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You Can't Change a Leopard's Spots

My parents have left me with a lot of sayings, many of which probably aren’t “appropriate” anymore. Just last week, Mom declared — loud enough for everyone in the nursing home dining room to hear — “Everyone around here has more butt than they need.” Which, despite my personal embarrassment, led to my reply, “Yeah, remember how Dad used to say, ‘It looks like they stuffed two pigs in a gunny sack’?”

We both laughed, especially when I asked her when did Dad ever see two pigs in a gunny sack to make such a comparison.

Yes, my parents both had a lifetime of sayings, many of which formed the business and moral codes of their children. In fact, the one saying of Dad’s that sticks foremost in my memory has to do with making assumptions. I was reminded of this recently as I talked to a militaria dealer about growing the hobby.


Dad’s saying about assuming isn’t at all original. I am sure you have heard it many times. Regardless, Dad clung to the “Don’t assume, it makes an a$% out of you and me.” He would lecture me on how many good deals, relationships, or opportunities could be missed by assuming the answer without taking the time to consider other points of view.

The memory is jostled each time I hear someone say “assume” in the context of their explanations. So, when a dealer recently said to me, “I assume if people are in the hobby, they already go to the Show of Shows,” I tried to say that I did not agree with his assumption. He was incredulous, “Name ONE person who is actively buying or selling in this hobby who ISN’T at the Show of Shows!”

I believe it is very easy to become comfortable in our own perception of reality. If I sit on the computer all day making posts on collecting forums, it is easy to believe that “anyone who is active in the hobby is on this forum.” Similarly, if I attend a particular show regularly, it is easy to assume that “Anyone who is anyone is at this show.” And how wrong these assumptions are!

I recently surveyed about 40 collectors/dealers at a show (not online) about their collecting habits. Of the 40, only 5 said they participate in an online collecting forum more than once a week. Eighteen of these people said they have been to the Show of Shows. Only three had been to the MAX Show (bear in mind, I am in the upper Midwest…these numbers would be different, I am sure, based on where the survey was conducted). And the big shocker of this impromptu survey: Only 8 people said they did the majority of their buying online!

That brief survey really made an a$& out of me, because I had so many assumptions prior to asking the questions. I assumed nearly everyone was active on US Militaria Forum, Wehrmacht Awards, or some other online forum – wow, was I ever wrong!

I had also assumed any “hardcore” collector (by my own definition, “hardcore” is someone who was willing to pay going prices to add great pieces to their collection) went to the Show of Shows for certain, and likely, the MAX show or Pomona, to boot. Wrong again! It turns out, the overhead for attending these shows in both money and time is too much for many serious collectors.

But then, the third assumption played out as false, as well. If they weren’t going to the “big” shows, then, of course, they are doing all their collecting “online.” Again, I was so wrong! Only 8 people said they did the bulk of their buying online. And the other 32? Overwhelmingly, they said, “Local shows,” followed by “a tight-knit group of collector buddies,” and (thankfully) "through contacts made in Military Trader."

So back to the conversation with my dealer buddy. No, I didn’t convince him that he was “wrong” about buyers at the Show of Shows. He doubled-down and even became angry in insisting that any customer worth having already goes to the Show of Shows. Well, maybe that’s his reality, but it did remind me of another one of Dad’s favorites, “A leopard never changes its spots.”

Of course, leopards are nearing extinction.

I am sure that isn’t relevant to my buddy’s comments.

Preserve the Memories,

John Adams-Graf

Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine

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