Nothing says I am old more than when I start a sentence with “Back when I was a kid…” Whether said to my partner, my daughter, or a customer at a show, I can see the eyes roll. Regardless of that visual cue to shut my mouth, I can’t resist the urge to pontificate.
And so, this morning, I write with confidence, “Back when I was a kid (I can’t see your eyes rolling), I used to anxiously await the arrival of military dealer lists in the mail."
Lately,I have been wondering if the “old style” method of buying and selling relics is reemerging.
COLLECTING MILITARIA IN THE OLD DAYS
Back when I was a kid (time for you to roll your eyes), nothing was more exciting than receiving a typed, hand-written, or photo-copied list of relics in the mail. For you youngin’s who aren’t familiar, here’s how it worked:
As a beginning collector, you relied on Shotgun News to find other like-minded military relic collectors. Occasionally, a person would advertise something like:
"BUY-SELL-TRADER military helmets, knives, medals, uniforms. SASE for list."
That “SASE” meant that if you sent the dealer a “Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope,” they would tuck their most recent list of offerings into it and drop it in the mail. A week or two later, an envelope addressed in your own handwriting on it arrived in your mailbox. You dropped whatever you were doing and tore it open. Simultaneously, you walked to the phone (they used to be on desks or walls in your home), scanning the list as you did. If anything caught your attention on the list, you dialed the dealer’s number and hoped that the relic was still available. Consummating the deal, you agreed to send a check or money order and the dealer agreed to hold the item until it arrived.
It got better (ask an old timer if they ever got Der Gauleiter). About 28 years ago, a new magazine hit the market just for US—Military Trader. Now, those dealers took on a more professional approach and advertised their wares in the magazine. That was really the start of the demise of lists. Dealers believed they could reach more customers without the trouble of having to mail out lists. For at least a decade, though, the only way to reserve an item still involved using the phone (by this time, I was sporting a flip-phone, but still retained that landline for emergencies).
That’s how we collected prior to the internet. Using lists and the phone, we assembled the massive collections of helmets, uniforms, medals, or whatever it is you envy today. We worked at it. None of this sitting on our couch, using our index finger to scroll through auctions or “buy it now.”
A RESURGENCE OF LISTS?
The internet did transform our hobby. For the price of a good digital camera and a web site, dealers could put their lists “online.” The dream was that they would reach the entire world. And, for the most part, it has worked.
That is, until the most unusual year in my life: 2020. Huge shifts in how history is viewed coupled with a worldwide pandemic is impacting our hobby in ways I never dreamed. Dealers who have populated their websites with Third Reich, Confederate, or other currently regarded “uncomfortable history” are finding it harder to operate. Electronic payment companies are beginning to “ban” whatever it is they find disagreeable. Clamping down on a dealer’s ability to buy and sell historic relics seems to be the way some want to change the world.
Add to this a pandemic. Whether you agree with it or not, governments are trying to maintain the world’s collective health by limiting the way people interact. For us, that means, closing down shows and shops.
I am not writing this to highlight the politics, science, or personal strife, but rather, to remind all of you that we can keep buying, selling, trading, and collecting. Remember those “old fashion” lists? Military Trader recently made a pitch to our advertisers to “Go to the Show without Leaving Home.”
We are all concerned about the health of your business and the engagement of our readers during this period of “social distancing.” In talking with two of our longest running advertisers, Hayes Otoupalik and Jean-Pierre, they shared their secret to help everyone else in the hobby.
According to Hayes, “My running line-listing of items for immediate purchase in Military Trader does fantastic!” Jean-Pierre told us the same thing about his 2-page spread of line listings, adding, “It is important to change out the listings in every issue.”
So, in an effort to help you keep the cash flowing and to keep our readers engaged, we offered an inexpensive way for dealers to “send out their list.” You have probably seen them in Military Trader. They are ¼-page sized and have line listings of up to about 35 items—no illustrations, just description and price.
I honestly didn’t think the ads would take hold. That is until I got a call from one of the dealers who took advantage of the offer: “We are up to $1600 in sales off that ad—including a Civil War sword!” The dealer went on to ask, “Who does that — buys a sword, sight-unseen from just a line listing?”
I guess he was just too young to remember — that’s how we all did it before the internet.
The point of all this is: Social change, unrests, or even pandemics aren’t going to suppress our urge to appreciate and study history by collecting military relics. When one avenue to buy and sell closes, we find a new way to interact. That’s just the nature of a collector.
Preserve the Memories and be well,
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine
Want to try out this effort to keep the cash flowing into your business and give our readers some opportunity to “go to the show” without leaving their home? Drop Steve Madson an email (SMadson@aimmedia.com) and he will help you set it up.
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