Guns aren’t just a job for Matt Whitmire of Whitesboro. Whitmire, who owns the gun store Past and Blast in Whitesboro, also collects firearms.
His personal collection consists of a couple hundred guns and is valued at between $200,000 and $300,000.
The fascination with guns likely began, Whitmire said, in his youth in front of the television watching westerns like “Gunsmoke” with his family and his favorite show, “The Rifleman.”
But the collecting didn’t start until about 20 years ago. Whitmire said he can’t really remember exactly when or where or why he bought the first gun, but it was likely a Winchester or a Colt.
A lot of what he has now, he said, are considered antiques — which is anything made prior to 1898.
“It’s technically not even considered a firearm according to the ATF laws,” Whitmire said.
As for why he is fascinated with those particular guns, Whitmire said the answer is easy.
“They are the guns that won the West. I was always intrigued by them.”
Love of the history of those particular guns isn’t the only reason he collects them.
“They are an investment,” he said.
For that investment, he looks for guns that are good condition.
“It’s all about the condition,” he said, explaining that having supporting material also adds to the value of the gun. For instance, his most prized gun is a single-action Colt.
“On Colt it is important to have a letter,” Whitmire said. A letter can be a document from a research company or from the manufacturer that states when the gun was made and a lot of other characteristics of the gun. It may also state when the gun was sold, to whom and where it was sent after the sale. “And anything that goes into New Mexico territory or letters to Texas are all important. You can raise the value of a Colt by 25 percent depending on where it was shipped to.”
His is a later model gun, but he has a letter proving that it was shipped to Oklahoma.
“It’s a factory-engraved Colt, it letters that way, and it has factory ivory grips on it and letters that way, which is important,” he explained. He also has photos of an Oklahoma Sheriff carrying that firearm in approximately 1950 or so. The gun is worth around $20,000.
As one might expect, that gun isn’t one that Whitmire would take out for target practice. But that doesn’t mean he can always resists the urge to use some of the guns in the collection that way.
“I am proud of them,” he said. So proud, in fact, that he moved his business last year to the old Landmark Bank, which used to be the Security Bank.
“I moved the shop across the street, not because I wanted to expand the gun shop, but because I wanted the vault, all of the other stuff just came with it.”
He said there was a time when people would display gun collections in gun cases or racks on the walls. But now they have to be more secured.
“So people put them in safes now, and you never see them.”
But he wasn’t collecting the guns just to have them locked away in a safe where no one could ever see or touch them.
“Now I have vaults and I have them all lined up, and you can go in daily if you want and look at them and pick them up. They are all fully accessible, so it’s really been perfect for me.”
Whitmire said his collection has grown to the point where he probably isn’t looking to expand it.
“If anything, I would probably downsize and liquidate out some of the lesser quality ones and keep the better ones,” he said.