best guns to collect for investment
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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.

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  1. 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 .

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

  2. 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.

    • 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.

      • “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).

    • 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).

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

  4. 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. 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!

    • You would be surprised just how many people buy brand new collectibles of any stripe.
      Although I don’t see many ads for collectible Star Wars plates any more.

  6. 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.

    • 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.

      • Buying a house is better than renting, at least. Given the number of years most people spend in their home, buying gives you equity, while renting costs as much, and you still pay for the upkeep and taxes in your rent.
        Buying is even better if you plan to stay beyond the mortgage period.
        Invest in that mutual fund, but factor in that you still have to live somewhere.

    • *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.

  7. “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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • I bought a SxS at a gun show; worked the price down to $200. It’s a wall hanger, as there’s no way to get to firing condition (cracked stock, frozen triggers, overall a “farm gun” from the late 1800s, etc). Was showing it after I bought it, and a collector offered $300 for it, but I like the idea of hanging it better than making a quick $100.
          I also have a Century Arms SxS that isn’t worth much, but is a blast to shoot.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • A buddy of mine only buys Winchester model 92 and 94 commemorative’s when ever he wants a new hunting rifle,he says they group about twice as tight and a standard model and the actions are much smoother. He has a bunch of them in different calibers and they were never fired when he got them but they look kind of gay but he dont care.

  10. I own a Colt Gold Cup Series 70 that I bought brand new for $200 in 1972, as a young Marine, $200 was about a months pay, when I recently checked the book of Gun values that same gun, in 90+ condition, is listed at around $1600, it’s still in my collection and in mint condition.

  11. Well guys here are a few tips for gun collecting to remember and help you build an investment.
    #1 Buy guns with your head not your heart. By that I mean don’t overpay for anything just because you love it unless it is not going to be used as an investment.
    #2 Name brand guns Smith, Colt, Winchester etc. are fodder for collectors and if in great condition will appreciate in value. A cheap brand gun is a cheap brand gun and will not ” typically ” increase in value fast.
    #3 Gun shows are a great place to shop and buying from a private owner is typically where you will be able to purchase a gun at a lower than market value as the dealers are well schooled in the value of their firearms and private owners sometimes do not know the true value and only know what they paid for the gun years ago and the amount they want for it. Although you can at times get a good value from a dealer.
    #4 condition is key to a good investment as a gun in very good condition can bring a lot more than one in less condition especially if it is a very collectable gun.
    #5 Military Guns that were actually used in a war ie WW1, WW2, Civil War etc. will be worth considerably more than one post or pre-war so know the dates the wars started and ended and key in on guns of war vintage.
    Military bring back guns that solders brought back are the most desirable and ones that have an import mark or stamp will be worth considerable less so avoid imported guns unless the price is right.
    #6 original condition guns are worth substantially more than one that was re-blued or parts changed that were not original to the gun. Always check for matching serial numbers and any signs of restoration or modification.
    #7 know the approximate value of the guns you are considering purchasing and my rule of thumb here is never pay more than 70% of what the gun would easily sell for at todays pricing that way you are making money from the start.
    #8 don’t buy guns that other people modified and so call upgraded with non oem parts as collectors don’t care what someone put into a gun and that only makes them less original and paying a premium for aftermarket parts is simply not typically a good investment.
    #9 Take the time to understand what the market value is and what is original and what is modified. Most people do not have a wide knowledge of all makes and models so start slow and understand what you are looking at before you get in too deep.
    #10 avoid mass produced modern polymer guns as they tend to change models frequently and the older models typically will depreciate when new models are produced. That does not mean their bad guns it simply means they won’t typically appreciate in value like a steel or alloy frame gun will.

    Well there you have it, 10 things to keep in mind to help you build a collection that will be an investment rather than just a collection. There is a lot to collecting for profit and much more to consider however you have to start somewhere and everyone may not agree with this post but most will. There are always exceptions to every rule and a rare gun is a rare gun and rarity, condition and other factors make a big difference in value.
    Good luck and happy hunting, the hunt should be enjoyable to you as it will take time and if you enjoy it you don’t mind spending your time doing it.

  12. I recommend that customers buy guns as a hedge against bad economic times for the same reason as gold and silver. You wont make a huge profit but if it holds its value in god times and keeps its value or grows in catastrophic times youve done well. This investing like gold and silver is only for wealthier people in large quantities

  13. Still have my first .22, which was my fathers. Had hell of fight with older brother over it. Had to give up hunting because of health, but still target shoot. Last count had 50 firearms. All in safe. All shoot able and all a prize.

  14. Not an expert in pistols, but some samples have seen that in a few years they will cost like some kind of car or house. And this is of course very interesting. Investments are worth the wait, but you need to understand them.


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