Author Topic: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"  (Read 7156 times)

Offline Hurricane ( of Virginia)

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Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« on: March 08, 2015, 01:09:15 AM »
An idea from "HIB" that we develop a thread to accumulate the wisdom and experinces re "buying in person and online  from public auctions" of the ALR Members for present and future members. Please add yours here.
Thank you
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Offline Hurricane ( of Virginia)

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2015, 01:16:41 AM »
From HIB

"Gentlemen,  The guns in question above are not necessarily up for re-sale by the suggested original buyer. They were either 'bought-in' by the auction house at the initial sale when they didn't meet the seller's reserve or they were found to be inaccurately cataloged and returned by an unsatisfied or deceived buyer. The operating word here is 'deceived'. It is also possible they were not paid for within the required time frame.

Most honorable auction houses will accept a 'deceived' return, within reason, and then at the instruction of the seller re-enter the item in a future auction with an amended description and sometimes at a lower estimated value. The buyer, in all cases, must be aware of the auction house' terms and it is required by the auction house to disclose those terms. 'Guaranteed Descriptions', 'No Reserve Auction' and 'As Is - Where Is' are three of the major understandings the buyer must be aware of. There are others to consider as well [shipping expense, sales tax, tarifs etc.]

There are many arguments for and against placing an item in an auction with a reserve. The reserve actually protects the seller's interest and investment, however, when the investment is higher than the actual value the reserve backfires and the gun is bought in. When this happens the item is often times listed as sold by the internet co. monitoring the sale as they are not privy to the reserve and may actually think the item sold for the hammer price. If, however, the auction co. publishes a 'sales price list' showing the item sold then you are dealing with a different set of circumstances.

The fact the majority of these guns have reappeared is due to any one of the circumstances listed above. The only way to get a handle on what actually happened is to compare the original description and estimate to what is listed now.

It goes, without saying, the buyer's knowledge of the market, coupled with a good review of past and current information regarding an object of interest is paramount.

There is room in the ALR library for an 'Auction Buying' tutorial, however, the best advice for a new player is to have an experienced mentor along side during the auction preview and then the discipline to follow a plan. And don't forget the 'Buyers Premium'.

Remember; the actual cost of the item = Hammer price + Buyer's Premium + the expense of getting to the auction site and any shipping and sales tax additions.

It is definitely a 'Buyer Beware' world.  Regards, HIB
« Last Edit: March 08, 2015, 01:17:40 AM by Hurricane ( of Virginia) »

Offline HIB

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2015, 10:29:06 AM »
Well Fred, you picked up on that topic pretty fast.  I think, however, the important portion of my post specifically refers to Education, Education and Education plus having a mentor to guide the new buyer thru the auction process.

Basically, the new collector needs to search out the reliable and honest mentor. Not an easy task and no set of guidelines will address the issue. So, we are back to Reputation. Reputation and Reputation. 

I'll do my best to set a series of guidelines but they will be generic at best.

I will say this; anyone considering buying an old gun needs to understand how to use an UV or 'black light' to disclose restoration. It has been a big secret in the gun collecting world for years. New paint or new wood/stain shows up like a snow storm  on green grass and can save many aggravating phone calls.  More to follow, HIB

Offline Shreckmeister

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2015, 03:59:40 PM »
You might want to reconsider having published some of the allegations in this thread...people get upset about their reputations and this is a very litigious society we live in.
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

Offline bama

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2015, 04:44:38 PM »
HIB thank you for your wisdom on this, it is much appreciated. I have bought a few guns through gun broker which I don't think compares with bidding in the bigger auctions but I list my thoughts and concerns.

My first concern was is the item being auctioned being correctly represented.
2nd if not attending the auction in person are addiquate photos supplied to get a good idea of the condition of what I am bidding on.
3rd does the seller have a good reputation, do they have good feed back from previous buyers.
4th knowledge of common repairs on our beloved kentucky rifles. If there are repairs are they being honestly detailed in the description of condition. Are the repairs well done. If the repairs are lacking then a decision by the buyer has to be made.
5th is this an investment piece or a piece you want for your collection.

Last but not least do i feel comfortable with the purchase, if so i make my bid and try not to my feelings get in my way if I think the bidding is going to high.
Jim Parker

"An Honest Man is worth his weight in Gold"

Offline E.vonAschwege

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2015, 07:01:07 PM »
I'll repeat what is often said on Antiques Roadshow - "Buy what you like", not what you necessarily think is valuable.  That wisdom is especially true for beginners in this hobby who aren't well versed in the nuances of restoration work and haven't developed an eye for what is right.  We've had a few folks visit the ALR with new big dollar purchases that turned out to be not what they thought.  It takes a long time and a lot of research to get to the point where you have that eye and sense for when something's wrong.  HIB is right about having a mentor guide a beginner through the process.  There's also nothing like handling original guns and respectfully asking the owners what kind of restoration has been done on them. 

I occasionally buy on Gunbroker when I have enough photos to go by, and sometimes throw in a bid on something that looks promising and doesn't cost too much - I've gotten lucky more than a few times.  The first Pennsylvania longrifle I bought was through Gunbroker and the seller failed to disclose many repairs and the fact that it had been refinished (it looked good in the blurry small photos).  The biggest fault however was my own for not looking more closely and for trusting the seller at his word.  I passed it on to someone else pretty quickly with disclosure of what I believed had been done to it.   They just wanted a pretty thing to hang on the wall so it worked out for both of us. 

Building flintlocks and doing restoration is my business, but collecting is usually for my own enjoyment.  I still do the math and only buy items that I know I could sell if need be without taking a loss. 

At one of the auctions past, there was a particularly fancy Lehigh rifle that looked all wrong from the entry pipe forward - the carving didn't match the buttstock and tang, the metal work didn't look right, it looked like the builder had started at the buttstock and had gone blind by the time he got to the forestock.  Sure enough, I later learned that only the back half of the gun had originally existed and the front half was all new - and not very well done IMO. 
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Offline vtbuck223

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2015, 11:06:20 PM »
This is a very interesting and important discussion...and I thank you all for being willing to even bring it up. I have often wondered to myself about various such aspects of the collecting world. Based upon my limited knowledge and experience I am under the impression that this goes well beyond the auctions  and filters through other  aspects of the collecting community.

I had a recent Gunbroker experience that I will share which will be no surprise to anybody. I was interested in a particular rifle and was keeping my eye on it. It had a patch box of a kind that I have never seen on a rifle by this maker. This would make this rifle very unique.  After doing more research I had my suspicions that the patchbox was a relatively recent addition. The pictures posted on the listing were too poor to tell. So...I asked the seller a question "Is the patchbox original to the rifle?" and asked to have close ups of the patch box sent to me including one of it opened. The response I got was 2 pictures as I requested and simply "these should answer your question".  The seller was right...it did answer my question....the patchbox was an obvious later addition and probably fairly recently. Did the seller "answer" my question...not really....though I am sure that he knew the answer to my question....just as I did from the photos. This was not mentioned in the listing. The photos that I received from the seller were not added to the listing. I knew enough to walk away. Unfortunately....the rifle in question sold for double what I would have expected....I believe... in part because of the "unique" patchbox.

Offline Majorjoel

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2015, 11:35:10 PM »
It seems to me that any longrifle that has had any restoration work done to it is a very NEGATIVE thing to the collectors from all that I have read here lately!  To find a rifle that is 200-250 years old and still in the condition that it was made in is 1 in a million IMO.  Makes me want to start collecting stamps!     The few old rifles that I own have had things done to them while in use and it makes me say....leave em as they are!!!!!!!!!!!
Joel Hall

Offline Shreckmeister

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2015, 11:51:01 PM »
In my opinion, here is a part of this equation.  There were more people getting into collecting longrifles 40 years ago than there are today.  We now have a situation where the greying collecting community is realizing that the heyday is over and their collections are devaluating because there are so very few people taking up the hobby.  The collectors upped the values as they traded these rifles around and when the economy was thriving and people were making 5 figure increases in their home equity every couple years and money seemed to be flowing everywhere, people who wanted into the hobby were willing to put out the big dollars it takes to get involved.  Now in our NEW economy, where our healthcare is going up thousands a year and our home equities are lucky to stay the same, only the wealthy can afford to buy a high end gun.  This has created an environment where those who are wealthy and want to get in can be extremely particular about where they make their investment because supply far exceeds demand.  Since the collecting community decided that untouched rifles have the highest value now, whereas years ago it was more about making your rifle look how it should, people are seeing that only the best of the best are holding their value.
    This is my thinking but I have been told I am FoS. 
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

Offline E.vonAschwege

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2015, 11:56:03 PM »
Joel and others, it is indeed almost one in a million that hasn't had some work done to them.  I also think there would be far fewer rifles existing today if there hadn't been some form of restoration done.  It's the extent and quality of the restoration that can affect the value.  If I was in a position to collect one of the great high dollar pieces at these auctions, I certainly wouldn't care if the piece had some quality restoration done on it.  Now, when much of the furniture is new, or the entire forestock is replaced, then it can affect value, but that should be expected.  Good restoration work IMO does not detract from a high quality arm at all.  I'd rather have an "intact" Beck that's held together with lots of patches than pieces of a Beck in a box.  

I digress though, this doesn't have as much do with purchasing at auction, except that you should expect to see some level of work done on almost any piece - how much you can see, how much the seller discloses, and to what extent you care about it are the variables.  
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Offline jdm

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2015, 03:15:46 AM »
It is my feeling that when  buying an item new or old . It is always buyer beware. Items are not always what they are represented to be. Sometimes by design sometimes by ignorance. Buying by auction is extremely difficult. The auction house is in the business of selling to make money for them and there client. There job is to make the item sound as appealing as possible . It is an ad! Unfortunately its up to the buyer to be educated enough about what they are buying to figure out if the   line was crossed from truth to fiction. I think being able to spot restoration is a very important part of buying at auction. As Henry , Eric and others have said ask for help . Become friends with knowledgeable people and seek there advice.  Study,study ,study. As others have stated if you want to buy an 1816 musket. There were thirty thousand made  . You can find a untouched one. If you want a John Armstrong . There are maybe thirty that we know of. Restoration is a part of Kentucky's  . Like it or not. It's the way it rolls with them. Should a restored one bring less than an unrestored  similar one? Absolutely!
I think part of the problem with one of the auctions was the restoration was not disclosed. Some buyers thought they were being deceived and rightly so. That would be one reason why prices were lower than estimates.
 When I buy it is for the love of the item  not for the  investment. Don't get me wrong I'm not trying to lose money . I hope I come out on top or break even  but this is not my retirement plan.
This is a great hobby. Good people and a chance to own a little bit of history. even for a shot while.

Sorry guys I don't mean this to come off preachy  or act like an expert. It's a subject that is dear to my heart and brought years of enjoyment.   JIM
JIM

Offline Buck

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2015, 04:41:28 AM »
Henry and Jim both identified (I think) the most important factor in the collecting arena. The "Mentor", if you don't have a good one you will succumb to the inevitable. Louie Parker gave me some interesting advice regarding auctions, "stay away from auctions unless you have intimate knowledge of the piece." "The fact is that your competitor wants the rifle more, but even stranger is the fact he is willing to spend more money just so you can't have the rifle!"  

Buck
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 04:48:08 AM by Buck »

Offline bama

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2015, 07:44:36 AM »
There was a pistol that came up for auction by a noted maker. The barrel had ruptured though the bottom flat. This rupture blew awy most of the forestock. I would think that whoever was holding the pistol when it exploded probably did not go uninjured. This pistol was restored and very expertly I might add. The barrel was welded up, the forestock replaced and probably the nose cap and thimbles. In my opinion this pistol will stand a much better chance of suriving being restored rather than a busted up wreck. Wheather it was worth more before or after restoration I cannot say. I do know that the full discription of restoration was not given in the condition discription. So again the old adage buyer beware rears its head. When someone is considering paying big bucks for a piece they had better do their homework or have money to burn.
Jim Parker

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Offline Dave B

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2015, 07:49:38 PM »
It was many years ago but I was asked to make a copy of a pair of beautiful unsigned converted to percussion (flintlock) Kentucky pistols  . They were untouched aside from the period conversion. I was able to take molds of them. but the job fell through. I later learned that they had been sold to a collector in Oregon. He showed me the pistols a number of years later still untouched. He wanted to know if I knew some one who may be interested. I gave him the name of some one that I know deals with the exceptional in Kentucky rifles and he would know some one who would be best to show them to. I now see that they were sold at the J Julia Auction last October as a part of the Sirkin collection. They however are sporting the reconverted locks. The auction description says "CONDITION: Pistols appear very good to fine overall with no discernible restoration........" So if there was any we cant see it. The next person selling these will do so with a false sense that they are in original flint lock condition. Unless the restorer marked the locks on the inside of the lock plate as to the work done.  So Louie Parker's advise on leave them alone unless you have intimate knowledge of the piece rings true.

I was able to listen in on a conversation that Herschel House had with a class mate at the NMLRA Gunsmith school at Bowling green. They were flipping though the Kindig book TKR.  He proceeded to talk about each piece he had worked on and others that had been worked on and what was changed out, locks Barrels etc...  It made me want to write in my books margin for future reference. The work done on the Schreit rifle is an example of work done and architecture changed to suit the restoration that was discussed here on the forum.  Let the buyer beware rings true
« Last Edit: March 18, 2015, 08:26:18 AM by Dave B »
Dave Blaisdell

Offline HIB

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2015, 07:28:57 AM »
Gentlemen,  I want you all to realize that many of the posts above this one are well intended and worth the attention of anyone who is thinking about entering our hobby from either a new aspect of collecting or even furthering a moderate interest level and experience. I also caution all of you, my following suggestion is not a complete answer to the issues we face today but it is a measure of some degree of confidence.

A number of years ago the Kentucky Rifle Association released a formal Buyer/Seller Contract to its members that allowed a reasonable comfort level to the buyer. I have personably used the contract a number of times and have found it aids in my ability to understand and accept the known history of the gun being considered. One gun in particular was signed off by the collector/seller and several others were presented by a reputable [at the time] dealer.

There are flaws in the concept because there are many collectors and dealers who have no clue as to what has been done to the gun being moved from one collector to the other but at least it provides a record of the transaction and what is 'openly' known at the time of sale by the seller. The operative word is 'openly known'.

The contract calls for an accurate description of the gun, restoration information [if known], provenance, and the last transaction price.  The first three are important, the last item is often not disclosed even though it is known. And I guess the second item could be one of honesty of the seller.

This contract still exists and is available thru the KRA.

It has been 10 years since I have bought a gun I was not significantly familiar with, however, I have turned down 2 Kentucky's since where the seller would not comply to the basic KRA Buyer/Seller Contract. My money, my concern.

I'll state again; it is not a solve all, but it did turn a 50 year collector away from a 'good looking' deal when the seller refused to comply. My Best to all, HIB

Offline bama

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2015, 04:58:44 PM »
Honesty, honesty, honesty is always the best policey! I enjoy watching the car auction shows. I love the old cars almost as much as I love my Kentuckies. Every one of old cars up for auction have had restoration work done. Many of these restored cars sell for some very good money. The cars that sell for big bucks that have been restored are very well documented. One car was a Bently, the entire body was new. Only the frame and running gear was original. This cars restoration was done by a professional restorer and very well documented and it sold for close to a million bucks.

Our Kentuckies are much older than these cars. I have no problem with a rifle being restored if it is a good restoration. If we want to maintain the value of these we should follow suit with the car auctions and require documentation on the guns up for auction.

One of the first things I learned when I started collecting was the word "pedigree", another was "history". If a rifle has a known history it seems that this history can and often does add value to the gun. Unfortunately this is not case for many rifles that come up for auction.

If collecting Kentuckies is indeed supposed to be a gentelmans sport then honesty should be our number one rule. Unfortunately I do not think that is the case with many rifles offered. I love Kentuckies, even the wrecks, I do restoration work because I think wrecks deserve to be preserved. I am not ashamed of this nor do I think it dishonest. I do record with pictures all my restoration work and provide this to the owners. What the owners do with this info is their respnsibility. I think most restorers today are documenting their work to current owners, it is the owners resposibility to pass this info on when the riifle changes hands.

I would like to see us follow the example set by the car auctions and provide documentation that specifies a rifles history and restoration. This should be a requirement by us to help keep this a gentelmans sport. I know a few of our dealers, and I am happy to say that I feel that they go to great lengths to provide an honest discription of the rifles they have for sale. If we all followed their example there would not be a problem. So I am for written documentation to follow the rifle as it changes hands. Will that totally eliminate the problem, no but it won't hurt either!
Jim Parker

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Re: Antique Gun Auction: Please add advice for "Buyers"
« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2015, 04:09:10 AM »
WELL SAID BROTHER JIM !

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