In most cases, the condition of a firearm determines its value. As with all collectible items, a grading system is necessary to give buyers and sellers a measurement that most closely reflects a general consensus on condition. While all grading systems are subjective, the system presented in this publication attempts to describe a firearm in universal terms. It is strongly recommended that the reader be closely acquainted with this grading system before attempting to determine the correct value of a particular firearm.
Example prices are shown for the conditions described in this format:
NIB (NEW IN BOX)
This category can sometimes be misleading. It means that the firearm is in its original factory carton with all of the appropriate papers. It also means the firearm is new, that it has not been fired, and has no wear. This classification brings a substantial premium for both the collector and shooter. It should be noted that NIB values are not the same as MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), but rather are “street prices” that can be considerably lower than the MSRP. A NIB value should closely represent the selling price for a new, unfired gun in the box.
Collector quality firearms in this condition are highly desirable. The firearm must be in at least 98 percent condition with respect to blue wear, stock or grip finish, and bore. The firearm must also be in 100 percent original factory condition without refinishing, repair, alterations, or additions of any kind. Sights must be factory original, as well. This grading classification includes both modern and antique (manufactured prior to 1898) firearms.
Firearms in this category are also sought after both by the collector and shooter. Modern firearms must be in working order and retain approximately 92 percent original metal and wood finish. It must be 100 percent factory original, but may have some small repairs, alterations, or non-factory additions. No refinishing is permitted in this category. Antique firearms must have 80 percent original finish with no repairs.
Modern firearms in this category may not be considered to be as collectible as the previous grades, but antique firearms are considered desirable. Modern firearms must retain at least 80 percent metal and wood finish, but may display evidence of old refinishing. Small repairs, alterations, or non-factory additions are sometimes encountered in this class. Factory replacement parts are permitted. The overall working condition of the firearm must be good, as well as safe. The bore may exhibit wear or some corrosion, especially in antique arms. Antique firearms may be included in this category if the metal and wood finish is at least 50 percent of the factory original.
Firearms in this category should be in satisfactory working order and safe to shoot. The overall metal and wood finish on the modern firearm must be at least 30 percent and antique firearms must have at least some original finish or old re-finish remaining. Repairs, alterations, non-factory additions, and recent refinishing would all place a firearm in this classification. However, the modern firearm must be in working condition, while the antique firearm may not function. In either case the firearm must be considered safe to fire if in a working state.
Neither collectors nor shooters are likely to exhibit much interest in firearms in this condition. Modern firearms are likely to retain little metal or wood finish. Pitting and rust will be seen in firearms in this category. Modern firearms may not be in working order and may not be safe to shoot. Repairs and refinishing would be necessary to restore the firearm to safe working order. Antique firearms in this category will have no finish and will not function. In the case of modern firearms their principal value lies in spare parts. On the other hand, antique firearms in this condition can be used as “wall hangers,” or might be an example of an extremely rare variation or have some kind of historical significance.
Prices given in this system are designed as a guide, not as a quote, and the prices given reflect retail values. This is very important to remember. You will seldom realize full retail value if you trade in a gun or sell it to a dealer. In this situation, your gun will be valued at its wholesale price, which is generally substantially below retail value to allow for the seller’s profit margin.
It should also be remembered that prices for firearms can vary with the time of the year, geographical location, and the general economy. As might be expected, guns used for hunting are more likely to sell in late summer or early fall as hunting season approaches. Likewise, big-game rifles chambered for powerful magnum cartridges will likely have more appeal in western states than in the Deep South, while semi-automatic rifles or shotguns will not sell well in states where their use for hunting is prohibited, such as is the case in Pennsylvania.
It is not practical to list prices in this system with regard to time of year or location. What is given here is a reasonable price based on sales at gun shows, auction houses, and information obtained from knowledgeable collectors and dealers. In certain cases there will be no price indicated under a particular condition, but rather the notation “N/A” or the symbol “—.” This indicates that there is no known price available for that gun in that condition or the sales for that particular model are so few that a reliable price cannot be ascertained. This will usually be encountered only with very rare guns, with newly introduced firearms, or more likely with antique firearms in those conditions most likely to be encountered. Most antique firearms will be seen in the Good, Fair and Poor categories.
Gun Values by Gun Digest and the Standard Catalog of Firearms can be used as an identification guide and as a source of starting prices for a planned firearms transaction. If you begin by valuing a given firearm according to the values shown in this system, you will not be too far off the mark.
In the final analysis, a firearm is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. New trends arise quickly, and there are many excellent bargains to be found in today’s market. With patience and good judgment—and with this system—you, too, can find them.
STATEMENT ON SPECIAL EDITION AND COMMEMORATIVE GUN VALUES
Many manufacturers offer “special edition” or “commemorative” firearms as a way to celebrate a special occasion or to assist with fundraising efforts for a club or organization. Due to space considerations and the fact that many of the products in this category aren't identified separately by the manufacturers, it is not possible to include every special edition of every firearm. In many cases, special edition or commemorative firearms do not command notably higher values. However, in some instances, listings of special editions can be found in the manufacturer's section if the gun has intrinsic value notably higher than that of the standard model. Commemorative and limited edition Colts and Winchesters are included at the end of those manufacturers' listings. These are the brands in which most readers and collectors have an interest.