Gun auctions are held in London approximately every three months. Holt’s are the biggest players currently operating in the market, following a meteoric rise in the last decade.
Auctions are traditionally places where the Trade gets rid of guns that shops do not want to sell. This may be because the barrels are too thin, the actions too worn or the gun is simply not of the type a particular shop has a clientele for. However, some genuine ‘sleepers’ arrive in the auction rooms from liquidated collections and deceased estates. Sorting the bargain from the money pit is a skilled job.
When buying at auction, there are no guarantees. It is strictly ‘buyer beware’ and items for sale are only briefly described. It is up to the buyer to be sure that he is buying a gun he wants and it is his responsibility to ensure he is happy with the condition he finds it to be in. Finding the stock is cracked after the event is your bad luck – don’t expect a refund, you won’t get one!
To save clients the pitfalls of auction buying, we offer an expert Gun Condition Report service. This means we will look at the gun and photograph it for you and advise you as to value and condition, as well as pricing any work necessary.
Make a habit of looking at the on-line catalogues of the auction houses and let us know if we can assist you in purchasing. Many clients prefer to come and attend an auction with one of our experts there to advise and assist. It is something every gun enthusiast should do once!
Who Are the UK Gun Auctioneers?
CHRISTIE’S (Brompton Road) Christies were out of the picture for a while, after closing the department in around 2008. Howard Dickson returned to Christie’s from Holt’s a couple of years ago and has re-introduced collectible firearms into the Arms & Armour department. Expect to see small numbers of guns from larger estate liquidations in future sales. Christie’s currently apply 25% commission.
HOLT’S (Hammersmith) Holt’s offer four Sporting Gun sales each year and they are undoubtedly the biggest auction house in terms of guns sold and money turned over: a typical sale seeing £1.3 million change hands. The viewing is at The Army Reserve Centre in Kensington and a ticket needs to be booked in advance. Nick Holt, Chris Beaumont and the team have years of experience and run a very tight ship. Holt’s currently apply a scaled commission rate, depending on the price of the lot. The average is 25%.
BONHAMS (Knightsbridge) Bonham’s run three Sporting Gun sales annually. Patrick Hawes has developed the department well since taking over from Chris Austyn and continues to provide good showcases for guns and rifles across the range. Viewing is at Bonham’s HQ in Montpellier Street, just down the road from Harrods. Bonhams currently apply 25% commission.
GAVIN GARDINER (Bond Street) Gavin was department head at Sotheby’s and now runs all their gun sales through his own company, using all the Sotheby’s facilities. Sales of around 200-300 guns, with many high quality pieces are run three times a year, two in London and one in Scotland, at the Gleneagles Hotel. Gavin Gardiner currently apply 20% commission.
SOUTHAMS (Bedford) This is a growing trade auction with a lot of low value items and accessories, like shooting sticks and wellies, as well as guns. It can be useful for picking up the odd bargain but take a measuring tool and bore gauge and be very careful! Southam’s currently apply 20% commission. Auctions are now held at Peacock’s Bedford Auction Centre.
SCOTARMS (Newark) Scottarms grew out of Weller & Dufty and is still the major source of ‘trade’ guns that have no guarantees nor recourse if problemmatic. Lots of bits and pieces and old stock from closing businesses. Cramped conditions, not much viewing time and a lot of junk to wade through to find the odd gem, which makes all the effort worth it. Scotarms currently apply 20% commission.
James D. Julia hold regular sales in the USA. They are based in Maine and publish catalogues as well as displaying goods on-line.
Charlton Hall auction guns each December in Columbia, South Carolina.
Australia Arms Auctions are worth a look, also holding regular sales down-under.