How much is my gun worth?
The short answer? Your gun is worth what someone will pay you for it.
The question of “worth” is a complex one, since the same gun can have very different values depending on the situation. For instance: a Smith & Wesson Model 10 being sold at a pawn shop may only net the seller $150 or $200. That same (used) gun may fetch $400 in a private sale, while it will probably retail new for closer to $700 (they currently have an MSRP of $792).
When I talk about “worth” with a client, we generally talk about these different values:
The “resale value” is what you can expect to net from the sale of your firearm. This, of course, depends on how you sell the gun. It’s important to note that municipal, state, and federal laws govern the sale of firearms. Please consult with a reputable attorney before conducting any sale.
Pawn shops are the first place that many people think of for selling a firearm. Many pawn shops are federally licensed dealers and will take firearms for pawning or for outright purchase, but these venues will often only pay 20% to 40% of the firearm’s replacement value. The reason is straightforward: these businesses have considerable overhead expenses, and they are often reselling these items at a discounted price when compared to other retail channels.
Many gun stores will either accept used guns on consignment, or will purchase used guns outright. Like pawn shops, gun stores will generally pay less than half of the retail value of the firearm to accommodate their overhead expenses. Consignment sales generally have lower selling fees, since the seller assumes the risk of the gun not selling.
The replacement value refers to the cost of replacing a particular gun with a comparable make/model in similar condition. A proper assessed resale value would assume that a similar gun in similar condition could be found through conventional retail channels (at a gun store, pawn shop, etc.).
It’s important to note that replacement values are subject to the whims and trends of the free market. Prior to 2020, common used Glock handguns would often retail for $300 to $400. The spike in sales of firearms and ammunition in 2020 drove the retail prices of many of these guns up twofold, and in some cases threefold.
Insurance / Appraisal Value
I am often asked about appraisals, and I generally refer people to the American Society of Appraisers to find a properly qualified and credentialed appraiser. It is well beyond the scope of this article to discuss the complexities of appraisals for insurance purposes; the best place to start there is with your licensed insurance agent.
It’s worth noting here that an appraisal—even from a fully qualified appraiser—is not the same thing as resale value.
Collectible value refers to the value of a particular firearm to arms collectors—especially collectors that specialize in a particular category or type of firearm. This can be the most difficult values to asses since they take other factors into consideration that may influence an interested and knowledgeable buyer. These include the provenance of a historic firearm, any historic events that the firearm may have been associated with, and unique or distinguishing features that make this firearm particularly unique.
Firearms collectors tend to favor guns that have not been restored or otherwise altered. These can have a significant (and usually deleterious) affect on a gun’s collectible value, and a proper assessment of a firearm’s collectible value needs to include a careful examination of the gun’s condition and state of originality.
If you think you have a rare and collectible firearm, please contact me to discuss the process of evaluating your gun’s value.