The Gun Auction

Auctions are usually great places for people watching, but learn why Dave Campbell says gun auctions can be pretty depressing.

I went to a gun auction today. The ad in the paper indicated there were a number of very desirable guns being sold, as well as some other good stuff that the ad referred to as “Big Boys Toys.” There were several vintage Winchesters, a few Colts and Smiths, a couple of Brownings, two or three ARs and an FN-FAL. Some good workaday Rugers, a 1903 Springfield, a couple of 1917 Enfields, a Garand and a couple of very nice Savage 99s rounded out the better stuff.

Auctions are usually great places for people watching, but gun auctions can be pretty depressing. Better than 90 percent of the buyers and lookers are grey and wrinkled with age. Most of the women are wives of the grey-and-wrinkled, there to make sure the old boy doesn’t go crazy with this month’s retirement check. Several of the grey-and-wrinkled guys shuffled along slowly and painfully, their pants hanging below their butts not too dissimilar to the wannabe gang bangers of today but for a different reason. The old guys are wearing stretched-out-elastic suspenders. They look longingly at the Winchesters secretly wishing that perhaps if they could wrangle one of them away they’d regain some of the steel they once had in their legs and back. They were all overrun in the bidding by the half dozen or so of gun-show sharks lurking toward the front of the crowd.

The sharks are at every auction, driving up the prices so they can extract an even larger largess on the circuit of gun shows. To them these guns are nothing more than cash cows to be used and discarded, only to return to the cycle in another auction a year or two down the road. Unlike the grey-and-wrinkled set, who views these firearms as pieces of history, with a provenance that they hope to magically turn around the cruelness of age, the sharks view any such provenance as nothing more than a representative of dollars.

In the end, the lifetime effort of one man who loved guns, hunting and the outdoors was reduced to a small pile of dollar bills to be divvied up between the auctioneer, the owner of the building where the auctioned occurred and the heirs of the man in less than a couple of hours. Include the government as one of the benefactors if the man did not write his will correctly. In a day or so the man will be all but forgotten, save, perhaps, an heir or two. His treasured collection has been scattered to the wind, reduced to generate more devalued dollars to the sharks from the upcoming grey-and wrinkled.

As I drove home I began to ponder the man whose lifetime collection I just witnessed. I never knew him, but I thought for a moment that if I looked in a mirror I would see him.

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2 Responses to The Gun Auction

John Postallian wrote:
October 03, 2013

I am getting gray, but not wrinkled yet. Been to these auctions and prices are driven too high for me to buy. I can get new for less sometimes. Seeing the classics go to the sharks burns me. I don't even go any more.

Jay Thorington wrote:
October 02, 2013

Waxing nostalgic! All too true.