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Put this under your table.

I admit it. I am guilty of one of the most selfish show tactics. Hopefully, you don’t recognize yourself in my confession. It happened several years ago. I was walking a show, stopped at a friend’s table who had a great…but expensive…helmet on display. I examined it while hemming and hawing over the $1,200 price tag. Finally, I handed it to my friend behind the table with the command (not even being polite enough to ask), “Put this under your table…I will be back later to pick it up.”

You want it? Pay for it.

It never occurred to me to pay my friend up front. No, I wanted to have him take it “off sale” while I walked the show…maybe to find something else cooler and more demanding of the funds in my pocket. I am not even sure this was a conscious effort, it just seemed to be the way I grew up in the hobby—guys will select something from your table and ask you to “hold” it for them.

Well, you probably know how this story played out…I found something else on which to spend my money. The bad part of it was, I didn’t even have the guts to go back to my friend and say, “Gee…I changed my mind. So sorry to take that expensive relic out of play for the entire day.” That might have redeemed me a bit, but no. I just snaked out of the show. To this day, even though I have apologized profusely to my buddy, I am ashamed of my behavior.

I know better. I grew up in business. Why did I think I had the right to ask someone to take something off of their sale table without paying for it? The more mature approach would have been, “Here is my $1,200. Will you please pull that off your table while I go shop some more?” That would have given some credibility to my request, but that wasn’t what I wanted to happen. No, it is a bit more insidious than all that.

Maybe the bad behavior and been ingrained into my psyche. To me (at that time in my life) that was how dealers and collectors interacted. When I later worked for one dealer, we called the practice, “Marking territory”— much as a dog who just discovered a new forest of trees runs from trunk to trunk, leaving his mark for the possible later return. But, like the overexcited dog, I didn’t always return—maybe I forgot, found something else, or just changed my mind. Whatever the reason, my ears are turning red while I type this confession. I am embarrassed to have been one of those militaria hounds who ran around a show “marking territory.”


Well, my hound dog days are long ago. I like to think I have matured enough in my collecting that now, when I see something I want, I simply hand over the money and make the deal (heck, I don’t even like “haggling” anymore!). It’s been so long, in fact, I hadn’t even thought of the old days of “marking territory” until the other day after I had posted some medals for sale on an internet collecting forum.

No sooner had I posted a WWI veteran’s Silver Star, when I received a “personal message” (a person-to-person message system provided by the forum that direct communication without all forum members seeing). “I’ll take it!” was the message, followed by, “I will pay for it when I get to a secure location.” I marked the item sold and waited…and waited. A day later, I sent the “buyer” a note saying, “Haven’t heard from you. You can pay for this via paypal at…” and typed my contact info. Twelve hours later: Nothing from the buyer, but several requests from other forum members who wanted to know if the Silver Star was still available.

Finally, after two days and no communication, I reposted the medal for sale. Within five minutes, it was sold to a new buyer who paid within another five minutes.

The whole thing made me a bit angry. I wanted to chastise the first “buyer” who failed to follow-up. Thinking about it, however, I realized it was the 21st Century version of “put this under your table.” How could I justify my disgruntlement with this new method of “e-marking?” I was reminded of the days when I would walk a show, spot an expensive goodie, and tell the dealer, “Put this under your table...I will be back later to pay for it.”

There could be many reasonable explanations for my buyer didn’t follow through with his “I’ll take it” Maybe he had a stroke, a power outage, or forgot his password. It could be any one of many reasons. So, instead of grinding my mental axe, I decided to drop him an email. I explained, “I hadn’t heard back from you, so I reposted the medal. It has sold to a different buyer.”

A day later, I had a nice message from that first “buyer.” He explained, “Sorry! I work in health care and was not able to communicate sooner. Happy you found a buyer.”

Well, I guess it all worked out, though I am a bit embarrassed I wasn’t patient enough to wait for follow-up communication. I am relieved that the original “buyer” was understanding. It reminded me, however, to be sure—in this new age of buying and selling via “virtual” shows—to be ready to pay the moment I type, “I’ll take it.”

Don’t just mark your territory. Pay for those treasures as soon as you see them,

John A-G

Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine

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