This month, we talked with Kristian “Kris” Anderson. Most will recognize his name as one of the leading dealers in WWI and WWII militaria, specializing in Third Reich material.
Anderson has been a collector of militaria since 1960 and a militaria dealer since 2002. He began collecting at the age 8 when he was given a Japanese Samurai sword, flag, and helmet by an uncle who had been a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator. Since then, Anderson collected German and Japanese militaria whenever he had the opportunity.
Following college, Anderson was a successful salesman in the transportation industry. As a result of the success in corporate sales, he was able to build a large and valuable collection. During this time, he was able to attend the early MAX and SOS shows and met many of the leading dealers and experienced collectors we have today.
In 2002, he started the Oakleaf Militaria web site, making his collection available as the initial inventory. In 2007, he left corporate employment and chose to commit to operating Oakleaf Militaria, full-time. He has seen the hobby evolve from the days of mailing lists to today’s internet-dominated marketplace.
Military Trader: Let’s start off by asking, “With so many dealer sites and auction venues, why are you gambling on a new way for collectors to interact?
Kris Anderson: With more dealers entering the auction arena, and more collectors and families looking to sell their collectibles, I felt it was time to offer an alternative to selling through auction houses and retail-based web sites.
Military Trader: You call the new venture a “Search Service.” How can an individual utilize the service to build their collection?
Kris Anderson: The new service works in two ways: First, collectors will have an opportunity to provide their “want lists” that I will advertise through the site and mass marketing. On the other hand, collectors who are looking to thin out their collections can provide what I refer to as their “available lists.” This list will allow the collectors an opportunity to find out what their collectibles are worth by the offers they will receive through the Oakleaf service.
The difference in approach is that collectors can maintain the militaria items in their collections until they accept an offer to buy the artifact. This preludes sending articles to auction houses where they may be subject to low reserve bids or sending them to retail web sites as consignments.
Military Trader: Walk us through process of how someone can use the service to sell items.
Kris Anderson: The process is intended to work with collectors searching for specific articles to add to their collections. By entering the Oakleaf Collector Connection section listed on the menu column on the www.oakleafmilitaria.com homepage, the collector will be given a choice to go to “Offering to Sell” or “Searching to Buy.”
The Offering to Sell selection will provide the collector with what is available for him to make an offer. Upon request, the collector will receive images from the seller.
The other selection the collector can choose is, “Searching to Buy.” This will allow the collector an opportunity to see what others are looking to add to their collections. This is intended to allow collectors to consider providing articles from their own collections.
All this will be managed by Oakleaf Militaria. Oakleaf will not only manage the communications but also the payment and shipping process. Since Oakleaf accepts credit cards and other means of payment, this will facilitate the sales process on behalf of both parties. Also, both parties will remain anonymous.
Military Trader: One of the risks inherent with any third party site is that some people will use it to dump questionable material. What safeguards do you have in place to protect the buyers? What role will the new service play in guaranteeing authenticity?
Kris Anderson: Being an established militaria dealer since 2002, and a collector for many years prior to that, I’ve been allowed the opportunity to network with a good number of advanced collectors and dealers. Besides my own experience, I routinely draw on the experience of others. As I will receive images prior to forwarding to a prospective buyer, I will draw on the experience of others, when warranted.
I also maintain a large library of reference books. Receiving the items prior to forwarding to the buyer will also allow me further opportunity to inspect and, if necessary, forward my own images to others for their input.
Lastly, the buyer will be allowed an inspection period. This will allow the buyer to draw on his own resources, should he have any reservations about his purchase. I have also asked in my introduction to the section that all alterations/ repairs be disclosed prior to items being listed.
Military Trader: Tell us what your reasoning is on only featuring items valued over $3,500. Who determines the value? For example, we have all seen items on auction sites with astronomical “buy it now” prices that are far beyond the going rate. How will you keep participants from listing a $100 helmet for $3,500 just so that it appears on your site?
Kris Anderson: The $3,500 amount was an arbitrary amount determined in order for Oakleaf to receive a solid return on the investment Oakleaf will make in order for the service to be successful. With the amount of work required for the service to thrive, Oakleaf will make the necessary changes to accommodate the workload.
It will be difficult for a $100. helmet to be listed as I will be reviewing the “Available” lists and advising prospective sellers accordingly. The service is not intended for collectors looking for common items that are readily available.
Military Trader: How will this service be more attractive to a seller than, say, simply consigning the items to be sold?
Kris Anderson: There are many potential sellers in our community who are undecided if they want to sell their collectibles. As we all have to sell our collectibles in time, this service will allow collectors the opportunity to see what other collectors are willing to offer. I anticipate this will make available rare collectibles that have been in collections for many years.
Another benefit is that collectors don’t have to be concerned about sending their collectibles away to auction. They can retain the items in their collections until they receive an offer they are satisfied with. Nor do they have to be disappointed by having low reserve bids and unsold lots. Also auction houses usually require the consignor to pay the cost to return their unsold lots. This adds up. Oakleaf’s fee for the service is also considerably less than what auction houses normally charge both parties.
Lastly, the service I will offer is a faster cycle time. Having to wait several weeks for an auction to be held then and again several more weeks waiting for payment can be a long process. Potential sellers can also consign with Oakleaf Militaria, if their articles don’t sell through this Search service.
Military Trader: What risks are involved in a seller using the service? What about risks for the buyer? What measures will you take to avoid these risks?
Kris Anderson: I work hard to minimize risks to the seller and buyer. The buyer is free to research the item he has interest in prior to making an offer. He can also elect to request additional information or images.
For the seller, I think one of their risk is finding out his collectibles are not worth what he might have thought. On the other hand, he may find out the collectible is worth more. The worst case is the seller learning the collectible is a reproduction. All sales will be final after the inspection period.
Military Trader: Obviously, you’ve been working a long time on developing this service. In that time, I am sure you have already had a positive response from some of your core customers. Give us a peek behind the curtain and tell us about some of the items that will be featured in these first few months of the service.
Kris Anderson: I’ve had conversations with a number of clients who believe it’s an innovative and a great approach that will be successful. As the service is not limited in scope to a particular genre of collecting, it is anticipated as having a broad appeal to the collecting community. I will shortly be reaching out to the community through mass marketing asking to be provided with specific collector’s want list and availability list. So far, we’ve been able to attract a very rare NSKK Reiter Standarte, SA presentation dagger given to a Blood Order recipient, a Wolfgang Wiilrich folio printed by the SS, and several rare SS uniforms.
Military Trader: Let’s switch gears. Our readers love stories about collectors’ “Favorite Finds.” Tell us about what you consider one of your career favorite militaria finds.
Kris Anderson: I’ve been fortunate in having been a collector since grade school and well before the age of the internet. This allowed me the opportunity to gather collectibles through newspaper ads, friends of the family, and antique shops while traveling on vacations and shows.
I’ve had some great finds over the years with some of my premier pieces I once had in my collection being a double decal German Army paratrooper helmet, a German army Sturmgeschutz beret cover, and a near-mint SS Totenkopfring.
Being a dealer has been equally exciting, as I’ve been introduced to so much more great militaria that passes through my hands. I’ve handled some truly museum quality and world class items. In addition, I continue to meet many great people in our hobby.
Military Trader: Now, take a look in your crystal ball. How do think the hobby change in the next ten years?
Kris Anderson: I’m very optimistic the hobby is beginning a new and exciting phase as older collections are becoming increasingly available. With time, the internet giving access to these collections. We are now collecting in an international marketplace thanks to the Internet. I anticipate this will expand.
I have metric software attached to the Oakleaf web site that I review daily. I am experiencing steady growth with new viewership and customers that I find highly encouraging for our hobby. Collecting has also been made more accessible on an hourly basis with the use of laptops, smartphones and tablets. And new markets have opened up. We’re experiencing increased interest in our hobby from markets that weren’t active several years ago.
I believe my new approach to buying and selling of militaria will allow collectors to “thin-out” items they’ve had for years in order to make room for new collectibles. This is similar to trimming a bonsai tree that requires constant shaping and trimming. As collectors change so do their interests.
This new approach is in response to collectors not wanting to send away their valuable collectibles for consignment with auction houses or place their collectibles on consignment with web sites. We’re all in for a great future as more great military collectibles from all periods are made more accessible to all collectors.
To learn more about Oakleaf Militaria Inc. or view his current offerings, log onto www.oakleafmilitaria.com. You may contact Anderson at Oakleaf Militaria, P.O. Box 596, Crystal Lake, IL 60039; (815) 355-4355; firstname.lastname@example.org