The "Greatest Generation" is fading away fast; many of their children, the "Baby Boomers," have already gone to their reward, and more are looking gloomily at their waning years. When the time comes, the elderly--or the people listed in their last will and testament as their "heirs and assigns"--will take old guns from the inherited estate to gun shops like yours and ask, "What can I get for this?" You'll give them a fair offer. Cash will be exchanged for steel. The heirloom will go into your used gun display.
So far, so good--but remember: That old gun you bought may be worth more than you think! Let's look at a couple of examples.
Late last year, a gentleman brought an S&W .38 into the Pro Arms Gun Shop in Live Oak, Fla., and explained the action was "kind of sticky." He asked if the resident gunsmith, Bill Pfeil, could fix it up. Manager Steve Denney said it would be no problem. While the gun was in the shop, Bill and Steve couldn't help but notice it was a very early model, and in a very unusual configuration: A 1905 Series revolver with a 4-inch barrel and adjustable sights, which are rare on such early Smiths, but are normally found on longer-barrel models.
When the customer returned for the gun, shop owner John Strayer asked him if he'd be interested in selling it. The owner replied, "Sure, but I'd want $400 for it." Strayer laid down the cash on the counter and the deal was done. Rather than putting the S&W into his used gun showcase, Strayer set it aside and reached out to S&W collectors.
It turns out the revolver was one of as few as 100 of...