If you have been kicking yourself for not having purchased General George Patton’s coat hanger at a Minnesota show many years ago, I have to apologize. You see, that “rare” artifact made its debut at the very first show when I displayed as a vendor. As intriguing as it may sound, there is more to story.
MY FIRST SHOW
I was a senior in high school when I decided to send my application in to be a vendor at Bob Johnson’s 1981 “Battlefield Show” in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Only 18 years old, the idea of traveling to the Cities, staying over night at my big brother’s apartment and possibly making some money selling military relics was exciting, to say the least! I convinced my cousin and boyhood friend, “Jed” to go on the adventure with me.
We called him “Jed” even though his real name was Dan. Daniel Joseph, to be exact. That boiled down to “D.J.” and because we watched far too many reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies, his initials were twisted to “J.D.” The rest of the evolution into “Jed” should be obvious (if you recall the patriarch, “J.D. Clampett” of the Hillbillies).
Returning to the story of Patton’s coat hanger, after I received confirmation from Bob Johnson that I could attend as a vendor, Jed and I packed my green 1972 Chevrolet Vega full of relics that I had accumulated. It was a real mixed bag of material… just the sort of stuff veteran dealers love to see “fresh fish” carry into a show: Some West German paratrooper jackets, a pile of Hitler Youth insignia, a couple of WWI enlisted uniforms, a red wool artillery guidon, a couple of chopped Civil War muskets, a GAR jacket, a few battered Third Reich helmets and some WWII “Class A” tunics. Mind you, it was 1981. Most of this stuff didn’t turn too many heads. Regardless, when we carried our boxes into the show area, people surrounded us eager to see what the “two kids” had brought to sell.
Like most shows, the first 30 minutes went like a flash, and the ensuing hours dragged out. I was just too excited to stay behind my table. Because I had hung a price tag on every piece and even made signs for many items (my upbringing in a grocery store taught me, “good signage sells”), I felt comfortable drifting away from table while my cousin “minded the store.”
I suppose, I owe an apology to Jed. He didn’t care about military stuff. But, since he was almost a year younger than me, and we had been buddies since second grade, he was used to taking my orders. Almost dutifully, he remained with my table while I drifted around looking for treasures on which to spend my newly obtained dollars.
Occasionally, I swung by the table to see if anything sold. As I listened to Jed’s report, I would shift items on the table, making sure the price tags were visible and the signs matched the products. This process repeated itself many times through the day as items sold, and I returned to the floor to “reinvest” in new material.
On one sojourn back to my table, Jed announced to me, “Some guy wanted to know more about General Patton’s coat hanger.” “What?” I asked incredulously. “What the heck are you talking about?” I should have known what was going on, because I could see that half smile that belied Jed’s innocence. I scanned my table, and sure as I was standing, there was a wooden coat hanger with a nicely penned sign attached to it, “General Patton’s Coat Hanger, $10.”
I guess that is what I get for making my cousin sit at my table while I went shopping! In his boredom, he had witnessed all of those military collectors scurrying about and listened to dealers’ stories as they attempted to make sales. So, it seemed like a good joke for him to attach a story and price to one of the coat hangers that previously held one of my West German paratrooper jackets.
Thankfully, no one came around asking about that coat hanger. I suspect, though, had Jed not revealed his joke, someone would have eventually asked, “Would you take eight bucks for Patton’s coat hanger?”
Investigate the story before you buy,
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine