How many investments can you name that virtually guarantee a sizable return on your money while offering the added bonus of pride of ownership? Buying antique automobiles might be one, and collecting fine art is certainly another, but if you didn’t say gun collecting, you missed one of the surest bets around. But first, what is a gun collector?
According to the media, a gun collector is some weird misanthrope who stockpiles guns and ammo in anticipation of an invasion from government agents in black helicopters. This is about the same as calling a collector of Islamic art a terrorist. More to the point, the guy who owns a rifle for once-a-year deer hunts is simply a gun owner. Whereas someone-you, for example-who buys guns because he admires their beauty, workmanship, function and value can rightly call himself a collector. It is here that we recognize the similarity of collecting guns to collecting other forms of art.
All collections, whether they’re guns or art, begin with the acquisition of a single piece. As is true of the art collector who begins with a single painting or sculpture for a few dollars and grows his passion into a collection worth millions, the collector of guns needs an eye for beauty, style and talent, plus the shrewd investor’s sense of what will be in demand years hence. Unlike art collectors, however, who depend on capricious critics, the whim of fashion and a certain amount of luck, gun collectors play by safer and more predictable rules.
As with art, old cars and other items worthy of collecting and investment, there are several categories of gun collecting. Of these, perhaps the most exciting is “treasure hunting,” in which the collector prowls gun shows, pawn shops, yard sales and even obituary pages. (“Sorry to hear about your husband, ma’am. Wish I had known him. By the way, did he leave any old guns?”) These collectors need a broad knowledge of guns and their value, plenty of time and the dedication of a bloodhound. The thrill of the chase is part of the charm of hunting gun treasures and is occasionally spurred by reports of collectors finding beauties like a Walker Colt revolver in a junk shop for a few dollars and reselling it for a quarter mil. However, the likelihood of such finds is slightly better than that of discovering a doubloon-laden Spanish galleon in your swimming pool.