Skip to main content


One of Military Trader's readers recently asked if I had written any articles that gave etiquette tips for show attendees. I have to admit, with all the ranting and writing I have done, I figured I had covered that long ago. BUT, after searching through all my JAG Files and past articles, nothing really fits the bill. So, with the Show of Shows kicking off show season, it seems like a good time to offer a few tips to show attendees, whether first-timers or seasoned aisle-pounders.

In the past, I have joked around with other show exhibitors about pet peeves and the like but never formulated a list. Therefore, I turned to the expertise of dealers and show-goers on the US Militaria Forum and asked them to share what they consider to be a few good tips. I was overwhelmed with the response!

I have tried to condense the tips so many shared into the following list. It should provide you with a good guide to how to interact with the person behind the table. Some of the tips might appear to be “common sense,” but all of these tips are the result of actual interactions between dealers and customers. In the heat of the battle, sometimes “common sense” and “good manners” can take a back seat to finding that relic that will fit into your collection.

20 Tips for Show Goers

  1. Don't set your drink on my table--better yet, don't even bring a drink to my table! If you are eating in the aisle, don’t handle stuff on my table. You might think your hands are clean, but I don’t know that and can only see how messy that nacho platter is.
  2. Seriously, this is not a haberdashery--don't try on helmets, hats, or jackets without first asking.
  3. We all love bargains, but try to be respectful when you are bartering with a dealer. No one really believes you need a pair of WWII leather Japanese boots to wear hiking, and no one really believes that you want $50 off because the size is 2 sizes too small.
  4. Do not open or reach into cases without asking. Always ask to pick up items from a dealer’s table. Doesn’t cost anything to ask, and it lets the dealer know you are a serious customer.
  5. If you don’t see what you are looking for, ask. Most dealers bring way more than they can display. That item you want might be under the table or out in the van.
  6. Once a negotiation has begun, remember to be courteous and polite if you are going to question the authenticity, era, or provenance of an item. What might appear as “questionable” to you might prove to be real once you learn more from the dealer.
  7. Carry a variety of currency denominations--if you buy something for $1, don't hand me a $100 bill. Ask if a dealer will take a check before you work a deal. My best price is a cash price. Many dealers won't even take out of state (or out of the country) checks.
  8. Remember, the tablespace is a premium at a show (and I had to pay for it). Please don't put your bag of heavy ordnance on my cases to show/sell something to your friend at the next table or just to relieve the strain on your back. My table is my store. Please don’t block my products.
  9. If you see boxes under my table, those are off limits. You can ask, but don’t be offended if I don’t want to tell you that my slice of pizza, change of shoes, paper towels, and diamond-encrusted Knights Cross are in those boxes. My boxes, my business.
  10. A basic reminder: Keep your hands and my stuff where they can be seen. Don’t pick up something and then turn your back to me to show the item to your friend.
  11. If you run into a buddy in the aisle, step away from the tables to catch up on old times--other guests may want to get close to my table.
  12. While I am interested in you as a customer, please don’t tax that relationship. I really don’t have the time to listen to your long stories. I am at the show to sell. If the end of your story can’t be reached within a couple minutes, it’s probably too long for me. The longer your story, the less time there is to engage other potential customers. I don’t want to be impolite by cutting you off, but please be aware that I didn’t drive 11 hours to catch up with your life…I came to sell stuff.
  13. If I agree to your price, don’t decide to not buy it. This isn’t time to just practice your bargaining skills.
  14. NEVER butt in on someone else's deal. This means, don’t be offering encouragement to the buyer or the seller, don’t even make a wink, a smile, or utter a word. Dealing is like sex: It's usually best between just two people without an audience or cheerleaders. Once the negotiation between two others begins, it’s best you find something else to occupy your attention.
  15. Don't be afraid to ask opinions of other people before you make the purchase. Bring them to the item. Don’t ask if you can take the item over to dealer x’s table. I have a lot to keep track of at a show…walk-away relics are tough to remember.
  16. When you are negotiating, don’t hesitate to ask about return policies before you buy it.
  17. If I offer you some space under my table to store your purchases from the show, don't plan on bringing in all of the trade items you had in your car for storage under my tables. As mentioned earlier, space is at a premium, so don't abuse a goodwill gesture.
  18. Everyone wants to know “what’s in your bag.” If you have items to sell, don’t be bashful. Come right out and ask me, “Are you interested in buying X?”
  19. If you want to shoot a photo or two of an item, ask first. Some people have reasons they don’t want their items (or themselves) to be captured in an image. Remember, though, permission to photograph doesn’t negate all the other common sense reminders: Don’t touch/pose items without asking. Don’t occupy the space too long, and for Pete's sake, don’t set your backpack, purse, a bag of goodies, or other items on my table or case so you can handle your phone or camera.
  20. After all the great tips and advice shared with me, Bob Chatt posted what I think is the most important rule to remember: “It all comes down to common sense: Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

Enjoy the hunt, preserve the memories,

John Adams-Graf

Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine

P.S. More than 30 seasoned collectors offered suggestions to include in this list. Thanks to all the participants on the US Militaria Forum for their advice and comments. They show the strong commitment to keeping our hobby strong and viable.

Frontline Feature


Kramer Auction Service

Our knowledge in firearms, advertising, auctions, and technology are why we are Wisconsin’s premier firearms auction center. If you’re looking to buy or sell guns, military items, and others, Kramer Auction Service will help you every step of the way.