The Best (and Worst) Guns to Collect for Investment

best guns to collect for investment

Gun collecting is one of history’s deepest rabbit holes. With that in mind, this article is geared toward people who want to buy guns mostly for personal pleasure that can also serve as a long-term store of value. In other words, if you or your kids will most likely be able to sell your gun collection for more than you paid for it, I consider that a good investment. If you’re looking to keep your entire nest egg in your gun safe, these rules of thumb are not for you.

The Two Kinds of Gun Collectors: Treasure Hunters and Connoisseurs 

Treasure hunters frequent gun shows, yard sales, pawn shops, and off-the-beaten-path gun shops generally looking for hidden gems. Although it does happen from time to time, the likelihood that you’ll win the ‘old gun lottery’ – as in, buying a ragged-looking .38 Special for $350 and auction it off for a hundred grand – is about the same as your chance of winning an actual lottery. However, you can, through fairly general knowledge, to figure out which guns are more likely to slowly appreciate rather than lose value over time. We’ll get to that list very shortly.

Connoisseurs know what they like and focus on accumulating guns in one category: Winchester rifles, Colt pistols, a single model of Smith & Wesson revolvers, etc. This is a disciplined approach and a relatively reliable way to ensure a high value gun collection, but some people don’t find it as fun.

Classic, Reliable, ‘Blue Chip’ Guns to Collect

Though it might sound strange, regular, no-frills, Smith & Wesson J-frame revolvers make an excellent store of value. They won’t magically be worth millions, but they are a liquid asset that you can buy and sell them anytime if kept in good condition.

Here’s a good list, albeit far from complete, of other old guns and models that are unlikely to depreciate. Remember that the condition the guns are in is also important, and have someone with gunsmithing experience inspect any gun you’re buying as a potential investment.

  • Side-by-side double shotguns
  • Colt single action army revolvers (and generally any Colt pistol)
  • Luger pistols
  • Winchester rifles
  • Parker shotguns
  • WWII Era Nambus
  • M-1 Paratroopers
  • Sharps 1863 Carbines
  • Walther P38 (a WWII trophy gun)
  • Mosin-Nagants
  • S&T Daewoos
  • Legacy H&K pistols
  • Sig AMT (STG57)
  • FN FNC
  • Merwin & Hulbert revolvers
  • Enfield rifles
  • Legacy Arisaka rifles
  • Purdeys

The worst guns to collect for investment are…

modern rifles, i.e. AR- and AK-platform guns, as well as their receivers, parts, accessories, and so on. These won’t reliably appreciate, both in spite of AND because of the fact that Americans tend to buy huge quantities of certain guns based on on current events. We all remember the explosive market for AR-15s and AK-47s that appeared due to concerns about the ‘assault weapons’ ban. Now, you’ll find AKs and ARs everywhere you look, so they’re not particularly collectible guns. This is not to say you shouldn’t buy one for its utility or for your own enjoyment – and a well-maintained, high end rifle from a reputable brand will likely still be a valuable thing to hand down to your kids.

More Tips

A cohesive collection can be a better investment than a handful of different individual guns.

If you have the patience for it, connoisseurship is fruitful. Especially if you’ve done your homework and there’s a model or type of gun you really love, they’ll often be worth more as a set than their the sum of their individual values.

Smaller bores appreciate more quickly than larger bores (especially for shotguns).

This is the case simply because fewer are produced, which makes them less common. It’s not unusual for a vintage .410 to sell at twice or three times the price of its 12ga counterpart.

Insure your gun collection.

It’s a few dollars per year well spent. Here is our quick and painless guide to gun theft insurance.

comments

  1. avatar mark s says:

    Unless you figure on getting rich or even wealthier off collecting ( accumulating ) guns , then the article is good advise for sure , but buying guns as an investment , meaning your dollar spent does not depreciate after purchase , is a much simpler concept and as long as you do not over invest in a particular firearm , like hundreds in added furniture , and you do not pay more than retail , gun accumulation is generally better than putting your money into a savings account . Proper maintenance , safe storage and insurance calculated into your equation in the beginning and intelligent buying practices along with impeccable record keeping , should allow those left with your collection , after your passing , a value added investment .

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      bought a baby browning back in the day. for fifty bucks..recently got $500 for it…yeah, you can make money….

  2. avatar AKMania says:

    I disagree on AKs being bad investments, at least for the imported ones. Import banned and discontinued models, like Chinese, Russian, and Hungarian AKs originally were priced in the low hundreds, but are now worth thousands. Hell, even the common WASR-10 has been steadily creeping up in price and fluctuates a couple hundred dollars between batches of imports.

    1. avatar Whyaretheresomanypopups says:

      Ya sold my used beat up WASR 10 for a nice profit. Also any transferable M/G is a soild investment, the increase in value about 10% a year. IE if I bought a RR AR-15 in 2015 they averaged $14,000 now in 2018 the are going for $19,000 to $20,000. Not a bad return on something you can use.

      1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

        “Also any transferable M/G is a soild investment,…”

        Maybe not, I hope.

        I’m convinced a newly-conservative SCOTUS may come through for us and get the ‘Hughes amendment’ declared unconstitutional.

        The mechanism for lawful ownership of M/Gs was set up by the ’34(?) GCA, and worked just fine for nearly 50 years. (as fine as an unconstitutional law can be).

    2. avatar Timothy says:

      I agree with that. The Clinton era imports free of 922r compliant parts without welded up and dremil opened mag wells are a Grand today. They were half that just 5 years ago. But because those have shaved bayonet lugs, the barrel threading stripped and thumbhole stocks, they aren’t even the good ones.

      Even if your AK doesn’t go up in value, the fact that rounds can be found for .20c a round means they’re cheaper to shoot than their AR counterparts. And frankly, wood furniture is about 10 times classier than black plastic. (not that there’s anything wrong with black plastic, I have several of those myself).

    3. avatar frank speak says:

      back in the eighties you could buy a semi norinco for $250…and a full auto for a hundred more…I opted for the semi….dumb….dumb….dumb…still a nice gun, though!….

  3. avatar Joe R. says:

    Buying gun safe(s) should be factored into the cost. Getting insurance without a safe is more difficult to impossible.

    1. avatar Whyaretheresomanypopups says:

      I have a line item insurance for my guns. No where was there anything demanding that I have a safe.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        I would bet your premiums would be higher without one. YMMV. I just know the quotes I got.

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      my insurance doesn’t require that…[collectables ins.]…like the idea that I have an alarm system, though…

  4. avatar Stephen M says:

    I’m on a vintage Colt buying kick right now. Amazing the prices people sell rescue Ponies for.

    I’m not quite in Python territory yet, but I’m honestly more interested in finding a few more Pocket Hammerless’s

  5. avatar Steve says:

    My father’s advice:

    Any firing gun under $150 is a sound investment.

  6. avatar Bigus Dickus says:

    So to summarize, if you’re collecting guns as in investment you want to buy older collectible guns not new mass market guns. Now *THAT* was an inciteful article!

  7. avatar thevictoriousgecko says:

    Guns, unless one is preparing for the collapse of civilization, are a terrible investment. They’re hard to move, have no natural appreciation, and are always immediately worth less than what one pays. Go to any gun show, you’ll see a table full of classic Colts. Next year, you’ll see the same table, with most of the same classic Colts. Some guy spent an entire weekend, along with table fees, to make less than that guy would have made investing in a decent S&P 500 index fund.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      Functional guns will track at about 70% of the value of the same or equivalent new gun over time. While guns may not increase in real value they can appreciate in nominal value if you take care of them. That is better than any other consumer durable.

      You know what is a bad investment? Your house. When you factor in upkeep and taxes you will do better in a mutual fund. The only way to make money on a house is to move to a lower cost area when you retire so you can actually pull cash out after pay for your final dwelling space.

    2. avatar Timothy says:

      *NEW guns are always immediately worth less.

      There, I fixed it for you. Much like driving a car off the log automatically depreciates it’s value, so does firing a previously unfired gun. That said, used guns tend to hold their value very well in almost any market. More than that, mass panic buying of guns and ammo in response to potential regulation can create quite lucrative spikes of value.

  8. avatar The Rookie says:

    “Side-by-side double shotguns”

    Knowing next to nothing about shotguns, I’ll ask the rookie (no pun intended) question: why do side-by-side double barrels make the list, but not over-under? Are the latter just not as popular?

    1. avatar bryan1980 says:

      Side-by-sides are generally harder to come by than over-unders, so the overall rarity of them helps their value. Also, side by sides, for the most part, were only made by higher-end gun makers.

      1. avatar The Rookie says:

        Ah, that explains it, then. Thanks!

      2. avatar frank speak says:

        gotta’ start browsing on gun broker just to see if you’re right about that…got a couple of fox side by sides….

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Before the Browning Superposed, most double-barrel shotguns were SxS.

      After the Superposed, most double-barrel shotguns were O/U’s – and that continues to this day.

      Today, you can find 25 models of high quality O/U for every high quality SxS in the market. SxS’s are now a rarity in the market.

      The old American SxS’s (Parker, Fox, Lefever, LC Smith, etc) are quality guns, and the higher grades of these guns were sometimes very, very, very nice – and made in quantities of dozens to only a couple thousand over decades that these companies were in business.

      1. avatar bontai joe says:

        I recently bid on an internet auction, on a 16 Ga. Parker side by side in rather bad condition just to have an interesting wall hanger. My max bid was $50 because this gun was rusted and no longer in useable condition. It sold for just under $400. So I agree that the big name double barrel shotguns command a premium.

  9. avatar Swarf says:

    I lobbied to buy a crate of Mosins when they were $100 apiece at Big 5 about 8 years ago.

    Alas, I didn’t convince her. I’ve got two still in the cosmo, though. And a third to shoot.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      picked mine up at the local Dunhams for $79.95…complete with sling, pouches and a bayonet…too cheap to pass up….

    2. avatar bontai joe says:

      I got my Remington made Mozin for $35 about 30 years ago. That was the average price at the gun show I was at back then. In 30 years I don’t know if I made a good financial investment, but it’s been fun to shoot.

  10. avatar bontai joe says:

    I can remember maybe 40 years ago, that Turner Kirkland who owned Dixie Gunworks at the time bought a HUGE collection of trapdoor Springfield rifles in .45-70. He photographed, cataloged, and indexed them all in a self published book where they were offered for resale. I could afford the book, which I still have, but didn’t have the coin for any of the rifles at the time. The average prices were between $150 to $200 for each rifle, and there were a couple of hundred available. I wish I could have bought 5 or 10. Good investment? I don’t know, but I’ll bet they outperformed my company’s retirement plan that I have watched get reduced by 50% twice in my working career. I also remember getting my M1 Garand from what was then known as the DCM for $135. I should have bought a couple of more rifles at that price (kick, kick, kick) By the same token, I did buy a “collectable” commemorative rifle back in the early 1980s that is currently selling for about what I paid for it back then. I console myself with the fact that it sure is pretty to look at. So my 2 cent opinion is that guns can be a good investment if you pick well and have a little luck. And they can be a terrible investment if you don’t pick well, but can offer you priceless moments of wonderful memories when teaching spouses, children the art of marksmanship. Or hunting trips with dad or grandpa. Or Thanksgiving meals with turkey harvested during a hunt. Or a Christmas goose dinner harvested with a brother on a good day’s hunt. I don’t know how to measure that kind of return on an investment.

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