Military Trader Exclusive: Interview with Jason Devine of Amoskeag Auction Company

A moskeag Auction Company Inc. of Manchester, New Hampshire, is a highly successful specialty auction house whose expertise is in the field of collectible arms and militaria.  The firm was started by Jason and Melissa Devine in 1997 and has grown rapidly each year from its humble beginnings; now employing six full-time description writers as well as its support, photography and shipping staff, in addition to office and bookkeeping staff.  Recently, Military Trader had the opportunity to sit down with Jason Devine, the company’s co-founder, and find out a little more about Amoskeag.

MT:Jason, what types of items does Amoskeag Auction Co. normally sell?
JD: We are a specialty house that concentrates on firearms, both antique and modern; edged weapons, running the gamut from fine presentation Civil War officers swords to trench knives; fine sporting advertising, from cartridge boards to antique calendars; collectible militaria, antique to modern and sporting accessories.

MT: We have noticed some pretty astonishing prices posted in some of your ads; do you also handle items that are in reach of the average collector?
JD: Absolutely, while Amoskeag has been lucky enough to market some of the finest, and in some cases very rare military arms as well, we handle a wide array of accessories and arms in every sale.  Most recently during our November 17, 2007 sale, we sold a wonderful all original Casey inspected U.S. Cavalry Colt Single Action Army revolver shipped in 1875, for $33,350 (including the buyer’s premium).  Two sales prior to that, a really minty U.S. Colt 1911A1, manufactured in 1938, retaining 99% plus of its original brushed blue finish sold for $29,900.  But our sales are not confined to “high-end only” as some other sales are; we also have our share of $800 Lugers, $700 M-1 carbines and $500 1903 Springfields.  And in every sale our unique “silent auction” has loads of accessory items that collectors eagerly scoop up.

MT: And do you handle primarily modern military collectibles, or World War II items, or some other specialty.
JD:  Actually we have been fortunate in many ways;  nearly all our sales will encompass items from Colonial America, through the Civil and post-Civil War era, Span-Am, and both World Wars right up through the Korean and Vietnam eras; but we have been fortunate in the fact that our writers have their own specialties within these areas and are each able to concentrate their depth of knowledge on each individual era of history….there is of course a good deal of cross-over knowledge so our writers complement each other well.

MT:So you actually keep people employed full time writing descriptions?
JD:  We do, and while occasionally someone may go on the road picking up
consignments or run the table at one of the many gun shows we attend promoting our services, they are kept very busy writing catalog descriptions. We have always felt that full-time, in-house employees writing detailed, accurate descriptions is the best way to efficiently market our merchandise and it has paid off.  Buyers know they can bid with Amoskeag with confidence, the item will be as good as or better than described, and consignors in turn are pleased with the prices their items
realize.

MT:  Recently we have noticed that you’re starting to do a lot of business in Class III firearms.
JD:  We actually have been handling Class III firearms for four or five years now with the help of Jim McLoud at Manchester Firing Line Range and have been doing very well.  We have now sold more Class III arms than all the other auction companies combined.  We seem to have a good knowledge base, coupled with an aggressive advertising strategy and the guns do very well, we work very closely with Jim at Manchester Firing Line, he’s a great help as far as Class III sales are
concerned.

MT:  Do you notice any particular market trends, or some items which do better than others?
JD:  You know, quality, high-condition guns always astound me at how very well they do, it could be a function of our advertising or just market drive.  The two pistols I talked about earlier are prime examples;  as well, last year we sold a Remington UMC 1911 that was in lovely shape that brought nearly $14,000 with the premium.  But quality German collectibles have steadily been on their way up.  An M-38 Fallschirmjager helmet in this last sale brought just over $5,400, and a Weyersberg Luftwaffe gravity knife hammered down at $1000.  Excellent quality, identified Civil War items, with provenance are always a solid investment, and good honest snipers, U.S. or otherwise always fetch strong prices.  And of course the Class III stuff just seems to go up and up, although the very high end of that
market seems to have slowed somewhat.

MT: Do you see a slowdown in all high-end collectibles?
JD: Oh no, not at all, to the contrary.  Again high quality rare arms will always fetch strong prices.  We just recently sold an absolutely beautiful Colt model 1875 Gatling gun that brought $207,000 with the premium, that’s record pricing.  A Chinese copy of a Thompson submachine gun brought $69,000 and a very rare German three-rotor enigma machine brought over $25,000 in that same sale, and although, not military arms, we still glean very high pricing on nice Winchesters, Colts and Smiths.

MT:  What’s coming up next for Amoskeag?
JD: The very next sale is January 12 and it will encompass the usual nice selection of military arms and accessories, including a very nice, regimentally marked first model Brown Bess musket; but also a very good array of Civil War arms and accessories, Second World War era military arms, and accessories, as well as more modern military-style arms.  Our March sale will feature a really superb collection of high quality single shot target and sporting rifles from the collection of a gentleman by the name of Ray Day. There are really some astounding arms in there that are very high-quality and one-of-a-kind pieces. The next class III sale we are building will be for the August auction, so we are very interested in getting consignments for that sale.  We of course will be attending the Las Vegas Antique Arms Show, the SAR show in the East, Greenwich, CT and the other major gun shows we attend every year.

MT:Where are the auctions held?  Do you do them on-site across the country?
JD:  No actually, as a Federally licensed dealer we must do all our business at our licensed premises;  so the sales are held at our gallery in Manchester, New Hampshire.   Manchester’s famous “mile of mills” have all been nicely refinished and refurbished into quality office and retail space. Our hall is located on the third floor in one of the lovely old mill buildings; it’s spacious, the 12 foot windows provide ample natural light for viewing and the building is electronically secured; as well our space is fully alarmed and features both conventional and infared cameras. 

MT:  Do you have any advice for the budding military collector? Or even the seasoned collector?
JD: Simply this: always buy the best you can afford. Whether it’s simply a Civil War cartridge box or a Winchester M1 carbine or martially marked Henry rifle, the collector – or investor – will always find the best return on his dollar when he buys condition.  Nice items, but with lesser condition will still appreciate in value, simply not as fast.  Secondly, any time you have a doubt as to the authenticity of an item – especially a higher ticket item- either get a qualified second opinion on the item’s authenticity or a receipt stating the item is authentic.  We here are very proud to stand behind every item we sell, if there’s ever a doubt about an item we will not run it.

MT:  You must do an awful lot of research for som e of the items you sell.
JD:  Well, you really need to.  We are fortunate to have a knowledgeable staff that has seen and handled an awful lot of authentic – and some not so authentic – arms; there is no substitute for experience, some of these guys have been collecting since they’ve been nine and ten years old,  it’s in their blood.  We have an excellent research library and have forged excellent relationships with many of the world’s most well recognized experts in various specialty fields.  If ever an item needs a second or third opinion to be authenticated, we enlist their help.  The antique and collectible arms business is a rather small circle of people comparatively and folks have long memories. Trust is something we have worked very hard to build. Once built, trust and integrity are very fragile and easily broken; we will not compromise what we have worked so hard to build.  Our consignors know it and our buyers know it.

MT: Well, this was an informative chat, our best wishes for continued success.
JD:  Thank you, it’s been a pleasure. We enjoy Military Trader, in addition to our advertising we often develop some good leads from some of the other ads placed in it. We’re always looking to build new relationships, whether as a buyer or seller — or both.

    Amoskeag Auction Co. is located in Manchester, New Hampshire;
their website is www.amoskeagauction.com or by phone 603-627-7383
8:00 am – 4:00 pm.

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