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As the thread title says. When do you get one when is not worth it? I have some older Colt revolvers and semi-autos and have always wondered about the history behind them. Are they NIB? No, and all have seen honest use and have not been abused and I still shoot them. Each one spoke to me in a different way when I found them at gun shops, pawn shops and gun shows. As we have all said before, if only the gun could talk.
 

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I wonder the same thing. My two colts are a Trooper MK III from the mid to late 70's (I think) and a Colt Detective from the late 1960's. I keep wondering whether or not to spend the money for the letter from Colt......... maybe I will, at least for the Trooper.
 

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Personally, I'd consider any gun made after WWII that has nothing unusual about it, or anything unusual that doesn't look like something Colt would do as a poor candidate for an Archive letter.
Most post-war guns are going to show shipment to a big gun distributor. The newer the gun, the lower the chance of anything interesting.

Where you find interesting info is on per-war guns, the earlier the better the possibility of finding something interesting, especially with Single Actions and 1911's.
 

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Ideally I will eventually get letters on everything. My path has been to start with letters on more historic / interesting pieces and 'work backwards' from there.

A fair warning though: Letters are addictive! Once you get one you will want more.
 

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On most of the 1911 and 1911A1 Colt military pistols there is a lot of the same information on them in books. I have a few of the military pistols lettered, but normally I already know that the original shipping destination was a little different. The highest percentage of the Colt Model 1911 and 1911A1 pistols went to Springfield Armory.

Most any Colt pistol or revolver with something out of the ordinary is a good candidate for a letter.
 

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Viper. Many Cobra's were fitted with surplus Viper barrels and sold as Vipers. 2nd, 3" Python. Again, there were many Python's with 3" barrel changes.
 

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I think that obtaining a Letter or not, would depend on one's interest or purpose or reason for doing it.

If it is done as a 'Gamble', betting/wagering in effect, the cost of the 'Letter' against the possible gain in value for the Arm, were it to have a demonstrated original provenance to a famous person or group or Business or something, then, one will either 'win' or 'loose' the bet...or one will win or loose by degree.

If it is done to see if the Gun 'Letters' to have the same features as it has now, then, one will ( probably ) find out if it was shipped with the Barrel Length, Finish, Stocks, Calibre/Cartridge designation, or whatever else, as one notes it to have now.


If it is just to see who or where it was originally shipped to, because one is curious to know, and one feels the cost of finding out is worth it, just to see, with no special hopes about it, then, one would find that out.


The Few Colts I have, which I would be tempted to Letter, would be ones from the early 1900s. It would be fun and interesting to see who or where they originally Shipped to...but, I have not tried it yet.
 

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I get a letter on every Colt I have. You never know what you will learn. Sometimes there is a real (good) surprise. Many revolver letters are only $75. With most nice Colts worth ten times that and up, it does not seem that unreasonable to me. I believe it enhances the value more than the cost in most cases, and at least breaks even on common guns that do not produce a (good) surprise.

(Apologies to anyone offended by my "delivery.")
 

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I don't have anywhere near the knowledge of most of the guys here but from personal experience I'd be mighty surprised if you could actually lose money on lettering a pre-WW II Colt unless it revealed the gun had been messed with.
 

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I'll repeat myself from an earlier discussion:

The bad thing about a letter is to find out your new, one of a kind factory three tone nickel, 3 9/16" barrel with factory MOP grips and diamond studs imbedded in the factory engraving and was sent directly NIB to the Little Big Horn started out life as a blue, 6" in a brown box and went to a hardware store in New Jersey. Don't ask how I know. Thanks, Joe​
 

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I get some firearms in from time to time with Archive letters and it baffles me as to why. I have a 4" Anaconda in the box (Label intact and matching the gun) with a Letter! I understand the rare and questionable but it seems some people just like the letter. To each their own. It's their money and if you want a letter so be it.
 

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I have ONE letter though I'll probably letter my 1936 M1908 .380 (99%) w/box numbered to pistol and my 1940 OMT .38 as they are pre-war and both display high condition. Now about that ONE letter...I purchased a Colt Custom Shop SAA .38-40 sporting a 4" barrel w/ejector NIB from Carol Wilkerson. So WHY letter this as knew where it came from and knew the configuration and mfg date and where it shipped? Well, Don Wilkerson was a renowned author of SAA books and back in the mid 90's he ordered 250 SAA's with 4" and 3 1/3" barrels in various calibers, stocks and engraving. After Don's passing Carol kept the tradition alive. My dear friend and forum member rayb tells me I really need to get this .38-40 as he's drooling over it and needs the temptation removed. I emailed Carol about availability, she still has it, I call and pulled the trigger after a pleasant discussion about Colts and gun shows, etc. Wonderful and most genteel woman I might add.

I lettered this revolver for it's configuration and the fact it was a Wilkerson ordered and shipped SAA, in my mind this adds value now and years from now. There are only so many Custom Shop Wilkerson SAA's and I'm proud to own one. I was asked, once, "Are you sure that's a 4" SAA in .38-40?" My answer was " Yes and lettered as such" and rayb even chimed in and said "Yep, and I held it too". That's my story, that's my reason. Might not mean squat to anyone else.
 

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I recently bought a Colt New Line 32 here (beautiful gun....thanks again, Mitch).. Later I was looking in an older Blue Book and in the Colt New Line section it says that a potential buyer should get a Colt Letter on this model. I'm not concerned about the authenticity of mine but were these little revolvers often faked or would there be some other reason for the Blue Book to have this cautioning statement?
 

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Finding out from Colt that you have a ringer is better than finding out 10 years later. You can probably get something done by the seller if you have proof from Colt that you have a fake. Seems to make good sense to me to find out as soon as possible, which is the reason for getting a letter on a Colt with features out of the ordinary.
 

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I letter all my Colt revolvers , and "pre-" Smith Magnums, even if won't increase value, because it's fun to see their origins.This a hobby, and it's supposed to be fun. If it's not , you're doing it wrong.
If I was a dealer, looking to increase the value of my wares, would be a different story however .
 

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I was thinking about getting one for my 1903 First Version (w/ barrel bushing) not much of a looker but may have some history...

 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks for all the replies. I am not trying to gamble, just interested in the history of the guns. The letters will at least give me some history of the pre-war pistols that I have.
 
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