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Bulletin Archives

Here are the archives of past Bulletin articles:

Restoration and Repair of Antique Firearms

Volume 1 Issue 2

TOPIC - Repair and Restoration

by Ronald G. Gabel

Inherent in the collection and investment in any antique, including antique firearms, is a concern about the amount and type of restoration and/or repair that can be tolerated. Obviously certain repairs and restorations are necessary, required and expected, some are not. Some have practically no impact on the ultimate value of the piece in question while others impact the price greatly. How do you know the difference ? Usually the answer will simply be, "by experience". After all "Experience is the best teacher". This is true but there are, in my opinion, some simple guidelines. (Based, of course, on experience).

Lets take a look at some terminology that may make this process more understandable.

Restoration - I would define restoration as the rebuilding or replacement of entire parts of an antique firearm in an effort to restore the appearance of that piece to its original, as manufactured, appearance. This may be accomplished using old original parts or newly manufactured parts.

Minor Restoration - Restoration is considered minor if the piece being restored to the appearance of the original is of minor importance to the style, history or artistry of the piece. In a Kentucky rifle parts normally of minor importance are nosecaps, ramrod furrels, unengraved sideplates where the shape is known, lock reconversions and in many cases even entire lock replacements.

Major Restoration - Major restoration occurs when the piece being restored is of great importance to the firearm, its history or the art of the gunsmith. Examples with relation to the Kentucky rifle might be the patchbox, engraved furniture, a signed barrel, stock carving on a replaced portion of the stock etc.

Repair - When the original part is present but is cracked, broken, or even missing a small piece, the rebuilding of that part is considered a repair. A repair normally has less impact on price than a restoration.

Minor Repair - Examples of repairs considered minor with reference to Kentucky rifles are: the addition of non-carved wood where broken away, the "stretching" of brass or silver furniture or inlays (if not engraved), addition of a non engraved patchbox door or even the "stretching" of a small portion of the stock if the barrel is of original length.

Major Repair - Examples of repairs that are considered major are the stretching of a barrel (from the breech or muzzle end), major stretching of stock (as far back as the entrance furrel to the first ramrod thimble) or repairs to engraved furniture.

Re-creation - Re-creation, the most harmful activity to the value of a historical antique, is the rebuilding of furniture, stock, carving or engraving etc. where the original shape, contour or design is unknown and can only be imagined. The part is rebuilt to what the craftsman believes the original might have looked like based on his individual knowledge of the type of arm being recreated. How this impacts on price depends a great deal on the knowledge and skill of the recreator.

As might be expected all repairs, restorations and recreations will impact to some degree on the value of the piece in question. To what extent will depend on the skill and knowledge of the gunsmith, the rarity of the arm being repaired or restored, whether the work is of a major or minor nature and, of course, the opinion of the purchaser. In any case the seller should be obligated to advise the buyer of all known work performed on the piece in question. In real life this presents a problem since many times the seller himself is unaware of work done prior to his ownership of the piece. For this reason the buyer should always deal with knowledgeable collectors and dealers until he has gained the necessary experience to determine the extent of work done on the firearm himself. In the last analysis "Let the buyer beware" still prevails.

Usually an arm properly repaired or restored will have a value relatively close to that of an "all original arm". Very few "all original" arms survive as many firearms were altered even within their periods of use.

Of course any work performed in an attempt to increase the value of the firearm by making it look better or more desirable than it did when it was manufactured is not an honest repair, restoration or re-creation and should always be avoided entirely.

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Growth Potential of Antique Firearms

Volume 1 Issue 1

TOPIC - Investing

by Ronald G. Gabel

More and more Americans today are investing for retirement, education, as a hedge against inflation or for replacement of lost income.

They are investing in all the traditional ways, the stock market, IRA’s, Bonds, Real Estate etc.

But a growing number prefer to speculate in investment grade collectibles, a choice which has proven an excellent course of action for those who chose the right "collectable".

Antique muzzle loading firearms have always been of interest to the collector and historian. Collections of rare and unusual firearms exist in major museums and collections all over the world, even in countries where gun ownership is prohibited.

Large collections were assembled in this country in the 1920’s 30’s and 40’s, but it was not until the 1950’s that Antique Firearms began to emerge as an investment grade collectable.

In 1954 antique firearms were available from Gimbals in New York City. A glance back into the pages of a 1954 Gimbals catalog reveals the average price of a "Golden Age" Kentucky rifle was under $ 200.00. A look at recent Butterfield and Butterfield Auction results show these same "Golden Age" rifles now selling for $10,000 to upwards of $60,000, an average percentage increase of 100 to 700 percent per year. This, of course assumes you invested in the finest available in 1954. What if you had been more conservative ? The lowest priced Kentucky rifles in the 1954 catalog were selling for $ 20.00. Today lower end Kentucky rifles are selling for $ 1500.00 to $3500.00, an increase in value of 170 to 400 percent per year even if you invested conservatively.

Admittedly this remarkable rise in value was not shared by every collectable firearm, but all did surprisingly well. The moral of the story, if you invested in the right collectibles in 1954 you had an amazing ride, and many persons did.

A quick look at the price rise of other collectibles reveals a significant number did well. Experience leads me to believe collectibles index up in value during periods when the stock market or economy falter. Perhaps driven by an investor desire to put funds into a tangible "less risky" investment. Although there have been periods of time during which collectibles remained stable in value, I have seldom seen them drop. Investors enjoy them enough to hold them when demand drops, causing them to retain their value.

This web site will provide insight into my opinions of what’s hot in Antique Arms Collecting, will attempt to offer useful information of interest to both new and established collectors and investors, and present for sale carefully selected guaranteed authentic antique firearms having unusual investment, historic or collecting interest or potential.

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Investment Grade Antique Firearms

Volume 2 Issue 1

TOPIC - Buyers And Sellers Fees

by Ronald G. Gabel

If you are searching for a specific type of antique firearm you can find it by shopping among the antique shops, attending local antique gun shows, purchasing antique gun catalogs, attending or bidding by mail at recognized antique auctions or by locating a dealer or collector you trust and paying him a "finders fee" for locating the piece for you.

The Finders Fee

Typically buyers of Antique Weapons who are searching for a specific firearm provide the finder of these weapons with a 10% finders fee. This is 10% of the cost of the piece or collection that has been located for you by the seller. Sometimes this 10% fee is already added to the price the seller is asking of the buyer, and sometimes it has not. It works something like tipping at your local restaurant. The finder of your particular weapon, it must be assumed, has invested some time, expertise and perhaps even money in efforts to locate the piece you want for your collection. He deserves the "tip", but make sure he has not already factored it into the price.

The Sellers Fee

On the other hand, most collectors and/or dealers who frequent the organized gun shows will, if asked, take your gun to sell on consignment. It would be proper to provide 10% of your profit to the person who sells your gun. There are two problems with this system: First, you may not want to divulge the amount of profit you are making and, Second, the seller may not be completely honest in how much he actually obtained for your property when sold. I prefer , in fact I insist, that anyone who wants me to sell a gun for them first establish a price they would be satisfied with for their gun. Then if that price is obtainable I may take the gun on consignment with the understanding I will keep whatever I get over the requested price. Sometimes I’m forced to break even and sometimes I get lucky and make a reasonable profit. The owner should set his price by adding a fair profit to the amount he paid for the weapon and, if possible, by reviewing what similar weapons are selling for at shows (It is important to review what they are selling for, not what people are asking for them.) It is common practice, for a variety of reasons, for sellers to overprice weapons for sale at gun shows. Often the asked for price is 100 % higher than the price that will be accepted. This allows the seller plenty of room when he is forced to take overpriced guns as part trade for his merchandise. Something like might be experienced at a used car dealer.

In any case whenever you are offering your collectable to be sold by someone else on consignment, be sure you both understand the ground rules in advance if you want to avoid bad feelings.

Remember, if the seller is not allowed to make a fair profit with a reasonable amount of effort on his part, he would be a fool to help you dispose of your weapon. Don’t ask for top retail value for your collectable assuming the seller can make his profit by overpricing your property.

Questions to Ask

Sellers of antiques are not obligated to tell you anything when selling their property. They can sell "as is". Hence the saying "Let the buyer beware". But they cannot knowingly misrepresent their material.

If the seller is reputable, and wants to keep their reputation they are obligated to answer specific questions to the best of their ability. Thus, the more knowledgeable the seller, the better off the buyer.

Let’s assume you are dealing with a knowledgeable collector or dealer with a good reputation. Ask if the piece is all original. Has it had any repairs or alterations ? Is the finish original, has it been cleaned ? Is it in working condition ?

If you are satisfied the gun is what it is represented to be, and you are aware of existing repairs or alterations known to the seller, then the only thing to worry about is the price. Here you are on your own. The seller has given you his price and has told you about the piece, now the ball is in your court.

Do your homework.

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Submitting Complete and Useful Questions to the Web Site

Volume 2 Issue 2

TOPIC - Submitting Questions

by Ronald G. Gabel

A review of the many and varied questions submitted to this web site concerning antique gun (PRE 1898) related issues reveals a wide variety of information submitted about the firearm under discussion. It should be obvious that the more detailed the information contained in the question, the more accurate and useful the answer will be. It is extremely difficult and often impossible to answer questions about a particular firearm if information provided is incomplete.

For example consider the question " I have a gun I believe was produced prior to 1898, can you tell me what it is worth?" This question will not receive a very useful response. As I have pointed out in the past this is like saying " I believe I have an old car made before 1940, what is it worth?" Most questions received are not this incomplete, but a review of those submitted will find some that come close.

Now I understand, of course, that many people who are asking questions are unfamiliar with firearms and are unaware of what information would be useful to include in their question. It is my hope that this brief article will aid the novice in submitting a more complete and useful question.

First the basics, is your gun a pistol, a rifle or a shotgun? The pistol is hand held, the rifle is shot from the shoulder and has rifled grooves in the barrel and the shotgun is shot from the shoulder and is smooth bore. Assuming the gun is a rifle, is it a half stock (with wood half way up the barrel) or is it a full stock (with wood all the way up to the muzzle)? How is the barrel fastened to the stock? Is it held together with barrel bands, with pins or with wedges? Does the gun open at the breech for the loading of a cartridge or is it closed at the breech so it must be loaded from the muzzle?

A very important addition to your question would be a list of all markings on the gun and where they are located. Are those markings in block letters or script? If any letters are hard to read note what parts are clear and what parts are unclear. Does the gun have a serial number? What is the number and where is it located?

Is the barrel round or octagon in shape, (or is it part round and part octagon)? How long is the barrel? What is the size of the bore? (Measure the hole where the bullet comes out). What is the finish on the metal parts of the gun? Is it finished bright? Is it blued? Is it brown, nickel or silver? Is the gun engraved and if so where? Are inlays of decorative metal inlet into the stock? What are they made of, silver, brass or bone? Where are the inlays located?

Can you guess as to the type of wood in the stock? Is it Walnut, Cherry, Curly Maple or some other wood? Is the stock carved anywhere? How is it carved? Where is it carved? Is the gun fired by a percussion system (A muzzle loader fired by a hammer striking a nipple that would hold a percussion cap), a flintlock system (A muzzle loader that is fired by a hammer that holds a piece of flint stone that strikes a movable steel frizzen to produce a spark), or by loading a cartridge at the breech?

And last, and perhaps most important, what is the condition of the firearm? A statement like "The condition is good for its age" is not good enough. Fine condition means it looks like brand new, very good condition means it looks only slightly used. Most pieces show wear and age and fall in the category of good to average. (or worse).

Is the firearm in working order? Are all the parts present? Is anything obviously broken?

In other words, do the best you can in providing a complete description. Realize that the better you paint the picture of exactly what your gun looks like, the better your answer will be.

Now that you know how to submit a complete and useful question to the Web Site... Submit Your Question Now!

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