HOW WAS THE SHOW?
Show experience is a very personal thing. Ask 100 people who attended a show, and you will get 100 different answers. If a person finds that special item for which they were searching, “It was a GREAT show.” The person who went with the intention of snagging bargains but didn’t find any will report, “Show was slow and prices were high.” Realizing that a personal reaction is a natural response to the question, I will try to respond outside of my own experience to the question many of you have, “How was the Show of Shows?”
This was the Ohio Valley Military Society’s 28th annual Show of Shows (SOS). I have been attending the show since the days when it was held in St. Louis on King’s Highway. So, without dating myself, let’s just agree that I have been going to the SOS for a darn long time.
External factors have a lot to do with creating a good show experience, including location, ease of access, and hotel/restaurant availability. On this front, the Show of Shows in the Louisville location scores really high. Even if you wait until the week before to find a room, you will find one somewhere in the greater Louisville area.
Similarly, restaurants, gas stations, and other amenities are right there. No problem on that front.
Ease of access could not be easier! The Kentucky Expo Center is adjacent to a major interstate and literally across the street from a major airport. Again, big points for access!
But that is just logistics. No one who asks about the show cares about that. In essence, they want to know, did they miss anything big?
THE BIG SHOW
Even on a bad day, the Show of Shows is outstanding. With more than 750 dealers spread out over 1,965 tables, if you couldn’t find anything to buy the problem was not with the show! I attended this year with very specific orders from my high command to “come back with money and not more stuff.” That said, I still spent more than $1,000 on items I found when just walking back and forth to the restrooms from my tables at J15-16! Can’t find anything at the Show of Shows? Well, you just weren’t paying attention.
But what about my personal observations? These are based on my very limited view from behind my tables over three days. With that, here they are:
*Quality material came out of the closet. More dealers dug deep into their stashes to present a lot of stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day for a long time. Granted, a lot of this stuff changed hands by midday Thursday, but there was a lot of fresh material. I think this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.
*Price drops across the board. Even I marked down stuff that came out of the boxes from last year’s show. A lot of dealers were practicing the strategy of “any flow of money is a good flow.” They were dealing. Great for buyers, a little less great for sellers.
*A fair number of young (i.e, “under 40”) buyers and sellers. While the vast majority of attendees had a lot of gray hair (if any) and bigger-than-issued bellies, I did notice and interact with a number of younger collectors. While bucking the national trend of aging collectors, I will honestly say this group was less than 10% of the entire SOS population. But still, 10% is better than 0!
*Less griping. Being the “magazine editor,” I often feel like I am sitting inside Lucy’s psychiatry booth (from the Charles Schultz cartoon, “Peanuts.” You older people will recognize this reference. That 10% of the younger collectors, probably not). People love to stop at my table to vent: Vent about dealers, vent about collectors, vent about parking, vent about the magazine, vent about most everything. This year, I think I only had TWO guys stand and vent—and one of them is a good friend who seems to ALWAYS have problems with his subscription!
While I did leave the show each evening rather hoarse, it was the result of just good-natured talking with collectors about their passions and ideas for the hobby. I went back to my motel with a really good attitude each night. That was an SOS FIRST for me!
*Logistics. The Ohio Valley Military Society (OVMS) is like my iphone. It is learning from the behavior of its users. This year’s table set up on Wednesday went magnificently well (compared to prior years). This was thanks to serious changes in the operation. This all led to more dealers set up and running on Thursday morning. Big kudos to the OVMS for the adjustment in that process.
Entrance to the show is still bulky and a bit slow, but managed very well with few “angry incidents” observed. Both the OVMS and the people standing in line are becoming very accustomed to the process and all know, “You WILL get into the show if you just stand in line and wait your turn.” This might not seem like much, but if you have belligerent guests outside the door, that sets a bad tone for the show. That didn’t happen this year.
Announcement were kept to a minimum. Those PA announcements are very disruptive to dealer-customer interactions. The SOS did really well at keeping them relevant and to a minimum. A few “Will Dealer X please meet his party at the door” did occur, and hopefully, people are learning that there are other ways for personal contact to be made without imposing it on the entire show.
*Amenities. The SOS makes a show booklet with a map available—very nice and used by many. Food service was available. Long lines reported, but I saw no one slumped over due to hunger. Aisles were wide enough to move about easily. Similarly, the area behind the tables was adequate for dealers to move around without bumping butts too often.
*Extra Incentives to Attend. As in years past, the SOS presented several celebrity veteran guests and authors who were available to meet with the publicly. Strategically located at the back of the show, people had to walk the aisles to get to these dignitaries. Smart move, SOS! My grocer Dad would have been proud of you (“We put the hamburger in the back of the store because people will pick up buns, ketchup, and pickles on their way to get to the meat.”)
This year, the SOS even tried to schedule a few special guests’ short lectures. This probably didn’t go as well as hoped due to the lack of a dedicated lecture area, but it is a move in the right direction to give the public multiple reasons to come to the show.
And now for just some goodies to look at:
So, to answer your question, “How was the Show of Shows?” From a personal point of view, I bought stuff for my collection, my feet stopped hurting by Tuesday following the Show, and I came home with some cash for my personal “high command.” So, a darn good show for me. I would venture that about 10,000 others would echo this opinion.
Preserve the Memories,
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine