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Giving Back

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A few years ago, a friend of mine who collects WWII vehicles, called me. “John, you like WWI Tank Corps stuff, right?” he asked before describing an identified uniform and helmet he had just bought at a farm auction. “Is it available for sale?” I asked. “No,” he told me without leaving enough time for me to be disappointed before continued, “It’s yours.” He knew I liked that stuff, researched it, and took care of it. To him, the $50 or $100 that he might make on it wasn’t worth keeping the material from a good home—his focus was on vehicles. He knew I would devote the time and energy to researching this group.


One of the reasons I can’t be a successful “generalist” or “accumulator” of militaria is I tend to think like my friend. I can’t care for all of it, so I try to find good homes for the objects that don’t fit my focus. So, when I ended up with a Panzer M43 cap, as cool as I thought it was, I passed it along. The same held true for the identified 5th Special Forces beret and tiger striped shirt.

I admit, I wasn’t as generous as my buddy, Those items transferred ownership for reasonable sums. It was different, though, when I received the call about a “WWII Jeep.”

The call began something like this: “I saw your ad for military relics. It said you said you would ‘even buy old jeeps or army trucks’.” That was true. My standing ad does say something about, “No relic too small or large—I will even buy your old ‘Army Jeep’.”

The voice on the line went on to describe “Grandpa’s hunting jeep at the cabin.” After a few probing questions, I could tell the caller didn’t know much about the vehicle, but she did want to sell it. We made arrangements for me to drive to the northwoods cabin to look at the Jeep.

What I found was the rusted body and frame of a 1944 GPW Jeep. It had replaced bumpers, only one “combat rim,” and was painted bright red. The seats were from an old Mustang, the steering wheel from Western Auto, and a tailgate added from who knows what. My heart sank.

“But,” I thought, “I drove three hours to see this. I might as well inspect it.” After some effort, I was able to lift the hood. The air cleaner was gone, but the carburetor was still sitting on what appeared to be a fairly complete Ford engine.

After clawing through leaves and remnants of rodents’ nests around the valve cover, I was able to read the stamped number on the engine plaque, “GPA 1XXX.” Jackpot! I knew what I was looking at—the motor in this vehicle was replaced—with a motor from a very desirable, Ford Amphibious “GPA” Jeep.

As I negotiated a price, it was clear the family just wanted the “rust bucket” off their land. In fact, if I would take care of clearing the trees that had grown up around it and haul it out myself, I could have the carcass for $250.

Done! I handed the money and told the seller I would return within a week to haul it out.

On my drive home, my thoughts were filled with dollar signs. I could sell the few good parts from the Jeep and probably make back my $250 before cashing in on the engine—That baby was going to fetch round $800!

I was excited. This was going to be a good “score” for me—proof to my partner I do know what I am doing, plus some extra dollars to spend on collecting.

Not being the kind of card player who can hold a good hand close to the vest, I had to tell my friends about my purchase. But who would appreciate what I just found? Most of my “militaria friends” don’t know the intricacies of historic military vehicles, so the first guy I called was that vehicle collector who had given me the Tank Corps uniform years before.

He listened as I described the Jeep, asking a few questions like, “Was the transmission correct?”; “Data plates on the glove box?”; and “Did you find a tool kit under the seats?”

“Guess what the serial number was on the engine?” I asked. “I suppose it falls into the right range for this Jeep?” he said.

I laughed, and said, “No. That’s what ticked me off. It wasn’t the correct engine. Instead, it was stamped, ‘GPA1XXX.”

Silence. Then he repeated, “GPA 1XXX?” "Yep,” I pretended I didn’t know what that meant. He became animated, “You know what that is, right John?” I couldn’t hold back, “Yeah, I do. Pretty neat, don’t ya think?”

Then he told me something I didn’t know, “I have been restoring a GPA for the past two years. I haven’t been able to find the correct motor to put in it, though.”

I didn’t miss a beat. I didn’t recalculate the profit-loss margin. All I said was, “Well now you found one. It’s yours.”


I guess this is why I will never have a “great” collection. I believe in giving back when someone has helped me with my particular collecting interests.

Recently, the Board of Directors and business personnel of the Ohio Valley Military Society (OVMS) have stuck their collective necks out to do what they feel was important for bolstering our hobby. They looked at their coffers and decided to purchase the MAX Show. They feel, and I agree, the OVMS is in the best position to insure the health of the collecting hobby. The OVMS took a big gamble on our behalf.

So, yes, I feel we owe the OVMS a bit in return—“one good deed deserves another.” Probably a handshake or a “thank you” will give your board member a smile, but there is more you can do:

a. Join the OVMS. Plan to attend the Show of Shows (SOS), MAX Show, and/or the Wilmington, Ohio, show. Entrance to all of these shows is FREE for members! That’s worth the price of joining and then some.

b. Bring a friend. The hobby thrives only through participation. The single best way to give back to the hobby is to invite a friend to come to the show with you.

c. Table Helpers. If you register for a table at the OVMS show, you are entitled to two table helpers. There will be named badges in your dealer’s packets. These are non-transferable. When you give away a table helper badge to someone other than your helpers, you are stealing from the hobby.

The only way the OVMS generates money to do things like buy shows, host veterans, and send out their newsletter is through membership and gate revenue. Don’t steal from the hobby by passing around a badge. And, by the way, its also a good way to lose your table privilege if the OVMS finds your or your helper’s badge on someone else.

d. Be patient with the SOS staff. The OVMS’ overriding goal is to “Create as much value for your membership as possible.” If they have made some rule with which you disagree, bear in mind, they made it with the goal of greater good of the Show. Some rules might really tick you off (like, only you and one person can help unload your vehicle on Wednesday evening), but the rules were made for all show attendees, not just you.

e. Keep your table filled until Saturday afternoon. I know this rule, firsthand. Several years ago, our advertising guy (not Nick, “Our Man on Point”) decided to get an early start on the drive back to Wisconsin, so he pulled out on Saturday morning. About a week past before I had a call from my longtime, dear friend, and president of the OVMS, Bill Combs. “John, I hate to tell you this, but Military Trader has lost its table privileges.” I couldn’t believe it! But I understood it.

Many people can’t attend the Show until Saturday. The OVMS wants to guarantee that they will have just as great an experience as those folks who showed up on Thursday or Friday. As a shopper, I have found some of my best deals on Saturday, and as a dealer, some of my biggest sales. Don’t pack up early. You are hurting yourself—and the hobby.

SOS: February 28-March 1, 2015

Remember, there are lots of “moving parts” that keep the Show of Shows and its governing body, the OVMS, running efficiently. I am thankful that the OVMS exists and provides a venue for me to meet with so many other dealers and collectors. It has given a lot to my hobby pursuits, and I feel that debt of gratitude. It is time to give back by being a good member.

See you at the SOS. Nick and I will be the guys in OD shirts, pulling around a cart of magazines (maybe next year we will get our table back!).

Share the Passion, Preserve the Memory,
John Adams-Graf
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine

For more info on the OVMS and the Show of Shows, log onto

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