Ammunition collecting and death

After reading Dr.Schmitt’s posting about a major Japanese ammo collection being sold at a garage sale after collector’s death, I started thinking of what will happen to my stuff. I hope my son will take care of it but can’t count on this 100%. Most of the gun people around me will give away an ammo arsenal (Frankford?) for a chance of taking a pop at a deer with 2 sticks on its head. So I wonder what steps anyone takes to preserve accumulated knowledge and lifetime effort.


One of life’s big questions. As you get older you’ll ask it more often. Then, as you get really old you’ll figure out that cartridges are not important at all. They’re only stuff. By coincidence, my wife and I were talking just today about her stuff and my stuff. I told her if I went first to throw it all in the burn pit and cover it up. Let some archaeologist dig it up 100 years from now.


You best be joking, Ray, that ain’t fair!

I already have a will detailing what to do with different parts of my ammo collection, and I’m only 30. I don’t want it just being sold in lots to unknowing buyers or given away and spread around unwittingly, or worse, fired as shooting fodder. The collection has a printed inventory with sections, and then there’s the book(s). Everything else I own is just regular stuff with market values, but the collection is ridiculously unique as a whole.

I’m takin’ mine with me.

Knowing what some people have in their houses it could well be the cause of their death.
I used to visit the battlefields of Northern Europe a lot with my father when he was alive. Over there they have a totally laid back attitude to things like unexploded shells and just pile them in the corner of the fields.

Collectors/ enthusiasts/ nuts come and cart them off for their collections. I saw a guy pick up an unexploded grenade and put it in his bag like he had just found a trophy.

Well , your relatives could sell all your stuff to pay a sumptuous burial ceremony for you eh eh eh

I’ve given this topic some consideration too. Told my wife to post here and give it to some beginner who might like it. Don’t know what its worth but maybe somebody else can enjoy it. Wrote the instructions down and put em with the collection. Made special notes concerning certain Cannon Cockers on here.

This is a serious question. I have told people that I’ve asked my wife to pour my 9mm collection into the casket with me before they close the lid so I can take it with me, and perhaps some of my collector friends will come visit me one night. Others have told me that my wife’s next husband will take my collection out and shoot it through my 9x19mm guns! I hope he starts with the proof loads…

The truth is that our collections are like all other collections of anything. They are unlikely to survive us by more than a few years. Few collections of anything, and particularly ours, have any interest to museums as a total entity. Few if any of our descendents will be interested in the collection. One way or another, the collections will be broken up and eventually distributed to others. There is the old saying that we don’t really own collectables but rather are the custodians of them for some period of time.

So my collection will be broken up and become parts of a bunch of other collections, I hope others enjoy it as much as I have. What is important is to keep good records and clearly identify the cartridges. I use a computer program I wrote years ago which is indexed to an ID number on the cartridge (you have seen these in some of my photos). This way someone, someday will know that the unheadstamped ball load is really a FA API load made for the CIA (yes, there is one and I have a specimen-it will be in the next volume of Woodin & Hackley). There are lots of good cartridges in every collection that can’t be identified by just looking at them, and will go into the junk box or thrown out. I’d urge all of you to at least put a number on the side of each cartridge (PILOT NO XYLENE is the best pen I have found for this) and a simple notebook where you enter the identification of the cartridge and any notes on why it is special.

It is a good idea to identify the value, or relative scarcity or something on the cartridges, or at least the good ones so whoever sells them has some idea of what to ask-instead of $1/inch of length. Finally, give an idea of where the cartridges may be sold and how with names and phone numbers.

What to do with the collection is the easy part. What we lose when we lose a collector is a vast store of knowledge, much of which is lost forever. There was a collector (some of you will know who I’m talking about) who worked for some large ammo companies over the years, and had an apartment filled with old records he had saved when they were thrown away. When he had to move into a home, he couldn’t find a place for all the data so he rented a dumpster and was carrying it out of the apartment by the wheelbarrow load and throwing it away. A mutual friend came over during this process and noticed an original drawing rolled up in the corner of one of the boxes being dumped and pulled it out to look at it. It was an original Winchester drawing of the 45 ACP cartridge dated around 1908 or so. He saved that item, but there is no idea what else was thrown away. The truth is, when this happened, there was no way to save this all. Who had the space for an apartment load of documents?

Today the right answer is to have your documents and records and notes, including the notebook on your collection scanned and keep a digital copy (which you update on occasion) with a friend. At least, when you are gone, some of the data will be available. I have started scanning my printed material, and saving that which is already digital into a set of files which I will leave with my son.

What I’d like to see done with these files (like those of some key contributors to this Forum) eventually digitized and scanned and donated to the IAA (or ECRA) so they can be available to future generations of collectors. The IAA could sell these files for say $25 or $50 on a DVD for those of us who would want to have them for research. Trouble is most of these files are purely paper and converting them to bits is a big task.

Enough rambling—but an important question to all of us.


For identification’s sake (should I die tomorrow) I have taken to putting all of my most collectible individual cartridges in tiny plastic baggies and labeling the name, type, year, etc… on the bag with permanent marker. The name of the cartridge is referenced elsewhere in a notebook or book with expanded information. The tiny bags come from a local craft store, which by now must think I am some sort of drug dealer from all of the buying I do of that one & only item there.

In addition to a listing of what you have, along with an approximation of it’s value, you should be talking to your wife/family about what you have, what it’s worth and what you would like done/they should do with it after your gone.
My wife knows what I paid for a fair number of my cartridges, and she also knows several of my dealer friends.
Disposal options:
Sell them to a dealer (fastest sale but lowest return)
Consign them to a dealer (slower sale but higher return)
Donate them to the IAA for auction, possibily with a split on the proceeds.
Warn them about letting some “friend” suggest dumping them into a tub and selling them at “10 for a dollar” at a show, at least if you have any cartridges that are special (I do know someone that got a bunch of $50-100 cartridges for a buck each that way, the widow got screwed big time).

You might consider checking the prices of the small plastic bags on the Consolidated Plastics (was National Bag Co) web site at
You may find they are much cheaper.

There is the old story about the ammo collector who dies and leaves strict insructions in his will to the effect that no way must his wife be allowed to sell his ammo for what he told her he paid for it.

I know of a 22 BOX collector who passed away. His wife was offered $2 a box by a gun dealer. Another collector swooped in and has been selling off the collection for years. He’s selling for reasonable prices and providing that money to the widow. The difference is in the thousands and may or is over $10K. Just more reason to indicate and keep records of value, so you loved ones who may sell off your collection do no get ripped off.