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Does cleaning a collectable firearm decrease its value?

Discussion in 'General Military' started by Capt'n Mil Coll, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. Capt'n Mil Coll

    Capt'n Mil Coll G&G Evangelist

    Mar 22, 2008
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    Ok so most have seen the Antiques Roadshow.
    On there they have experts that seem to know everything about Chippendale Chairs, Dolls, Watches, Swords, Pottery, Marbles, Comic Books, Milk Jugs and everything else under the sun.

    They also have experts on firearms.
    I have witnessed one rifle rusty from top to bottom that a guy brought in. Found it behind relatives door. It had a brass plaque that said it was a commorative rifle from Concord Bridge. One of one hundred. The shot heard around the world. They valued it at something like a half a million dollars. I have also watched when a guy brought in a Henry Golden Boy that had a steel reciever instead of a (what is it? brass or bronze).
    That was valued at quite a lot as well.

    In all the cases no matter what the collectable firearm they tell the owners not to clean the weapon because that will decrease the value.

    So my question is why would just cleaning a collectable firearm, and Im not talking about my WWII M1 Garand here, decrease the value?

    Any thoughts or comments?
  2. 9mmXDm

    9mmXDm Suspended

    Dec 1, 2009
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    The PATINA will be taken away and that is something you don't want to do.
  3. ArkansasHunter

    ArkansasHunter G&G Newbie

    Mar 10, 2007
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    I've learned from that show and another one that you should have people who restore stuff do it.
    They know what to do and what not to do. Pawn Stars is the other show.
  4. Iron_Colonel

    Iron_Colonel G&G Enthusiast

    Jan 13, 2008
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    I think it really depends on the condition of the firearm. If the gun is rusting or pitting badly, then you're going to want to try to stop the rust so it won't get any worse. Something like that is cleaning it to help preserve it's value. But if you strip it and reblue/refinish, then that will probably decrease value. But that is also dependent on what kind of firearm it is too, and whether or not it is rare like some of the ones you mentioned that were featured on the show.
    jwrauch likes this.
  5. Krag 30-40

    Krag 30-40 G&G Newbie

    Jul 2, 2008
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    Any alteration of the original finish on an antique firearm is undesireable from a collectors standpoint.I would not call cleaning the bore an alteration of the original finish or the removal of old grease and oil on an antique firearm or routine oiling or waxing.Consider also those people on the Antique Roadhow are dealers.They are not storing and maintaining items for years.Rusty guns are rusty guns but when light surface rust appears as from handling you don't preserve that,there is no real history there.In museums where things are maintained in a regulated atmoshere in cases have been using waxes on firearms for long term preservation but they're never handled as a personal collection would be.

    One of the biggest no nos is polishing the brass on old guns like muzzle loaders.You have a rifle with 200 years of wear on the stock and metal and the brass furniture all polished up like new.Nothing looks worse.

    There is a difference in routine maintenance and cleaning.Sanding a stock down and cleaning the bejesus out of the metal with emery cloth or 10 steel wool isn't maintenance.
    jwrauch likes this.
  6. cold queso

    cold queso G&G Regular

    Mar 5, 2008
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    One of the most neutral methods to clean on old gun is to use olive oil. Performs a couple of functions, including getting the grime off the metal w/o removing any browning/patina that has occurred. Secondly, it will clean and moisturize the wood. Drying is one of the biggest problems with old wood stocks.
    shanebrews likes this.
  7. Chris_B

    Chris_B G&G Newbie

    Apr 12, 2010
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    To get very technical, patina is not an original finish :) Neither is rust. However, restoration of a firearm is a subject that should be carefully considered and most times rejected

    The answer to 'does cleaning affect value of collectible forearms' is "it depends on what you mean by cleaning"

    I purchased an M1911 made in 1918 this year. It was filthy. All the crud in the barrel and all the dirt inside the pistol was not USGI, so I removed it all ;) What I did not do was scour it with a brillo pad to remove rust or touch up the blue where it was worn. Did I lower it's value? Why, no. What exactly makes a dirty firearm worth more? I feel there's a universe of difference between 'cleaning' and 'altering condition'

    Taking the antiques roadshow example, cleaning a Matisse with a scotchbrite pad and acetone may make it less dirty, but it hurts value a little bit. That doesn't mean there's no way to clean that delicate thing properly. Transferring the idea to a rugged item like a firearm is much less difficult

    The alteration of condition on the vast majority of potentially attainable firearms fascinates me. I was in the collector car hobby for a long while, where it's common practice to correctly restore original and out of production items to factory condition; items like four bolt main Buick 455 blocks or factory Stage 2 heads are a little rare and those items can cost a considerable amount; the car they could be on may be worth a considerable sum too; much more than the average firearm that may be resorted. But the firearm restoration is still considered a big no-no by most folks

    I guess it's safe to say that in the case of the Musket, above, any alteration at all may detract from what a potential buyer may consider to be 'correct'
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2010
  8. nathangdad

    nathangdad G&G Newbie

    Nov 17, 2007
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    a difference exists between cleaning and altering the appearance.

    There is nothing wrong with removing dirt and grease from a firearm.

    However, as objects age they develop what is known as a patina from years of exposure to the atmosphere, the sun, etc. Removing this patina from an antique firearm can really lower its value to collectors and museums.
  9. Capt.Hotpants

    Capt.Hotpants G&G Enthusiast

    Feb 18, 2010
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    With firearms less is more. Firearms restoration is stopping rust, cleaning grime, preserving wood. Its not strip down the parts, reblue, sandblast, etc.

    Collectors want original, not new.
  10. cheapblaster

    cheapblaster G&G Evangelist

    Mar 10, 2008
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    I once told a friend who had an old Winchester lever action just this. "Clean it, oil it. That's it. Do not try to 'pretty it up', you will wreck it's value." Does that about sum it up?
    Cyrano likes this.
  11. Paper

    Paper I can justify anything. Forum Contributor

    Nov 5, 2005
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    Oddly enough, I use the same thing to fry up venison steaks.. :D
    The oil, not old guns..
  12. franchi

    franchi G&G Newbie

    Nov 22, 2009
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    some collectors want the gun in the dust grime and rust so it can be properly preserved. some people will take a gun that is worth a lot of money and take half the value off becaue they got bored and had some sand paper or a wire brush lying around.
    cheapblaster likes this.
  13. big shrek

    big shrek G&G Evangelist

    Mar 19, 2008
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    Only experienced antique restorers should do preservation work.

    The amount of time & care that goes into restoring an old Edison Chifferobe is substantial,
    and one should put the same time & effort into their antique weapons.

    On the other hand, if you are going to go out & shoot the stuffings out of it, do whatever is neccesary to make it work properly.

    If the item is a valuable wall-hanger/safe queen...keep it that way.

    If you want to enjoy a firearm the way God intended...clean & Fire :D

    I have a 1913 Marlin model 37, currently in shootable condition, and I've enjoyed shooting it :)
    I've been deeply considering how I want to go about its reconditioning...VERY carefully considering...

    However, I intend to make sure it functions properly so that it will be an enjoyable shooter
    for at least another 50-100 years.

    The original finish on the stock is worn off in has a funny cracked look in places.
    The blueing is brown all over...and there are a few pits from rust...
    and in some places it's gone completely.

    So...since it is a properly-working firearm which is a joy to shoot...what should one do??

    Part of me wants to do a total stock restoration...using the old methods.
    Strip & refinish using early 1900's methods, but I'm a bit stuck on which way to go there...
    Varnish...BLO...Tung oil...I'm not 100% sure which was original for Marlin rifles, still researching that.

    The blueing I'm loath to do anything more than keep the rust off of it and keep it well-oiled.
    But...if I redo the furniture, should I go ahead and have it re-blued or even Nickel-plated??
    What's the harm after having already redone the stock??

    I prefer making it look as nice as posssible, as it's current condition is rather rough...
    and none of my rifles looks anywhere near as beat-up and abused as this one...

    So should I just keep it clean & well-oiled, or tear it down for a total refinishing???
  14. Chris Venticinque

    Chris Venticinque G&G Newbie

    Oct 29, 2015
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    I'm not the least bit concerned with the "collector" de-valuing my rifles! I buy what I like and what I want to hunt with and shoot. If I can't shoot it generally I won't buy it! I do have a few "Safe Queens" mostly my Brownings. But they are the exceptions! Cause if you are looking to buy "collectables" buy the best you can afford! If you can't afford collectable grade firearms, buy what appeals to you and leave this horsesh-t to the horse traders
    There are hundreds of thousands of rifles and shotguns that worn out and look like crap, that are no more rarer than you 1968 Marlin 336 or the typical Remington 721 or the Winchester that will shoot just fine with a good bore scrub, but wouldn't find space in my locker, let alone find their way into Elk Camp.
    Why would anyone want to carry a Junker into a camp and expect any respect from your peers for the trash you use to hunt with. Nothing gains more respect from another hunter/shooter than your equipment.
    No more so than the respect you'd get from the "car guys" if you drove your 69 Mustang, that has sat in the back yard under the maple tree for the last 25yrs, and expect to show it off at a car show, unless there is a big orange and black "For Sale" sign in the window!
    And if you wanted top dollar for that 18th century spindle back Jeffersonian chair that you family has used to hold up the wood pile in the garage for the past 3 generations, best that you clean it up as nice as you can, alter as little as you can, as to attract a buyer that is looking for a nice old piece to use and hold onto. More so than leave it a wreck and expect some stogy old curmudgeon at the show give you top dollar, cause it's "all original"
    On the other hand I like to find "Junkers" that have been mishandled and give them a complete re-conditioning. This includes "period" bluing, and wood finishes and re-acquiring original or period sights, such a Lyman receivers or and old Alaskan, Noske's, or like optic and fit with period mounts such as G&H, Balvar, and Noske's etc.
    I don't understand why someone wouldn't want their rifle to be as usable and as nice as the day granddad had Mr. Smith at the gun shop re-finish the stock where the horse stepped on it! Does that detract from the value as a collectable? To some degree! But not as much as trying to unload a German Weatherby with a cracked stock, and a horse shoe print in that nice stock!
    AzShooter1 likes this.
  15. Chris Venticinque

    Chris Venticinque G&G Newbie

    Oct 29, 2015
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    You should do what you want regardless of what the so called experts say!
    Do you want a gun that is a stunner or a stump, its up to you!
    Why do you think Doug Turnbull's guns garner such high prices. He takes someone's junk and turns it into a beautiful firearm!
    If you feel comfortable carrying a gun you have no respect for other than it fires bullets where you aim, then I'm sure you are content with hamburger and not Delmonico's
    Personally I like to find the bargain Junkers and turn them into stunners. I appreciate when someone notices my rifles at the range or gun shop. It shows they have respect for fine items.
    That worn out, run down LC Smith or Granddad's Springfield with the tape on the forend, "aint" a collectable !
  16. grizcty

    grizcty God, Guns, Glory

    Sep 24, 2009
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    Welcome to G&G from Alaska.
    Stop by the Introduction thread and say Hello!
  17. AzShooter1

    AzShooter1 G&G Enthusiast

    Aug 18, 2008
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    Cleaning alone will not decrease the value of an old gun. In most cases it will enhance the value.

    Now, changing it from original appearance will destroy the value. Don't change the grips, don't work on the interior or change parts. Leave the sights alone.

    Good luck with your collection.:)
  18. gandog56

    gandog56 G&G Evangelist Forum Contributor

    Oct 8, 2006
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    Regular cleaning no. Stupid stuff like rebluing, wire brushing, yes. I remember watching some Pawn Stars show where the guy walked in with like an old original Colt Patterson. Rick asked him if he had tried to clean it up and the guy said yes, I wire brushed some rust off if it. Rick told the guy he had just wiped about $1500 off the price he would offer for it.
  19. Chris Venticinque

    Chris Venticinque G&G Newbie

    Oct 29, 2015
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    What make you think that Rick and that band of Buffoons, knows anything about collectables? Why do you think he calls in the "Experts" at every turn. He's nothing but a lowest bid buyer, not a collector!
  20. shanebrews

    shanebrews G&G Enthusiast

    Feb 7, 2014
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    In the real world, good luck finding a top-shelf collector. And if you do, those folks are savvy bidders. Sure, some buy something that is pretty beat up to complete a collection or say they have the rarest of the rare, but even then they have a good idea what fair market value is.
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