Thompson Machine Gun Auctioned for $35k

470_471_31

Probably not all that interesting to some, but I found it noteworthy.  Not being a collector, I had no idea how much pre-stamp machine guns went for.  $35,000.  Plus a modest 5% buyers fee of $1,750…  Supply and demand in action.

This one was marked U.S. NAVY, MODEL OF 1921 (overstamped 1928) and apparently had papers registering it to the City of Kinston, Police Department in 1935.  It looks like it is in pretty nice condition.  For a piece of history, it is pretty cool.  Is it something I would shoot?  Probably not if I spent the cost of a nice car on it…

It came with:

  • (1) Type “L” 50 cartridge drum magazine,
  • (1) 30 cartridge straight magazine,
  • (2) 20 cartridge straight magazines,
  • (1) canvas carry case w/shoulder strap,
  • (1) brass cleaning rod.

I have no frame of reference if that is a decent price for something of this pedigree and vintage, though not something I would likely spend my cash on.

You can see the listing at: https://www.govdeals.com/index.cfm?fa=Main.Item&itemid=471&acctid=470

Thanks to Jacob P for the find.



Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


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  • MrEllis

    I think the kind of person who spends 35 large on a gun isn’t the same kind of person who drives a 35k car… nice gun though, too rich for my blood. The historical value is also pretty cool.

  • Jimmie

    With the way the cost goes up every year they are very good investments. Plus you can shoot them. In 1985 a m16 went for around 1000 to $1500. Now a colt m16 is $3200 to 35000. Not a bad return.

    • M16A1s run about $20,000-$25,000 now.

    • PK

      Investments usually are safer if they can’t be ruled non-transferable without upsetting most of the population of the USA. While they are an asset and do appreciate nicely, don’t put them in the same category of thought as, for example, a mutual fund.

      • aweds1

        And that is what holds me back. With the 41P ruling set to come down in December/ January that could make it potentially even harder to legally transfer NFA items, a high cost object you can’t sell easily is not my first choice in “investments”.

  • JoeN

    Just think 82 years ago you could walk into your local hardware store, plop down around $250 and walk out with one of these bad boys, no questions asked. Of course the average annual salary was only around $1300, but still, those would have been the days.

    • Bill

      Or through a catalog and have it delivered by the postman to your door.

    • Don Ward

      I doubt most local hardware stores would have a selection of $250 Thompson machine guns laying around.

      • JoeN

        You’re right, most hardware/sporting goods didn’t have them in stock. They could special order them for you upon request.

        • Don Ward

          Sure. And per the advertising from the day, “It is sold only to responsible parties after a thorough investigation”. Sure seems like it was geared only to police or private security to me.

          • JoeN

            After 1925, sales to security firms and law enforcement agencies had fallen flat. Thompson then rolled out the famous ad showing a cowboy fending off cattle rustlers. They attempted to shift sales to the civilian market. I’m not sure they had much success due to the financial cost of the Thompson. As I originally stated, you COULD buy one of these, though in reality it was extremely unlikely most working class people could even afford one. I was generally speaking that it would have been interesting to be able to have the opportunity to buy firearms/NFA items without the same background checks and paperwork we have to day. I was speaking in very broad terms of course.

          • Don Ward

            Oh yeah. Different times. If only our grandparents had focused on priorities back in the day that way we could inherit these cool toys.

          • JoeN

            LOL. No kidding. We can only dream. Take care Don

          • Mike in Atlanta

            The cowboy advertisement reference was pretty neat Joe.
            I just looked it up, and wow!…cool ad. Not something you would see today.

          • JoeN

            Thanks Mike, its a cool ad and you’re absolutely right, we wouldn’t see something like this today. It’s a cool piece of American history

          • jcitizen

            It seems most law enforcement types in the roaring 20’s & 30’s of the Midwest preferred BARs to the Thompson. Clyde Barrow was one that knew the superiority of that auto-rifle.

          • Don Ward

            When most law enforcement agencies at the time had Winchester 94s or shotguns to complement their service revolvers, the BAR would certainly be a game changer in favor of the motorized bank robbers.

          • jcitizen

            Ol’ Clyde got beat by what I call the first assault rifle -the .35 Remington Model 8 custom made with 20 round clip, for his alter ego, Frank Hamer, formerly in the Texas Ranger service. Another Dallas County deputy Ted Hinton had noticed how poor the Thomson submachine gun was, in penetrating the Barrow gang’s car doors, so requested a BAR for the final ambush.

  • claymore

    Now if only the powers that be would let our State Police sell the thompsons sitting in the armory for years. Some awesome single digit serial number ones and several very early models and a BUNCH of 100, and 50 rounds perfect never fired or loaded drums.

    • PK

      You’d be amused to see the number of departments that have nothing more than stripped Thompson receivers in the armory, while the rest was sold off over the years once newer guns were obtained.

      • Bill

        Finding loopholes that will allow the money to be spent the way agencies want it to can be iffy. Some are hanging onto Thompsons, Reisings, BARs and stuff that date back to the 20’s and 30’s just because if they sell them off the money goes into the general fund for a new dump truck or copier contract. That’s no fun. At least if you hang onto them they can be shot for laughs at the annual department picnic.

        Rumor has it one tiny rural agency near me has a Lewis gun rusting in their garage that someone thought was part of a heavy equipment exhaust.

        • RICH

          P.D.’s don’t get the big bucks that you think. When I was working we transitioned to Glocks and had a pair of sweet Thompsons that the Dept. traded in. I think we got about $1k apice for them. Dealers (with law letters) purchase them cheap. I just saw an M1A1 Thompson up for $4k (this week) to a ClassIII dealer with a Law Enforcement letter. It really sucks for the ‘honest’ citizens that are into Thompsons & history ! Thanks to the government ! ! !

          • Bill

            Plus they don’t want to be known as the agency that let an evil machine gun, albeit one that’s an obsolete antique, loose in the wild where it might go on a shooting spree.

          • jcitizen

            When I was a Class III dealer, most CLOs didn’t want the public to know they even had any kind of full auto weapon in their armory. They would get so disturbed when I approached them about trading them in, that it would nix the deal from the start. They quite litterally were stuck between a rock and a hard place, from the politics of it. Unfortunately they would only deal with out of state dealers – probably because they knew they could transfer it hush-hush!

      • claymore

        Not ours complete pristine examples just sitting there. We put together an estimate and shopped for dealers to either buy outright or swap for modern firearms and were overwhelmed with huge offers. Presented the deals to the commissioner but no deal the powers that be were afraid of lawsuits if anything happened using the firearms that the state sold to the public. So they will probably still be sitting there when we are using lasers not firearms.

  • Not high for a nice kitted out blish lock Thompson.
    This one went for $80,500 at RIA two weeks ago:
    http://www.rockislandauction.com/viewitem/aid/65/lid/3459
    This one brought $46,000:
    http://www.rockislandauction.com/viewitem/aid/65/lid/1597

    Thompson prices are all over the map and even I have never really been able to price them right. Not unlike Lugers, there are so many variables that factor into the total worth.

    • RICH

      I was reading just a few days ago, Alex, that a Thompson allegedly used by ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ sold a while ago (with NO provenance) for $130,000 at auction ! ! ! I am currently looking for an M1A1 and i’ve seen them go from as low as $4k (dealer) to as high as $35k…… it’s crazy…..as well as sad !

    • jcitizen

      The Colt 21s are what go for the big bucks. The Sheriff in the next county had one with a 100 rd drum, that looked like it was made by a jeweler – the finish was so bright and the machining was so beautiful! There is a lot more spit and polish to the Colts.

  • What good is a gun that you don’t shoot it. I found out years ago that I’m not a collector but a shooter. The price of my transferable machine guns, some that make this Thompson seem cheap, does not deter me from taking them out and using them.

    • jcitizen

      I definitely shot mine – I bet I put at least 5000 rounds through it, and you couldn’t tell from looking at it. The Cutts compensator was a pain in the behind to clean though!

  • Geoffry K

    A County Sheriff in NC sold one last year for around $25,000.

  • iowaclass

    Actual machine guns for the One Percent.
    Cosmetic knock-offs for the 99%.
    Elizabeth Warren, where are you when we need you?

  • dannye

    “supply and demand”

    By that, you mean government manipulation of supply.

  • Don Ward

    For those trotting out the myth about the good old days where you could just go down to the local hardware store and buy one of these off the rack, let it be known that the salary of most Americans back in the 1920s was something like $1,500 to $2,000 a year or lower. So a $250 Thompson was something like 15-25 percent of your annual income or more than half the price of base a Ford Model A.

    So even with the machine gun ban and the “artificial” inflation this has caused, $35,000 for this gun which has documented provenance and various desirable figures actually isn’t that far out of line. And that is not factoring the antique and collectible value of this firearm.

    • RICH

      ……. Why do you think it was the BANK ROBBERS that were buying most of them ! LOL !

      • Don Ward

        Just like today, I wonder how many were bought legally by the gangsters and bank robbers. And how many were stolen from military and National
        Guard arsenals or obtained through other nefarious means.

        • jcitizen

          From what I read of the ’30s midwest gangs, they were mostly stolen. I can’t speak for big city gangs, as I don’t know as much about that history.

          • Don Ward

            This is my impression as well. Impression =/= fact of course. But it is nice that someone else has the same.

  • Lance

    Hay $35,000 just remove the three 000 from the price tag and ill buy right now. LOL

  • USMC03Vet

    Time to repeal the NFA and make these affordable again!

    • Don Ward

      I doubt that 1920s production Tommyguns will ever be “affordable” again given their collector’s value.

    • RICH

      AMEN BROTHER ! ! Just look at how many states allow you to hunt with a suppressor now….. the sales of suppressors has skyrocketed and the prices have also come down ‘considerably’ !

  • RICH

    Not really a bad price for that piece….. considering the Colt 1921’s sold for $200.00 new ! Then again when the government came up with the National Firearms Act in 1934 and imposed a $200.00 tax stamp on the Thompsons that was the equivilent of about $3,500.00 today. We can thank the ‘Gangsters” of the ’20’s for those laws ! !

  • Cymond

    As far as I know, you’re right.

    However, if anyone reading this finds a machinegun in Grampa’s attic, don’t be too quick to dispose of it. The paperwork may be tucked away somewhere, even under the butt plate. Further, some of the bring-back or Amnesty registration papers don’t look like standard NFA papers.

    • jcitizen

      Believe me, the BATF agents I knew didn’t like doing the destructive paper work – destroying arms is mind numbing red tape for them; they would go all out to find a registration somewhere on the weapon. Of course this was pre 86 days, but in most districts, I imagine this is still probably true. I’d wager if ANY paperwork is found, and is pre ’86, then it is golden!

  • jcitizen

    I traded mine off, but then, I have a rule of discipline to keep me from going crazy. If the firearms is obsolete or not of a good modern design, then I get rid of it. The damn thing weighed a ton with a full drum! It sure was pretty to look at, and a hoot to shoot, of course. In the ’80s the Navy was still putting them in armories on board ships. But I think the M14 is their anti-terror weapon of choice now. They double as anti-mine duty as well.

  • jcitizen

    I thought he was talking about the guns that got past the “over stamp” they did on 1921s modified for Naval contracts. A 1928 overstamp looks like a ‘B’ where the 8 was over stamped on the ‘1’. Some of those were much better surface machine quality compared to the subsequent 1928 models.

  • CavScout

    I’d rather buy the sear and just keep wearing guns with the same sear. But I have no NFA items and no plans to.