Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Boom market?

S.P. Fjestad's Blue Book is the generally-recognized industry standard for pricing used and collectible guns. Bear in mind that it's just a guideline, a rule of thumb. There are going to be regional variations (although those have flattened out somewhat in the days of the internet,) prices at auction will almost always be higher, and I've always maintained that they lost connection with reality in postwar S&W pricing about ten years ago, although they've gotten a little better in the recent past (srsly, $450 for an unfired, in-the-box, P&R Model 28? I'll take every one you can find at that price.)

I rarely bought my own Blue Books since, you know, I had one I could consult at work. As a result, I only have a couple at home currently; the 23rd and 29th editions, corresponding to 2002 and 2008. After typing that bit on Colt pricing yesterday, I decided to take a look at what the book had to say.

For starters, we'll ignore pricing in the "100%" grade, as it's largely mythical, especially in antique guns. 100% (referring to the amount of original finish left on the gun) is generally held to be the Platonic ideal, and even the prettiest guns fall short unless they are truly exceptional. In my years of walking the aisles at gun shows and standing behind counters, I can remember most of my "100%!" moments fairly clearly.

Still, even working with the 98% and 95% pricing grades, antique Colt autos exploded between 2002 and 2008. In '02, a GI Colt 1911A1 booked at $625 in 95% and $895 in 98%; six years later the same gun in the same condition showed a book value of $2,700 to $3,200. That's crazy. That's Dutch Tulip Bulb, California real-estate, U.S. Treasury Department crazy. Bear in mind that these prices are for original, unrefinished guns in primo shape, the kind that tend to change hands at auction or between collectors, but it affects lower-grade guns, too: The 60% beater (and a 60% gun is homely!) that rated $325 in 2002 would fetch as much as a grand in '08.

Anybody who attends gun shows has seen it. Re-arsenaled GI "mixmasters" (guns with parts from Colt, Remington Rand, whoever) are priced at $800 and more. This has spread to lesser Colts, too. For example, in '02 a really nice 98% Colt 1908 Vest Pocket booked out at $425; the same gun in '08? $700. The early Colt Pocket Hammerless that rated $720 in the 23rd Edition rated $1,600 in the 29th.

Do you know what soaring prices on collectibles are usually a sign of? Inflation. I'm afraid to pick up a copy of the 31st Edition...


Joanna said...

Two or three months ago a dozen eggs cost $0.79 at Aldi. Now they cost $0.99. That's a 25% increase. And of course a gallon of regular is now $2.95.

I'd invest in wheelbarrows, intaglio presses and ammunition, myself.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I was just talking to my gun buddy about the 28-2 Smith I bought yesterday. I mentioned how the prices of old S&W's had jumped up just in the last 3 or 4 years I had been paying attention to them, and he was telling me how he could have bought all of the GI 1911's he wanted for $400-500 20 years ago. While prices cannot continue to increase exponentially forever, we both agreed 20 years from now, we would think these are the good old days.

OA said...

"Do you know what soaring prices on collectibles are usually a sign of? Inflation."

Yup. Same for stocks (coke-head finance guy kind, not bang bang kind) in a crappy economy.

On the plus side, the Greeks just had a riot and burnt a bank whilst chanting "thieves, thieves".

Kevin said...

I've got a homely 1917-vintage Colt 1911 (not an A1) that at some point in the past was the victim of a bad case of surface rust and was then cleaned and reblued. It has a lovely non-skid blue finish now. I've been told that it's worth somewhere in the vicinity of $1k. My father-in-law paid $50 for it about 1950.

Paul said...

The sad part the the Gov will not see inflation and the very goods that are inflating are not tracked. Course if you factor in inflation, the price of Colts and Gold has not gone up nearly as much as it appears.

My thought is buy all the precious metal you can find package in a small explosive device set to fit your favorite heater. That will have value in any thing that comes. If you can keep it.

JC said...

A phrase I've heard with regard to the pristine older pieces is "investment grade".

Anonymous said...

"Do you know what soaring prices on collectibles are usually a sign of? Inflation."

True, but with caveats. I acknowledged the effects of supply/demand in your post on the 8K Colt, however that law is subject to all manner of gerrymander and manipulation. While the supply of vintage Colts is fixed, not so for many other "collectibles" (see "Sports Cards/Comic Books ca. 1980", or "Houses ca. 2009"). When supply is limited only by the capacity of the printing press or the number of Mexicans with hammers, demand is but a perception, and false perception of scarcity/value actually becomes a cause rather than an effect of inflation.

And of course other elements are at work as to firearms in general (see "Obama: Salesman of the Year"), and certain commodities such as precious metals (see "Greenbacks: the Worthless Promise").

So as this inflationary bubble inflates, forget the Beanie Babies and feather your nest with fun stuff with practical underlying purpose...guns (any are good; fine rare ones are fun), gold & silver (bars are good; Eagles are better). And don't forget the brass and beans. That way, if the worst happens (God help us) you'll be ready, but if this too should pass and the bubble bursts, you'll still have something of value...and you had some fun along the way.


staghounds said...

"Captain Smith, the sea is rising!"

ANY commodity is better than money in the bank.

Stranger said...

Yep. It's time to sell - and buy a surplus Minuteman silo with enough surrounding acreage for a garden. Or at least put in a "bomb shelter" big enough to live in and deep enough not to need heating and cooling.


Justthisguy said...

You should read one of my favorite H. Beam Piper novels, "Murder in the Gun Room." It's available gratis on Gutenberg.

Think of the prices mentioned in that book, and weep.

oldsmobile98 said...

Kudos to Mr. Fjestad. Question is, how do you pronounce his name? Fuh-jess-tadd or Fuh-jess-todd?

I votes for tadd. Say it out loud like you might if you was back in East Tennessee. More fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Tam said...

When I was in E. TN I always said "F-YESS-tadd" and people would look at me funny, so then I'd say "BLOO-bûk" and they'd know what I meant.

How do you pronounce "Heckler & Koch"? Why, "AITCH-ən-kay", of course. ;)

oldsmobile98 said...

How do you pronounce "Heckler & Koch"? Why, "AITCH-ən-kay", of course. ;)

Right on! It's nice to finally find somebody who knows how to talk right. I am from Friendsville, just about ten minutes from Murr-uh-vull in Blount County. Now I'm at Nannerbilt University and can't find many native speakers.

Took my HCP class at CCA in Summer 2008, but I'm guessing you were already up in Yankee territory by then. Used the rental Browning Buckmark to qualify with (shhh.... don't tell anybody).

Windy Wilson said...

The Government won't see the inflation, because they calculate its measure and benefit from its existence. It's not just eggs, but cold cereal has been creeping up, too.

Desertrat said...

Windy, you start worrying when it changes from creeping to leaping. BTDT.

What the hey: Sixty years ago in Austintatious, the hockshops had windows full of SAAs for $35. Pick your caliber. Didn't matter; I didn't have a loose $35 then, either.

Then came collector-mnania during the Carter era. Sheesh! I'd buy a coin or gun collection, and before I got it home the "value" was already up 20%. Up 50% by the time I got to the next show, seemed like.