The keys to gun collecting:
1. Pick a subject matter (WW1, American Martial Muzzleloaders, Nazi-Marked Pistols, The Civil War) and learn everything you can about it by reading extensively.
2. Don't "scattergun." Stick to your subject matter and become expert in it.
3. Buy only the highest-quality examples you can afford.
4. Expect to be "ripped off," at least in the first few purchases. We learn by making mistakes.
Everybody I once knew in the field is now dead. Sorry.