by Peter Suciu
There are many “gun shows” around that country that have close to 1,000 tables. With all due respect to the show organizers, many of these feature tables of beef jerky, hunting supplies and enough SKS rifles to outfit a company of soldiers. There is nothing wrong with those shows, but for collectors of militaria, those shows just mean more walking and scanning while seeking out the few tables that offer some actual “history.”
Then there is the Baltimore Antique Arms Show—truly the crown jewel of antique firearms and associated militaria. This year, the Baltimore Antique Arms Show, which is held each March by the Maryland Arms Collectors Association, celebrated its 59th year. Not only is it one of the oldest shows in the country, it is also one of the largest.
“What makes this such a good show is that it has been held annually for 59 years, and we have created a show that is set apart from many others,” said Maryland Arms Collectors Association President Warner Sumpter. “The show increased in size four to five years ago to about 1,100 tables. We don’t need—or really want—to grow bigger.”
For that reason, even long-time attendees can expect to see new items for sale and fresh faces behind the tables.
“Each year, we hold a post-show meeting to go over what went right and what went wrong,” Sumpter told Military Trader. “We also review table requests from dealers, so that we don’t have too many of one thing at the show. For example, we don’t want too many book dealers or too many of a particular category.”
What attendees can expect is to find some of the finest militaria offered, with a focus on pre-1898 long guns, swords, armor, and other arms from around the world. The show does strictly enforce a no-post 1898 handgun policy—not even WWI Lugers!
“It is really the dealers that make it such a good show,” Sumpter added.
In addition, the Maryland Arms Collectors Association works hard to keep history alive with unique displays – and even honors the display holders with special awards. The association, which is a non-profit organization, also annually gives away as much as $70,000 a year to various historic groups and museums.
“It is about a lot more than just the items you’ll see on tables in the hall,” said Sumpter. “We like history, and we want to keep it alive!”