How was the Show of Shows?

Report on Ohio Valley Military Society's 2020 SOS
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HOW WAS THE SHOW?

The 2020 Show of Shows took place at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville. More than 750 dealers filled 1,965 tables.

The 2020 Show of Shows took place at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville. More than 750 dealers filled 1,965 tables.

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?”

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

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.

The hall leading to the entrance is filled with photos and the SOS' explanation of "THEIR Victory, THEIR Souvenirs" in the effort to stem any public or media misinterpretation of why we are gathering for the event.

The hall leading to the entrance is filled with photos and the SOS' explanation of "THEIR Victory, THEIR Souvenirs" in the effort to stem any public or media misinterpretation of why we are gathering for the event.

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.

Items from deep collections made their first public appearance in years at the Show of Shows.  

Items from deep collections made their first public appearance in years at the Show of Shows.  

*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.

Did I say table set up went smooth?  Well, it still was done by about 25 people while another 55 kind of floating to the sides for "other matters" beside throwing tables into place!

Did I say table set up went smooth?  Well, it still was done by about 25 people while another 55 kind of floating to the sides for "other matters" beside throwing tables into place!

The OVMS' Bill Combs oversees the entire operation of the show, from set up to tear-down.  He has a mellowing disposition--so important in a hall of very high-strung collectors and dealers!

The OVMS' Bill Combs oversees the entire operation of the show, from set up to tear-down.  He has a mellowing disposition--so important in a hall of very high-strung collectors and dealers!

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.

Lines to get in were really long on Thursday, Friday, and even Saturday morning. 

Lines to get in were really long on Thursday, Friday, and even Saturday morning. 

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.”)

Special guests included Art Beltrone (traveling Vietnam exhibit), Medal of Honor recipient Don Jenkins (center), and General Pershing impersonator, Dane Kaufmann (right).

Special guests included Art Beltrone (traveling Vietnam exhibit), Medal of Honor recipient Don Jenkins (center), and General Pershing impersonator, Dane Kaufmann (right).

Special guest, George Merz, was an MP at the Battle of the Bulge. 

Special guest, George Merz, was an MP at the Battle of the Bulge. 

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: 

Vietnam goodies...a lot of nice uniforms and patches throughout the show.

Vietnam goodies...a lot of nice uniforms and patches throughout the show.

Herman Goering's chair! 

Herman Goering's chair! 

Identified Knight's Cross medal group.

Identified Knight's Cross medal group.

Civil War (and earlier) belt plates and original belts.

Civil War (and earlier) belt plates and original belts.

At least three original M1858 forage caps and variants seen at the show in just my brief walk-throughs.

At least three original M1858 forage caps and variants seen at the show in just my brief walk-throughs.

The SOS is not a gun show, but quality military firearms (generally pre-1945) are to be found there.

The SOS is not a gun show, but quality military firearms (generally pre-1945) are to be found there.

Kelly Hicks had array of helmets and cloth for the advanced Third Reich collector.

Kelly Hicks had array of helmets and cloth for the advanced Third Reich collector.

Our own MT author, Peter Suciu, puts out a great variety of world headgear and militaria.

Our own MT author, Peter Suciu, puts out a great variety of world headgear and militaria.

Collectors and dealers of East German militaria, Kevin Born and Paul Madden.

Collectors and dealers of East German militaria, Kevin Born and Paul Madden.

Collecting legend, Hayes Otoupalik

Collecting legend, Hayes Otoupalik

Audrey and Doug Brown of Kezar Falls Curiosity Shop. 

Audrey and Doug Brown of Kezar Falls Curiosity Shop. 

Kalee Roberge and Carye Sayer happy with a WWII stein decorated for a US veteran.

Kalee Roberge and Carye Sayer happy with a WWII stein decorated for a US veteran.

My table neighbor, Steve Ackley.  What a pleasure it was to share space with such a friendly and knowledgeable guy.  He is a big-time medal dealer, so I was salivating over some early British campaign medals he had.

My table neighbor, Steve Ackley.  What a pleasure it was to share space with such a friendly and knowledgeable guy.  He is a big-time medal dealer, so I was salivating over some early British campaign medals he had.

Another favorite medal dealer of mine is Jeff Floyd.  You won't find a nicer guy at the show. And what he knows about medals would fill volumes. He is a quality dealer and a quality guy.

Another favorite medal dealer of mine is Jeff Floyd.  You won't find a nicer guy at the show. And what he knows about medals would fill volumes. He is a quality dealer and a quality guy.

For display only: An airborne and 1st Special Service Force exhibit like no one has seen before!

For display only: An airborne and 1st Special Service Force exhibit like no one has seen before!

LOTS of WWI available at the show. I looked at three different Tank Corps groupings for my own collection. That's a high number for any show!

LOTS of WWI available at the show. I looked at three different Tank Corps groupings for my own collection. That's a high number for any show!

I love military miniatures. When I win the lottery, I am going to fill a room with these!

I love military miniatures. When I win the lottery, I am going to fill a room with these!

A lot of nice demilled machine guns were at the show.  I know of a sled-mounted MG08 that found a new home--and the new owner was delighted!

A lot of nice demilled machine guns were at the show.  I know of a sled-mounted MG08 that found a new home--and the new owner was delighted!

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.

Their Victory, their Souvenirs.  We preserve their stories by collecting and preserve their relics.

Their Victory, their Souvenirs.  We preserve their stories by collecting and preserve their relics.

Preserve the Memories,

John Adams-Graf

Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine

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