A moral problem


December 29, 2002, 12:48 AM
A moral problem
Recently, a close friend of my extended family suffered a sudden heart attack and died. He was my uncles best friend, and attended all of our functions and gatherings, and I always talked to him about shooting and collecting and so forth. He was a wealth of Mauser knowledge and reloading in particular.

His death was of course a sudden thing to his widow, whom I do not know. Well, today at his funeral my uncle told me that this gentleman had in excess of 300 rifles and another number of pistols, parts, barrels and reloading equipment of every form. He had well over 200 NIW Remington 700 barrels alone.

Obviously, his widow does not have much use of his collection (she only tactitly approved of his hobby, for 40 plus years) and I was thinking of how to approach the subject of purchasing his entire collection. This would save his widow the grief of trying to place all of this via an estate sale or other means, my uncle suggested several gunshow trips. Yeah, no dice. All of this stuff would fill my F-150 twice. Of course, I would compensate her well for the material but I am just not very good at these things. I am ashamed in a small way, thinking that my profiteering can be construed as ghoulish to some. I just want to know what you ladies and gentlemen think my best course of action is for this situation.

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Brian D.
December 29, 2002, 01:01 AM
Since presumably your uncle knows the widow a little better than you do, it would probably be best for him to broach the subject at some point in the future, and in a roundabout, supportive way at that. If she is in shaky financial shape, your honorable intentions could be a blessing to her. It's kind of a shame that the man didn't leave his widow with some sort of "price guide" to all this stuff, she may well not know who to believe. My gun club apparently had a long time member who was a real gun buzzard, folks have said he checked the obituaries against our club roster almost daily, and never waited more than a week to "swoop down" on an unsuspecting widow, paying pennies on the dollar for guns and such. Then he'd bring the stuff to our twice a year swap meets, and haul in the dough. EDIT TO ADD: If you're asking us out in the open about the morality of this, I doubt you're a ghoul. It would be such a shame to see the widow suffer an additional loss, or for us as gun mavens/collectors see the stuff be destroyed or something, as often happens these days when estates are passed down to "gun--phobic" relatives.

December 29, 2002, 01:01 AM
When we lost a member of our club some years back, many of us members had the same feeling.
We simply expressed to the family clergy, and brother of the deceased (a club member) our concerns.

After a period of time and grieving, she informed the clergy and BIL it was time for acceptance. She also had to deal with clothing and personal effects. Members were more than generous with offers, what she didn't sell she donated to club, clothes to the needy etc. We also made sure she was instructed in use of HD shotgun and handguns, one member 'horsetraded'CHL lessons for ammo.

Give her some time, go through clergy/family.

December 29, 2002, 01:01 AM
Have your uncle talk to her about it, and let him be the judge of the propriety, approach, and timing.

It's not a moral problem. It's an etiquette problem.

December 29, 2002, 01:03 AM
Wow! Three simultaneous posts essentially saying the same thing!

Brian D.
December 29, 2002, 01:07 AM
Probably a lot of us have had this happen, or seen it up-close a time or six, huh?

December 29, 2002, 01:09 AM
Well etiquette yes, but we forget those left behind "don't know questions to answers available".

For the most part we shooters are honest and fair, she may not have been in his circle, but probably more comfortable with a shooter (and clergy/family) helping her with this. Money...maybe doesn't want to admit a need...this IS helping her. Save face.

December 29, 2002, 01:12 AM

This is not as hard as you may think. What you're thinking about is pretty common, particularly once you get out of the big city. In many places its considered a courtesy to relieve the widow of the burden of dealing with "unusable or unwanted" items left by the husband; provided your intent is to treat her fairly and not take advantage.

If you know her personally, I would contact her by phone and ask to meet with her to discuss a business proposal - at her convenience. Naturally you do this AFTER you have paid proper respect to the deceased. If you do not know her personally, I would ask an intermediary to make a referral. You want to be sure not to discuss business during a condolence call - that would be offensive.

When you meet with her simply tell her that you are aware of her husband's collection and ask if he made any particular arrangements for it. Some or all of it may have been promised to someone else before he passed away. If she knows of no special arrangements, then you can make your offer. There may be other interested parties, but let her think it over on her own time.

In effect, you will be offering to be a "sales agent" for HER. So as long as she gets a fair price, everyone should be happy. No harm, No foul.

[edit] My most recent experience with this was when my father-in-law passed away a few years ago. He had been a farmer most of his life. Friends and acquaintances came from all over the county offering to buy his farm equipment and tools. It was handled quite well.

rock jock
December 29, 2002, 01:13 AM
You might also offer to act as an agent for her at a commission by estimating values for all the guns and parts, and then sending out letters to gun dealers within a couple hundred miles of your location with a complete list. Dealers often will buy from estate sales since they have the financial wherewithal to fork over that much money and because the executors will most comfortable selling guns to bonafide FFL's. You might even break the collection up into different lots based on similarity (i.e., military rifles, barrels, handguns). You could try to sell them yourself, but I would not recommend it. I think a reasonable fee for this service would be 5-10% of the total value of the collection. BUT, for that kind of fee you really need to need to put in some work. I would venture that you hire a knowledgeable person from The High road to help you with this task and split the fee.

December 29, 2002, 01:18 AM
Well, maybe an 'etiquette question'--but not necessarily a 'problem'. I would suggest a sympathy card to the widow with a straightforward note or short letter much like you posted here, tactfully referencing your uncle's friendship with the deceased, your acquaintanceship with him, and your natural interest in those items. You might want to suggest she call you to discuss the matter at some time convenient to her and emphasize that the timing is completely up to her. Just leave her with the impression that you would appreciate some consideration when her attention turns to those items.

Doubtless she has a great deal on her plate and it may be some time before she feels like addressing this issue. Nonetheless she eventually will, and very well might appreciate your interest--at a time of her choosing.

She might also engage a knowledgeable firearms appraiser to inventory and establish values for these items. Odds are she will want to dispose of all of it at once if she feels she is getting a fair price for it.

My opinion, anyway.

December 29, 2002, 01:18 AM
I would play things by ear. Find out when the widow has started going through his things & then send you father out on a fact finding mission. She may suddenly hold some sentimental value for things her husband valued or may just want to dispose of everything to limit all the things that trigger memories for her.
You'll know when she's ready to start talking about selling his collection.

December 29, 2002, 01:33 AM
Probably a lot of us have had this happen, or seen it up-close a time or six, huh? Right, but what astounded me is that the three posts were all made at the same time!

THR is QUICKLY becoming TFL's replacement in fact, not just in hope and intention! :D

December 29, 2002, 01:42 AM
I thank you all for the replies. Of course, I want to do the right thing in this situation. I think that a letter of the sort Dienekes suggesteed is appropriate. His primary interest was in Curios and Relics of the WWII era, which happens to be my prime focus in my already substantial collection of that time frame. I could give an honest appraisal of the items, with a second opinion of course if she was so inclined, pay on the spot and transport it away.

I suppose it is that since such a situation has never happened to me quite like this, I feel hawkish about the whole affair. Perhaps I am simply too timid to feel comfortable in this whole situation. Mostly I think this because I do not know her personally, only her husband who I spoke at length with only a few times every year. My uncle as a go-between would almost seem like the best choice, and perhaps Dienekes suggestion of a letter would be better addressed to her, but delivered by him, after some time has passed of course.

Thanks again for your suggestions.

December 29, 2002, 01:51 AM
Zeebrahead - just a thought, but if she decides to dispose of those rifles, how about posting some of them (all of them?) in our sales forum here on THR? With your contact with her, this might be feasible, and I'm sure she'd get more selling them at fair prices here than selling them as a "job lot" to a dealer. You could always include a shipping and handling charge to cover packing, etc., and I'm guessing you and other friends could take care of the hard work of actually boxing the things up (try not to drool over them, please, it causes rust! :D ).

December 29, 2002, 01:58 AM
I second PreacherMan's suggestion!

I'd love to browse such a collection online! Got a digital camera...?

Maybe you can sell them for her on consignment...?

December 29, 2002, 02:02 AM
BH and Preacher.

Also Z your showing the kind of character and attitude this forum was founded on...Thank You !

December 29, 2002, 02:36 AM
Since others have done the "how to's" and there has been some touching on the ethics I want to come at this soley from the ethical angle.

Too many people seem to have the mindset that if they (the other party) don't know the value of the items that it is ok to screw them (on the idea that if they didn't do their homework to find out the value before selling that is their problem). Well, all too many times if they know you or know someone who knows you and know you are into shooting many people think they can trust you and that you are the expert who knows the values and will be honest with them. Other times they simply don't even know how to do their homework to find the values. As an example lets pick another collection hobby- how many of us would even know how to find out the value of, say, a 19th century calabash pipe? If you knew someone into antique pipes you would probably bring it to them and hope they gave you an honest answer, right?

So please, deal honestly with the widow. If she doesn't know what the guns are worth find out and tell her honestly. If she then chooses to give you a great price, wonderful. If not, that is her choice to make. If you try to lowball her (someone who probably doesn't know gun values and may not even know how to find out what they are worth) you are slime.

Dislaimer: I am not trying to imply that this is what anyone here has in mind. I am just remembering back to a similar situation that someone on TFL was bragging about and they were bragging about how they got such great prices on some great guns since the widow didn't know any better and trusted the guy. In fact, in today's situation the guy who posted this seems like he is willing to go out of his way to be ethical in the situation. So, I guess I'm posting what I'm posting the way I am in case there is someone browsing here who gets a similar situation who thinks like the first guy on TFL did.

December 29, 2002, 10:42 AM

I understand completely, sir. I will treat her fairly because I can honestly evaluate the collection and even pay for a second opinion out of my own pocket.

I have also seen a loss here. The world is a little worse for having lost a kind, gentle man who's main passion in life was collecting and restoring living history. Better for me to make a honest offer for the whole lot than seeing it land in perhaps less than favorable hands.

For me, sir, I must sleep at night.

Kentucky Rifle
December 29, 2002, 11:04 AM
Don't forget to ask her if there is a particular firearm that meant a lot to her husband. She might want to keep his special gun as a memorial and "link" to her husband. Just a thought.


December 29, 2002, 11:55 AM
I think it would be wise to wait for a period of time before broaching the subject. I'm betting that these relics are strong reminders of her deceased husband. If so, they will be important to her if she had a good life with the gentleman.

Assuming she's open to the idea, I would suggest an "outside" appraiser that you provide. After the appraisal, you could make a reasonable offer that's under the appraised value by a reasonable amount.

Given that the guy spent a lifetime collecting and it just laying there, it's saving you a mountain to time, energy and expense by being fair and relatively generous.

Looks like a win/win there if you play your cards right. Get you're uncles help as well. Even if you need to reward him financially or with a few pieces of the collection for his trouble.

December 29, 2002, 12:56 PM
Don't forget to ask her if there is a particular firearm that meant a lot to her husband. She might want to keep his special gun as a memorial and "link" to her husband. Just a thought.

KR sounds like he has the kernel of a great idea. She may not even really like guns or think of them as items of nostalgia but you may want to put some hints in her head that may make her want to keep one or two as a rememberance. Then work on her to maybe take one out shooting from time to time. Maybe eventually you will help bring yet another person into the shooting fold (its never too late to start) and you will have provided her with yet another link with her deceased husband.

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