Antique ammunition and ammo boxes are a fascinating aspect of military history. Whether you enjoy the technical aspects of old cartridges, the artistic nature of their packaging or the historical allure of munitions factories from exotic locations, vintage ammo is highly collectable and even has an official organisation--The International Ammunition Association--for hobbyists with its own bimonthly journal. More than a pastime, many collectors also use their collections for reference or research in legal cases, law enforcement and product development.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Internet access
- Money to buy collectable ammunition and ammunition boxes
- Good light source
- Hand calipers
- Magnifying lens
Learn about the history and background of ammunition via the Internet. The IAA's website CartridgeCollectors.org is an excellent source of information on vintage ammo. If you want to delve deeper, become a member of the IAA and subscribe to its bimonthly journal. The journal has been published for more than 50 years and digital copies of old issues can be ordered online from the website. Also consider purchasing the IAA's official book, "Guide to Ammunition Collecting."
Determine what sort of ammunition or ammo boxes you would like to collect. The field of ammunition collection is incredibly vast. Ammunition cartridges date back more than 150 years and the IAA recognises 75 specialised types of ammunition collecting. Pick an area that interests you and use that as a starting point.
Research the value and availability of ammunition and/or ammo boxes in your area of interest. GunHoo.com has a very detailed listing of dealers who sell vintage munitions.
Determine the budget for your collection. Most ammo is worthless but some kinds are valuable. Collectable ammunition is usually 50 years or older and often fetches prices above £13. Also, like any form of collecting, you can speculate on the future value of items. A great deal of ammunition is too old to be used by shooters, but too new to be rare. As a result, a lot of that stuff will get thrown away. Save it now and the ammo might be valuable 20 years from now.
Start your collection. Purchase antique ammunition via eBay as well as other speciality websites. Also visit local gun shows to purchase vintage ammo. Purchase equipment for appraising and examining ammunition such as a powerful light source, magnifying lenses and hand calipers to measure the circumference of the shell.
Store your prized collection in a cool, dry place. Contrary to popular perception, ammunition is not any more dangerous to store than a can of hairspray. While artillery ammunition is heavier, collectors are not allowed to purchase items with an explosive filling. A mortar shell is no more dangerous than a heavy rock.
Tips and warnings
- Use UPS or FedEx for shipping or receiving ammunition. Federal law prohibits sending ammunition through the U.S. Postal Service.
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