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January 30, 2024

A Gun Show Renaissance

By Kurt Allemeier

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Black and white photos from mid-century gun shows and collector meet-ups past offer glimpses of men in sport coats and ties holding guns. There are pictures of educational displays and award winners. You can almost hear Patsy Cline songs and smell the cigarette smoke hanging in the air. You can see it’s a community. What you can’t see is the knowledge and expertise. Still, you know it’s there.

These people knew each other, leaned on each other for advice and met to find that one elusive piece missing from a collection. They told each other hunting lies and gun truths. Curious about a Colt Single Action Army? Ask Bob. Not sure about this Winchester Model 1876? Phil can set you straight. They could enlighten you in a conversation or reinforce their thinking by loaning the definitive book.

It was this community of shared knowledge that collected the guns that generations later are coming back around. They recognized the importance of a Colt Walker, a Brown Bess or a Spencer Carbine. Rock Island Auction wants to rediscover that community of gun collectors from bygone days.

Rock Island Auction Company has established the finest brick and mortar auction venue in the United States at Bedford, Texas.

A writer for The Gun Report in 1969, wrote about the fine qualities of what was a gun show for fellow collectors and that sentiment is what RIAC wants to invigor.

“There were MANY excellent displays. The boys went to a lot of effort to make these both attractive and educational, which, after all is the point of a real good show. AND there were enough goodies offered for sale or trade to make anyone happy,” wrote Frank Wheeler in his The Cartridge Collector column.

Rock Island Auction Company aims for and delivers an outstanding online auction experience each time, and with a new facility in the heart of Texas, the company provides an opportunity to regain the camaraderie that is so visible in those monochromatic photos of collector club meetings and gun shows.

Rock Island Auction Company’s Bedford, Texas facility that opened in December is 90,000 square feet of the finest brick-and-mortar auction venue in the United States.

A writer in one of the first issues of The Gun Report, from July, 1955, explained the benefit of getting together with fellow collectors.

“Before 1949 a tri-state gun collector had to combine with his knowledge of guns the abilities of a detective for running down leads, the nose of a Horace Greeley for news of guns and as it says in the classified section, be `free to travel,’” wrote Dick Miller.

These events brought like-minded collectors together. They might know someone looking to part with a sought-after gun or be aware of someone who does. They might provide insight into what makes one gun better than another.  They provided an opportunity to increase the size and value of their collection or just shoot the breeze over an unfiltered Camel and cold bottle of Schlitz.

Collector shows offered the chance to see real rarities even if they weren’t for sale. A Gun Report write-up shared that one collector brought his Winchester collection to display including his One of 1,000 and a mint-condition Henry rifle. Another article reported that among the weapons to be shown included two Colt Walkers – TWO! – along with cased Colt revolvers, LeMat revolvers and “rare collections of guns from some of the country’s finest collectors.”

Looking for that first antique gun or just wanting to know more about gun collecting, then a Rock Island Auction preview day and live sale is an event that offers an educational experience to those wanting to immerse themselves in what is both an investment and avocation.

Are you going to find those types of guns displayed at a local gun show these days? Unlikely. Where will you find guns like that and be able to admire and examine them? Step into the preview hall at Rock Island Auction Company’s Bedford, Texas venue and take a look. Where will you find knowledgeable collectors and industry leaders that might offer some advice to a collector just getting started? You might just find them in Rock Island Auction Company’s spectacular preview hall or leaning against the bar that runs along the back of the auction hall.

Some of the finest collections from legendary collectors like Larry Jones, Robert M. Lee, Mac McCroskie and John Kopec find their way onto the roster of Rock Island Auction Company sales. In our May Premier, the classic Colts of George S. Lewis Jr., to the detailed and finely conditioned offerings from Greg Lampe and the superb flintlock and percussion guns of the Norman R. Blank Collection will be on offer.

This Winchester Model 1873 One of 1,000 owned by Montana lawman Thomas Stuart from the Mac McCroskie Collection is a historic and high-conditioned firearm that can only be found at one of Rock Island Auction Company’s live events. It realized $528,750 at the RIAC’s December 2023 Premier Auction.

These days, few shows can provide the level of collecting savvy and display guns dripping with history, high condition and beauty than what is found within the walls of Rock Island Auction Company. The Antique Arms and Armor Show held in Las Vegas in January is where you’ll be able to visit with Rock Island Auction Company representatives on hand to discuss fine arms collecting.

The Antique Arms and Armor Show is a good example of the camaraderie of the gun collecting community. When the show’s founder, Harry Mann died in early 1969, The Gun Report devoted two pages of brief eulogies from dozens of friends and colleagues in the collecting fraternity, including names that are recognizable to many, like Norm Flayderman, Arnold Chernoff and Herb Glass.

Rock Island Auction Company’s Sporting & Collector Auctions are a good place to start for those dipping their toes into the avocation of gun collecting. Rare, historic and fine firearms are available at a wide variety of values. It provides a chance to explore, educate and experience the gun collecting culture and rub shoulders with fellow collectors.

Take in firearms from multiple genres and eras during one of Rock Island Auction Company’s preview days ahead of the live auctions. Find that one that truly ignites the passion of gun collecting.

These aren’t mere exhortations, but a simple invitation to learn from those who know the intimate details and qualities of Winchesters, Colts, Smith & Wessons, Class III firearms or martial arms from the wars of the 20th century.

Weapons from multiple genres and eras and guns that are jaw-droppingly beautiful can be found at Rock Island Auction Company’s preview days and live auction events than can ever be seen next to a table of polymer pistols. If you truly want to explore the depths of gun collecting, put Rock Island Auction Company’s Feb. 16-18 Sporting & Collector Auction and May 17-19 Premier Auction on your calendar to see how we’ve envisioned what a gun show is. After all, “History Lives Here.”

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