West Coast Historical Militaria Collectors Show Wrap-Up
by Peter Suciu
For anyone who remembers the “Great Western,” the largest gun show west of the Mississippi, those were truly the “good old days.” It was a show that wasn’t just an ordinary gun show. For one thing, it took place in California before the introduction of the state’s gun laws. For another, it was spread out over several buildings and tents.
The show grew in size until a 1999 ban on gun shows forced it to move. While the show ‘lived on’ with a move to Las Vegas, it wasn’t the same. Eventually, it was gone.
Today, the Great Western couldn’t go on – at least not at the Los Angeles State Fair Grounds in Pomona, California. The state’s unique take on firearms have all but killed gun shows in California. In some ways, however, the Great Western does live on, thanks to Vintage Production’s West Coast Historical Militaria Collectors Show
Held each May in the Fair Grounds, the show’s “greatness” increases just a bit each year. It started small, but has become the largest military collectible show in the west. And it couldn’t really be any place else except the Fair Grounds.
“We’re here because of the nostalgia,” said Bob Chatt of Vintage Productions and organizer of the show. “This just brings back such great memories of the Great Western. The show has grown nicely and we like it here. We hope to get bigger each year.”
While the show will likely continue to grow, it has already reached a “comfortable” level with plenty to see. It is increasingly attracting dealers from parts near and far.
“This is the only show I do now in California,” said Larry Ewing of Barbarossa Books. “While there are local shows for me in Portland, Oregon, I don’t nearly as well back home as I do when I come down here.”
Ewing, who admits that technology – with devices such as tablet computers and e-readers – continue to slowly eat away at traditional books, real history buffs still appreciate paper. Moreover, many older military history books exist only in the dead tree format. At this year’s show, he trekked down with a lot of books and found sales to be steady.
“I come down here to see the family as well as sell at the show,” he told Military Trader. “But even if I just came for the show it would still be profitable.”
This year’s show saw great weather – a noted contrast to those shows back east – with a nice variety of offerings from American Civil War to the modern day. Sales were also picking up from a sluggish start earlier this year.
“I have had a good show,” Chris Siler told Military Trader. “I sold several German helmets in the first hour, so I think the German stuff is coming back and the prices are rising again.”
Beyond the dealers the show caters to re-enactors and museums, and this year included displays from the Fort MacArthur Museum and the USS Iowa Battleship Museum.
While it is a show that is smaller than some of the larger shows back east – notably Louisville’s Show of Shows (SOS) or the Baltimore Antique Arms Show – it is akin to the third jewel in the Triple Crown of spring time shows. If SOS starts the year of great shows, this is the one that caps it.
More images from the West Coast Show: