Brian Coates: President of the Ohio Valley Military Society
We are all in this together. In an effort to report on the state of different facets of the military collectibles market, Military Trader strives to discover and share the opinions of the hobby’s leading dealers and collectors. We had the privilege to talk with newly elected president of the Ohio Valley Military Society (OVMS), Brian Coates.
Brian has been a collector of militaria since 1979. In 2016, he was elected to be President of the OVMS. Prior to that, he had been serving as OVMS’ security officer. His wife of 30 years, Deanna has also been working at the OVMS front desk.
Brian and Deanna have three sons: Brian, Shane, and Joshua. Brian and Shane are married to Molly and Brittney and have blessed Brian and Deanna with three granddaughters Ella, Emma, and Claire.
A lifelong-resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, Brian has been attending shows since he was a child. His father took him to shows at the St. Peter and Paul Hall, the Drawbridge Motor Inn, and the Best Western. He still remembers a collector giving him a World War One German field cap cockade, saying, “Here you go kid. Start collecting!”
As the son of Houston Coates, an avid collector, you can imagine Brian saw a lot of military history pass through his home as a child. He have collected in different areas over the years, starting with WWII patches, then bayonets and daggers, or anything he could talk out of his Dad!
As an adult, he has moved onto World War One AEF items and vintage police items. He doesn’t aggressively collect any one area these day, saying, “I just pick up an item here or there whatever catches my eye because in my opinion, it’s all neat!”
As the hobby evolves, the OVMS has continued to remain at the forefront, forging new alliances and providing the opportunity for collectors to come together. We are pleased to have had the opportunity to talk to Brian and share his response to our “10 Questions about the OVMS.”
Military Trader: Congratulations on taking the helm of OVMS! While a good many collectors and dealers know about the organization already, please tell us a bit about the OVMS: When and why did it come into existence, how has it evolved, and what role does it take in the hobby today?
Brian Coates: The OVMS was established to provide a place for like-minded collectors to have a venue to pursue their militaria interests, not only in collecting but the sharing of information to educate, authenticate, and keep the hobby alive. I believe the last is the first and most important, given the unsure and political landscape of our country today.
The OVMS is always looking for ways to improve the experience and ensure there will be a place to meet and make the hobby thrive. For a complete history, please visit our web site at www.sosovms.com. There, you will find a wonder full timeline about the OVMS from the 1950s to present.
Military Trader: What tangible benefits are there in membership to the OVMS?
Brian Coates: Tangible? Where else can you walk in and find a piece of history, pick it up, learn about it, and take it home? Where else are you going to find people from around the world who share a common interest? Where can you have a place to meet, discuss, and exchange knowledge about your hobby? I believe without a doubt, membership to the OVMS provides that and more. It not only promotes a hobby, but establishes dialogue that crosses all boundaries of country, race, creed and religion.
Military Trader: What role, if any, do you feel the OVMS should take in promoting the hobby beyond its membership? Do you have specific outreach programs that will carry the OVMS message to outside audiences who are not already active in the OVMS or the hobby?
Brian Coates: That’s perhaps the hardest aspect of our hobby. Our hobby truly relies on the promotion from its members. Friends and family have been the source blood from the beginning until now. We are striving to advertise our existence and walk hand-in-hand with new technology, but word of mouth seems to be the best way to attract interest. We also have special guests and notable veterans at the SOS to share their war time experiences. Active duty service members are admitted free, so tell them you’re invited to come and share and meet people who want to hear about your experiences.
Military Trader: What roles do the OVMS Board’s directors play in the organization? Do you have any new duties that you would like the Board to take on?
Brian Coates: The officers and board members are collectors just like everyone else. They have a passion for their hobby and have lifelong friends that they have made through the OVMS over the years. Their one goal is to continue providing a place to meet to not only find that one elusive piece but to see and talk with old friends.
Military Trader: What do you see as the top three threats (if there are any) to the health of the hobby in general, and to the OVMS’ longevity in particular? How do you envision the OVMS reacting to these threats?
Brian Coates: I think this is the central question to many like organizations today. With the passing of the Greatest Generation and the fading of the Baby Boomers, who is left to collect? We have a duty to share the hobby with Generation X and the Millennials. There is a disconnect between those who remember or grew up in a collecting home and those who read about it on the internet.
To hold a piece of history in your hand and learn about its owner or purpose is nothing like reading a uninformed opinion about something they have never seen or touched! I believe without sharing, now we will have to wait until the heroes who have served our country since 911 reignite the hobby. But by then, the relics we share now will have faded away and the knowledge lost. So I think attrition, failure to pass it down, and failure to vote are, in my opinion, “the big 3.”
Military Trader: During the past decade, the hobby has had to defend against federal and state legislation that has – or would have had – the effect of curtailing personal collecting and ownership, ranging from medals to historic military vehicles. What role, if any, do you see the OVMS taking in any efforts to protect the legality of private ownership of historic military artifacts?
Brian Coates: That’s a tough one to answer. Exercising your right to vote is the single most important thing you can do today as a collector. As an organization solely purposed with providing a meeting place, we take no political stance as an organization and really do not have the resources or power to influence a governing body. We can share current conditions affecting the collecting community but state, “If you don’t like what’s going on in the government, then vote!” As long as we are free, the OVMS will be there providing a place to meet.
Military Trader: How does the OVMS support ongoing scholarship as it relates to collecting?
Brian Coates: The OVMs encourages the sharing of information. To date, we offer free educational seminars related to the hobby at our MAX shows, and we reserve space for authors and special guests that share and educate. Many of our members also have part of their collections in reference manuals for new and veteran collectors.
Military Trader: It seems that after each Show of Shows (SOS) or Military Antiques Extravaganza (MAX), the internet forums begin to buzz with reports of theft or materials lost at the show. What steps should a person take who suspects that they had items illegally removed or lost at a show. What steps does the OVMS take in responding to the initial report, subsequent prosecution and / or resolution, and protecting other members from similar situations? What plans, if any, do you have to change the OVMS’ role in these sensitive matters?
Brian Coates: Rumors and conspiracy! I chuckle a little every time this one comes up. There were no reported losses at the 2016 MAX show. Thefts at our shows are very low considering the number of people attending and number of items sometimes left unattended on tables. Most of the time, the owner has no idea what happened and sometimes the item is found at home or another box.
I am proud to say, we have had several honest members turn in items left on tables or in the parking lot. There have been a few occasions where an individual or small group have targeted our shows.
Here’s the thing, when the doors open, it’s your responsibility to protect your investments. We only provide a venue.
It’s only when the doors close do we assume the responsibility, and so far, there has never been a reported loss after hours, as long as I have been involved.
A theft is a personal matter just as if it happened in your home. Only the owner has a right to prosecute someone caught stealing.
Case in point, at the 2016 SOS, a member who was watching his investments caught an elderly man, (known to many for decades) stealing – to the surprise of everyone who knew him. Although all items were recovered, none of the owners wished to pursue criminal charges. This eliminated any right to name him or accuse him. He was banned from our shows – which was the limit of our power.
Here is what can be done. We make a report for future knowledge of anything reported as lost. We will contact the local authorities for reporting purposes. You can file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance. You can prosecute anyone caught stealing from you. We cannot prosecute on your behalf. Attempting to video record would be cost prohibitive and would still require you to identify the suspect and prosecute him. Furthermore, recording a hall of that size would be impossible to provide details clear enough for prosecution.
Finally, I am always at the show and very approachable, stop by and talk to me if there is an issue.
Military Trader: We know you are a collector at heart, one who has a long family tradition within the hobby. Tell us about one of your “favorite finds” during your hobby career.
Brian Coates: I enjoy seeing old friends and members whom I’ve known since I was a kid. I actually miss some of the older members when they can no longer attend or, regrettably, have passed away.
Some of my favorite finds aren’t always mine. Sometimes, it’s the guy who finds something on my table and can’t believe he finally found it. I’m not a high-roller, so every time I find something I want, it’s a “great find.” It might not be super rare, or a one-of-a-kind, but it’s all about the hunt!
I guess one of my favorite items was a 19th century belt buckle from my police agency. Although I didn’t find it, it found me. A longtime friend found it, and held it just for me.
Military Trader: Describe your idea of the OVMS’ role ten years from now ( 2026). What message would you deliver to all current members of the OVMS and collecting community that might guide them through the decade leading up to your idea of OVMS-2026.
Brian Coates: Keep on searching and sharing. Bring in new collectors and pass on your knowledge. The OVMS is working to improve our web site and streamline some of the administrative processes. We hope to simplify what we can and make the shows easier, rather than harder.
We encourage input and hope we can answer any questions you have. I look to the future with hope and can envision the next generation of enthusiasts is waiting to take our hobby into the next century.
“The Ohio Valley Military Society is one the oldest and largest Militaria collector’s clubs in the world with over 2,000 current members.
The primary endeavor of the Society is to promote the study and collecting of historic military artifacts by sponsoring three regularly scheduled shows a year in the Ohio Valley area.
The Ohio Valley Military Society is an Ohio corporate Society the sponsors exhibitions and educational shows where military artifacts and regalia can be bought, sold, or traded.
The society promotes the study and the discussion of military history, military artifacts, and their provenance through the collecting of military items.” – from OVMS web site.
We are honored to interview and report on prominent players in our hobby. To learn more about the Ohio Valley Military Society, including membership and show schedule, log onto www.sosovms.com; write: Ohio Valley Military Society, Inc., P.O. Box 30436 Cincinnati, Ohio 45230-0436; or call: 513-245-9540.