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ADVICE ON SELLING A COLLECTION OF GUNS AND RELATED ITEMS

By Chris Wayland

If you have a collection of firearms and other associated items, you may want or need to sell them at sometime in the future. In my case, I hope it is at the age of 110 years and I just don’t have space for them on my new yacht. More likely your wife or other heir will be faced with the task of recovering as much value as possible from your collection. This has been written both as an aid to a gun owner needing to sell off his collection and as an aid for his heirs. Among other things, post a copy in your gun safe along with an up to date copy of your firearms inventory.

I am not a lawyer and I am not providing legal advice in this document. There are an enormous number of laws that pertain to guns, magazines, ammunition, and reloading components such as gunpowder and primers. There are some critical legal factors that must be understood and some laws vary substantially from state to state. Find somebody to advise you about these.

The death of a spouse is generally the most traumatic loss a person will experience in their life. Among many other things, it may bring with it increased worries about finances. It is natural for the surviving partner to want put themselves in the best possible financial situation. And it is particularly vexing for them to eventually feel or know that they were taken advantage of during what can be a very long period of grief and stress.

This is an outline of how to avoid being taken advantage of and for getting the best possible recovery of value. During the past four years I have facilitated four different firearms estate sales for friends. Three different firearms auction service providers were used during these. The last and largest sale ended in late 2012. It involved 63 firearms and an enormous amount of accessories and ammunition.

After a seller’s fee of 20% on the guns and higher auction service seller’s fees on non-gun items, this last sale netted almost $40,000 for the widow. Volunteering to help out in this way has been very interesting and challenging. I seriously doubt that I will ever volunteer to do this again. Because at my age I look around now and get too many thoughts of MY collection going out the door.

It may be viable to enlist a friend or relative to help you with the process outlined here. How important this all is depends very much on the size of the collection that you are seeking to sell and on how important it is to you to get top dollar for the collection.

The guns and the accessories can be worth a surprisingly large amount of money. Riflescopes can each be worth many hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars and often should be removed from the rifle and sold separately. The value of magazines used in guns should not be underestimated. Some magazines can be worth well over $50. Reloading tools and even some books on firearms can be worth a great deal.

Factory loaded ammo is very valuable. It has inflated in price enormously over the last few years. Factory “re-manufactured” ammo can also be valuable and saleable. Reloading components such as gunpowder in unopened containers, bullets, and primers are quite valuable. Depending on the quantity there can even be significant value in the empty cartridge cases.

It is close to impossible to sell hand loads unless you made them and are selling them off to a shooting buddy. An heir should consider giving these to one of the deceased’s shooting buddies for use or to be disassembled to recover the bullets and primed cases.

Depending on the quantity of ammunition and other non-gun accessories involved, you may want to consider maximizing your return by selling some of the material directly yourself or by having a knowledgeable friend or relative do this for you, for an agreed upon compensation. Much of this type of transaction can be handled over the Internet with face-to-face transfers of material to people within driving distance and their coming to you. This is particularly the case concerning ammunition, gunpowder and primers. This is a process that does require a lot of labor. I know because I did tons of this work during three of the last four sales that I assisted with. So you have to balance this effort against the increase in return you can get as opposed to consigning the material to a professional firearms auction service, with its high non-firearms seller’s fee.

To recover the substantial value of a sizable collection there are several things you should and should not do. Do not sell items to neighbors or friends and do not arrange with a gun store to sell items, because in such sales it is very likely that you will not be getting an appropriate amount from the sale. With the possible special exception noted below, do not turn guns over to the police. What you do want to do is first determine if a close relative has a strong desire for an item. Hurt feelings within a family can be a serious mistake.

Selling a collection of guns and material is best accomplished by using a professional firearms auction service. You want to get something close to the true market value for your guns etc. The only way to get the market value is to be in a market. That means exposing what you have for sale to a large number of people who will bid against each other. If properly advertised at auction to a very large number of people you don’t have to worry whether the selling price was too low.

But before you contact an auction service there are a few things you need to consider. Some guns in the estate may be considered “assault weapons” by your state. Some of these may be registered with the state. Others may be required to be registered but in fact are not. For the latter it will almost certainly no longer be possible to obtain state registration. So these will technically be illegal contraband.

Look through any available paperwork to try to determine if a gun is an “assault weapon” and registered or not registered. Hopefully, the deceased will have marked this information on his inventory sheet. Otherwise, you may require the help of a knowledgeable person to identify these. If such weapons were registered in your name as well as his, then there is no rush to disposing of them. If not registered to you the state law should provide a certain limited amount of time for you to sell them or move them out of the state.

Most auction service providers in a state with these types of “assault weapon” laws will not be able to accept these “assault weapons” from you. You could consider moving these to a gun friendly state for direct sale or for auction. This can be legally tricky and require a fair bit of work. But these guns may represent several thousand dollars in value.

Under some state laws the replacement of stocks or other items on some of the “assault weapons” can change their classification back to a non-assault weapon without any further action required. An example of this for the state of California would be a Ruger Mini-14 rifle or an M-1 Carbine which is as manufactured except for having the original stock replaced with an aftermarket full pistol grip stock. So in this example you could remove the aftermarket stock and replace it with a non-full pistol grip stock. One other alternative is to call the police and have them come to your house and pick up the “assault weapons” and give you a receipt. You do not want to be personally transporting them to the police station.

If it’s your collection be sure to annotate your inventory with any special value factors that may not be obvious. For instance, if you have a U.S. M-1 Carbine that is very rare because it was in fact never issued and never refurbished, you want that information noted in your inventory.

Professional firearm auction services accomplish their job in several different ways. Some may still sell exclusively through a sit down format of an auction. Some sell with a sit down format but also accept bids via the Internet. Some sell exclusively through the use of various websites on the Internet. This last auction type is the one I like the most, because it generally exposes the items to the largest number of potential buyers. This also generally gets the items sold with much less delay. It also possibly provides the best way to check up on what the auctioneer is doing.

The “Internet only” auctioneer can do a very good job of providing multiple photographs and a detailed written description on the Internet website. They can also provide an appropriate return policy for a buyer who is not satisfied with what they received.

Now on to some more detailed advice. Some of my following advice may lead you to believe that I think that some employee of the auction service may try to take unfair advantage of you. Well, I’ve done a great deal of reading on the subject of studies regarding honesty and human nature. Also at age 69 I’ve had a bit of real world experience. President Reagan once said, “Trust but verify”. My own admonition would be to, “Sort of trust but verify”.

With regard to the auction service provider, what I am recommending in the following is my idea of appropriate ways to maximize both the money you receive and the verification that no one is taking advantage of you. I do not wish to imply that if you do something a bit less stringent that some sort of disaster will result. Also based on the size of the collection and other factors you personally may want to take even more precautions than what I outline here. These might include hiring a professional firearms appraiser to generate an independent inventory and appraisal of the high value items prior to you contacting the firearms auction service. You may even want to hire the services of a lawyer.

When dealing with the firearms auction service provider get a written agreement that absolutely all items will be auctioned and nothing will be sold in any other manner. This is critically important. The auctioneer can bunch together less valuable items into lots for sale at auction. When the auctioneer arrives to do the on site inventory of the items, you need to insist on a reasonably detailed inventory covering all items. After the sales are completed you can expect from the auctioneer a detailed accounting of what each lot sold for and how much of the selling price they retained. Get a written agreement before you turn over anything that this accounting to you will list all lots (guns, etc.) and will also list the specific website and specific website identification number for each lot sold.

If you choose to do so you could identify your guns on the Internet by their serial number as they are posted for sale. But being provided with a lot number makes it far easier. Without the lot number for the sales of your non-gun items you cannot differentiate between, for example, your reloading press verses someone else’s identical press being sold.

Do not turn over to the auctioneer any magazines that, due to state law regarding their capacity, he cannot legally accept and sell to your benefit. Be sure to remove any such magazines from the guns. These can be very valuable. Some auctioneers will just take these and sell them out of state or otherwise with no benefit to you. To recover their value you may need to consider moving these to another state where an auctioneer or someone else can sell them for you.

On the sale of guns the auction service is likely to charge about a 20 to 25% seller’s premium (fee) on the selling price. In addition to their profit this covers their costs to inventory, move, store, insure, photograph, write up a description, advertise, sell, pay a fee to the Internet site, handle all the legal transfer paperwork, etc.

On non-gun accessories they may want as much as a 50% seller’s fee. This is due to the low selling price relative to the auctioneer’s costs. But remember that some of these items can be surprisingly valuable. Also these accessory items will often be combined into lots by the auction service. Get a written agreement that any of these items or lots selling for about $400 or more will have the same lower seller’s fee as the guns. With regard to both the seller’s premium on guns as well as on non-gun items, feel free to try some bargaining.

Some auction services charge a buyer’s premium (percentage fee) as well as a seller’s premium. Between different companies with about the same seller’s fee, the one that does not also charge a buyer’s fee is likely to bring you more money.

If it’s your collection or you’re an heir with access to knowledgeable help or access to very detailed inventory descriptions left by the deceased or access to detailed descriptions by an independent appraiser, you may want to consider doing the following. When the auction catalog is published or the items are initially listed on the Internet you could check out the auction service’s description accuracy. Problems in this area don’t occur very frequently, but they do happen. If you do discover and notify them of an error be sure to follow up later to verify the error has been corrected before the sale. You don’t want them describing something of yours as something else that is in fact less valuable. For example, your World War Two British No. 4 Enfield Sniper Rifle, even without accompanying riflescope, should not be advertised without the words “Sniper Rifle” in the description.

How much time, if any, you want to spend monitoring the auction service’s actions as they sell your material is up to you. By following the process I have outlined above you should have a very good outcome.

Pass this document along to anyone you feel might benefit from it.

Good luck. Selling Guns 2-18-2013-A.doc
 

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Somewhat decent article but there is a few points I would disagree with. Also, the author using the term "Assault Weapons" and actually meaning NFA stuff needs to get educated and quit lumping the term in with NFA stuff/
 

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Hootbro said:
Somewhat decent article but there is a few points I would disagree with. Also, the author using the term "Assault Weapons" and actually meaning NFA stuff needs to get educated and quit lumping the term in with NFA stuff/
Thats a good point, cause my assualt weapons are about $30k less than an NFA FA gun lol. Could easily confuse a spouse who knows nothing about the collection, lol.
 

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heartbreakridge01 said:
Thats a good point, cause my assualt weapons are about $30k less than an NFA FA gun lol. Could easily confuse a spouse who knows nothing about the collection, lol.
My wife always jokes she is just going to have a garage sale and sell all my shit for $5-$10 a piece. :confused:

Joking aside, I actually have spreadsheet I have done out with two columns of pricing, one is sell it quick and the other is if you got time find the right buyer. I think the author of the above posting, gives two much time on gain max value for every piece that most estate settlers will not have the time to deal with.
 

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I have digital pics with a brief description as well as a high-low value on my firearms collection for the wife's reference in case I get run over on one of my motorcycles or chopped up at work.

If something happened to you guys would your wife/significant other have any idea of what your collection is worth...Something to think about.
 

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When you price them out make sure there is a date with the last time the price was updated. A lot can happen in just a few months.
 

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Yeah..that's so true my firearms folder needs an update bad, I think I'll make that my project for the weekend...Just picked up a XD9 and XD45... :grin:
 

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l4mbr3tt4 said:
When you price them out make sure there is a date with the last time the price was updated. A lot can happen in just a few months.

I bet you could come up with some excel spreadsheet algorythm to track various prices of firearms on the Internet, kinda like those ammo search engines but tailor it to average the price out for certain types of popular firearms. Damn I may be on to something, if only I knew how to create algorithms and use excel past making tables and basic functions lol.
 

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My Father was killed at age 27 and had a gun collection. My Mom then traded it all for a child's roll top desk for my baby sister. Decades later she admitted it was a poor choice. But at least my sister still has the desk. :goof:

Never underestimate the ability of your family to destroy any legacy you leave behind!
 

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I need to document my collection with pics and descriptions on digits and paper. My wife has decent idea of some of the stuff, but not all.
 

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JoeMomma said:
I need to document my collection with pics and descriptions on digits and paper. My wife has decent idea of some of the stuff, but not all.
You can do it pretty easy on a Saturday or Sunday morning...take your guns out of your safes, take instant digital pictures naming just what the Hell each gun is with a good description, pick a value range for it and save it to your computer,a thumb drive and I use a Seagate cloud storage account. Be sure to brief your wife on just what you have done or it's all for not when you croak off... :sad:
 

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This would take some time to do... :neutral:
 

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Hey I'm just trying to help the "gun guys" out there in case you pass away unexpectedly, who wants some LGS vulture to screw over your widow on your guns when she really needs the money most...might be the best couple hours you ever spent who knows...
 

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I'm in total agreement with you, and its something I've been putting off for far too long.
 

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I am surprised no one has said anything about a will and passing them on to a heir. If I croaked tomorrow I would want my son to have my collection. Being he is only 4 now it's not much use to him but I would put a clause in the will that he had to keep them at least 15 years after he was able to take possession of them. Just to keep him from selling them off to finance a sweet car or something else dumb lol. Lets face it 18yr olds are not the brightest crayons in the box, and being only 4 another 14 years is along way off with out a gun loving father to teach him the ways!
 

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JoeMomma said:
I'm in total agreement with you, and its something I've been putting off for far too long.
I have written my collection down, but pictures etc would be a lot better, and giving my wife the digits to the safe lol. If I died tomorrow she would have to pay a lock smith just to open the safe! I don't think she could figure it how to open it anyways with the numbers lol!
 

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My father's best friend passed away, with instructions to his widow that upon his demise that ALL of his guns were to be destroyed as he didn't want them floating around with his name on them. (yes he was a bit odd,he was a black helicopter type) Anyway my father asked me if I would help her sell them off. I made a deal with a LGS to pay them $35 ea for consignment. Long story short I got a nice Rockola carbine and a vintage Randall knife and a virtual shitpot of ammo out of the deal. She made over $25,000. One thing that did bother me though was he had a bunch of .45 acp ammo, both empty cases and full boxes....I never found a .45 anywhere in that house, and I tore the attic and garage apart looking.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
On the possible confusion re NFA weapons, I did not address that subject in my posted advice. I wrote, "Some guns in the estate may be considered “assault weapons” by your state". And by "your state" I was referring to one of the 50 and not the federal government. CA as an example uses "assault weapons" as a term defined by one of their state laws. That law applies to a verity of guns that are not addressed by the NFA .
 

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JoeMomma said:
I'm in total agreement with you, and its something I've been putting off for far too long.
I've put it off WAY too long. I look around, and there's so much to do. Not just the guns, but everything. I have a will and all that, and I've taken my daughter through all the things that she should do if I croak, but I need to investigate details much further.

My grandparents had it squared away. About twenty years before they died they took care of everything. They even bought their final resting places, which included all funeral expenses at 1970 prices. They even planned out their own funerals, what we were supposed to wear, the food, the entertianment, the services, EVERYTHING. All any of the family had to do was show up. They did the planning in their 70's and both lived into their 90's. They were amazing people and lived amazing lives, and it carried over into everything they touched. My Grandmother's funeral was the best one I've ever been to...lol. It was a wonderful memory.

That's what I need to get done. Serious details so my kids don't have to do squat.

I also need to get smart on what "hidden" charges and benifits go wtih dying. Taxes will eat up alot, but there's also various death benifits that don't get claimed because people may not know about it.

Of course, it seems that way with everything in life. Not enough time to get everything done.
 
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