Here at the offices of Man at Arms for the Gun and Sword Collector, we often get asked by beginning collectors, “How can I get started as an antique weapons collector?” Antique weapons collecting is a great hobby, but lots of folks just don’t know where to begin. They don’t want to make an expensive mistake with their first purchase, and they tend to be overwhelmed by the amazing variety of collectibles that are available.
While no one has all the answers, we can try to set you off on the right course. We aren’t making any guarantees, but perhaps this article will help you sidestep a few obvious pitfalls.
How to Get Started as an Antique Weapons Collector
Pick a specialty.
Do this right away. Ask yourself what period of history you enjoy. Find out whether you like pistols, rifles or swords. If you are a World War II enthusiast, collect Garands. If you are entranced by the Wild West, collect 19th-century revolvers.
If you need a helping hand in deciding, then go out and buy Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values. Every American gun collector should own this book, which can be purchased or ordered from almost any book store. It has hundreds of pictures and descriptions of all the popular 18th- and 19th-century guns and pistols. If you prefer 20th-century weapons, then you might want a copy of the Blue Book of Gun Values by S.P. Fjestad.
Borrow every book about guns that you can find at your local library. Take a look around and narrow your interests to a single topic. Now, you will probably change your mind about what to collect as you go along, but it is very useful to have a specialty when you get started as an antique weapons collector, even if you don’t stick with it.
Don’t rush out and spend a lot of money before you know what you are doing. We recommend purchasing one average example of the type of gun or sword that you have chosen to collect. Just one! Then buy as many books and magazine articles as you can, and learn everything about the gun you own. Down the road, you will probably find out that you bought the wrong gun for too much money — but buy that first example anyway. It will get your feet wet and help you understand what all the authors are talking about. You can’t learn about guns and swords on a purely intellectual level. You have to hold them in your hands to appreciate them.
Attend Gun Shows and Gun Club Meetings
Check out our national gun show calendar to find shows and clubs in your area. Collectors love to talk about their interests, so don’t be shy. Introduce yourself as a new collector and make some contacts.
If you can get to a major gun show, all the better. The bigger shows usually have educational displays and you will want to study all of them. Talk to the collectors who own these displays. They spent a lot of money and traveled a great distance to educate you about their specialty, so take advantage of this exceptional opportunity and thank them for providing this valuable service.
Subscribe to All the Magazines
(And not just ours!) A lot of collectors are big fans of Man at Arms for the Gun and Sword Collector, and don’t think that they need to subscribe to any other magazines or club journals. This is a big mistake. These other publications all have good information in them and are worth getting.
Remember: knowledge (in the form of books and magazines) is relatively cheap compared to the cost of making a mistake. Collectible guns and swords are expensive, and it is simply foolish to make uninformed purchases.
Be Kind to Yourself
When you first get started as an antique weapons collector, you are going to make some mistakes. Everyone does — even the experts sometimes. But if you get preoccupied with your mistakes, you will never enjoy this hobby.
Weapons collecting can be a tremendous amount of fun. You will meet a lot of great people and find new ways to learn about history, technology and art. If you take your time, learn before you spend, and follow high ethical standards in your dealings with others, you will be well on your way to success.