I am still unpacking from a two-week long exodus that took me to the Battlefield Show in St. Paul and then out to Monroeville, Pa., for the 24th Annual MAX. These two shows came right on the heals of the Annual Fall Party sponsored by the Military Vehicle Preservation Group of Spooner, Wis.
All of this travel has come at a time when the United States — as well as many other nations — are in economic upheaval. Though I have never thought of myself as having my finger on the pulse of anything, much less the state of the economy, many collectors stopped me to ask my opinion on the “health of the hobby.”
Well, I can only report what I have seen. Military vehicle sales have seemed to slow down. Big trucks are abundant, but the buyers are not equal to the number. Smaller vehicles seem to be in demand — no big surprise there!
However, supply of armor has not met demand and prices continue to rise. I have heard some outlandish prices paid for a Sherman, a USM1917 and even a Panther. Outlandish by 1990s standards but the “norm” for the 21st century.
On the militaria front, the ripples of the economy might be even more acute. Supply of common stuff is surpassing demand and dealers haven’t realized that to make sales, they will have to drop prices. Competition is good for the hobby! I bought a number of M1917 helmets recently in the $30-$40 range from dealers. These guys understand global economics.
Quality, rare stuff continues to grow in value, though. This should not come as a surprise. In times of economic hardship, the rich still have money to spend on their passions.
The surprise of the MAX show? Militaria from the non-traditionally collected nations (Bulgaria, Turkey, Czechoslovakia and Poland) was selling well! Other items I saw moving at a profitable clip included inert ordnance and demilitarized MGs (was party to a the sale of an MG08/15 and a second 08 on a sled mount).
I heard many Third Reich dealers saying sales were off this year … one saying as much as 20 percent less than a year ago. On the other hand, I was disgusted to hear one dealer boast how he wasn’t going to be “screwed by the Europeans again this year,” so had increased all of his prices by 20 percent. At the end of the show, I heard the same guy complaining how poor sales had been. Well, duh. No sympathy from me!
I spent a good deal of time at the MAX with my friends from Belgium, Spain and Holland. They all commented that the “buying frenzy” in which they participated at last year’s show simply didn’t re-emerge. Though they still found some bargains, they felt that the “European invasion” of the American militaria market had passed. The “gold rush” was over for them.
So, my concluding thoughts on the health of the hobby? I left for the shows with more than five grand in my pocket . . . I returned with $500. As far as I can tell, the state of the hobby is alive, fervent and healthy!
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine