Rock Island Auction Company – From Range Shooters Investment Grade Guns

For those of us who find joy in the artistry of well-made objects, especially if those well-made objects are firearms, there are lots of high-end collectibles, but few places to acquire those pieces with the longstanding reputation of Rock Island Auction Company.

Rock Island began around 30 years ago when “serial entrepreneur” Pat Hogan decided to branch out from his already successful video stores and one-hour photo shop into making auction catalogs. After a while, he quickly realized there was a niche that needed filling.

Like all serial entrepreneurs, he filled the niche to the point that, three decades later, RIAC is growing under the second generation of Hogan leadership. Son, Kevin, says he grew up in the business and it seemed only natural that he progress from a 12-year old kid fascinated with historic firearms to run a family business that has grown from a few annual auctions to two locations, Rock Island, Illinois and Bedford, Texas. 

The idea of holding auctions has progressed to carefully executed events where Hogan tells me the goal is to “create events where people will attend one and want to come back for another.” 

Rock Island has also created what looks like a progressive way to move from enthusiast who might want to own a historical firearm to a knowledgeable collector with a collection (or two) of particular firearms.

“Our big events,” he explained, “are our Premiere Firearms Auctions. Those are the auctions where we’ve sold ‘major’ pieces.”

“But,” he continued, “we like to call our Sporting and Collector Firearms Auctions our ‘beginner antique’ events. Not everyone can afford that $40,000-$50,000 Henry rifle, But their desire doesn’t diminish. Can’t tell you how many guys I’ve had tell me, ‘Hey, I really like this stuff, but I don’t want to go in, like, headfirst.”

Hence, the Sporting and Collector Firearms auctions. The gateway, if you will, to potentially accumulating a collection that will one day draw serious collectors to one of Rock Island’s Premiere Auctions.

The Greg Lampe Collection covered guns from the American Revolution to the Wild West. His collection of Colts was unmatched. (Rock Island Auction image with permission.)

The next Premiere Firearms Auction is set for May 17 to 19th in Bedford, Texas, Rock Island’s newest facility. Like other Premiere auctions, this one will feature some very interesting pieces across a very long timeline.

They include historic pieces, like the cased “exhibition quality LePage-Moutier double barrel percussion shotgun presented to Mexican President Manual Gonzales Flores from French President Jules Grevy” to a Confederate shipped and inscribed “Colt Model 1860 Fluted Army revolver owned by William G. Conner of the famed ‘Jeff Davis Legion’ Cavalry unit.”

If that’s not enough to interest you, there are some more contemporary pieces such as the “small, curated collection” of military vehicles from the Alan Cors collection. Think U.S. M41 Walker Bulldogs, and Swiss Centurion main battle tank and you’re on the right track (ouch).

Rock Island auction tank
If you’re attracted by the “big iron” of military vehicles, Rock Island’s latest Premiere Auction might scratch that itch. The vehicles from the Allan Cors collection will be there for the buying. (RIAC photo with permission.)

So why would anyone want to start collecting firearms? Hogan has a simple explanation he says he wants to “shout from the mountain tops.”

“Antique and collectible firearms,” he told me, “are the most underrated hard asset alternative investment, tangible collection item out there.”

It’s taken Rock Island 30 years to sell more than a billion dollars worth of collectibles. Compare that, he said, with Pebble Beach where the Concours d’Elegance did a billion dollars worth of auctions in only four days.

Not convinced? Try this. A Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card that came out of a bubble gum pack sold at auction in 2022 for twelve and a half million dollars.

The rest of the art world, Hogan tells me, is beginning to take notice of the opportunity. And it’s impacting how things are selling and for how much. “Half that billion dollars worth of our business,” he explains, “has come in the past 10 years.”

And, Hogan told me, there are new generations taking interest as well. Although he says there’s a “decline in scholarship” among younger buyers, they’re given the same test as longtime collectors.

We ask, “Do you like it?” “Yes.” 

We ask,  “Do you love it?” “Yes.” 

Then we ask, “Can you afford it? “ “Yes.” 

Which leads to “Is it going to make a difference?”

If they say “no,” our response is, “Well, I think you need it, you know?”

Find a need and fill it. It’s a longtime formula for success. Now I think I need to find a need to be in Bedford, Texas, say…in mid-May.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

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