The best time to buy a relic is when you see it!
by Harold Ratzburg
One of the disadvantages of being an old geezer is that you can look back over the years to see all the mistakes you made, only wishing to have those same opportunities all over again. But that is not to be. The water, for me, at least, is over the dam and under the bridge, leaving me with 20-20 hindsight. Take it from me, the time to buy a historic military relic or vehicle is when you see it. If you don’t, years from now, you will be penning an article just like this one!
Here are a few examples of a few items I have left behind, only to regret doing so years later:
*M48 Jeep Dashboard mounts for .30 MG and BAR
Back in 1971, an ad appeared in the Shotgun News. You could buy the entire unit–dashboard mount, ammo can bracket, all the attachments, yoke, etc. in a GI crate–for $24.95. Of course, I waited until the price went up to $75 before I bought mine! Present value is around $700-$1000 if you can find one all complete.
*Leather Scabbard for M1 Carbine
One day, an old friend called me to tell me had found a man on Canal Street in New York City who had the scabbards—NOS (new old stock)—in the crate for $15 each. I wisely invested the whole $15 and bought just one. Present value in NOS condition is $200 or more.
*Early Jeep Tire Rims, 1942
When I bought my Ford Jeep (March 1942 build date) back in 1972, it had some funny looking civilian rims. I wanted to have the more “cool looking” military split rims. So, I sold off the original “civilian type rims” for $10 each. I didn’t know these were the correct, very early rims! Too smart, too late!
*Cart, Hand, M3A4, Utility
These little handcarts that were used by airborne troops to haul their weapons, rations, and extra gear. An old friend called me years ago to tell me he had found a surplus dealer who had the carts for $75 each. I really wanted to have one, but figured that the only place I could keep it would be in the woods behind the house where it would just rot away. So, I passed on the deal.Present value is around $1,200 or so. Ouch.
*Jeep Tow Bars, in the Crate
One day, an old friend showed up in his CCKW with ten or twelve tow bars in the original wooden crates with all the attachment devices and the wooden blocks used when the tow bar was tied to the Jeep grille when not in use. He asked if he could store them in the woods behind the house until club members bought them from him for $10 each. I bought one for myself and squirreled it away in my garage attic. Eventually, all the other sets sold.
About fifteen years later, I offered my tow bar for sale for $495. A collector from Holland bought it. He could hardly wait to send me the money and have the crate picked up by truck and then flown to Holland. I wonder what that original load of tow bars in the CCKW would be worth today? Oh well...
*Military Bicycles in the Crate
At a rally at Sarafan’s Surplus one year, a man showed up with GI Columbia bicycles in wooden crates. He offered them for sale for $80 each. Each bike had the Army serial number stamped on the frame. I bought one, uncrated it, and hung it from the garage ceiling. I sold about fifteen years later for $200. Today, those same bikes can fetch upwards of $2,000.
*Six-Volt Sirens, Decontamination Devices, Motorcycle Pumps, GI Spotlights, Taillights, and all sorts of other stuff
Years ago, it could all be found at antique car flea markets for just a few dollars a piece. Nowadays, if you find anything painted olive drab at a show, you would think the seller believes it is gold-plated by the price they ask.
The days of finding true bargains on WWII or Korean War relics are fast fading. Opportunities, however, are still available. Vietnam collecting has become popular, and the relics show up regularly at shows. Likewise, a lot of interest in the War on Terrorism is growing.
So, my friends, as new collectors, all you need is 20-20 foresight, unlimited funds, storage facilities, and patience to avoid the same mistakes this old geezer made—oh, and a little good luck of making the right decisions of what to keep and what to sell!