Import Marks Destroy Collectable Gun Values

luger-import-mark

The law requires guns imported into the USA to be stamped with its caliber and the company that imported it. According to Rock Island Auction, collectors do not like these import marks and stamped guns sell for a lot less than non-stamped guns. Take the Lugers in the above photo. The stamped Luger sold for 60% less than the unstamped Luger despite both being in similar condition.

If you buy a gun to shoot, this is not an issue, but if someone tries to sell you a Luger make sure you look for an import stamp.

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Michael Zeleny

    RIA is taking a crap on their main competitor James D. Julia, charged with auctioning off Geoff Sturgess’ famous Luger collection, which is being imported from Switzerland by Simpson, Ltd. In point of fact, their general claim makes no sense, as witness the added value of guns marked by Stoeger, Von Lengerke & Detmold, Abercrombie & Fitch, and many others. A properly applied importer’s mark is an honorable aspect of the gun’s provenance, in principle no less important than its proof marks.

    • Cdn Phil

      Michael, Very true, that is exactly as we look at it in Canada, it is another step in the “life” of the gun. We collectors don’t shy away from factor repair markings (they are generally a variation up here) as they tell a story but as with everything its the market that sets price, and the market is “as close to factory original as possible” so everything after that is generally seen as a detraction. Shame.

      The one thing I dislike is some of the rather grossly obvious and haphazardly applied import marks you see. Those do detract from value but mostly because they are poorly done. And poorly done work deserves to be devalued.

  • Michael Pham

    Correct me if I’m wrong, because I am not a collector (and do just buy guns to shoot), but don’t such markings “devalue” the Luger largely because they make the ones without markings more rare? I realize this is pedantic and to someone who sees these guns as an investment it doesn’t matter why these guns are worth less, just that they are, but I don’t see these import markings as “devaluing” the guns so much as adding another distinction, which, because some people care about those things, makes the non-marked ones more valuable.

    • neoconfection

      Spot on. Nothing about a backwards postage stamp is inherently more valuable that being different from all the other stamps. Some make the argument that no import marks leaves the firearm in more “original” condition, but not $14,000 original.

      • sauerquint

        I’m fine with it, myself. It keeps certain guns more affordable for the rest of us.

    • gunslinger

      i would say so. if there are say 5 lugers w/o stamps and 50,000 with stamps a collector would want the “rare” stampeded version.

      but then again, it’s only as expensive as someone will pay.

  • jamezb

    I wish that the BATF would allow the import markings to be placed under the grip, or be reduced to a cartouche symbol like a proof mark, So you don’t wind up with a gun with all the visible markings in a foreign language except one.

    • BryanS

      A stamp would allow for a quick mark too, and keep the importers from relying on the old electric pen.

    • Mike G

      Back in the 80s they did. I have a Brazilian M1937 that I bought from Navy Arms in 1988 and a Colt Police Positive Special that Cameron’s Hong Kong that I bought in 1990 and both are stamped with the importers marks under the grips.

  • Tenacious221

    It’s about control.

  • Greensoupe

    Collectors tend toward the anal side. Correct and perfect, as manufactured. This is a fairly universal concept. The one exception I know is cars. In this example the gun is worth 3X the value unmarked. In comics that multiplier could be 100x for the difference in price between the highest quality example and one with a single additional flaw, let alone writing or intentional physical damage.

    I think the article does point out an important fact that if you are buying expensive collectible guns you better be aware that even tiny flaws can have a huge impact on value.

  • Guest

    It’s about spin. What about a strategy of playing up the value of rarer import markings? One with import markings from CAI might be rarer than imported by Knesek or vice-versa. It’s all in the language.

  • MP

    t’s all about spin. A strategy of selling one with rarer import markings might help increase the value. The sale is in the language.

  • toadboy

    I see this from the perspective of a collector of high-end old guns. The import marked luger shown is a rare example of a discreet import mark. Often they are big, ugly stampings right across the original markings. And comparing a firearm marked by an original boutique shop like Abercrombie in the 20s to a modern import stamp is unrealistic. I personally avoid import marked firearms. To me, It would be like buying a beautiful antique painting, with the words ” IMPORTED BY JOES FINE ARTS 14 x 22″ spraypainted across the front. I do not have a problem with anyone else buying these guns. But they are not for me.

  • Aaron E

    Remember the good ole days when grandpa could slip a Luger in his ruck sack on the way back from the WWII and nobody even blinked an eye!
    I doubt we’d ever be able to remove the stamping requirement, but perhaps the bureaucrats could allow the stamping of historic or rare arms to be done in a place unseen (like underneath the grips).

  • Ragsdale0509

    $8,500 and that’s considered less valuable? Holy crap. I thought my SCAR was expensive.