Gun Collections As An Investment
Firearms have long held a unique place in American culture, symbolizing both our nation’s history and individual freedoms. For many, gun collections transcend mere hobbyism; it’s a passionate pursuit that often blends history, craftsmanship, and a profound connection to the Second Amendment. But as the world of investment opportunities expands, a growing question looms: Is a gun collection a good investment? Beyond the thrill of acquiring and admiring these pieces of history, can they also serve as a financially sound venture? In this article, we will delve into the intriguing world of gun collecting, exploring its allure, the economics at play, the associated risks, and the expert opinions that shape this debate. By the end, you’ll have a clearer picture of whether a gun collection is a treasure trove of potential or a passion best pursued without monetary expectations.
The Appeal Of Gun Collecting
The appeal of gun collections is multifaceted and draws enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds. It’s not merely about amassing an assortment of firearms; rather, it’s a passion steeped in history, craftsmanship, and personal connection. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why investors may be drawn to a gun collection.
Historical And Cultural Significance Of Guns
The historical and cultural significance of guns is profound, both in the United States and globally. Throughout history, firearms have played pivotal roles in shaping societies, politics, and warfare. In early America, guns were indispensable, from colonial times to the Revolutionary War when they enabled colonists to challenge British rule. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791, solidified the right to bear arms, reflecting the nation’s commitment to individual and collective defense. During westward expansion, firearms were vital for survival, aiding settlers in defending against threats, hunting for food, and contributing to economic development. The American Civil War saw widespread firearm use, leading to innovations in technology and tactics. In the 20th century, guns played central roles in both World Wars, symbolizing military might and driving advancements in firearm design.
Culturally, the United States has a well-established gun culture rooted in its history. Firearms symbolize self-reliance, individualism, and personal liberty. Shooting sports, hunting, and gun-related hobbies are common and celebrated. Hollywood and popular culture often portray firearms prominently, with Westerns, action movies, and crime dramas featuring guns as central elements. Iconic firearms like the Colt Single Action Army revolver and the M1911 pistol have become cultural symbols. Competitive shooting sports promote marksmanship, discipline, and camaraderie among participants. Many people view firearms as tools for personal defense, sparking debates over gun control, individual rights, and self-protection. Additionally, guns are collected as works of art and historical artifacts, with engraved and ornate firearms admired for their craftsmanship and aesthetics. In summary, the historical and cultural significance of guns is deeply intertwined with the history and identity of nations like the United States, reflecting not only their roles in conflict but also their broader cultural relevance in contemporary society.
With this in mind, owning a 1911, Sharpe’s Rifle, or Brown Bess is similar to owning an original production year Singer Sewing Cabinet or having a collection of Victorian Era coins. It’s a chance to hold history in your hand, and to learn more about it as you build your collection over the years.
Examples Of Craftsmanship
In addition to their rich contribution to our society’s history and culture, firearms frequently showcase a culmination of pinnacles in craftsmanship. Many collectible guns transcend their utilitarian function to become true works of art, admired for their exquisite features.
One common standout feature is the ornate engravings that grace many collectible guns, where skilled artisans meticulously etch intricate designs onto metal components, often reflecting historical or thematic motifs. This process requires painstaking precision and elevates these firearms to the status of art objects.
Collectible guns often boast superb woodwork; their stocks, carefully shaped and finished, are crafted from hand-selected, high-quality wood. The wood’s grain, color, and finish are thoughtfully considered, creating both ergonomic excellence and visual appeal.
In addition, the metal components of these firearms are painstakingly created, featuring precise fit and finish. Processes such as bluing or case hardening not only offer protection but also enhance the firearm’s aesthetics. Innovative mechanisms, reflecting the era of their production, are another hallmark of collectible guns, showcasing the engineering prowess of their time.
The various mechanisms employed to allow guns to store, chamber, and fire rounds is also fascinating to many people. John Moses Browning and other innovators came up with designs that were simple, elegant, functional, and imminently practical. Holding an A5 in your hand, you can see the end-product of a legion of talented woodworkers, metallurgists, artisans, engineers, inventors, and businessmen all collaborating together to make something that really is wondrous in its beauty and functionality.
“Working” Gun Collections
Finally, some people just like to shoot guns, and don’t believe that you can have too many to shoot! Whether you prefer sporting clays, long-range competitions, 3-gun events, or deer hunting, shooting guns brings many people pleasure in the same way that others like to hit golf balls or bowl.
Shooting can serve as a form of stress relief, requiring intense concentration that allows individuals to temporarily escape the pressures of daily life. Furthermore, the pursuit of shooting offers a platform for skills development, as mastering marksmanship and safe firearm handling is both challenging and personally rewarding. Competitive shooting sports provide an avenue for friendly competition and skill improvement, while hunting enthusiasts engage in shooting as an essential part of their outdoor lifestyle, connecting with nature and ancestral traditions.
The Economics Of Gun Collecting
All of that sounds great, but is there more to a gun collection than just an interesting and fun hobby? Can you reasonably expect it to be worth more than you paid into it one day, or is it just a fun (and expensive) collection of toys?
The answer may surprise you.
Firearms Market Growth
For starters, it’s important to realize that the firearms market has grown tremendously in recent times. Over the past two decades, the firearms industry in the United States has seen notable growth marked by several significant trends and factors. During this period, there have been regular, periodic surges in firearm sales, often driven by concerns about personal safety, changes in gun control legislation, and heightened political debates about gun rights, resulting in what’s commonly referred to as “panic buying.”
Additionally, the industry has witnessed the widespread popularity of modern sporting rifles (MSRs), including AR-15-style firearms, appealing to recreational and competitive shooters, as well as hunters. The rise of concealed carry permits across many states has fueled interest in compact handguns designed for personal defense, leading to the development and marketing of concealed carry-specific firearms.
More people than ever are buying their first firearm, which means that firearms training and education programs have also grown, enabling enthusiasts to enhance their firearm safety, marksmanship, and self-defense skills. Increased participation in shooting sports, military and law enforcement contracts, and exports to international markets have further contributed to the industry’s expansion. Advances in firearm technology and innovation, including improved materials and accessories, have garnered consumer interest.
It’s fair to acknowledge that this growth has occurred amid ongoing debates over gun control, concerns about firearm-related violence, and shifts in political landscapes, which have influenced fluctuations in demand and shaped the industry’s trajectory over the past two decades. Nevertheless, the firearms industry has displayed resilience and adaptability, with manufacturers, retailers, and enthusiasts continuing to play a pivotal role in this dynamic sector of the U.S. economy. If anything, oft-perceived threats against the industry have fanned the flames of growth, causing firearms to go up in value.
Value Of Historic Pieces
The most obvious case studies of firearms appreciating in value can be seen when we look at historic pieces. While precise dollar amounts can fluctuate due to market dynamics and individual firearm uniqueness, there are general insights into the worth of historic firearms. For instance, exceptionally rare and historically significant antique firearms, particularly those linked to notable figures or events, can command substantial prices at auctions, potentially reaching tens of thousands of dollars or more.
Early firearms, such as 18th-century flintlock muskets, hold significant value. The Brown Bess, the “standard issue” musket for British troops during the American Revolution, generally cost around 3 British pounds when it was in service. Today, that same gun can fetch anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 US dollars, depending on condition and the exact model.
Military surplus firearms from wars like World War I and World War II are highly collectible, with well-preserved M1 Garand rifles ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 or more, a substantial increase considering that it’s approximated that their cost of manufacturer averaged at around $85 when they were being made.
Firearms with historical importance, including iconic handguns like the Colt Single Action Army Revolver from the American Old West, can be valued at several thousand dollars or higher, considering factors like rarity and condition. Given that you can find that venerable old six-shooter listed in early 1900s Sears Catalogs for around $20, I’d say they’ve gone up in value quite a bit!
How Much Do Guns Appreciate Over Time?
Not all guns become historic icons, but even very average, commonplace guns can appreciate in value. One of the most popular firearms ever produced, the ubiquitous and not-at-all romantic Remington 870 shotgun, cost around $150 to buy when it was introduced to the civilian market during the 1950s. You’d be hard pressed to buy a new one today for less than triple that price, and vintage models in good condition regularly fetch much more than new ones.
All in all, while a gun collection might not be the type of investment you rely on to do the heavy lifting in your retirement plan, they do tend to increase in value, or at least hold onto it. Given that many “fun” purchases depreciate in value immediately and permanently, you could do a lot worse than a gun collection as a tertiary investment!
Gun Collection Risks
It’s important to note that owning a gun collection isn’t all fun and games. Physical collections in general come with unique risks compared to “paper” ones, and guns collections come with some additional unique risks that make protecting them all the more important if you intend to hold on to them long enough to recognize an appreciation in value.
Firstly, theft is a significant concern, as gun collections are attractive targets for burglars due to their potential high value. Collectors should invest in secure storage solutions like safes and alarm systems to protect against theft, and insurance coverage can provide financial protection in case of theft.
Secondly, the risk of fire, natural disasters, and damage to the collection is a real concern. Firearms can be damaged or destroyed in fires, floods, hurricanes, and other disasters. To reduce these risks, collectors should store firearms in fire-resistant safes and, in flood-prone areas, above ground level. It’s also crucial to maintain records and photographs for insurance purposes.
Additional risks include accidents, unauthorized access, and, perhaps most easily forgotten, neglection of maintenance!
Gun Collection Insurance Mitigates The Risks
Cole Cushman, co-founder of Gun & Trophy Insurance, established the company with his father to address a gap homeowner insurance policies have when it comes to gun collections. Their family-run business specializes in providing affordable gun collection insurance options for gun enthusiasts and hunters.
Cushman recommends considering specialized insurance when the value of a gun collection surpasses $10,000 to $15,000. This type of insurance tailored to collectors’ needs can offer both financial and emotional benefits. While standard homeowners insurance policies often provide some coverage for firearms, there are important considerations to keep in mind, as the extent of protection varies for risks like theft, fire, or vandalism, and most policies come with limitations when insuring a collection.
You can read a more in-depth breakdown of insurance for gun collections and why you need it here.
Final Thoughts On Gun Collections As An Investment
In conclusion, the question of whether gun collections are a good investment is a complex one that requires careful consideration of various factors. While firearms can indeed appreciate in value, especially those with historical significance or rarity, it’s essential to approach gun collecting with realistic expectations. Collecting firearms should not be solely driven by the potential for financial gain, but also by a genuine passion for firearms, history, and culture. The value of a gun collection can fluctuate over time, influenced by market trends, legislative changes, and shifts in collector demand.
Moreover, the responsibilities that come with firearm ownership, including proper safety protocols, secure storage, and adequate insurance, should not be underestimated. For many collectors, the intrinsic value of owning and appreciating firearms extends beyond monetary considerations. It includes the enjoyment of history, the craftsmanship of firearms, the camaraderie of the shooting community, and the pursuit of personal skills and knowledge.
Before embarking on gun collections as an investment, individuals should conduct thorough research, consult with experts, and consider their long-term goals and interests. It’s crucial to strike a balance between prudent financial decisions and the passion that drives one’s connection to firearms. In the end, whether a gun collection proves to be a good investment ultimately depends on the collector’s dedication, knowledge, and the broader perspective they bring to this fascinating and multifaceted hobby.