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    Arrow A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    A Primer on Firearm Auctions
    By bamboomaster


    I’m sure that many of you have attended auctions from time to time with the hope of finding a hidden gem: that unique firearm you dreamed about as a kid but weren’t old enough, couldn’t afford to buy especially after you started dating, identified an “anchor piece” missing from your collection, looking for the perfect carry piece at 50% off the retail price, etc.

    I never cease to be amazed at the variety of auction items and their conditions which can be anywhere from GFO (go find one), to NIB (new in box), to FPO (for parts only).

    There are a variety of reasons for these varying conditions mostly attributed to the owner:

    Some purchase a firearm so collectible that it would be a mistake to shoot it. Something akin to driving a brand-spanking new $40K vehicle off the curb of the dealer’s lot – which coincidently causes a 20% decrease in value during your first two minutes of driving with that pricey “new car” ambrosia.

    Others insist on shooting their purchases – and rightly so! But many also take the time to clean them afterwards. And a nice post-range lubrication seldom hurts in most instances.

    There are also many that think of any firearm as a tool: to put food on the table, for recreation, for personal defense and are not overly concerned (or at all concerned!) with cleaning – and that affects downstream realized auction prices. I totally understand their point of view. Hey, when was the last time you sprayed WD-40 on your pliers or rubbed linseed oil on the wood handles of your tools?

    Some are stacked in a safe like cordwood and develop those inevitable "storage marks” from trying to cross-pollinate.

    There are still others who store items in places cursed by high humidity – and just forget about them. Then the owner gets “promoted” (translation: “dies”). Sometimes nothing happens to these items for decades until the spouse follows – and then, in the process of heirs settling the estate, the firearms go to auction.

    Which is not a bad thing, for auction houses usually attempt to obtain the highest prices possible across a broad spectrum of bidders. These days, the Internet and on-line bidders from locations geographically distant from the auction site often find a way to arrive at a fair market value for any particular item.

    That’s called competitive bidding.

    Many auction houses have one or more resident experts in-house who really know their stuff. Sometimes they also retain an “as needed” consultant in order to provide a thorough description of one or more rare/unusual auctioned items.

    When the auction house takes the time to write a 500+ word description that not only goes into a detailed description of an item but also its provenance – the item is usually expected to go at a higher price. Sometimes the owner has researched everything that a particular firearm can tell him and has written such a description.

    Most descriptions by auction houses address the general condition of the item and some go into painstaking detail about every scratch, scuff, buggered screw, etc. Bidders everywhere should be thankful for their honest efforts.

    Other auctioneers provide as little as possible beyond make, model, serial number, and sometimes caliber if known simply because they are not knowledgeable about the item or have personnel and time constraints. When they have 400-700 new auction items coming in every month that must be written up and photographed, time is indeed in short supply. As a result, they lay the burden of determining the condition of the item directly on the shoulders of the bidders
    .

    Hey, no problem. Bidders think they’re smart, right? Ummm, not so fast….

    The terms “As is”, “What you see is what you get”, “Buyer beware”, “We’re not experts”, “No returns or refunds” are often among the preambles announced with a congenial waving of the hands while adjusting the throat mic immediately prior to the start of nearly every auction.

    There is a reason for that and it has to do with disgruntled customers who thought they were buying a NM Garand instead of a “mixmaster” of cobbled together parts. Or a Springfield Model 1903 suitable for banging steel at a favorite range (or even Camp Perry) only to later discover it was a parade rifle whose bore more closely resembled a gravel road.

    When the auction starts, some auctioneers will open the bidding at $500. The result? Dead silence. $250? A few yawns. $100? Folks are starting to fidget. Who will bid $50? Somebody’s hand goes up and the auction is off to the races.

    At a few recent auctions, it was hard not to chuckle over the range of descriptions pertaining to condition. It is clear that these auction houses took a considerable amount of time in assessing the condition of each firearm to the best of their abilities.

    Here are a few of those descriptions:

    SUMMARY REMARKS

    A very nice hard to find gun in this condition. Go find one! New in box. All numbers match. Everything complete. Great investment. No flaws. Cylinder has not been turned. Gun appears to be fired very little. A nice old Colt. A nice gun. Great for backwoods carry when you’re not at the top of the food chain. Still a nice gun. This is a nice example of an antique Parker. ME-1, TE-1. Ready for Camp Perry! An above-average example of a German drilling. Slightly visible lines on the cylinder. Good screws. Rifle is in very good overall condition. Please see pictures to get a better overall idea of condition. The gun needs a cleaning. An unusual looking gun. This gun would be a good clean-up project for someone. The bolt number does not match the receiver. Inspector’s marks are polished out. The rifle has been sporterized. Chinese military quality. An interesting piece of history. These guns are noted for cracked barrel hinges and must be inspected carefully. The gun is in fair military condition. Buyer should examine the gun before placing bid. Condition is poor. Wall-hanger only. You are buying as is. You are buying for parts only. Looks like it was stored in a barn.

    SCUFFS, SCRATCHES, DINGS, & DENTS

    Very tiny scuffs. Several small scratches scattered about. Showing the usual scratches. One ding on the right side of the barrel. Just a couple of dings. Some dings and scratches. A lot of little dings and scratches. Scratches all over, especially the edges. Large dings and scratches. Covered with many dings from years of use. Many dings, scratches, and a few deep impressions. Dings, scratches, and staining. Large dings, scratches, and a repaired crack. Large dings, missing wood, and hard use.

    WOOD CONDITION

    Oil finish walnut stock is in excellent condition. The hardwood stock is in excellent condition showing no wear. The checkered and laminated stock is in excellent condition. Excellent condition with no marks. The wood is in very good to excellent condition. The stock is in very good condition but has been refinished. Finish shows no wear. Fair condition with an extra coat of finish. The forearm is cracked. Forearm is cracked where it meets the receiver. The forearm was attached with electrical tape. Stock is cracked at the wrist. The stock has been repaired at the toe. Just not finished too well. A piece of wood is missing on the right side of the lower wrist. Small chip missing on the left grip. The stock is loose. Stock has been sanded and is cracked. Initials have been scratched into the stock. Khyber Pass worthy. Stock is cracked in multiple places. Stock badly cracked at the wrist. A coating of finish soaked in on some spots and not on others. Wooden stock has been painted. Brown wrinkled paint. Varnish applied at one time and a lot is coming off.

    BORE CONDITION

    Excellent bore. A bore that will clean up to excellent. Bore should clean up to excellent. A very dirty bore that should clean up to excellent. Bore that should clean up fine. Bore should clean up to very good. Bore will clean up pretty good. Bore should clean up OK. A good bore that has some rough spots. Slightly dirty bore that should clean up OK. Bore should clean up somewhat. Dirty bore that should clean up somewhat. Dirty bores that should clean up better. A dirty bore that could clean up a little better. Rough bore that might clean up somewhat. A bore that is rough but with good rifling. Rough bore with visible rifling. Rough bore. A rusty bore.

    RUST CONDITION

    No external evidence of rust. Light freckling. Starting to rust in some spots. Just a few tiny rust spots. Small areas of fine rust. Shows some areas of rust. Some patches of rust. Mostly covered by a fine rust. A lot of small scratches and fine scattered rust. Areas of fine rust and a few a little heavier. Covered with patchy light to medium rust. A fair amount of medium-sized rust spots. Covered by medium-sized spots of rust. Showing a lot of surface rust. Some spots of heavy rust. Most of it being rusty. Covered with heavy pitted rust.

    ACTION CONDITION

    Action functions perfectly. Action works like new. Action works great. Action works fine and the numbers match. Action is tight and works fine. Action works fine but the firing pin is sluggish. Action works fine but could use some lube. Action seems to work fine. Action functions like it should. Action works fine but will not stay cocked unless pointed upwards. Action works. Action works but is loose. Action works but the barrel is a little loose. Action works OK but is stiff. Action seems to work OK. Action should be degreased. Action seems to work OK, sometimes. The action doesn’t work too well. Action works OK but the trigger doesn’t always return. The action needs some work. Action works OK until you put the safety on and pull the trigger. Action works but hammer will not cock. The action does not work correctly. Action does not function properly. The action can’t be tightened into the stock. Action is rusted and does not function properly. Action does not function properly and the gun will not fire. The action does not work at all. Weld reinforcement on rear of receiver. Bolt does not contain the cocking piece so gun cannot be fired.

    REAR-END CONDITION

    Excellent original butt plate. Original crescent butt plate. Nice butt! Cleaning kit and oiler in butt plate assembly. Oiler is in butt plate trap. Original butt pad. Original recoil pad. Original butt plate. Original metal butt plate. Rear of stock appears to have been professionally shortened. Shiny blued butt plate does not match rifle. Recoil pad. Replacement butt pad. Right side of stock has been relieved for a left-handed shooter. Butt plate trap is empty. Butt plate doesn’t fit too well. The butt plate is broken. Butt plate is missing.

    METAL CONDITION

    99% of the original polished blue finish remains. 99% of a pretty good finish remains. Receiver case colors are brilliant. 95% condition of the matte black finish. Professionally reblued. 90-95% of the original matte black finish remains on the metal. 90% of the original polished finish remains on the metal. 85-90% of the original finish remains on the metal. Reparkerized by arsenal. 85% of the original finish remains on the barrel. 80% of the arsenal finish remains on the metal. Finish on the metal is in very good condition. Very good case colors. 70% of the original nickel finish remains on the metal. The metal is in pretty good condition. Most likely carry wear. Chrome plated receiver is in good condition. 50-60% of the nickel finish remains. Case colors are still visible. 40-50% of original bluing remains. 30%-40% of original bluing remains with the balance being cold blued. Very small traces of case color. Heavily reparkerized. Turned to a mostly brown patina. What is left has turned to brown. Barrel has turned to purple. Mostly rusted. The metal on the gun is painted black. The finish on the metal is total rust.

    BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE

    Includes a Colt factory letter. Includes an 8x Leupold scope in Leupold mounts. Includes extra cylinder and original walnut display case. Includes 6 extra magazines. Comes with original box and extra magazine. Includes take-down tool and original bore brushes. Includes hard case, box, and original papers. Includes original gold box. Includes a Colt factory letter stating they were unable to locate any information on the gun. Includes box and original papers. Includes a glass presentation case for display. Includes a leather case. Includes nipple wrench and replacement nipples. Includes an original late war magazine with no acceptance mark. Includes original holster, cleaning rod, and extra magazine. Includes extra cylinder, a holster, and the pouch. Includes a holster and non-original box. Includes a case. Includes a sling and 3-9x scope with rings. Includes Leupold mounts. Includes see-through mounts. Includes Ruger rings. Includes a canvas cheek rest. Includes a leather sling. Includes sling. Includes sling swivels. Includes ramrod. This gun has a tubular magazine and the follower is missing and NOT included.

    DON’T TAKE IT TO THE RANGE JUST YET

    Caution should be used in firing the gun. The gun must not be fired with smokeless ammunition. Not to be fired with modern ammo. Black powder only. Needs to be fixed before firing. The gun is not safe to shoot the way it is. Gunsmith needs to verify the caliber. Gun should be checked by a gunsmith before firing. The gun will need to be seen by a gunsmith before shooting. Must be seen by a gunsmith before firing. Must not be fired before being seen by a gunsmith. The safety doesn’t work and there is extreme friction when cycling the action. Safety lever missing.

    SO ARE YOU GOING TO A LIVE AUCTION?

    Auctions are great entertainment. This can be true, even when you walk away empty-handed. At most auction houses, the food is simple fare (hotdogs, hamburgers, chili, etc.) usually prepped in a side kitchen and available for purchase at a nominal price. The auction house wants to keep you there and it sure beats biting your fingernails, starving, or tearing into an MRE that’s been sitting in your trunk for the last five years...

    If you have an interest in a particular firearm, I can pretty much assure you that it’s going to turn up somewhere one of these days, for octogenarians with massive collections are eventually going to be promoted and their collections – in whatever condition – are going to fall under the auctioneers hammer.

    There’s always an inspection a day or two before the auction and the morning of the auction. If you’re seriously interested in an item or just curious, take the time to inspect the auction item. Even if you choose not to attend the auction, at least you had the opportunity to handle and inspect a few hundred firearms.

    That would drive your local gun shop bananas….

    WHAT TO TAKE TO AN AUCTION

    For some folks, the car is loaded with more stuff than back in the days when they took the kids camping. That is true especially while driving home with several hundred pounds of “gotta have – it was a great price” accessories. Those probably sat in someone’s basement for a few decades and now they can sit in yours.

    I’ve whittled things down that I bring with me to items that will help me inspect the gun and determine what was left out of the description that may adversely affect value:

    Bore light. Streamlight ProTac 2L. Pre-oiled bore-snakes in .30 and .45 caliber. Muzzle erosion gauge. Throat erosion gauge. Digital caliper. The printed .pdf detailed auction listing. Small magnification device. An empty rifle case or two. A few snacks (a breakfast sandwich, a lunch sandwich, pretzels, beef jerky) that won’t make a mess and last the day. A one liter bottle of water. Checkbook. Hand sanitizer for afterwards.


    SO WHERE DO YOU GO?

    The Internet has a host of auction listings that are actual auctions without hidden reserve prices. Some of the ones I’ve perused include:

    http://www.alderferauction.com/ (Hatfield, PA)
    http://conestogaauction.publishpath.com/ (Manheim, PA)
    http://www.gunrunnerauctions.com/ (on-line only but a real honest-to-God auction)
    http://hessney.com/auctions/ (Geneva, NY)
    http://horstauction.com/ (Ephrata, PA)
    http://jamesdjulia.com/division/gun/ (Fairfield, ME)
    http://www.morphyauctions.com/ (Denver, PA)
    http://www.auctionzip.com/PA-Auctioneers/9370.html (Pocono Auction Gallery)
    http://www.rockislandauction.com/ (Rock Island, Ill.)
    http://www.topgunauctions.com/ (a link to more auctions, mostly online)


    A FEW FINAL WORDS

    You’re going to have a lot of fun looking for that special item you’ve always wanted. You shouldn’t be surprised that you actually find it on an auction listing. If you ALWAYS make the time to inspect the item you will seldom be disappointed.

    If you have any unresolved issues from your last ATF Form 4473, DO NOT BID ON ANY FIREARM! Auction “loopholes” have long been shuttered.

    Some auctions occur on week days. Have accrued sick leave and looking for a good time? Call the office: “Cough, cough, moan, sniffle. I was throwing up this morning and felt dizzy. I just wanted to let you know I’m not coming to work today.” Whoopieeee! If your boss is also interested in firearms, be sure to keep your head on swivel.

    Can you carry there? Many do, but I’ve only seen a few open carries.

    Most auctions seem to be on an initial pace of 70 – 90 lots per hour. If you’re interested in Lot #47 and you arrive an hour late, you will have missed it. If you’re only interested in Lot #325, you’re going to be sitting for a while unless you arrive approximately two to three hours after the start of the auction.

    Remember to mentally “add in” the auctioneer’s fee (which can range from 0 to 25%) and the 6% PA sales tax. If you pay by credit card, there’s usually an additional 3% added to the total amount. Be sure you do the math correctly or you will find yourself over-bidding.

    Do not attempt to force a bidder to pay a higher price if you have no interest in the item. You may find yourself the winner of an expensive item you never really wanted. Experience is a dear teacher but fools will learn by no other (Benjamin Franklin).

    Chase nothing that feels over-priced to you. Trust me, another one will come along in better condition.

    Unless you like projects and know what you’re doing, don’t buy a project gun.

    If you’re buying ammo, bring your case gauges. Otherwise you may have to pull 1,000 bullets that don’t fit in your .357. Know your headstamps (http://www.cartridgecollectors.org/headstampcodes) for some are clearly Berdan-primed and will take the challenges of reloading to an entirely different level.

    You may think it boring to sit to the end of the auction especially when you have to mow the grass at home, but most folks there have spent their money early on. Items scheduled later in the auction usually have fewer bidders and some have none! You’d be surprised what you can pick up for under $30. Don’t worry about wining that custom cowboy leather holster and cartridge belt that’s going to make you look like Jesse James – you’ll find the right pistol for it eventually…

    HAPPY BIDDING!


    IMG_8433 (3).JPG
    Last edited by bamboomaster; March 18th, 2016 at 08:35 PM.
    - bamboomaster

  2. #2
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    Default Re: A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    Nicely done, a bit much to digest, but nicely done!!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    You missed the Central PA GROUP SHOOT! - LAST Saturday July 14th (LINK)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    Nice write-up.
    I'll add my $0.02 based on my experiences at live auctions.
    -do your homework. Print the auction catalog, read it, especially the rules and fee structure.
    -research the items that interest you. Determine the going rate for them.
    -set yourself a maximum bid price. Stick to it. Try not to get caught up in the action of bidding. I have seen people get into bidding wars on a crappy common gun and they paid more than they would have paid in any LGS.
    -I find that the auctioneer will only acknowledge two bidders at a time. If bidder 1 makes an open and bidder 2 responds, they hold the floor until one or the other drops out. Only then will they acknowledge bidder 3. It's nothing personal against bidder 3, it is just simpler.
    -look for the professionals, the dealers out looking to buy inventory for their shops. They are probably sitting together in the front row and all know each other. Usually they drop out once it bid goes over the wholesale price (they need room to mark it up at the shop and make a profit). Many times, they are bidder 1 and bidder 2. Be bidder 3 and you have a good chance of getting something in between wholesale and retail.
    -as Bamboo Master said, things move quick. At the auctions I've been to, it is 60 seconds per item. Once you figure out the timing, you can predict pretty close to the time a particular item will come up.
    -if the snack bar is run by a bunch of Mennonite women, do NOT skip the baked goods tray.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    Must spread rep around, great info, thanks for the effort.
    It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    Enlightening and entertaining. I cannot rep it either.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    Quote Originally Posted by cephas View Post
    Must spread rep around, great info, thanks for the effort.
    Quote Originally Posted by stainless View Post
    Enlightening and entertaining. I cannot rep it either.
    Got him for you guys!

    Great write up!!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    Quote Originally Posted by Remington788 View Post
    Nice write-up.
    I'll add my $0.02 based on my experiences at live auctions.
    -do your homework. Print the auction catalog, read it, especially the rules and fee structure.
    -research the items that interest you. Determine the going rate for them.
    -set yourself a maximum bid price. Stick to it. Try not to get caught up in the action of bidding. I have seen people get into bidding wars on a crappy common gun and they paid more than they would have paid in any LGS.
    -I find that the auctioneer will only acknowledge two bidders at a time. If bidder 1 makes an open and bidder 2 responds, they hold the floor until one or the other drops out. Only then will they acknowledge bidder 3. It's nothing personal against bidder 3, it is just simpler.
    -look for the professionals, the dealers out looking to buy inventory for their shops. They are probably sitting together in the front row and all know each other. Usually they drop out once it bid goes over the wholesale price (they need room to mark it up at the shop and make a profit). Many times, they are bidder 1 and bidder 2. Be bidder 3 and you have a good chance of getting something in between wholesale and retail.
    -as Bamboo Master said, things move quick. At the auctions I've been to, it is 60 seconds per item. Once you figure out the timing, you can predict pretty close to the time a particular item will come up.
    -if the snack bar is run by a bunch of Mennonite women, do NOT skip the baked goods tray.
    Rem, next time I show up at any auction, I'm gonna stick my bidding card in my front shirt pocket with "PAFOA" written in bold magic marker. Be sure to come over and introduce yourself so I can put a face with name. I'd look forward to meeting you.

    Horst really can be a great auction - especially with the "$0.00" bidder mark-up (aka NONE!)
    - bamboomaster

  9. #9
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    Default Re: A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    I have been to two gun auctions this month and cant get over the prices used guns are bringing !!!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: A Primer on Firearm Auctions

    Went to one estate auction today and I learned what an interesting exercise it is in waiting through the uninteresting stuff. Junk to good stuff ratio can be pretty steep, but then again there's stuff for all tastes I suppose.
    "You can't stop insane people from doing insane things by passing insane laws--that's insane!" -- Penn Jillette

    "To my mind it is wholly irresponsible to go into the world incapable of preventing violence, injury, crime, and death. How feeble is the mindset to accept defenselessness. How unnatural. How cheap. How cowardly. How pathetic." -- Ted Nugent

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