Books in Review – December 2016 Bonus

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The Stories Behind the Treasures of World War II: “The Making of a Collectorholic,” by Bill Shea (ISBN: 978-1-4951-8360-7, Ruptured Duck Publications, 51 Morgan Road, Hubbardston, MA 01452; 978.928.4495, billshea@tiac.net; www.therupturedduck.com. Hardcover, 9-3/8” x 12-3/8”, 360 pages, 600 color and black-and-white photos, 2016, $100.)

Winter’s coming. Unlike the warning from a famous HBO series, I remind you of the upcoming season of long nights so you will consider investing in your reading material right now. And on the top of the stack for cozily reading next to the fire and enjoying like a smooth glass of cognac, is the tell-all volume by one of the hobby’s biggest celebrities, Bill Shea.

Known to many as “Mr. Bill,” everyone who has been in the hobby for any length of time during the past 30 or 40 years, will recognize the name of his business, “The Ruptured Duck.”

Bill has been a collector of militaria since 1959 and a world-class militaria dealer since the late 1960s when he began attending gun shows and publishing printed catalogues. His profession as a history teacher and passion for interacting with veterans since being a young boy has given him the opportunity to gain a real perspective on the stories behind the artifacts. In this new book, he recalls – in uncanny detail – many of the escapades that has led to his becoming a world-class dealer and collector.

How many of us have heard, “You oughta write a book,” when we wax poetic about pieces in our collection? Thankfully, Bill heeded the lament of the many visitors to his inner sanctum over the years.

The Stories behind the Treasures is akin to a look behind the sunglasses of a professional poker player. Bill reveals all of the secrets and amusing anecdotes that have turned a passion for the art of the deal into a collection of such significance that most museums would be loathe to try to surpass.

This is a book for reading and enjoying. But unlike a history or even a good novel, this book is written by a collector for collectors. Bill didn’t become “Mr. Bill” to an entire generation of collectors by not knowing what makes us tick. Each chapter reveal various paths to collecting that include many of the obstacles each of has encountered: Missing the deal, cars loaded with artifacts that break down on the way to shows, chance encounters that turn in collector rewards, and other stories of the “one got away.” You see, Bill has written a memoir that includes all the steps of becoming a “collectorholic:” Gatherer, accumulator, hoarder, dealer, and finally, the curator of a collection of which most of us can only dream.

Many of the adventure anecdotes in this book are hallmarked by some stupendous discover, be it Erwin Rommel’s uniform, Vicktor Lutze’s fender pennant, an NSKK Deutschland Erwache standard from the Führerbau, or the bronze eagle from atop Hitler’s office at the same place. The stories in the book will keep you engrossed as Bill shares all the details about the hunt, discovery, near misses, and finally the bagging of each of his WWII quarry.

The Stories is not an act of vanity, but the product of one of the most important steps of becoming a privileged caretaker of significant military relics – compiling the stories that go with the relics before they are lost to the ages. Fortunate for the rest of us, Mr. Bill happens to be the curator of some of the most stunning and fascinating relics of WWII.

This is the book that you will want to get back to when the day is done, night has fallen, and the cold winter wind is blowing. You will savor The Stories Behind the Treasures of World War II as you bask in the sometimes familiar, often jaw-dropping, always entertaining tales of a “collectorholic” – a guy just like you. –JAG    

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US Allied Military Knives, Book 1: M3’s and M4’s, by Bill Walters (ISBN: 9781618500878, Bill Walters, 502.245.5466, billwalters1948@gmail.com. Hardcover, 8-7/8” x 11-1/4”, 197 pages, 140 color images, 2016, $116-price includes Priority Mail shipping)

If you thought you were close to finishing your M3 and M4 collection, take a moment to reconsider. Bill Walters worked with input from Vince Coniglio to produce the most comprehensive book available on M3 and M4 knives. It includes all the known variants of the M3 trench knife, M6 sheath, and M4 knife-bayonet variations, along with descriptions of the knives and scabbards. Whether you are a beginner or advanced collector, the life-like, detailed photos and info-filled captions will provide you with the knowledge to participate in this field of collecting.

For example, the first “chapter” (nearly three quarters of the book) covers all of the known variants of the M3, the scabbards used with the knife, examples of (issued) boxed knives, fakes, as well as post-WWII production and commemorative knives. A collector will be better armed after carefully studying  the photographs in this section as well as the many original factory documents and drawings that accompany them. Each of the known variants is given a rarity rating from 1-5. Each rating is clearly delineated and explained, with a “1” indicating commonly available M3s and “5” being reserved for “samples, prototypes, and one-of-a-kind M3s.”

The second section of the book is dedicated to the M4. Walters encourages collectors in this arena, remarking, “M4s represent an excellent area for collecting. Mint and boxed M4s are still available at very reasonable prices.” All the of the variants he has observed since acquiring his first knife in 1972 are included. To teach the reader all of the nuances, he has included photos that show pommel and guard stampings in addition to great, full-length images of knives and M8 and M8A1 scabbards. Like the previous section, he has assigned rarity ratings to the M4s, this time ranging from 1 to 3.

This book is a fantastic, stand-alone guide to collecting the M3 and M4. Self-published and printed in the USA, numbers of copies are limited. So, whether you are a dedicated knife collector or just want  to stay on top of the most current research, don’t hesitate to add this to your library.  For less than the price of a single knife, this book will help you avoid costly collecting mistakes. – JAG

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