Where are you guys seeing SKSs like this for $500? That seems low to me.
Pre Sino-Albanians(1-2 years ago), I would have placed the value on this maybe as high as 700-800 as these were actually very rare. In todays market with the glut of SKS's that just hit the shores, I sadly agree that it is way undervalued at $500.
OK ... it hasn't been 24 hours yet, but I'll go ahead with the follow-up.
As several people have guessed, this is an early 1956 Sino-Soviet. With the exception of some minor handling marks, it's pretty much in like-new condition. In this case, the photos don't make it look as good as it is in person. It has not been refinished. This is in as-built condition, and still shows signs of cosmoline in the cracks, crevices, and hidden places.
This is the first firearm that I've ever actually bought at a pawn shop, even though I've looked at a whole bunch of them. I got it out of state a couple of days ago. When I asked the pawn shop owner if I could look at it (on a wall rack behind the counter), she handed it to me, saying that it was a Norinco. I looked it over, told her it was a Sino-Soviet, and she lowered the price $50 (?!). OK ....
I walked out of the shop with her probably thinking that some sucker had paid toward the high-end for a Norinco. [Edit - No, it's not for sale. Yes, I paid in the range of what anyone else here would have jumped on ... less than most. While I hesitate to put a "value" on the rifle and sound greedy, I think that it would realistically run north of $700 ... perhaps to $900+ ... if put on gunbroker right now. The glut of Sino-Soviet SKSs has lowered the value of of that type of rifle in average condition, but it's also increased awareness and interest. Condition is everything, and this one is about as good as you are gonna find.]
A couple of other shops in that area had told me that a Korean War era military guy had been parting out a collection of several hundred guns one or two at a time. I saw a couple of that guy's at another shop ... some rare, and some not, but all interesting and most in top condition. This may have been one of his.
The importation stamp has been slightly misinterpreted in a lot of sources--most ending up on the internet--but this is why I don't mind import stamps. They can sometimes tell some pretty neat stories.
"CJA" was not, according to Sui Chan, its president, owned by China Jing An (also seen as China Jingan, China Jin An, China Jin'an, China Jing Ahn, and other variations). Chan insisted that they were separate, and China Jin An did not run his business, but that he was just a foreign importer who set up shop in America to make money. There were several such import companies set up throughout the U.S., bringing in arms and ammo. Chan did openly admit that he did a lot of business with China Jing An, but the Southfield,* MI business owner denied any direct link with the Chinese exporters. [*Not Smithfield, as is stated in one online source ... Southfield is a Detroit suburb.]
At least one of the Chinese importers of Norinco and other arms (can't recall his name now) was a major contributor to the Clinton campaign from Atlanta. He became close enough to be invited to "insider" events where he was able to talk with the president. It's my guess that, thinking the U.S. worked the way things did in China, these political payoffs would get the government to look the other way. If so, it didn't work.
Most of the firearms that CJA imported from China Jing An did originally come from China Northern Industrial Corporation ("Norinco") and from Polytech, the major supplier to the Chinese military. So we have CJA, the allegedly independent importer; China Jing An, the exporter; and two, or more, manufacturers. The majority of what CJA (and the other companies in the US) brought in were legal AK-47 and SKS rifles, plus various Norinco copies of Tokarevs, etc. They also brought in tons of ammo. The feds were more than a little alarmed that American citizens were able to by this many arms, of this sort, at affordable prices. In a later sting operation, they rounded up a number of principals from other importers and charged them with bringing in full-auto AKs and other weapons with the intention of selling them to gangs.
CJA does not seem to have been part of that sting (Operation Dragon Fire), but various sources claim they'd also tried to sell illegal weapons to gangs. By the time of that sting, CJA was not doing as well financially as its counterparts in California, New Jersey, Atlanta, and elsewhere--I'm guessing because the economy in that part of the country was not doing very well at all. In addition to claiming that China Jing An was exporting full-auto weapons to US importers (run by Chinese), the U.S. also claimed that China was selling materials to Iran that would further their ability to build nuclear weapons. The result was a shut down of arms exports from China. Most of the Chinese importers managed to flee the country and avoided arrest.
But why is China Jing An of interest, whether or not they ran CJA in Michigan? The answer is that they were a commercial arm set up by The People's Armed Police, under the umbrella of The People's Liberation Army. The PAP was, for example, charged with quelling riots, and it was they who were in the tanks at Tienamin Square when the student protests were launched. The objective of China Jing An was to make enough money exporting arms that they could upgrade their own equipment--something that they did fairly well.
Most of what they exported and sold were new firearms manufactured by Norinco, Polytech, and ammo manufacturers, but a few of the arms that they shipped out came from their own stocks of outdated surplus. This SKS was most likely a rifle that came from their stores of police rifles that were obsolete, and that they wanted to upgrade. There were a few, but not many, of these Sino-Soviets that were in the mix. The overwhelming majority of the SKSs exported by them were later-manufacture Norincos.
This organizational export chart is from the March 4, 1993, Washington Post ... about the time that this rifle was probably imported.