Auction items 

Gun auctioneer reaches out to Texas for ‘world’s best gun culture’

Illinois collectible firearms dealer, Rock Island Auction Co., prepares to expand into Dallas-Fort Worth to capitalize on growing interest in antique and rare guns and hobby culture Texas firearms.

Rock Island Auction, a company based near Moline, Illinois. $121 million in annual sales, is taking over a former Walmart building in Bedford with plans to bring its live and virtual auction events to the area as early as 2023.

Rock Island sold notable firearms, including the Colt Single Action Army revolver that John Wayne used in the film. true bravery, which sold for more than $500,000, and a pair of flintlock pistols worn by Alexander Hamilton during the Revolutionary War, which fetched $1.15 million at auction last year.

Interest in guns is at an all-time high, Rock Island Auction President Kevin Hogan said, not just because of the political climate around guns, but because of the frenzy around all collectibles, from art to trading cards.

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“It’s hotter than ever,” said Hogan, who moved to North Texas to oversee work on the new facility. “But obviously guns are polarizing; the second amendment is polarizing.

Rock Island has purchased the former Walmart space at 3600 E. Harwood Road, which has 89,000 square feet, along with an adjacent mall where it hopes to attract restaurants and retail businesses that will complement several live auctions by year. Auctions typically attract over 1,000 customers to the company’s location in Ilinois.

Documents filed with Bedford indicate the facility could employ up to 155 people, but Hogan said that’s a promising number that would depend on the facility operating at full capacity.

Design and construction of the Bedford building won’t be complete until 2023, and Hogan said it could take even longer due to pandemic-era hiccups in the supply chain and building trades.

The building will include a gun showroom, auction room, vault and offices, as well as shipping space.

“I believe we’re going to build the best auction house in the world,” Hogan said.

When that is done, the owners of Rock Island Auction plan to roughly double the capacity of their Illinois facility and give the company a new geographic footprint in the southern United States.

“We’re not in a huge market where we are in Illinois, and Texas is huge,” Hogan said. “And Texas has the best gun culture in the world.”

Rock Island Auction does not sell a lot of firearms at retail, and the company specializes in collectible and antique guns and accessories. It sold about 48,000 guns last year, Hogan said, many from historic conflicts such as World War I, World War II and the Civil War. It also sells thousands of knives, military items, and artwork.

The company’s first auction in May had sales of around $30 million, and the average firearm costs around $5,000.

While interest in collectible firearms has grown in recent years, Hogan said the industry has sometimes been frowned upon due to the gun controversy. Meanwhile, video games and trading cards are selling at record prices while guns, despite historical ties, are selling for less.

In Bedford, the company hopes to take advantage of access to DFW International Airport, about 2 miles from the planned site, and the state’s favorable policy attitude towards firearms.

“Illinois gun laws are stricter than most,” Hogan said, noting that moving to Texas is “protective against whatever politics might come up.”

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