Search Me!

Think about it...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

JJ: Quoted, Even!

Collecting Gun Digest by SKIP CRINER It could take years to get 'em all THE 1957 GUN DIGEST represented a goal achieved for me. I now had a complete collection of GUN DIGEST, from 1944 thru 1995. My search for the 49 Holy Grails had taken slightly over four years, at a cost of about $500 for the books themselves. I spent a few hundred more going to gun shows, book stores, and in long distance calls. In the 1984 GUN DIGEST, the article "How To Collect Sporting Books," written by James Handcock, says "A complete set of GUN DIGEST isn't easy to get, but it's a valuable year-to-year post-World War II history." It struck me that a complete set of Digests was going to be much harder to acquire with each passing year. And that the information contained in the earlier editions would become a great reference source. Plus, articles by Col. Whelen, Jack O'Connor, and all the other "kings" of the shooting world would become treasures in their own right. I was hooked, and I felt the timing was very good. I still feel this way. Actually, my interest in GUN DIGEST goes back to 1982. I had made the mistake of opening a letter from Uncle Sam, informing me that my presence at Camp Gurnsey, Wyoming, was needed for two weeks. As luck would have it, someone felt the best place for a captain in the Inactive Reserve was far away from everyone who knew what they were doing. I became a range officer. To while away the hours, I had checked out the 1981 Digest. By the end of two weeks I had read virtually every article in it. I was impressed with the technical data, most of which I didn't understand, but also the recreational articles. It was just an interesting and enjoyable book. Over the years I found a few Digests in used book stores and at garage sales. Then the night in 1991 and James Handcock's article triggered a course of action that I, for one, am very pleased with. The Lady claims I'm a pack rat; I prefer to think of myself as a collector. As we finished off the basement, I happened to end up with a small room of my own. This room now contains most of my toys. A few guns, some reloading equipment and supplies, hundreds of golf balls, books on hunting, fishing, dogs and shooting. There are also two calendars with scantily clad young women on them, who appear to be blessed. Anyone contemplating collecting anything has to understand some of the basics. The condition of anything greatly determines its value. I'm still surprised at prices quoted for books that are in terrible shape. Condition is fairly subjective. Avoid books with covers or pages missing. Also, books that have obviously been abused, or that the kids may have used for a coloring book. In my collection, the 1990 edition has the cover creased in two places and I consider this my worst book. The rest are either good or better. Quantity is another of the basics. If 50,000 items were made, they will be more valuable than a similar product that may have been made in the millions. I also discovered very early on that calling a bookstore, or a book dealer, is probably the most expensive way to go, and flea markets, swap meets, and garage sales are the cheapest. My best deal just happened to come via a garage sale at which I bought the 1981, '82, and '83 GUN DIGEST for two bucks each. I already had the 1981 edition, but mine was missing the first six pages, so this gave me a chance to "upgrade" the collection. Used bookstores that don't specialize and gun shows provided most of my books. Gun shows were far and away the best place to find those editions I didn't have. I found that tables where the individuals did not "target" books offered their GUN DIGESTS at much more reasonable prices than those tables that dealt solely in books. Oftentimes, these tables would yield one or two books in the $5 to $7 range. In my experience, if I were buying more than one book, a package deal was much better than the individual price. I paid $165 for the first three editions (1944, 1946, and 1947) at a gun show in Salt Lake City. If I had paid the individual asking price it would have cost $215. Another package deal I'm proud of involved the transfer of a fine little Voere semi-automatic 22 rifle for the 1949, '51, '52, '53, '54, '55 and '56 editions. I had a total of $125 invested in the Voere, and the dealer wanted $250 for his books. The last day of a gun show was a better day to buy than the first. Also, if you are buying, dress casually or down. If you're selling, wear your best clothes. The Voere trade actually took two days to work out and happened on the last day of the gun show, with me pointing out how much easier the Voere would be to pack, sell or trade. Know the market. Call around or write to get a clear picture of the going rate on the books you are looking for. If* you are buying books through the mail, make sure there is a review period. It's also wise to discuss the possibility of negotiating the price after you've had a chance to judge the condition of the books for yourself. Don't be shy about pointing out the flaws of a book, or for that matter offering less. The only time I did not do this was with the 1957 edition. The old boy asked $10 for it and I just couldn't bring myself to dicker, simply because it meant too much to me. I also suggest that you try to establish a working relationship with a local book dealer. Let them know what you are interested in and draw on their experience. It's also nice to ask their permission to use them as a reference when dealing with other book dealers who are out of the area. When traveling, take time to visit the local bookstores, flea markets and swap meets. It's a great feeling when you are holding that last book that completes your collection. It's also nice to know that you've done it in such a way that The Lady is still talking to you and the kids have shoes. Finally, if you've used your head more than your billfold, you should be able to see a return on your investment. (If you choose to do so.) Store your books in a cool, dry place, away from mice and water. Then after the hunting season is over and the guns have been cleaned and put away, take a book down, find a place in front of the fire, and share the evening with one of the kings. Even two, if you're not sleepy. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)