By Andrea Romano Bonetti
For some time now weapons of the past have piqued an interest in collectors, establishing their own space in the antiques market.
Many of the resellers nowadays exercise their activities with a composite and differentiated offer, some of the qualifying even in the sale of accurate replicas, others instead preferring objects exclusively linked to distinct historical moments, like the French epoque of Grandeur, the German militaristic period, that of the Italian Risorgimentale, both World Wars, or offence and defence materials used in ancient Japan and during the Imperial period.
With modernisation and commercial growth, even some factors and methods of determining the valuation of the objects changed. Indeed, while the practice of attributing a value based on age, rarity, and the state of conservation of an artefact has been consolidated since the times of the nineteenth-century connoisseurs, the important parameter determined by the supply and demand today brings about profound and continuous changes, in particular due to the action of new cultural influences and the affirmation of increasingly diversified tastes.
It is redundant to say that the flood of many of these objects on the antiques market and the growing demand of collectors has given rise to the development of the manufacturing of copies in the West, which once flourished only in the Far East where mass tourism was targeted.
In Italy, the ownership, the enjoyment, the possession and transport of any type of weapon are regulated by a dense and complex regulation that often disorients those who, after finding an unexpected inheritance in the attic or who are hoping to start a collection, enters into possession of these objects and want to know about the laws and duties that it entails. Although there are many types of weapons and their fields of application are articulated, it is possible to consider the interests of collectors in firearms or “cold steel” arms (blades and clubs, etc.) as being habitual. In the legislative classification, the first ones can be war, common, hunting, or sports weapons, with antique weapons in last place. With very few exceptions, firearms destined for war and functioning are for obvious reasons prohibited to collectors and those who should accidentally find one are obliged to notify public safety authorities as soon as possible. Common firearms, whether for huntings, sport or destined for self-defence (included some compressed air weapons) can be held after having received the special licence from the Ministry of the Interior and having declared them to the Police or Carabinieri.
Likewise they are subjected to the obligation of declaration and license to possess steel weapons owned, or intended to damage or injure, whether they are antiques or not.
All those who intend to collect more than eight antique, artistic, or rare arms are obliged to possess a specific license for this genre, while those who find themselves owning a smaller number are only required to declare these objects at a local public safety office or the Carabinieri barracks in their town or city of residence.
Those who also wish to transport individual pieces or entire collections within Italian borders are required to notify the same authorities.