What will be the hot military items in 2016? Trends in the military hobby are not always difficult to predict: Items that soldiers were eager to find as souvenirs have become the hot collectibles today. For example, German Luger pistols and Japanese “Samurai” swords were probably the most popular souvenir during WWII. Today, these remain some of the most sought-after pieces.
There are some growth areas in the hobby, however, that may not be as obvious. Without the use of any viable crystal ball, I will attempt to predict some of the areas of our hobby that will see increased activity in 2016, in no particular order:
WWII Army Air Force Material
While collectors spend a great deal of their efforts gathering WWII collectibles, one specific area that has been gaining a lot of attention are uniforms, medals, and equipment associated with the Army Air Corps and United States Army Air Force of WWII. Uniform groups featuring flight gear such as leather jackets, flying helmets, and goggles will be fast sellers. Fighter and bomber pilots’ materials will draw premium prices.
In 2015, we saw the first HMMWVs sold at surplus auctions in nearly 30 years. While prices stayed high during past year, supply is catching up with demand. Prices will begin to drop and more collectors will finally be able to add a Hummer to their stable.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program’s last large, accessible stockpile of surplus M1 “Garand” rifles is beginning to dry up. This is occurring at the same time that the number of shooters, collectors, and reenactors is on a big rise. Demand will be high for these rifles, with out-of-this-world prices paid for very early, matching number examples.
Full Automatic Machine Guns
The same can be said for full auto machine guns as M1 rifles: The supply is decreasing while the demand rises every year. Whereas $4K will still buy you a 9mm full-auto, those days are fast fading. We will see a lot more demand for full-auto MGs in 2016 than there are guns to meet it.
Third Reich Auxiliary Group Items
Think, “NSFKK,” “NSBO,” “Org Todt,” “Hitler Youth,” and even “Stahlhelmbund.” Until recently, these auxiliary groups have been overlooked, but they are gaining in popularity, mainly because these can be affordable subsections to collect. For $600, a person can assemble a decent small collection that focuses on one of a myriad of Third Reich organizations and still feel a strong connection to the history of WWII.
2014 marked the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the Great War, and Europeans (and I am lumping the English with them) were “all hands on deck” for the festivities. While there has been heavy demand for non-US material, there has been a steady increase of interest in US WWI material. Interest in USMC, Aviation, American Field Service, female auxiliaries, and Tank Corps will remain the staple of the US collecting world, though premiums will be paid for any large “group” with strong provenance. Painted helmets, named medals, cloth insignia, and quality studio portraits will gather more attention during 2016.
Anything associated with “elite” combat soldiers has always been popular in the hobby. This will continue in 2016, but with an increased demand. Along with it, however, will come a surge of fake and dubious materials. Because of the very nature of special operations, much of the gear, uniforms, insignia, and weapons tend to have unique characteristics that makes it hard for collectors lock into criteria for establishing authenticity. So, while you will be tempted to buy in this arena, be extremely cautious.
PREDICTIONS ARE WORTH THEIR WEIGHT
As my Dad would say, “My predictions and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee.” (He had a hard time believing a cup of coffee now goes for a buck, so adjust his quote accordingly). I always tell people, “If you are investing, buy gold, guns, or ammo—avoid military relics.” But if you want to buck the hobby rule of “Buy high and sell low,” have at it…my predictions are provided, “free of charge” (but I would take a cup of that nickel-coffee!).