M1 Garand Prices & Trends
By Joel Kolander
Are you looking for an M1 Garand for sale? Wondering if you’re paying too much?
It’s debatable whether U.S. military arms have ever been as sought after by collectors as they are right now. Long gone are the golden days where back pages of magazines were filled with ads of low-cost military weapons. Faint are the memories of local gun stores with barrels of rifles available for a price that would put a smile on even the thriftiest skinflint. It was a time when these guns were so abundant they nearly begged to be modified to cast their memories of military service far behind them in exchange for a long life of target shooting or hunting.
Saying that collectors today are wistful for those times and prices is in the running for understatement of the year. Having such tangible history so readily available is a dream come true for many. In the current collecting environment, such pieces are still readily available, but their prices reflect the market’s collective desire for these weapons. The increased price, instead of countering demand, only seems to drive it further by encouraging a mindset that the guns are becoming more rare and unavailable. However, it should only be a matter of time before the market corrects itself, ceasing the upward price swing, and settling at a place where people again feel comfortable paying. The $64,000 question for collectors is, “When does that correction occur?” With nearly 5.5 million of these battle rifles made, should their cost be lower, or does their place in history supersede traditional pricing models?
Questions like those outlined above are the reason that Rock Island Auction Company took some time to assemble data based on its more than 25,000 annual firearm sales. Sale prices of M1 Garands were noted over several years and compiled to help collectors make some sense out of the current market and what they should expect when they see M1 Garand rifles for sale. Before we get to the numbers, here is how the data was prepared.
- All super collectible M1 Garand rifles and their resultant high prices were struck from the list.
- To make this as applicable to collectors as possible, all weapons chosen must have had a grade of “very good” or higher (7+ on a scale of 1-12).
- For the same reason, only C&R eligible rifles were selected.
- Samples sizes of around 25 guns were chosen for each period
- All prices include a 15% buyer’s premium, as that reflects what someone actually paid to own an M1 Garand.
- Multi-gun lots were also excluded since one price could not be attributed to a single gun.
- Each period of time where prices are measured is roughly 16 months give or take a 4 month period. Shorter periods were given larger sample sizes to aid in accuracy.
Chosen at random, most of the rifles used for their data were Springfield made with some H&R (Harrington & Richardson), Winchester, and IH (International Harvester) that also found themselves in the final groupings. Their quantities are in the order listed. Involving a healthy mix of World War 2 era rifles and post-war examples, each data set also had several examples that included their CMP paperwork.
Here is what was found:
Data Set 1 (2010 – 2011)
Going back almost 7 years (that’s 20 Premiere and 13 Regional Auctions) gives a pretty thorough look at a relatively small window of time. Here we see the last section of data before the 2012 presidential election, where Democrats not only retained the White House, but also began a 53-45 superiority in the Senate (Republicans maintained a 234-201 advantage in the House). But is the previously stable (or perceived as stable) gun climate really what resulted in this data set serving as a springboard to the next? Could the relative comfort of gun owners kept the prices consistent or even artificially low?
Beyond politics, perceived availability might be a contributing factor, so an information request was sent to the CMP about the availability of their M1 Garands at that time or if there were any price changes – anything that indicates an increase in demand or might signify to collectors a dwindling supply. Unfortunately, they were unable to give us any data, stating that they “run a lean workforce and do not have the additional labor it would take to data mine this information or perform tasks that do not pertain to our core mission.” Fair enough and their prompt response is appreciated. However, even using the limited information available on their website, it would be several years before various grades of guns would be sold out. This will be discussed more in the relevant data set.
Data Set 2 (2012 – 2013)
Good grief! Even with a slightly smaller sample size, a 44% increase is a significant trend to note. Yes, the initial spike of this trend coincides when Democrats retained the White House, but were there any other contributing factors? If so, they could be telltale signs for savvy collectors to recognize and put to their advantage.
During this period, there do not seem to be any pop culture influences toward the end of the previous period or the beginning of this one that would lead to a dramatic increase in purchasing. While the HBO mini-series The Pacific was released in 2010, it was approximately a decade prior that saw the great gamut of World War II movies hoping to capitalize on the popularity enjoyed by Saving Private Ryan (1998). In other words, the big influx of World War II movies at the box office happened much earlier and one could assume that any resultant bump in M1 Garand sales would have happened years prior. Also, there were no general indicators that the overall supply was decreasing, which would also increase demand and price.
Data Set 3 (2014 – 2015)
Even with a lower average condition (10.3 compared to 11 in previous sets), this data proves that the upswing is no anomaly. In fact, the trend continues, though not at the astronomical rate as seen in 2012-2013. In fact, this is the smallest measured increase for the time periods noted. Demand may have cooled, but it did not subside entirely. During this period, the CMP website begins to list categories of M1 Garands as “Sold Out.” One would think this would have led to a perceived unavailability or a stronger increase in price, but it that is not supported by the data. The categories listed as sold out during this period were:
IHC Field Grade: Sold out March 25, 2015
IHC Service Grade Sold out March 25, 2015
IHC Service Grade with IHC Receiver and LMR Barrel Sold out March 25, 2015
IHC Field Grade with IHC Receiver and LMR Barrel Sold out August 18, 2015
Rack Grade: Sold out November 16, 2015
Data Set 4 (2016 – Present)
Given that this data set is not quite the full range of the others, it was given a slightly larger sample size to help compensate. Election time reared its ugly head again in 2016 with most major outlets predicting a Democratic victory. Was that enough to increase the average value nearly 12%? Concurrent with this most recent measurement, we can safely say that the CMP has listed most grades of M1 Garand rifles as “sold out.” It doubles the amount of “sold out” categories listed in the previous timeframe and even some new production models, made on refinished original receivers, are selling out.
Service Grade Sold out September 28, 2016
CMP Special Grade (Winchester) Sold out January 24, 2017
Field Grade Sold out January 25, 2017
CMP Special Grade Sold out January 25, 2017
Service with 6M Serial Number Sold out March 29, 2017
Keep in mind that these CMP categories are all lower grade rifles and do not include the Correct Grade or Collector Grade rifles. The CMP has not offered those two upper echelons of M1 Garands for sale for years, though the exact dates are not listed on their website. This article is primarily intended to look at high end, regular M1 Garand rifles, but the factors listed here have also invariably affected the M1 Garands for sale at other price points. Case in point: seen any $500 M1 rifles lately? Unfortunately, the “sold out” dates of other rifles also offered by the CMP (such as the M1903, the M1 carbine, and the M1917) are also unavailable. If this information were available, one could draw strong conclusions regarding the trends of demand for U.S. military surplus rifles in general vs. the specific demand for M1 Garands.
While information is limited and educational guesses abound as to why the prices of M1 Garand rifles have risen so dramatically in recent years, the data unquestionably indicates that they are steadily increasing. They have seen a price change of 66% in just seven years, and if gun collecting as a whole is indicative of anything, they will not be going back down. Gun genres that are popular tend to set new price points going forward, not revert back to old ones, with notably few exceptions.
It could be the political seasons. It could be the natural ebb and flow of shared interest within the hobby. It could be that new groups of collectors want tangible pieces of history with ties to the loved ones in their lives – right now, that means grandpa’s M1 Garand. It could be that the young ‘uns who grew up watching the boom of World War II movies and video games finally got old enough to purchase the guns they’ve been familiarized with for years. Whatever the reasons, these classic American rifles in any condition show no signs of weakening prices nor diminishing interest. If you have a theory, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.