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Old 10-05-2017, 03:16 PM
Babysitr Babysitr is offline
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Default Thoughts on when to "letter" your revolver

Now that I have a few nice S&W revolvers, I'm curious about all your thoughts on when to invest the money in getting a factory letter....I can see it for sure on a family heirloom,but when else and why??? Thanks for your insights
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Old 10-05-2017, 03:23 PM
andy52 andy52 is offline
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Unless it had some special meaning I probably wouldn't letter one that's not at least 50 years old.
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Old 10-05-2017, 03:29 PM
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My $0.02. If you have a collectible gun, the letter documents how the gun shipped from the factory which might become important if there is a question about sights or grips or finish. The date the gun shipped can place a gun in a more desirable or unique timeframe. For example, we recently had a member post a gun with pre-war configuration that was believed to have been shipped post-WWII. The letter confirmed it shipped post-war but without the modifications that came on most post-war guns. Occasionally, a letter will document the gun shipped to an important person which adds considerable value to a collector. There are probably other reasons to get a letter but I believe those are the salient ones.
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Old 10-05-2017, 03:51 PM
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Most of the time the letter will provide only the date of shipping and to where first shipped (which will very seldom be to a private individual purchaser, usually to a distributor or retailer) plus statistics on barrel length, finish, and grips. My feeling is that such information is not worth $75 (at least to me) for the majority of common and ordinary guns. But it could well be worthwhile if you have something having high collectible interest, is uncommon, unusual, and/or out of the ordinary, or if it has the potential of being an item of historical interest (such as having some famous or infamous former owner or an association with a specific historical event).

And then there are those which letter all guns in the hope that by some chance they will find additional information in the letter which makes spending the letter's cost worthwhile.
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Old 10-05-2017, 04:20 PM
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This will give you some reading time.

When Do We Need A Factory Letter?
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Old 10-05-2017, 04:30 PM
gmborkovic gmborkovic is offline
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A simple answer from a simpleton. Letter a gun when you want to.
Its your gun and your $75.
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Old 10-05-2017, 05:14 PM
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It was (seemingly?) an easier decision back when it was $35... 1999, when I got my first and only factory letter. For my revolver, it was absolutely because it was a family gun that my Grandfather's best memory had him purchase for $35 in 1923 and Mr. Jinks' letter told me that S&W shipped it in 1921 to a hardware store that was just 50-100 miles away from where he believes that he bought it.

It left me certainly wondering (but will never know) if he purchased it new.

In a related question...
Might anyone know what a nickeled, 6-inch HE M&P 4th Change in .38 Special would have for an MSRP and/or street price in 1921 or 1923...?
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Old 10-05-2017, 09:21 PM
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In my mind a personal decision can be for a myriad of reasons. An heirloom, a hunch, a silly decision, a reasoned decision plus many other "reasons".
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Old 10-05-2017, 10:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevens View Post
.....
In a related question...
Might anyone know what a nickeled, 6-inch HE M&P 4th Change in .38 Special would have for an MSRP and/or street price in 1921 or 1923...?
In 1915 it cost $17.00. I don't have any early 1920s catalogs, but if you add a couple dollars, you're likely in the ballpark.
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Old 10-07-2017, 11:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Babysitr View Post
Now that I have a few nice S&W revolvers, I'm curious about all your thoughts on when to invest the money in getting a factory letter....I can see it for sure on a family heirloom,but when else and why??? Thanks for your insights
My take on this is that if you can't decide whether to letter a S&W or not, maybe you should go ahead and letter it, especially if you (or your wife & kids!) will not miss the $75. Then you will see what you get and can decide for yourself if lettering any more of your S&Ws is worth it to you.

Without getting into specifics and taking the risk of hurting some delicate feelings, I have lettered a grand total of one S&W. Having said (or not said!) that, I have bought a couple that the previous owner lettered, and I considered the letter a plus. But I wouldn't have paid an extra $75 to get it.
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Old 10-07-2017, 08:30 PM
Walter Rego Walter Rego is offline
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I lettered a bunch of S&W revolvers back when the cost was only $35. No surprises, a couple of ones that were interesting to know like a K-38 that went to Evaluators just a couple of weeks before my birthday and another K-38 that went to the historic Marshall Fields store in Chicago when John Amber was running the gun department.
Recently I asked Mr. Jinks for the ship date on a Model 1006 automatic (a perk of being a member of the S&W Collectors Association) and when he provided the month and year, he also said "interesting gun". Well, that of course piqued my curiosity and I had to letter it. The letter came back showing that it was a special order for a sheriff of a county in the Virginia Appalachian coal mining country. Again, interesting. Worth the $75 ? I spent that much on a date recently and didn't even get... well, you know.....

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Old 10-07-2017, 08:44 PM
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I just bought a 44 HE that (according to the SCSW) dates to 1928.

I may just spend the money to letter it because it's the oldest S&W I've ever had, it's nickel, has pearl grips and ..... I don't know, just think it'd be neat to have on an 89 year old gun.
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Old 10-07-2017, 09:40 PM
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When to letter?

That's easy---see the link in post #5---and read what the folks have to say.

No time for that? No problem!!

Here it is in a nutshell: Just as soon as you know when not to letter, you'll know when to letter. Pretty simple, isn't it?!

No? Well then do what I do. Letter ALL of them---every single one---no exceptions.

Why? Because I don't know which ones not to letter---and neither do you----and neither does anybody else---and never will.

It fair boggles my mind that ANYBODY would pass on a resource like we have in our letters.

Are all of them winners? Absolutely not-----and that's where we came in. You don't know until you get it.

Want to know something else? Good, because I have nothing more to say---except this: If/when you miss the boat because you didn't get a letter, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Ralph Tremaine

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Old 10-08-2017, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by hittman77 View Post
I just bought a 44 HE that (according to the SCSW) dates to 1928.

I may just spend the money to letter it because it's the oldest S&W I've ever had, it's nickel, has pearl grips and ..... I don't know, just think it'd be neat to have on an 89 year old gun.
It most likely went to Wolf & Klar. So, a letter documenting that is a good thing.
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Old 10-08-2017, 07:38 PM
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I certainly concede that anyone who wants to letter every S&W he owns should do that. My guess would be that someone who would do that has S&Ws that are all pre 1940 ( or 1960 or so ). But that's his business.

I have numerous S&Ws that from my point of view would be just plain silly for me to letter.

Example one is actually two N-Frames, an M625 and an M629, that I bought new circa the year 2000. I think the gun shop ordered them direct from S&W, but maybe they went to a wholesaler first. I don't really need to know. They were and still are in the standard configuration for that time so I am pretty confident they have never been modified and nobody famous has ever owned them. What could a letter tell me that I don't already know? If at some future date I decide to sell them and a buyer says no deal without a letter, he is welcome to take his business elsewhere.

Example two is a CAI 3" M10 re-import from an Australian PD. I suppose it would be nice to know exactly where it was issued or if Crocodile Dundee ever owned it, but I believe that a letter would only tell me it shipped from S&W to some agency in OZ. Oh, and that it's got a 3" barrel, blue finish, and wood magna stocks. That's not worth $75 to me.
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Old 10-08-2017, 09:02 PM
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This is the only gun I've lettered a Colt 1900, as I began to research it I found out only 3500 were made and is regarded as really a prototype. So I took a chance hoping perhaps it was sent to someone famous very close but no cigar. There is one that is one number and one day off ship date wise from mine that was shipped to John Moses Browning back to his shop in Utah. Here is a copy of the letter and gun. I have not lettered any of my Smith & Wessons I am not sure I will.
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Old 10-08-2017, 10:06 PM
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Like RCT, I letter all of my "collector" purchases which is the vast majority of my purchases. I also search for the accoutrements for the firearms I purchase (holsters, cartridge belts, etc). Those are almost always much more expensive than a letter, so getting a letter is the cheaper and easier part of "collecting".

Before I was a collector, I just bought an occasional firearm that caught my attention and I never lettered those. In those days I also shot some of the guns I purchased, now I never shoot my "collector" firearms.
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Old 10-09-2017, 12:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by merl67 View Post
This is the only gun I've lettered a Colt 1900, as I began to research it I found out only 3500 were made and is regarded as really a prototype. So I took a chance hoping perhaps it was sent to someone famous very close but no cigar. There is one that is one number and one day off ship date wise from mine that was shipped to John Moses Browning back to his shop in Utah. Here is a copy of the letter and gun. I have not lettered any of my Smith & Wessons I am not sure I will.
Having not only the receiving dealer, but actually the name of the ordering customer is actually not bad at all, and more than most commercially shipped guns reveal.
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Old 10-09-2017, 11:02 AM
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I only letter those that have an unusual feature, or a feature that doesn't mesh with the date of production. This confirms if the feature is original or done by some aftermarket provider.

Also, a gun I expect to be "scarce".
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Old 10-09-2017, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmborkovic View Post
A simple answer from a simpleton. Letter a gun when you want to.
Its your gun and your $75.
This^^^

For me it isn't necessarily about age or variation, it's how badly I want to know the shipping date and destination. YMMV
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