10 Questions about ASMIC and Insignia Collecting
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. This month, we had the privilege to talk with James “Jim” McDuff. Most will recognize his name in association with quality, historic cloth and metal insignia. A prolific author, he is the current president of the American Society of Military Insignia Collectors (ASMIC).
Jim has collected militaria since 1950 when his father (Col. M.A. McDuff) was recalled into the US Army (he served in WWII from 1940 to 1946). Jim served in the US Army as an Engineer officer from 1964 to 1970, and left the Army as a Captain with overseas tours in Thailand & Vietnam.
Jim collects US Army insignia specializing in all insignia of US Army Engineer units in the Vietnam War plus 35th Infantry Division insignia and uniforms from WWI to the present.
He is the co-owner of K&M Collectibles, Inc. In addition, he is very active in the Boy Scouts (he and his sons are all Eagle Scouts). He is also very active as a member of the Board of Governors on the National WWI Museum and Monument in Kansas City, Missouri.
With this very strong, diverse background, Jim has developed a very good sense of the ebs and flows of the hobby. We are pleased to offer his response to our “10 Questions on the Insignia Collection Hobby.”
Military Trader: As President of the American Society of Military Insignia Collectors, you feel any changes in the hobby. Tell us, if you can, about the overall health of the insignia hobby in the United States.
Jim McDuff: Massive changes in recent years include:
a. The internet has greatly expanded access to many sources of detailed, accurate information on military history, insignia, etc.
b. Far fewer young people want to collect militaria. With a smaller US military, only a small percentage of families have members who have served or ever will serve in our military, thus no personal family history and no interest.
c. Large numbers of replica/ fake insignia.
d. Membership levels in ASMIC, as with all hobby, social and military related societies and associations have dropped greatly.
e. Overall, ASMIC is trying several ways to attract new members.
Military Trader: How would you characterize a “typical” medal collector today? How has that person’s collecting habits changed in the last thirty years?
Jim McDuff: The typical collector today is over 50 years old, served in the US Military, and has family members who are / were veterans of WWII, Korea, or Vietnam. Most started collecting as a kid.
While there are new, younger collectors, they make up a very small percentage of the total.
Buying and collecting habits have changed including, but not limited to the use of computers.
Military Trader: ASMIC seems to really be committed to publishing. Can you tell us how the publishing program started and how it is maintained today? How do potential authors work with ASMIC to produce new articles or publications?
Jim McDuff: ASMIC publishing is an important part of the education goal of our society. Anyone (members or non members) can purchase our books and catalogs. We proudly publish our quarterly magazine (The Trading Post) in color with great articles on military history and insignia.
We have two society members who serve as editors of the Trading Post and our quarterly “Newsletter.” We also have dozens of insignia catalogs developed by ASMIC members.
We also assist authors in publishing and selling high quality insignia reference books. Information on our publications is available on our website (asmic.org).
Military Trader: ASMIC has a very large, interesting library. Tell us about the ASMIC’s lending program.
Jim McDuff: We have a long-established library (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org). We do not loan our reference books but can provide copies of pages with specific requests.
Military Trader: Not everyone may know that you have authored several publications on insignia. Apparently, your writing career spans back into the 1980s Tell us about the impetus to write these books and how you managed to find the time to write them while working full-time, as well.
Jim McDuff: My first book, US Army Enlisted Men’s Collar Insignia 1907 to 1972, was published in 1972. I have released a total of 5 editions of this book as new insignia was added and updates were needed.
I have also released a companion book, US Army Officers Collar Insignia. I have also authored two books on US Army insignia of the Vietnam War. In addition, I have assisted in numerous other books and articles in the ASMIC Trading Post.
This all started in the 1970s when I could not find reference books on collar brass or other insignia. I worked with ASMIC and many of my collector friends to develop accurate reference books.
Military Trader: Give us the full sales pitch for becoming a member of ASMIC. Why should a person with an interest in insignia invest in ASMIC?
Jim McDuff: Why join ASMIC? That’s easy:
a. Excellent, accurate information on insignia is available via our publications and our website. Plus, we now have a “forum” on line.
b. A good source to find locations and dates for upcoming “military shows.”
c. Meet new friends and fellow collectors.
Military Trader: Tell us about the role of the Annual Convention. Can you give us a sneak-peek into what to expect in Portland, Oregon, this coming September 16-17, 2016? Tell us what you mean by the “Tri-Convention.”
Jim McDuff: This year’s convention will be held in Portland, Oregon, on September 16-17. Held in a different location each year, it is a military show with 300-400 tables of insignia, uniforms, etc. for sale, plus exhibits of individual collections and seminars where attendees can to learn more about specific fields of militaria collecting.
We also hold our ASMIC annual business meeting at the Convention.
Military Trader: What do you see as your primary role as President of ASMIC?
Jim McDuff: The role of the President is two-fold:
a. Meet the current goals of the society in respect to finances, membership, publications, and the annual convention. The President must work closely with other militaria collecting groups.
b. Develop and implement ideas and plans to improve the society. This means being prepared to meet future challenges and opportunities!
Military Trader: We know you are a collector at heart –and one of the hobby’s great veterans. Tell us about one of your “favorite finds” during your hobby career.
Jim McDuff: I would break my “favorite finds” down into three categories:
a. Several documented groups from individual WWI or WWII veterans. I am thrilled to preserve this piece of history!
b. Assisting the families of deceased veterans to restore the insignia for that veteran to be preserved and cherished by the family.
c. Many wonderful friends and fellow collectors!
Military Trader: What advice would you give to someone who is considering collecting US or foreign insignia (or has been a longtime collector—we can all use good advice)?
Jim McDuff: I have three bits of advice to share:
a. Own and read all the reference books you can find in your field of interest. Knowledge is critical!
b. Join ASMIC or other collector groups. Experienced collectors can be a big help.
c. Develop a group of collector friends!
We are honored to interview and report on prominent players in our hobby. To learn more about The American Society of Military Insignia Collectors), log onto www.asmic.org or write: The American Society of Military Insignia Collectors, Garth Thompson, Secretary, 7350 Green Clover Cove, Germantown, TN 38138.