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Jan 29

Trust but Verify

I recently attended an auction with one of the most unusual collections of firearms I have ever seen where this statement “Trust but Verify” held true. For those of you that either don’t remember or are not old enough to have been alive when Ronald Reagan first spoke these words a little background is in order.

Beginning in 1984 the Reagan Administration began negotiating the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty or INF with the Soviet Union. The saying is actually translated from a Russian proverb but Reagan really liked it and used it over the next four years as the treaty was negotiated. It meant that we needed to be able to confirm the Soviets were adhering to the treaty once it was signed. See video.

Back to the auction, it consisted of 114 lots of parts, air rifles, Winchester pump action 22’s and Schuetzen type target rifles. There were also a fair number of antique and unusual handguns. I will give the listing and how they went in an upcoming article but that is not the point for today.

Most auctioneers are not firearms experts and it can really show when the guns fall outside the normal Winchesters and Remingtons. While this auction was not live on the internet it was advertised on the internet and they had taken several phone bids on various lots. This is where the people had to go by the auction listing because they could not examine the guns in person.

The first inkling I had that this could be ugly was during the auction preview. The sale bill read as follows. Winchester 1894 22. s/n xxxxxx. This firearm is subject to processing. For me this stood out as Winchester never made an 1894 in a .22 caliber. They did produce the 94/22 but it came years later. When examining the rifle several things became apparent. One look at the bore told you it was not a 22. I didn’t measure it but by looking at the diameter it was either a 30-30 or a 32 special. The caliber stamp had been obscured because someone had replaced the rear sight and put it over the caliber stamp. The sight was either glued or soldered because several people tried to adjust it and couldn’t. Lastly it was a saddle ring carbine with the ring still on it which will generally boost the price. The sale bill or the photos could have determined none of this.

The next one came 15 items into the sale when a Stevens 22 rifle from approx. 1870 came up. It wore nickel plating on the receiver and blue everywhere else. We considered it a fine condition specimen but it was nothing special. The auctioneer starts by asking $1000 to which the whole room laughed. He then stated “The secretary looked these up this weekend and this one should be valued between $500 and $1500 which brought even more chuckles and several comments of “no way”. He then did something I have never seen. HE asked the assembled crowd how many thought those prices were too high. When the whole room raised their hands he dropped back to $100 for an opening bid and ended up getting $200 which was perhaps a little low given the condition but closer than $500.

The one that took the cake was one that flew under my radar during the preview because I wasn’t interested in the lot. It read “Pair of Smith & Wesson Commemorative 45 caliber Schofield Model 3 Revolver set with case, serial number xxxxxxx. This firearm is subject to processing.” During the preview I noticed several guys trying to open the action but none could. Most assumed they were latched down or poor quality from what I heard. You don’t want to get too carried away when you don’t own the gun. When these hit the block the reason became apparent. The auctioneer announced they were non-firing replicas (decorations). The whole room retreated and he couldn’t get an opening bid. He then announced he had one phone bid for $700 and one for “substantially more”. If you saw that listing and looked at the photos you would be believe they were actual working guns and be willing to bid a lot more. I will never know but I’ll bet $50 they get them back because they were misrepresented.

There were other anomalies there such as a matchlock rifle that was a probable reproduction and two Galand pistols that didn’t function properly but it just went to reinforce that old adage of “Trust but Verify”

David – Mygunvalues.com

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