I think my investment portfolio lost about $20,000 since the beginning of 2016. As oil prices plummeted and the China manufacturing slow-down destabilized the world financial markets, I watched the crumbling of years’ efforts to build a “comfortable” retirement. “Stay in it for the long haul,” says my financial advisor (even though I know his employment rests on retaining investors like me rather than based on providing real financial guidance). But I am no dummy…economics is a pretty basic machine. And because it is a basic machine, now is the time to buy militaria!
Even though some politically motivated folks will tell you, “Supply-side economics doesn’t work,” the truth of the matter is, the basic principal—unfettered by “adjustments” and regulations—works like a charm. Take ten cupcakes to any kindergarten class of more than 10 kids. You will see the dynamics of supply and demand at its purest form. Only when a teacher or adult steps in to “regulate” the resolution of too few cupcakes for the number of kids who want them, and the real chaos begins. Left on their own, the kindergartners will generally work out an equitable solution. Don’t get me wrong, not all the kids will be happy, but all will understand why some got cupcakes and some didn’t (the classes after my own heart, however, figure out how each kid gets a portion, no larger nor any smaller than any other—but that’s the story of another economic system).
The same is true with militaria. Right now, my portfolio is causing a pain in my investments. So, I look at my tangible assets to bolster the sagging portfolio. Guns? Well, Dad always told us, “Guns and food are the LAST to go.” So, no I won’t sell any guns. Books? My last sale of a portion of my library taught me these are no longer, “Tangible assets” but rather, “heavy boat anchors.” Ammunition? I have tens of thousands of rounds of 9mm, .223, and .40, but see the above explanation following “Guns.” I think Dad implied “ammo goes with guns” when he taught his kids the basics.
So what’s left in my office? Well, a whole lot of militaria! Are they tangible assets? To a degree, yes. However, I have generally used the not-so-wise approach of “Buy with passion—not as investment.”
But, I do know, “If I paid for it, someone else is probably just as willing.” Therefore, my next step in determining if I could lessen the pain of my failing investment portfolio through the sale of militaria was to check the “market.”
Checking a few web sites and walking a few shows, however, showed me that this is not the time to liquidate my collection, but rather, buy, buy, buy! Good grief, there is a lot of “supply” on the market. Whether we are talking HMMWVs, M1903 rifles, WWII German uniforms, M1 helmets, Jeeps, or even full-scale tanks, this is a buyer’s time to rise!
I don’t know if the heavy supply of material is the result of many who, like me, have taken investment portfolio hits and are trying to recover a bit, or if it is a transition time in the hobby as older members liquidate. Whatever the reason, supply is high right now. And the smart sellers have lowered their prices to increase the demand—simply supply-side economics.
Ten years ago, an operational HMMWV would have cost around $45,000. Today, HMMWVs are sold by Iron Planet for as little as $20,000. Sherman tanks had topped nearly half a million a decade ago. In the last couple of months, a couple have sold for half of that.
It’s not just rolling stock. Civil War firearms that would routinely sell for $1,800 a few years ago, are sitting on dealers table with $1,300 price tags today. Similarly, M1858 forage caps used to fetch $2,000+. Now, it is a happy day for a dealer to sell one for $1,850. Big or small, supply has outstretched demand—and the smart ones are adjusting.
So no, now is not the time for me to tap my relics as a way to regain that portfolio wealth. Just as my stockbroker advises, “I am in this hobby for the long game.” No, I am not selling. In fact, in the last two weeks, I have bought a lot of quality militaria at significantly low prices.
But I do ask that the next time I show off one of my new acquisitions on a forum, don’t bother asking, “Is it for sale?” That won’t happen until demand surpasses supply.
Preserve the memories
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine