When it comes to choosing and buying old guns to add to your collection, you have to either know a lot or have access to people who do. How do you reach the point where you know a lot? You learn it through experience, and often that happens the hard way. When I first began buying old guns back in 1979, I recall setting a spending limit of $500. If I got burned on a gun (which I did a time or two) it wouldn't be the end of the world.
Forty years later I still have a self-imposed spending limit that I adhere to for the most part of $2,500. Where I think that limit hurts me the most is when it comes to shotguns. I see shotguns everyday in the $10,000 to $20,000 range, but I just can't bring myself to pull the trigger because of two primary reasons. One, I don't know them and the market well enough and two, I don't get to use a shotgun except a few weeks in the Fall each year.
Most of the readers are not into collecting old guns to make money. However, every collector should want to acquire the best guns and, guns that will retain value and increase in value over time, at the best prices available. Patience is a good thing, but if you wait for a bargain on some guns, ten years from now you will still be waiting and will have missed the boat.
The craziest example I can give today of my paying top of the market cost for a gun, is this 1986 Officers Model from a Double Diamond Set. I had wanted one of these guns for years and I could have bought the set at any time, but I knew if I bought the set, I wouldn't carry or fire the gun. Then I saw this one up for auction and bought it for $2,100.
Six weeks after buying the Double Diamond .45 I watched one go for around $1,300, but it looked like a drunk with an oversized screwdriver had unsuccessfully attempted to remove the grips on multiple occassions. The grips were butchered and you can't get replacements. I promise you that I can use my gun for 10 years and it will be in better condition than that last one I saw.
Some of you may have recognized the title of my article shares the title of a country song by one of my favorite songwriters, Bob McDill. Bob wrote almost all of the songs that were performed by Don Williams. And too many more to list, I think he wrote 31 songs that were #1 hits, quite an accomplishment in a field that has more competition than the telemarketer industry specializing in extended car warranties.
Anyway, in his song Bob said "for everything you win there's something lost." I've decided that all the times I settled for a less than stellar gun, I missed my opportunity to get the better gun that would have always been a better gun. And if I pay top of the market price today, my gun will still be at the top of the market 10 years from now.
And if I choose the right gun, the market is going to just keep going up. I've had my share of winners and losers over the years. The ones that paid for everything were the Pythons. I don't expect to ever see another crazy rocket take-off in value like the Pythons again in my lifetime. In contrast, I had a few Detective Special revolvers that were Safe Queens that I had hung onto to for 15 years on average. When I sold them recently because I knew I would never shoot them, I just broke even on every one.
This year has been a pivotal year in my collection, for reasons unforseen. After having a health scare, I realized that I needed to reduce the number of guns in my collection to a more manageable level in the event that something happened to me and my wife had to deal with all the guns. My office at home isn't big enough to display 50 to 100 guns and I never really wanted the collection to get that big in the first place.
When I paid $800 for this Colt Mustang in 2001, I'm sure there were examples I could have bought for about half that amount. But this Nickel Colt Mustang with real Mother of Pearl grips has stood the test of time and has been a very good investment.
Buy the best examples of the guns you really love when you can because in the long run you won't regret spending more. Don't pass up the bargains on less than stellar guns because turning them at a profit will help you step up to a better example down the road. Building a nice old gun collection is not a race.