Market Trends: Surprising Interest in Small, Early 20th Century Revolvers

Smith & Wesson, 32 LONG CTG Revolver.
Smith & Wesson, 32 LONG CTG Revolver.

Marty HiggenbothamHiggenbotham Auctioneers International, Lakeland, Fla.

Higgenbotham Auctioneers offers approximately 15 gun collections annually, representing more than 1,000 pieces.

A big surprise has been the selling prices for small Iver Johnson and Smith & Wesson top break revolvers in .22 and .32 calibers, manufactured in the early 20th Century.

“Fifteen years ago, those were $12 to $20 handguns at auction,” says owner Marty Higgenbotham. “At recent auctions, we’ve gotten bids of $250, $350 and even $500 for these little revolvers. It’s astounding.”

Higgenbotham believes the high prices are the result of two customer groups vying for these handguns: collectors who want a bargain-priced collectible handgun (compared to the Colts, for example); and people who use them as concealed carry guns.

He credits the “nostalgia factor” for the recent rise in prices for the early 20th Century single-shot Stevens Crackshots in .22 LR selling for $175 to $250, and the single-shot Model 67 Winchesters, also in .22 LR, with bidders offering between $125 and $250 for these 1950s-era plinkers.
“People think, I had one of these as a kid, here’s one for sale, and I want it!” says Higgenbotham.

The Internet has been a huge help to business, allowing customers from all over the world to place bids during his live auctions. Currently, 65 percent of Higgenbotham guns are sold to Internet bidders.

This brief originally appeared in the February 13, 2014 edition of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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