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It seems so long ago, although it’s only been about twenty years since I joined the ranks of antique and vintage arms collectors upon receiving the gift of my first antique revolver, a little civil war era five shot conversion. From that simple gift, I moved into the ranks of collector when, having attended a meeting of the Texas Gun Collectors Association held at a hotel in Fort Worth, I returned home only to find that my collection had increased by 100% because UPS had thoughtfully left a package containing a single shot pistol on the doorstep, where it had lain in plain sight for the whole weekend.
However the story is really in the people I met at the gun show - some of the nicest, kindest and most generous folk I have ever met. And a few charlatans. I was introduced to the president of the club who took me and my wife under his wing and lead us to quite a number of collectors whom he thought would be the kind of people to help guide me in my new found hobby. With some of those people we have formed very firm friendships over the years, with others we have become very friendly and look forward to seeing once or twice a year, and a few more have taken on the mantle of mentors.
The surprise to us was that we didn’t see that coming! We thought perhaps that my being a mere neophyte in my chosen past-time would place my feet so far down the ladder, that we would be practically unseen and unheard by the big boys. How wrong was that? Now, I find that some of these people feel comfortable enough around me to allow me the privilege of taking a gun home on the mere promise of later payment, sometimes in large numbers, an event that one won’t usually find in any other environment.
Conversely, we have discovered that there are indeed some collectors and dealers who have little regard for the little man - unless, of course the little man has a very fat wallet, or a very strong reputation as an ‘advanced’ collector.
A couple of short stories illustrate this phenomenon. Some years ago a collector friend found himself with a brown Model 1860 Army that he believed might have some historical interest. He was advised to call a personage up there in one of the northern states, very well-known in the arms collecting fraternity. So in good faith he called, explained who he was and the nature of his question. He was graced by the response, “Son, you’re wasting my time. Click!”
And here is the other story, as it came to me from Dick Salzer:"I was recently digging through some old boxes and found this Thomas Woroniecki catalog. Why is this worth mentioning?
The year was 1943 and I had started to develop a fascination with guns. Some German war souvenirs were displayed in the window of a mercantile store in the sleepy Long Island town of Bellport, NY. I used to frequently walk the few hundred yards from my grandmother’s house to stare at that window and fantasize. One day, I learned that there was a real live antique gun dealer only a mile or two away. You can imagine my excitement and anticipation at the prospect.
I was only nine years old and had found some old gun parts and some Spencer cartridges in our barn and thought maybe I could sell them, so I gathered them up and walked across town to the house where Thomas Woroniecki had his shop. I eagerly knocked on the door and was delighted to find him home. His greeting? 'Get lost, kid, I don’t have time to waste on you'.
Over the 80 or so years of my life, I have met dozens, maybe hundreds of gun dealers but none made the impression on me that Thomas Woroniecki did that day.
It’s good to remind ourselves once in a while how indelibly the way we treat neophytes can leave a negative impression if we aren’t sensitive to the way we all were when we started out.
The last line of the paragraph above serves to remind us that we all need to be
aware that we were all beginners once upon a time, and that no matter how wealthy,
or important or how advanced we believe are in this past-time, either as a dealer or a collector, we should all take the time to listen to the newcomer, understand where he’s at and respond to the best that our knowledge and experience will allow.
It’s kinda good to know that it takes all sorts to people this world of ours, and it’s kinda good to know that there are genuinely nice folk willing to share and to help. It’s also very useful to know that there are some...well, insert your own rude word here...who could be helpful, but choose not to be so.