Collecting firearms can be a very fun and rewarding experience. Many times, these collections start out as one gun that an enthusiast was either given as a child, bought as an adult, or inherited when a relative passed. A collector usually attaches a particular emotional significance to this seminal piece, and so it should be with the entire collection. The worst mistake a collector of anything can make is to start collecting for other people, whether only to create perceived value or to "beat out" someone else's collection. The key to a successful firearm collection is to purchase pieces you find intriguing. At the end of the day, if your heart isn't in it, it will show in the collection.
What appeals to you?
In light of this, start on your collecting journey by asking yourself what kinds of firearms you like. Sometimes collectors build around a style such as American rifles or German handguns. Other times historical time periods are more appealing. This is especially the case when a gun collection is being added to a larger memorabilia collection. For example, an avid World War II collector of medals and Army paraphernalia may decide to add a collection of WWII guns to round out the set as a whole. A third option is to just go with your gut. This can sometimes be the most rewarding path to take. Simply buy the guns that you find to be particularly exciting as you encounter them. You may surprised to find that an eclectic collection, when curated with care, will end up being worth much more than the sum of its individual pieces.
Evaluating a gun
There are five general categories to consider when evaluating a new addition to your gun collection: make, model, condition, rarity and history/art. The make and model of a gun have a significant effect on the piece's perceived value according to the general reputation of the manufacturer. Many firearms producers have a certain romantic lore surrounding them that makes their weapons more valuable. The condition of a gun will always be a significant factor in its value, though not all collectors will place such a high demand on perfect-mint guns. Whether you are interested in restored guns is also a matter of personal preference. The rarity, while important, is not going to be an exclusive determiner of price. Unless there is very high demand for a gun, rarity alone will not be very significant. Finally, many firearms have value as art pieces. For example, ceremonial guns that were given as gifts to foreign dignitaries are often highly ornate and gilded in precious metals such as gold and silver.
The best place to start building your collection is in the gun auctions listed on iCollector.