COLLECTOR’S CORNER BY JERRY W. PITSTICK
I first became a gun lover at age 9 after seeing the movie, Treasure Island. A small derringer saved the young boy/hero from the pirates. At age 12, my Uncle, Art Kirsch, promised me an antique pistol, which turned out to be a double-barreled percussion type with a simple wood handle. I loved this gun and was hooked for life! My second gun was purchased from Charles G. Worman at age 14. This was a mint Belgian Pinfire priced at $15.00 in 1955. Chuck, an author of gun books and past director of the Ohio Gun Collectors Association, is still my friend. He has been a continuous source of good guns for my collection as well as sound, honest advice.
My interest in guns, knives and western memorabilia stems from my love for our nation’s history, our important right to bear arms, the artistry inherent in quality guns, the care taking of important relics, and the excellent long-term investment potential. Over the years my wife, Sharon, has grown to love this hobby so much that we now call it “our collection.” Without her support and enthusiasm the outcome would not have been nearly as satisfying. I would also like to thank Craig Schulte, a fellow OGCA member for all of his help.
My first 20 years in gun collecting, I had very broad interests and focused mainly on guns themselves. As a result, my collecting was enjoyable, but I owned a hodge podge of guns with no cohesive theme or direction. Gradually I narrowed my range until I arrived at a definition of what I really wanted – primarily American pistols and revolvers with Civil War or Win-the-West connections preferably identified with people, places, companies or major events. I also discovered great interest in the multitude of custom casings, accessories, holsters, and memorabilia connected with these pistols and revolvers.
Part of my personal evolution defined the arms I would collect, but another part defined activities I wanted to undertake related to the guns. My emphasis gradually turned to historical research, gun show exhibitions and museum presentations for educating both the public and fellow gun collectors. In addition, I started writing articles for arms magazines which has become a very rewarding and sharing experience. Lastly, within the next five years, I hope to write a book about getting the most enjoyment from your gun collecting hobby.
“Handguns of the American West identified with people, places, and events” also known as “Guns that Talk – History in Your Hand” was the title of my display at OGCA in May, 1999 which won a $1,000 award for being most in keeping with the display show theme “Firearms of the American West.” Being my first public display, I was totally amazed I could win anything against such accomplished exhibitors with fine collections. I was very appreciative and pleased with the results at the OGCA show so I really went to work on improving and expanding my display, with a goal to exhibit at the biggest and best gun shows across the country.
In October, 1999, I competed at Louisville, Kentucky where Ron Dickson’s National Gun Day – The Great Eastern Display Expo was held. Again, I was honored to win second place against tough competitors, but more importantly, I was having so much fun meeting all these great people who shared my interest in American history, unusual antique pistols, and the real stories that can be told when a gun can be identified and proper research work is implemented.
In May of 2000, for their 35th anniversary, the Colorado Gun Collectors Association put on “The Show of the Millennium” billed as the top all antique exhibition show in the world with over $30,000 in display awards. I decided to compete for the education even though I knew I was unlikely to win anything since this kind of money and extensive promotion was drawing excellent displays from all over the United States. There were about 1,000 antique dealer tables plus 140 displays. The competition was fierce with some displays taking fourteen 8 foot tables and having values in the multi-millions. Needless to say, my display did not win any award, but I did calculate, with careful study, that I was within the top 40 displays at the Denver show. This was encouraging, so I improved my display further by adding a section on derringers including the antique gambling items that are so often associated with derringers. In addition, I improved and expanded my four informational books which are an important part of my display. They include archive information, documents relating to the provenance of each weapon, letters of authentication from many of the most respected gun dealers, and photographs of guns and accessories.
I have applied, and hope to be accepted, as an exhibitor at the Maryland Gun Collectors’ original Baltimore Antique Arms Show in March of 2002. This show is reputedly the finest all antique arms expo east of the Mississippi. Space at this show is at such a premium that I have only a 50/50 chance of getting the three display tables I need. All you can do is make your best effort.
Another interesting experience occurred in 2001 when Chuck Worman, consultant to the Hubbard Museum, asked to borrow eight of my guns for a six month exhibit at the Hubbard Museum of the American West in New Mexico. This renowned museum put on an extravaganza of the westward migration that included over 500 important guns organized by time periods from 1803 to 1900. Tens of thousands turned out to see this important exposition from May 24, 2001 to November 24, 2001.
Currently, I’m working with the Colt collectors association in an effort to provide some of my guns for the Colt Exposition which will be held at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming in 2003.
Writing articles for gun magazines has been personally rewarding because the readers are truly eager to read interesting and informative accounts of their fellow collectors’ experiences and findings. To date, I have had articles printed in Man at Arms Magazine, The Gun Report, The Smith & Wesson Collectors’ Journal, The Remington Society of America Magazine, and soon the Colt Collector’s Association Journal.
In summary, my greatest enjoyment related to gun collecting has been to use this interesting hobby to bring American history alive, to help the general public gain an appreciation of the value of our second amendment rights and the important role that our Constitutional right to bear arms has had and will have to protect our individual right to freedom.
Many thanks to the Pitstick family for bringing the exception display to the January meeting. Jerry and Sharon were interviewed there by outdoor columnist, Larry S. Moore. Keep your eye out for an article on OGCA in “Moore Outdoors” in the Xenia Daily Gazette, Beavercreek New Current, and Fairborn Herald. PLEASE CONSIDER DOING A FEATURED DISPLAY FOR AN UPCOMING MEETING. IT NEED NOT BE ELABORATE. YOU’LL RECEIVE FREE TABLES, HOTEL AND A FEATURE IN OUR NEWSLETTER TO 18,000 FELLOW COLLECTORS. CALL THE OFFICE AT (330) 467-5733.