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When Rarity and Popularity Collide
Popularity is also a key component in the market momentum observed across the fine arms field. 80% of Rock Island Auction Company’s 50 most expensive guns are Winchesters rifles and Colt revolvers. Winchester and Colt are arguably the most recognized firearm manufacturers in history and names that are immediately associated with the American West. Even though millions of Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles were produced in the 19th century, they’ve become collecting cornerstones thanks to their status as American icons. And where rarity and popularity collide, prices soar.
The growth experienced by these two giants of the genre has elevated interest at every level of the antique arms pursuit, drawing in multiple generations of gun collectors, shooters, and fans of Western Art. Frontier rifles, Old West derringers, and Civil War guns have seen a similar surge in value, with early production models, prototypes, scarce configurations, and elite condition examples commanding the highest price points.
Every corner of fine arms collecting has enjoyed substantial gains, including 20th century military arms. Vintage pistols, rifles, and combat shotguns from the two world wars have all seen their values rise dramatically despite being manufactured in high volume. Consider the M1911A1 pistol, a model that saw 1.9 million units produced during the World War II era. The prominent pistol has become a proven high riser at every level, from comparatively common pieces experiencing double-digit annual growth in recent years to the most exclusive examples
of the genre becoming some of the most pursued items in arms collecting.
In 1940, the Singer Manufacturing Company produced an order of 500 M1911A1 pistols for the U.S. Army. Rock Island Auction Company sold the finest-known Singer example in 2010 for a then-unprecedented $166,000, then auctioned the same pistol again seven years later, where it broke its own record with a stunning $414,000. The Singer pistols aren’t engraved or linked to any world-famous figures. Instead, they’re another example
of how the convergence of popularity, scarcity, and condition in the field of classic firearms can create expanding price ceilings to rival the most impressive gains in the collectible arts pursuit.
Collect at Any Level
Compared to other investment-grade blue-chip collectibles, the fine arms market presents a comparatively low barrier to entry. And while certain alternative asset classes such as rare postage stamps have suffered a decline in popularity, classic firearms have enjoyed a constant stream of new collectors in every genre and price point of the venture. The market’s broad appeal and rampant growth creates a lucrative environment for the judicious investor, with recent data indicating many antique and vintage guns may be significantly undervalued.
Investment-grade firearms are obtainable to nearly all financial aspirations. Many determined collectors have broken into
the market by purchasing the best examples they could afford and traded up from there, building their collections piece by piece as means and opportunity allowed. A well-cared-for gun retains its value and often appreciates. The natural ebb and flow of the collecting environment offers profit potential whenever a
class of firearms experiences a sudden surge in value, a common occurrence in recent years.
The blistering performance of the fine arms field presents a compelling opportunity for those seeking to diversify with a touch of history. Arms collecting can offer a more muted market- to-market volatility compared to conventional investment options, and the historical significance, scarcity, aesthetic, popular appeal, prolific demand, tangibility, and potential for growth make antique and vintage firearms a valuable addition
to any portfolio. If approached with diligence, research, and careful selection, investors not only have the potential to reap high returns but can also contribute to the preservation and appreciation of history while enjoying one of the most accessible genres the collecting world has to offer.

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