Rock Island Auction Company
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We Deal in Guns… and Facts

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07/20/2017
By Joel Kolander

In the marketing and advertising world, there is a lot of pride at stake over being “the best.”  Truck manufacturers tout the “best selling” or “most reliable” vehicles. Cell phone companies laud themselves for “the best coverage” or the “best network.” So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the gun auction business is not immune to such pageantry. However, it has recently come to our attention that certain competitors have made some written claims which may have been true in the past, but are not true today. We don’t want to dwell on this too long, we have guns to sell after all, but we did want to address them as objectively as possible so that our consignors and collectors are properly informed. The information presented in this article has been collected from James D. Julia’s website, Proxibid, published prices realized, a recent James D. Julia email sent on July 12, 2017, and our own sales results.

Claim #1

“As the #1 firearms auction house in the world for rare and expensive firearms…”
“James D. Julia is the leading auction house in the world for rare, high-end and expensive guns.”
“…we sell the most rare and expensive guns.”

Thankfully, no one is disputing that RIAC sells more guns and has more dollars in annual sales than any other auction house, but just so there is no confusion over the qualifier “…for rare and expensive firearms…” RIAC is #1 in that game as well, making the Julia claim dubious.

Take a look at the following graph that clearly shows RIAC leading the way in high-value firearm sales for the previous 12 months. Including a year’s worth of sales for both auction houses is a fair and current set of data, and even omits some of RIAC’s recent successes such as Teddy Roosevelt’s hunting knife ($414,000 – not a firearm) and the world record Winchester ($1.2 Million – just outside of 12 months). Also, these amounts are not cherry-picked to make a comparison in RIAC’s favor. Even lower amounts like $20,000, $10,000 or $7,5000 show that RIAC sells “the most rare and expensive guns,” no matter how you define it.

High Value Rare Guns James Julia Auctions vs RIAC


If you prefer a longer sample size than 12 months, one can also analyze the entire industry over the last five years (since July 1, 2012) for firearms that realized $250K or above using the graph below.  You will notice that of the 47 lots sold (or 48 if you include a single outlying auction house), which include pairs and single firearms, Rock Island Auction has sold 27 of them. Concentrated mostly at the top of the list, RIAC’s items are more than 57% of the entire list, meaning that we not only sell the most, we sell more than our next five competitors combined. James D Julia can only claim 12.

James D Julia Rare Guns Over 250K - past 5 years vs RIAC

 

In summary, RIAC is the undisputed leader of the firearms auction industry in:

  • The number of firearms sold annually
  • Dollar amount of annual sales since 2003
  • High value collectible firearms

No matter how others try to claim the accolades, the data is clear and demonstrates Rock Island Auction Company’s dominance in the auctioning of collector firearms.

Claim #2

“…While our competition focuses on volume over quality, we maintain our focus on the most rare and collectible firearms. We don’t sell the most guns, we sell the most rare and expensive guns.”

RIAC would like to emphasize that we have always been proud to sell firearms for everyone, and quite content to also sell lower priced items so shooters and collectors of all levels may participate.

This claim of not wanting to focus on volume at the expense of quality is an odd claim considering Julia’s recently began offering a “Sporting & Collector session” to include items at a relatively lower price point ($2,000 – $8,000). It seems counter intuitive.

At James D. Julia, lower end items are regularly pushed to another “sister” auction house, so as to maintain the facade of selling only higher end firearms. Strangely, the results from said “sister” auction house are always good enough to include in the total sales numbers. Admittedly, the total is broken down later in their auction results for those who choose to read on, but the headlines with the joint totals can be downright misleading for those who do not investigate further.

On the Rocky Mountains Winchester 1866

The “On the Rocky Mountains” Winchester 1866 sold for $598,000 in May 2017.

Claim #3

“…we don’t want to buy your guns. We want to consign them for auction so you make the most money. Unlike other firearms auction houses, we won’t be competing with you during the auction.”

This poorly worded assertion loosely implies that “other auction houses” would rather buy items than consign them in order to sell them at auction.  While RIAC cannot speak for other auction houses, we can say with great certainty that we would rather consign your guns than buy them.  Do we buy guns? Absolutely. Some people want or need their money for a variety of reasons, with expediency being the most frequently cited. Does this happen often? No, but we are happy to offer this service to our clients who prefer haste or the certainty of an agreed upon price. Additionally, buying collections or items is also a service offered by James D. Julia, making them participants in the very “competing” they claim to avoid. Why would they state that they don’t?

For the record, RIAC would rather clients consign their items to auction.

Claim #4

“We offer the best terms in the industry, with seller’s commission as low as 0% on high value items.”

We don’t doubt that our competitor occasionally offers 0% for select high value items, but a commission rate is not the sole measure of the “best terms.”

For example, what happens if your items do not sell? Did James D. Julia do all that work for free or are they going to charge 10% of the reserve price, known as a “buy-in fee,” to have your own item returned to you? Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence as in our competitor’s last fall auction 31.5% of the lots did not sell during auction.

Some of those unsold items are indeed sold privately in the weeks after the auction when collectors are encouraged to “make an offer” on hundreds of unsold lots (this improves the percentage of unsold items to 24.8%). However, this puts the consignors in a terrible position. Do they accept a lower offer for their item that did not sell at auction or do they pay 10% to have their own item returned? Most folks, expecting to receive money and not send it, may feel strong pressure to accept an amount lower than their reserve, simply to avoid paying a fee. Unfortunately, a buy-in fee is only the tip of the iceberg of considerations to make when reviewing the consignment terms of an auction house.

 

Colt Paterson No. 5 Texas

This case and silver-banded Colt Paterson No. 5 Texas Model, sold for $575,000 in May 2017.

 

In conclusion, RIAC President Kevin Hogan says it best,

“The firearms auction business today is as competitive as ever. Our goal at Rock Island Auction Company is not to sell the most guns or the most expensive guns. Our goals are to be the most dynamic, innovative and efficient outlet for marketing and selling your firearms at auction, protecting the 2nd Amendment through actions like the RIAC Freedom Challenge, and growing the collectible firearms community. The results of RIAC’s vision and passion have resulted in 14 years as the undisputed #1 firearms auction house in the world. Our competitor focuses on blowing hot air, cut rate tactics, hidden fees, buy-in fees and fuzzy math. James D. Julia incorrectly claims to sell the “most expensive” firearms. Yet here is a company that adds their neighbor’s auction sales results to their own. They count items which failed to sell during an auction which are later sold on a “make an offer list” as auction results. They blame the market condition for poor sales results and utilize predator “consignment” tactics such as buy in fees and insurance charges to line their pockets.

At RIAC we believe in actions, not words. Results, not excuses.  We believe in facts, figures and data not just hot air and lip service.”