (now passed away, bless his soul). Skeleton grip cap, ebony forend.... Never was a more beautiful and amazing gopher killer and Coyote getter been made. I just love custom rifles.

And I also have four 1874 Sharps rifles made by the Shiloh Rifle company in Big Timber, MT. While these aren't original, they are very accurate, a blast (pun intended) to shoot, and I enjoy "The Art of Using" with them as well as "The Art of Black Powder Cartridge Reloading and Shooting"!.

Which I suppose is why I rebuilt my old Winchester rifles. I don't see them as being "bastardized", I see them being turned into "customized" rifles. If poorly done, well, what can a fella say... But if professionally done with good materials and masterfully crafted, why would that hurt the value of a Winchester anymore then it hurt my Dad's Springfield. Those military rifles of that era were clubs. Effective, but still clubs. And nobody would mistake Dad's rifle for an original. Nor any of my "custom" Winchesters. I wouldn't want them to as to me that would negate part of my effort and expense. I like my custom rifles and hopefully can afford a few more before either my wife takes the bank account back or I go onto doing other more important things like growing stumps out of my chest.

I hope to have all my rifles where I can take some pictures of them to put on this post. I will be interested to see what the response will be. My hide is pretty thick and I already know that I really like these rifles so my mind won't be changed. Sounds like there are some other like-minded folks out there as well. It would be interesting to know if those that lean towards "Custom" Winchesters is on the rise, possibly because of the lack of good clean rifles that are reasonably priced. I read on a post where this fella stated that the value is rising on the Pre-1899 Antique firearms because of the threat of gun control laws. The good, clean originals that I have been looking through in an 1876 are so highly priced that I can get a beater, source a few parts, and have a "custom" rifle built for thousands less and not be afraid to shoot it.

The rising prices are good for the guys with Originals. And more power to them as I also like the originals. I just don't want to invest my limited funds into a gun that I really probably shouldn't be shooting if I bought it based on it's value as a collector item. And if you bought one with a good bore, tight action, and well maintained and preserved, you are buying a collector. And if you shoot it, you add wear and tear or run the risk of damage, as a close friend of mine experienced with an $8000 1876 that blew up due to what he thinks was an double overcharge while shooting Cowboy Lever Action Silhouettes. I guess I'm starting to realize that maybe I'm on the wrong forum, where I see at the top of the page, "Forum for rare and collectable Winchester Arms". But I am collecting my Winchesters so maybe I've come to the right place. Who knows...?

March 16, 2013
11:34 am
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Mark W. said
There is also another catagory to slip in here. The firearm restored not by a lovong grandson but some guy who ended up with the firearm. The two are very different.

Thanks for commenting, Mark W. I guess I fit into both classes as I started with Grampa's 1892 and have migrated onto picking up trashed out rifles and redoing them. Not to sell but to shoot. I'm assuming you are meaning that a person would do this to defraud a sale base on collectable status. That is not my purpose. Mine is to acquire "Custom" Winchesters to shoot which are created from the dregs of the gun supply. I also like to own fine firearms and am proud of my rifles as I guess they have a lot of "me" in them.

So, you are right, in that the value is there for me but most likely not there for a collector who's interest is in Originals that are un-touched and un-blemished. I suppose it is sort of like a young man searching for a wife. Maybe I should start my own religion where if you die in support of the religion that you will receive 70 New-in-the-Box 1870 vintage Winchesters!! I wonder what the serial numbers would be?? Church is held every Sunday out in eastern Montana. Please bring plenty of ammo... ;o)

But seriously, I think there is a large contingency of Winchester "Collectors" that are like me which is they like "Custom" Winchesters. And they are willing to pay for them. But they aren't so much into the depth of study of Winchesters to determine the value based on the true authenticity of a rifle. I just purchased a Turnbull restored 1873 22 Short for $5000. Beautiful rifle. But restored. And since it has been restored, I am not going to be too concerned about relining the barrel if it isn't shooting well enough for silhouettes and converting it to 22 Long Rifle for the added benefits. But when you consider that to find a beat up rifle in 22 caliber that is totally functioning costs at least $2500 and then you pay Turnbull $4000 or more, the $5000 is a pretty good price and there is no waiting. So the value was there for me for what my purposes are and the rifle has retained it's value of the money spent on the restoration.

Which is my point. I think there is a group of collectors that collect restored rifles. 100 years from now, who will know what a restored rifle is sold as. Which is part of the issue today is knowing if somewhere back in the history of a rifle that someone, somewhere, didn't put another barrel on a rifle or have a new hammer installed that still has coloring on it, or a new sight was put on because the old one was torn off in a horse crash. As long as it was put back to what the original was, who knows today. If it matches what the Cody Museum says it was on the day it left the factory, who knows for sure what was done to it 100 years ago..

And that is why I guess I'm not a really good collector as I only really know about shooting guns and if I want to shoot one, I will have to buy what I want to shoot. I see a brand new, in the box, 1892 25-20, that appears to be highly controversial to many of the master collectors on this forum. It looks a whole lot cleaner then any restorations that I have seen. But there appears to be lots of skeptics. I personally wouldn't know. It looks brand new. Maybe something about the box or the tag or the stamp on the barrel of that time period??? But I do know that I don't have to spend $18k to get a rifle to shoot. It cost me about $1200 to have my Grampa's 1892 restored, $1750 to have my 1873 restored, and it's going to cost $2k to have my Colt Lightning restored. The price is increasing as time goes on.

I think that the discussion of whether that 1892 is new is what collecting is all about. It's part of the game. It's about buying something cheap and selling it for lots, finding and studying each part and each square inch of a gun to figure out what it has been and who had it and what they did with it and turning that information into dollars. So whether that "new" 1892 is really new or not is not important. It was that a bunch of fellow collectors were able to pour over it and make their judgement as to it's authenticity. And when someone decides, "I think this is authentic" they will pay the price. And if no one makes that decision, that rifle will end up out on Gunbroker in another couple of years, probably for more money yet.

So if you are at a gun show and you see a 130 year old rifle that appears to be brand new and has the most beautiful wood on it you have seen with no blemishes and appears untouched, you may not want to marry yourself to it. Most likely is has had a Life Style face lift and a boob job so beware! If it appears to be too good to be true, it probably isn't.. :o)

And thanks tonyg and Win38-55 for the kind words... You really shouldn't encourage me!!

March 16, 2013
4:01 pm
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Gunrunner

Welcome to the forum. You sure like to write. I probably missed some stuff because I've been awake for a long time due to work requirements, but I wanted to comment on a couple things you mentioned.

I use the term "honest gun" often. I just use it as short for honest wear from honest use. Maybe I should re-think using the term "dishonest gun".

I have a semi-restored gun. It has sentimental value and it shoots pretty good so I hunt with it. Mechanically it is excellent. However, the value I put on it is much different than what I would expect a stranger to put on it because of replacement wood. The wood will always be 0% original to the gun.

The rest of my guns are original finish as far as I can tell and I've shot all but one and actively reload for four of them. (I have a small collection). I don't plan on shooting hundreds of jacketed bullets through them all, but I want a very accurate load figured out for all of them for fall and winter. I like being able to tell someone if it shoots good. If I decide to keep shooting I guess I'll learn to cast bullets like Kirk. I place a premium on a rifle that is over 100 years old with a good bore and "honest" wear on original finish. I think it is very impressive for someone to have hunted and shot a rifle for that long and always disciplined enough to keep the bore half-way decent. And not used the butt stock for a hammer. The fact that it hasn't been restored yet is the premium for me.

I get nervous about super high condition original finish guns. I don't have the experience or the skill set built up yet to catch everything on one that may not be original. I'd be afraid to handle them anyway. But I sure respect them. I also respect the level of skill involved in a good restoration. I want neither right now...personal preference. I wouldn't look down on someone's choice to restore a gun that they own either.

Waterman mentioned the "original finish and patina crowd". Maybe that's me...I don't know. Put two guns side by side. One has all original finish but some use wear, other one is refinished but like new. I know what one I'd take.

Brad

Regards

Brad Dunbar

http://1895book.com/

March 17, 2013
8:28 am
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I'm with the original finish crowd. Never knowingly bought any gun that's been tampered with and never will. However, I agree that if I owned an old family gun that had sentimental value, and was in bad shape, I surely would have it fixed up and give it new life. Shoot it, hunt with it, and enjoy it. Anyone can collect whatever they want, but in general collectors want to buy guns that will escalate in value during the time of their ownership. Restored guns may do so, but not at the same rate. At some point down the road, return on investment may be important to some collectors. I just don't see that happening with some of these high price restorations.

March 18, 2013
5:21 am
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oakridge.. That brings up a good question and you make a good point. What does cause the value of firearms to go up? I understand the value of a pre-1899 antique now in the day of gun control paranoia. And I understand where I was reading on Bill Goodman's page about rifles being built during the depression being done by best of the best as everyone else had been laid off and that maybe making those years more valuable. 1876 Winchesters are hard to come by and expensive I think because of the numbers made and also because of the numbers swallowed up in collections.

But once you buy a rifle or pistol, what generally drives up the value and at what rate would a person expect to see their investment rise. We have recently remortgaged our house at a super low rate of 2.7%. I was trying to pay off the mortgage as quickly as possible but with the prospect of looming inflation, it would be wise to owe a substantial amount and let inflation take it's affect on the value of the dollars borrowed. Rather then make such huge house payments to pay off the mortgage quickly, I was considering investing in gold to combat inflation. Would it be better, in your estimation, to invest in firearms?

And if you are investing in guns because they are your true love in life, the only way that you can recoup investment is to sell them, which may not be easy to do. Sort of like selling one of the kids or your favorite dog!

Investing in firearms would be more fun then in gold and if someone were to try to break in to your house to steal your investment, guns work a whole lot better then throwing gold bricks at the burgler. But gold is a lot easier to barter. What's your thoughts??

So, if a person had $500,000 invested in 1870 vintage Winchesters 10 years ago, what would expect the current value to be today?

March 18, 2013
9:10 pm
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This discussion really interests me, for a lot of reasons. I used to read a lot of John D. MacDonald's "Travis McGee" novels. IIRC, they were written in the 1950s & 60s. MacDonald used a character called Meyer to pontificate about economics. Meyer "talked" about "hedge funds & inflation" years before the term came into use by the media. Meyer's "hedge fund" types invested in works of art, classic cars (1932 Packard Roadsters), stamps, gold coins, rare books, etc., things that would hold their value regardless of inflation or the political environment. I don't think he ever got around to including guns as a "hedge fund" subject, but I think that what defined a "collectible" gun in the 50s & 60s is not what defines one now.

But a part of the "hedge fund" concept implies that the item may be bartered in exchange for more-needed necessities; groceries, fuel or medical care are examples. You should be able to get rid of the hedge fund item quickly, legally, and with some degree of assurance that you will get something approaching fair value. In economic terms, the "hedge fund" item must be liquid, i.e., readily exchangeable.

I have a not-wealthy friend who has a few classic cars; a LaSalle, Packards, & Cadillacs. He says that only the high-end classics are keeping up with inflation. Provenance of the high-end jobs is usually easy to prove and fakes would seem to be more trouble than they are worth. Classic cars are not readily nor cheaply stored, take up lots of room & are expensive to sell simply because of transportation costs. There are more sellers than buyers. Classic cars are not terribly liquid.

Rare books are not readily sold & need a lot of TLC. Again, there are probably lots more sellers than buyers. Rare books may not often be faked, but faked documents and maps are probably more frequently found than the real ones. Caveat emptor when investing there. And again, books, documents and maps are not very liquid.

We know that there have been art thieves, cons & forgeries for a long time. I number at least one among my ancestors. He walked the steps to the string back in 1815, but the judge complemented him on his workmanship. And if you are in need, collectible art may not be readily sold at a fair price. Again, not liquid.

Rare stamps or jewelry or precious stones are easily protected, are readily & legally exchanged and will probably keep up with inflation, but if you think modern technology gives today's Winchester collector a difficult time, the risks of encountering faked stamps or jewelry or even something like diamonds is probably greater. You need to employ experts to protect yourself. But the stuff is pretty liquid, provided that you know what you are doing.

Gold will keep up with inflation, by definition if by no other measure. But remember that from 1933-1972, the ability of ordinary free Americans to use gold as money was greatly constrained by our Federal government. More recently, the importation of Krugerrands was verboten during a recent period of political correctness. There has always been a "sort of black" market for gold coins "as collectors items", of course.

Silver and platinum will also tend to keep up with inflation. There is a substantial market for old silver US coins. AFAIK, none of that has been regulated. So far. With all 3 commodities, some simple chemistry should keep you from getting too badly burned. Gold, silver & platinum are about as liquid as hedge fund items get.

But what about firearms? Are they legally liquid? Not quite. Varies from state to state, and who knows what is yet to come. And are our pre-1899 "antiques" protected? I tried to buy an 1873 Trapdoor Cadet rifle in from a big time dealer in Maine last May. I was told that new BATF rules said that it was a modern gun. Don't bet on the pre-1899 rule protecting you.

The value of high-end Winchesters may keep up with inflation, but to me they do not qualify as an old style "hedge fund" item with great liquidity. If that is necessary, stick to gold or old silver coins. When we invest in our collections, we are gambling.

March 19, 2013
4:21 pm
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Who is John Galt?

November 8, 2014
3:39 pm
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AMEN! .... to the first post.  Those old Winchesters, after all, were made to be tools, not unlike today's lawn mowers or car jacks.

1876-4-1.jpg

"This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." 

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