Q & A with ValueMyStuff's Sporting Gun expert

ValueMyStuff sat down with our sporting guns & firearms specialist, Gavin Gardiner, for a Q & A. Learn more about why Gavin continues to love sporting guns and get insight into a specialist's valuation.

Sporting Guns & Firearms

How did you get involved with antique sporting guns and why do you enjoy this category?  I have to blame my father, who was a dealer as well as a consultant to Sotheby’s in this category. I spent my childhood following him around the trade, attending auctions and fairs, visiting gunmakers and really getting to see behind the scenes of this business. I was always fascinated by what new things might be at home when I came home from school. Sotheby’s gun department was my summer holiday job…  at the age of eighteen I realised I already had ten years experience doing something that I loved and at that point my summer holiday job evolved to a full time position.What is a sporting gun? A firearm that is used for sport…. Such as a stalking or big game rifle, or a fine shotgun built for pheasant or grouse shooting, or just general game and vermin control.What drives people to want to start a collection of sporting guns?There was a huge amount of technical innovation and evolution in guns and firearms during the nineteenth century. This produced numerous different mechanisms and styles, some successful and some less so, but it is this, coupled with wonderful quality, finish and engraving on the finest piece that really creates the perfect recipe for a collector. And like fine wine, watches and vintage cars, they can be used, appreciated and enjoyed.Are there different types of collectors if so who are they and what is their motivation?Some collectors collect everything…. Others will just stick to one maker or even one model and want to collect representative examples of every different variation produced. Others are just interested in finding the finest and best preserved examples that they can find. Different things drive different people… whether it is an appreciation of the technical qualities, the aesthetic or just the shear beauty of a finely crafted hand made object.What types of guns are the most sought after? I am dealing predominantly with collectors firearms and sporting guns from 1860 to the present day…  but the most collectable areas are probably the pieces from the period of innovation… 1860 to 1890.  These are not always the most valuable however, and it is often more modern pieces that have a higher value, because they are more usable and more closely related to their current manufacturing cost. What is collectable and what is valuable are often not the same thing.What are the rules for collecting; do you need a licence to buy an antique gun?Well as with anything, you should always buy the best examples that you can afford, as these will always have the best potential for a return in the future. The law in relation to Vintage and Antique firearms is however a very complicated thing….  Generally anything pre 1860 that is muzzle loading such as a flintlock or percussion gun can be owned without a licence, as long as it is kept as an antique or curio. Likewise a certain number of early breech loading firearms in Home Office approved obsolete calibres can also be kept as antiques…. The Home Office list is periodically updated and this does have an impact on values. Anything that can be kept without a licence will be easier to collect and often of greater value as a result.Anything of modern calibre that will fire currently available ammunition will require a licence, irrespective of age. A 12-bore shotgun built in 1865 for example….

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