Who's a collector?

I visit a couple of Guns 'n Shootin Forums where the word “collector” seems to be popping up more and more. This ammo is “collectable”. That ammo is “collectable”. Don’t shoot it because it’s “collectable”. And so on. Many of the guys know that I am also a cartridge collector and so they often contact me asking about cartridge values, collectablity, etc. I honestly have a hard time explaining to them the difference between an old fashioned cartridge collector, like most of us, and the new generation of “collectors” spawned by the Internet and it’s Forums.

A typical example - How can I say that a box of WW II Cal .30 (30-06) is worth $10 to $15, or a buck per cartridge, when others tell them it’s collectable (there’s that word again) and it should not be shot, and it’s value will increase as though they’ve won the lottery. Or, why do I say that cal .30 API cartridges are worth only a couple of dollars when they see guys bidding up to $10 per cartridge for some de-linked FN from 1956?

Can any of you guys give me any advice on how to explain this to them? Preferebly, in words that I can copy and paste. ;-) I notice that a couple of other IAA Forum members are on the same forums and I think they are struggling with this almost as much as I am.


I use the analogy of coin and stamp collecting, which a lot of folks can understand better than someone collecting ammunition. Lots of stamps are old, rare, in high demand, and are therefore valuable. Ditto coins. New “collectibles” are constantly being introduced to coin and stamp collectors by the U.S. Mint (check your state quarters) and U.S. Postal Service (see the new upside down Jenny $2 stamp). Are these really “collectible?” To an old geezer die-hard coin or stamp collector, maybe not. Same with cartridges.

Pointing out the number of U.S. factories in WWII, the billions of rounds manufactured (you know the actual figures much better than I do), the vast numbers existing in war reserves at V-J day (in case the atomic bomb had not worked), last not least the wholesale distribution at discount rates to shooting clubs by DCM may give them an idea of the “rarity” such a cartridge has today.

If your a collector, probably most every thing in your field of interest is collectable. The made-yesterday if you don’t have it & the made 100 years ago, if you don’t have it.

Difference is how hard is it to find.

It’s not too hard to find 100 year old .30-06’s (not considering condition) so should they be the same value as a cartridge made in only 10 years ago a volume of perhaps a few hundred for testing a gun or the ammunition’s design?

If your going to shows & talking / dealing with other collectors you have an idea of how easy or scarce something is.

If on the other hand your searching the net & someone posts a round they have not seen before. So because of that, to them it must be scarce & so collectable & thus valuable. So just cuz the seller thinks it’s collectable = valuable doesn’t make it so.

Everything is collectable if you need it. It depends on how hard it is to find, how desirable it is (is an AP better than a tracer?, or a dummy?, or a dummy tracer?) & how many are still in existence.

Hope this is of help???

I tell them that the price all depends on how bad somebody wants something. You can sell a 50 cent cartridge for $10 if you can find one of the collectors who wants it that bad. but unless you get very lucky, you will own the cartridge for a long time with the $10 price tag on it.

About 3 decades ago I was approached by a collector at a European meeting. He said that he had located a gun collector who had a full 16 rd box of German 9mm P08 rounds with aluminum cases. The round was described as a plain aluminum case loaded with a black mE bullet and the headstamp aux Al 1 41!!! He wanted to know how much they were worth because he thought the gun collector would sell them for the right price.

I kept a straight face and told him I thought one would sell for $1000 and gave him that collectors name, and two more would sell for about $500, and two more would sell for about $250 (along with the names of the probably buyers). Finally another 4 may sell for $100 and gave him the names of the possible buyers, and the remaining 7 would go for $50. I told him to put my name on one of the $50 ones if he would throw in the empty box!

Strange, I never heard about this box again, and even the collector who would have paid $1000 doesn’t have one.

The fact is that the market for “collector” cartridges is pretty thin, but does contain people who will pay a premium for something they want. My reply is to tell people, “you should be able to sell that in a reasonable time for $x but could get more from the right guy at the right time.”

Usually, I just try to avoid giving prices.


Personally, I would probably avoid telling any of them that something is collectible or not collectible. It’s sort of like coins wherein a bag full of “rare” world coins can be had for a few dollars, and even though the world coins are worthless, they are still relatively very rare to 99% of people. Same with an odd box of very common WWII ammo which is worth less or equal to a box of modern ammo in the same caliber, but it is still relatively very rare to the vast majority of shooters & gun owners since they don’t normally ever see it. I find that trying to tell people that they are way off in terms of value or rarity can rub them the wrong way since you are dashing their fun, and possibly sounding elitist to them.

As a seller, I find that selling certain otherwise unremarkable collector ammo, especially AP, API, and incendiary can garner potentially very prices to people who buy it in terms of shooting like survivalists, or tactical hoarder types. They just don’t know and don’t care to search it out thouroughly enough to realize that they can buy it elsewhere for much less money. Last year from January to June there was a whole lot of this going on via Gunbroker.

This thread reminded me of something that happened to me once.

I was in an antique store in around 2005. I asked to look at a nickel plated 7.62 Nato dummy in one of the cabinets. This type of dummy (made commercially) is common in the UK. They consist of a fired case resized to take a ball bullet, with both case and bullet then plated with shiny nickel. They are often sold on keychains and as belts.

The store owner told me it was a “silver plated bullet from the second world war” and would be £30 if I wanted to buy it. This was despite the fact that the headstap had a manufacturing date in the '90s. I tried to correct him, but he wasn’t having any of it.

The fact that I was 14 years old and trying to correct him probably didn’t help.