What's my gun worth?
How to research firearms values

by Jim Supica

Copyright, Jim Supica - used by permission.  Opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of NRA or the National Firearms Museum.

One of the most frequent questions we receive is someone asking what their gun is, or what it's worth. This page will give you some ideas on how to identify your gun and find out what it might be worth.


HOW TO ASK

You need to provide enough info to identify & estimate the value of the gun you're asking about. Be sure your GUN IS UNLOADED first. Here is a basic list of what to include:


CONDITION

After you know WHAT it is, the biggest factor in value is the CONDITION of the gun. Differences in condition can EASILY halve or double the value of a gun. This is a somewhat technical evaluation, and if you're not familiar with guns, you probably won't be able to do it, and should ask help. There are two systems commonly used.

For more information on condition evaluation and standards, see Evaluating Firearms Condition.

Refinishing a collectible gun or modifying it or customizing it or over-cleaning it nearly always lowers the value. NEVER take it upon yourself to clean up an old gun unless you know what you're doing. I've seen folks buff a $2,000 gun into a $200 junker!


REFERENCE BOOKS

Most value questions can be answered by the major price guides.

Remember that these list RETAIL prices. Expect a dealer to offer you 40% to 70% of these if he's buying for resale.

Most of these are around $30 each, and available at major bookstores or most libraries.  If you can't find these locally, you can order them by phone from the National Firearms Museum Store at 703-267-1614.


OTHER SOURCES OF HELP

It's a good idea to check online listings of guns for sale to see what's being asked for similar guns in similar conditions.  Popular sites include GunBroker.com, GunsAmerica.com and AuctionArms.com.

The newstand publications Shotgun News and Gun Digest (formerly "Gun List") also list guns for sale for comparison pricing.

Many collectible guns sell through national-level specialty firearms auction houses.  Most of these list their catalogs online with estimates, and some include prices realized from past sales.  You can search through these for a similar gun in similar condition.  Such auctioneers include Julia, Little John's, Heritage, Rock Island Auction, Amoskeag Auction, and Armsbid.com.


SOME SPECIFIC GUN VALUES

There are some types of older guns that tend not to bring much money (as guns go). While there are always exceptions, here are some of the types that tend to bring less than folks often hope.

There are some types of guns which are worth watching for, as they nearly always have good collector value. A listing here will be woefully incomplete, but some of the many major collecting fields include Colt percussion revolvers, Colt Single Action Armys, pre-1964 Winchesters, Lugers & other early auto pistols in nice original condition, large frame S&W top-breaks, US military arms, original percussion & flintlock rifles, fine double shotguns, etc, etc., etc. There are generally collectors for specific rare guns by any of the better quality manufacturers. Among those, often WWII or earlier guns bring a premium, and pre-1898 "antique" guns may bring an even larger premium.

These are gross generalizations, of course, but they may give you a starting place to research your gun.

From The Blue Book of Gun Values

 

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