December 17, 2021
By Sean McCarthy
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“If all our tables were placed end to end, they would stretch 5.7 miles,” says the website for the Wanenmacher’s Tulsa Arms Show, the largest gun show in the world. 5.7 miles. A lot of folks out there commute a comparable distance to work every day, if that helps put into perspective just how expansive the Tulsa Arms Show is.
Another thing to consider is that the stated 5.7 miles mainly consists of firearms, swords, knives, ammo, gear, and everything in between. The sheer inventory contained within the walls of the Tulsa Expo Square for that weekend is so vast and varied, it would make a small nation’s military look like a Boy Scout troop.
The Tulsa Arms Show began in 1968 and has since evolved into the biggest gun show in the world. As a firearms enthusiast, it is difficult to adequately express how awestruck I was upon seeing some of what was on display. I should emphasize that I was able to see only some of what was on display because my trip to Tulsa was far from a leisure trip.
Rock Island Auction Company has a long history of holding court at gun shows, the Tulsa show being one of them. We have had a presence there for well over a decade now, and I was told multiple times by multiple guests that visiting our booth was “a highlight” of their time at the show. That distinction is one we wear proudly, as a lot of time and effort goes into making our presence at shows like Tulsa a hit.
Since I began at Rock Island Auction, I’ve had the pleasure of representing our company at the Tulsa Arms Show twice. Both times I was there we were on the campaign trail for one of our premier auctions, so we naturally brought out some of the greatest items that would be up for sale less than a month later.
Despite the fact that we don’t sell items at the show itself, our booth is one of the biggest crowd-pleasers. It’s never boring working the show, and it is a great opportunity to talk shop with fellow gun enthusiasts. My personal favorite aspect of working these shows is the opportunity to share what I know with people, and to absorb the knowledge the crowd was willing to impart on me.
Kevin Hogan, president of Rock Island Auction Company echoed a similar sentiment when I asked him why we make our gun show appearances a priority. “One of the biggest benefits of our presence at shows is our ability to interact with clients both old and new. Shows are an opportunity to reach out on a regional level that might not be possible otherwise.
Say a client wants to inspect an item that they are considering placing bids on in an upcoming auction. In the past, we’ve found ways to bring that item to them at a show for their inspection. If a gentleman in California wants to bid on a gun, but can’t make it to preview day, we try to bring preview day to him. It’s a simple demonstration of the way we work FOR our clients, not just with them.”
I also spoke to Jessica Tanghe, our Vice President of Acquisitions & Incoming at RIAC upon my return home to get her thoughts on the gun show experience. Jessica has been with Rock Island Auction Company for about 17 years now and has been to the Tulsa show at least 10 times. One thing I asked her was if she noticed any changes in the crowd over the years she has attended the show. I can’t say I was surprised when she answered, “The crowd has certainly become younger over the years.”
During my first Tulsa show, a young kid no older than 12 stopped at our booth and began explaining to his dad each and every facet of the guns on our rack of rare WW2 rifles. His father looked at me as if to ask, “Is he right?” and all I could say is,“You’ve got a very bright son.” Even as a newcomer to the gun show circuit, I noticed a much younger crowd this time around.
As mentioned in a recent RIAC blog on the growth in gun popularity and rising gun prices, firearm culture has breached the walls of the internet in a big way: channels and personalities like Brandon Hererra, Demolition Ranch, and Hickock45 (pictured here with me experiencing the best day of my life) have made gun culture more accessible to the tech-savvy youth of today.
Seeing people my age (and younger) at an event that historically has had a reputation for being populated by an older crowd is a great sign for the industry as a whole.
Beyond the opportunity to talk shop with fellow enthusiasts, being at shows like Tulsa provides the unique opportunity for Rock Island Auction Company to meet face to face with consignors, and folks who may someday bear the title of consignor. Both times I’ve been to Tulsa, we came home with some absolutely fantastic pieces destined for auction. How could our consignors not seize the opportunity to work with us? Rock Island Auction Company is the #1 gun auction in the world.
“We believe in presentation,” says Kevin Hogan. “We make a point to show up to gun shows with our best foot forward. Before we leave, our team sets up tables and displays exactly how they will be at the show. This allows us to perfect our display and make sure no detail is overlooked."
We have a saying here at RIAC: “Not all art is framed.” If you look at the items that were on display at Tulsa, you will see what we mean. Our consignors can proudly say that they have items in the same sale as monumental items such as the Napoleon Garniture or John Wayne’s revolver. Talk about bragging rights.
I’ve been asked many times, “Are these estimates what this gun will sell for?” regarding our listed estimates on display items. Being able to say with pride “things sometimes sell beyond the estimates,” is rewarding for me, but the tangible reward is realized by our clients. This success is why we are sought out by gun consignors.
Jessica seems to agree when she said, “We are absolutely the destination at shows for consignments."
Clients considering consignment are able to put a face to the business and know that their items will get proper treatment from start to finish when they speak with our acquisitions team at the booth. Beyond the dazzling firearms on display, our knowledgeable crew is there to answer questions about the guns they wish to consign, and about our gun consignment rates and process.
Our public presence is not limited to the Tulsa Arms Show. This year we’ve had a booth at the Colt Collectors Show in South Noblesville Indiana and the Winchester Gun Show in Cody Wyoming, and we're preparing a full slate of appearances in 2022. It goes without saying that getting out into the world has been...tough for the last little while. This is not preferable, as Rock Island Auction has historically had a presence at numerous gun shows throughout the country.
Large, small, and in between, RIAC has been there taking in gun consignments, displaying some breathtaking items, and mingling with fellow enthusiasts. As the world slowly begins to become accessible again, we are chomping at the bit to do all of the above at your favorite gun show. We will be hitting the ground running next year by appearing at the Dallas Safari Club Convention & Expo, the Safari Club International Annual Convention, and the Las Vegas Antique Arms Show, to name a few, and there will be even more to come as the weeks roll on.
I asked Kevin which shows he has been to over the years, and his answer was “all of them.” If it was anybody else I might bat an eye at such a simple answer, but this is the Hogan family we’re talking about. They have held a presence in the firearms industry since 1993, and to date have turned Rock Island Auction Company into the most successful firearms auction house in the world.
A quick look at our website, which includes past and present auction catalogs, is all it takes to understand how dedicated the RIAC team is to our continued success. From start to finish, acquisitions to packing, our team is truly a cut above the rest. We wear our years of success proudly and considering we are an auction company, our success equals success for our consignors.
My experience working at Tulsa (and the experience of many at any of our nation’s gun shows) can best be summed up by a short conversation I had with a gentleman the first morning of the show while waiting in line to enter. During our quick chat, he said, “These are our people. They work, they vote, and they pay their taxes. Even if we collect different things, believe different things, drink different beers; we are all here for the same reason. We love guns.” Well said, sir. It’s a joy to be part of an industry in which everyone involved is there for the same core reason, and for us here at RIAC, that love keeps us working doggedly to bring you the best of the best.
For any questions on future gun show appearances or Preview Days, please contact Rock Island Auction Company today. Our 2022 auction schedule is up and new auctions are frequently added. Also, be sure to check out our new online custom catalogs, a streamlined tool that makes organizing your preferences easier than ever. Keep an eye out for future updates and plan your visit today!
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