A version of this note is in the introduction of the Second Edition of the Blue Book of Airguns by Robert Beeman and John Allen. We hope that it will clarify the Blue Book's staff position regarding the development, and even existence, of this book:
To Be or Not to Be?
by the Authors and Editors of the Blue Book of Airguns
(Updated from a chapter in the Second Edition of the Blue Book of Airguns)
23 November 2003 draft
Welcome to the Second Edition of the Blue Book of Airguns. The First Edition really was a historical milestone for the airgun world and generally was very well received. It is also true that many readers wanted much more than could have been included in that volume at the time it was published. As we then noted, that book arose simply as a separation of the airgun section from the huge Blue Book of Gun Values. For over twenty years that airgun section primarily was intended to meet the needs of gun dealers and owners who needed a price guide for use in trading modern airguns. Most current production airguns are considered to have very limited trade-in value when below 95% of new condition. So, even after some excellent material had been added on vintage Daisy airguns, that rating system was still in the system. But how many of us have ever even seen a 95% condition First Model Daisy?
We decided to start taking this airgun reference in a different direction: - to try to cover most vintage, brand-labeled airguns as well as the current "shooting models". One of the first big steps in this direction was to develop two sections which were very different than the previous "A-Z" sections. We selected Benjamin and Sheridan as the starting points for this new approach. For the first time we had a historical perspective and complete coverage from the first to the latest models, and the value ratings were extended down to 60% of new condition.
The greatly enlarged Benjamin and Sheridan sections would have made the airgun section a heavy appendage to the big firearms volume. Three big chapters (Rare Air, What's the Best Airgun?, and Collection Protection) were also submitted by Robert Beeman with the considered intent of forcing the production of the airgun section as a separate book. And, indeed, that is exactly what happened. So, even if you didn't care for those chapters, they had the desired effect. Airgunners got their own book! And now, gun dealers also have a meaningful to evaluate and price vintage and used airguns - so airguns can now become part of the main stream of gun trading.
One of the major forward steps of the First Edition of the Blue Book of Airguns was to include such special informational chapters in addition to a price guide. Our intent is to make each edition valuable in itself, so that every edition becomes a long term reference - and not just an out-of-date price guide when the next edition appears.
Of course, it was impossible to present new and expanded coverages for many brands in that first edition. However, the excellent reception of the new Benjamin and Sheridan sections led us to use them as "format models" for revising the coverage of as many other brands as possible in the second edition. And, we decided to continue including chapters of special information.
A key matter was to develop a network of knowledgeable contributors. As word began to spread that a major, if not complete, book of airgun values was in development, there were strong reactions among some collectors. Many were overjoyed - declaring it long overdue; others felt that just rarity grades, but not values, should be listed. Some felt that only a price guide based on advertised prices or auction figures would be fair. Still others felt that this was a terrible thing - such a book should not exist! Some very reasonable collectors opined that such a guide would be, at best, "just opinions" and, at worst, an attempt to increase the values of individual collections.
We fully understand that there never can be a value guide, to any collectibles, with which all associated collectors will agree. We looked long and hard at how values should be determined and leaned heavily on the decades of experience behind the big firearms book: The Blue Book of Gun Values. It soon became rather clear that advertised prices are often much higher than final selling prices, and that many advertised prices, especially for less common items, were set below true market values. Guns in such ads may have sold quickly, even without bargaining, because knowledgeable buyers knew that they were under priced. Compilations of asking prices often do not define condition of the items being sold, and condition can be everything! And, generally no consideration is given to the market values of different calibers or variations. Auction values also can be quite misleading. If collectors who are very interested in certain items are not bidding in a particular auction where such items appear, the hammer prices may be far below realistic levels. On the other hand, "auction fever", or the presence of certain buyers determined to buy certain items, almost regardless of price, can drive hammer prices far above realistic levels. And, again, auction results also usually do not accurately relate the all important information on condition or variations. While averaging the selling prices of models which have sold by the hundreds can yield realistic values, the great majority of airgun models simply do not sell in statistically significant numbers.
Note that the terms "market value", "knowledgeable buyers", and "realistic levels" keep pushing into these considerations. Most collectors would agree that such terms are the key matters - but those terms are just another way of saying "good, informed opinions". In the end, we were almost forced to admit that "good, informed opinions" are the best measures of value. Most collectors admit that when they are not sure of what to pay for something, they ask someone, experienced in such models, "what do you think it should sell for?" That is, "what is your OPINION?" Informed opinions are among the most valuable parts of human endeavor: from analysts and experts of great variety, to juries to appraisers and beyond. The values listed in the big Blue Book of Gun Values have developed from such experienced opinions, over two decades of evolution. So, our approach has been to gather the most informed opinions that we could get, "advance appraisals" if you will, and to depend on the fact that such values, once declared and subjected to market feedback, will evolve into better and better measures of "true value" - whatever that elusive quarry may be. This cannot be an exact science; the value ratings in this volume are neither sacred nor set in stone. We will always strive to make them as reflective of the "real market", as it evolves, as possible. When looking at the value of a gun one must think: "would I pay that much or would I sell it for that little?". Any contributor should stand by those words, understanding that this is a retail price guide.
Dealers and buyers/collectors need to come to grips with the difference between retail and wholesale. In a less mature collecting field, almost everyone tends to think of themselves as a buyer and a dealer and this leads to confusion. It is no big secret that dealers make their living by trying to buy low and sell high; this is normal, ethical, and necessary. Many, probably most, dealers put the big Blue Book of Gun Values, or the Blue Book of Airguns, on the counter when someone comes in to sell a used gun. Typically, they use the book to determine a proper retail value and declare right up front that they will pay 50% of that. Sometimes they will offer as much as 70%, or even 75%, towards another gun at retail. Dealers who offer more are often seen as wearing the white hats, but generally such dealers either go out of business rather soon or they are grading many items down when buying them and/or grading them up when selling. This is known as reality.
The Blue Book of Airgun series is not an income generating matter for Robert Beeman. He receives a small stipend, but this is only about one-third of his costs in working on the books. A typical year involves a net cost TO Robert Beeman of about ten thousand dollars and an annual investment of well over one thousand hours. This is done only for personal satisfaction and the desire to improve the academic understanding of this complex field of collecting.
How about the matter of price guides being a method of inflating the values of the collections of contributing collectors? Well, to start with, senior author Robert Beeman is not really concerned with the value of his collection and eventually it probably will move to museum ownership and thus, outside of occasional duplicates obtained with purchased collections, never sold. Author John Allen is contributing his expertise in gun publishing; basically he does not collect airguns. Thus this pair should make a good team for this job. Both of them, and the editors at Blue Book, are dedicated to critically reviewing the value suggestions of other contributors and we never accept value suggestions without considering other significant references and the cross-review of other knowledgeable persons. And, again, we WILL carefully consider all competent, constructive feedback.
Finally, for every person who complains that price guides are "just opinions or worse", there are those who very astutely note that a lack of price guides serves to allow an "inner circle" of knowledgeable persons to have special advantages over both sellers and buyers. A good price guide can level the playing field and give everyone "a friend in the business". If neither side knows where to begin, then nobody wins. All a good price guide does is to provide everyone with a place to start.
The level of price guides is a measure of the maturity of any collecting field. Can we even imagine coin, stamp, or firearm collecting without their long established price guides? It is those very guides that have helped drive the development of those fields of collecting. And, although simple "rarity guides" may have their place in some undeveloped fields of collecting, can we really imagine those coin, stamp, and firearm collectors depending on such evaluations as "extremely rare", "fairly common", etc.?
So, where do we plan to go from here? The Second Edition of the Blue Book of Airguns cannot be a complete guide. It took many editions of the Blue Book of Gun Values to reach its present huge size and great international standing and it still cannot cover all of the great number of firearm models! Our plan for the Second Edition of the Blue Book of Airguns is to follow the model of the new Benjamin and Sheridan sections in the First Edition in developing much more complete sections on these key brands: Crosman, Daisy, Hy-Score, Quackenbush, Walther, Smith & Wesson, Healthways, Feinwerkbau, and Weihrauch plus basic coverage of many additional minor brands. The key editorial features are the world's most complete presentation of the Lewis and Clark airgun investigation, an in-depth review of airgun literature, and a treatise on the pneumatic powerplant systems. Then, in the Third Edition, we hope to develop more complete sections on Dianawerk, BSA, Haviland & Gunn, Falke, Randall, and a large number of others, and to add as many good illustrations as possible - with a stress this time on Crosman airguns. Each edition will build on the previous one and, as noted, we intend to make each edition valuable in itself with special text material in addition to the A-Z gun value sections. The feature editorial article of the third edition will be a treatise on the spring-piston (including both metal and gas springs) powerplant system. We look forward to your continued input and to your enjoyment of this series. But, above all, let's again realize that this is a work in progress; it can never be complete or perfect, and if you don't contact us (at Bluebook@Beemans.net or by mail) with your suggestions for corrections, additions, etc. that you should not complain about content or even details. We want these guides to simply be the world's best, but that will require the continual input of all interested persons.
 Readers who would like to volunteer for, or nominate others for, writing future airgun chapters or provide constructive input for developing model information and value ratings should state their qualifications and provide input to Bluebook@Beemans.net . We don't guarantee to accept all information, but we do guarantee to seriously consider all constructive communications. Notice: Robert Beeman, Bluebook@Beemans.net , www.Beemans.net, John Allen, and Blue Book Publications have no connection whatsoever with the new Beeman Precision Airgun company.