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A great result but are old guns out of favour?

Despite £2million returns from Holts, the market for vintage guns appears to be slowing — but it could be that prices have been inflated.

Holts Auctioneers, one of Europe’s leading sellers of fine and vintage guns, has reported £2million in December sales. Although these sales figures look very healthy, there is evidence to suggest fading prices for classic English boxlock and sidelock guns. 

Recent sales figures from Bonhams and Holts show that vintage Purdeys are going for approximately half the prices they were 20 years ago. This could be down to several factors including an ageing demographic of gun owners, the incoming lead ban, public antipathy towards shooting, changes in lifestyle or public disapproval.

Diggory Hadoke, editor of the Vintage Gun Journal said: “A friend offered his Purdeys, worth about £30,000, to his children and they turned him down, saying they were ‘old man’ guns. Something like a 1930s Purdey game gun used to be aspirational. Now those who have grown up shooting a Silver Pigeon aspire to over-and-under guns like a Beretta Jubilee.”

However, prices are rising for guns on the list of obsolete calibres under Section 58. Guns on this list include various pre-1939 muzzleloaders and do not require a shotgun or firearms licence. These obsolete guns do not need to be kept in a safe or undergo decommissioning and can be displayed legally. 

The increasingly onerous police burden of gun ownership and the struggling licensing agencies seem to be driving demand for Section 58 compliant guns. Other sources suggest that vintage gun prices have been inflated for decades and are now stabilising. 

A sales manager at a historic English gunmaker told ST: “The market has become less inflated, rather than guns specifically losing their value. Gun values were until recently still heavily influenced by the world wars. Due to all the casualties, many very old guns were never used; as such there were many untouched, pristine vintage guns. 

“When commercial shooting with city money took off in the 1980s and 90s, it inflated the price of vintage guns greatly. It seems prices are now beginning to settle.”