Value is a subjective monetary equivalent that represents the importance or usefulness that a person places on something. If that value increases steadily over time, the item can become an investment. Collectables and commemoratives fall into that category because of the expectation that, as they get older and rarer, the amount people will pay for them will go up—especially if they’re unused or new in the box. Some commemorative firearms are also in that category because they have value when it comes to functioning as rifles, pistols or shotguns, and because they have been transformed into unique works of art.
Ever since their first appearance, firearms have been customized, engraved, personalized and modified for each shooter’s needs, wants and tastes. In the 1870s, a delegation from China visited Ilion, N.Y., and presented the Remington brothers a brace of 16th century Miquelet Lock guns. These Ming dynasty firearms had incredibly advanced peep sights for long-distance shooting and were covered with ornate and beautiful carvings and engraving. That pair of old Asian flintlocks proves that the merging of art and firearms is obviously a global phenomenon—and one of the oldest collecting hobbies around. It also means that, just like today, over 500 years ago some poor guy had to explain to his wife in Nanjing that the engraved firearm he just bought was a great investment! Because of this timeless demand, collecting commemorative firearms is a popular hobby today, with many different kinds of engraved, embossed and inlaid pistols, rifles and shotguns now available from a variety of companies.
Now, having said that, not every commemorative firearm increases in value, so every purchase needs to be tempered with the fact that over time it may not be worth much more than its bland cousins. This means obtaining one as an investment is a risk. But, picking an engraved and inlaid firearm because it represents an important event, organization or part of your life—something that you will show with pride and pass on to your kids—is what provides value beyond what you’ll make selling the gun.
Most commemorative firearms are at their highest value unused, unshot and practically untouched. Even if just one round is shot through the barrel or if the cylinder of a revolver has been rotated, leaving the smallest wear marks, the selling price plummets. However, there are many commemoratives being built as fully functional firearms that also honor a specific person, event or location. Here’s a rundown of some notable models.