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Collecting is all in the story

We military collectors are a funny breed. We love the uniformity of columns of troops, the fielding of battalions of identical trucks and the mass production of equipment capable to defeat an adversary. And yet, what we all strive for in our collecting efforts is to find that one “unique” item—an M1 helmet just a little different from all the others, the 6x6 truck that is unlike any other 6x6 or the Iron Cross made with a variation different from the other million or so Iron Crosses.
I recently had a note from someone wondering if I could determine if their WWII jeep was one of the 200 or so “Holden” ambulance jeeps that were re-bodied in Melbourne, Australia during WWII. His reason for asking was because all of the items that would readily identify a jeep as one of these rarities were not on his jeep!
I was could anyone prove that a jeep was something it did not appear to be by not having the features that would make it such? What motivates a collector to discount the fact that he may simply have one of 640,000 some odd Jeeps built during WWII and try to make it into something “grander?”
Therein, lies the answer. Collectors (and I am one!) are a special breed. Sure, the history behind the object is the prime motivator, but so is the “hunt” and the “kill.” It’s no fun to have something that everyone has. So, in my collection I have an Iron Cross on which the recipient’s engraved his name and unit. My US WWII mountain jacket came with a stack of photos and documents from the trooper who wore it. And my WWII khaki ammo bandolier has a period note in one pocket that says, “I wore this when I went ashore at Normandy.” Even though an Iron Cross, mountain jacket and an M1 bandoleer are all relatively common items, they are special to me because they have a “little bit more” than the next guy’s example of the same. They have stories.
It is the “hunt”—be it looking for clues on a jeep body or digging deep in the pockets of a WWI tunic that discovers and preserves the stories unique to the soldiers who used the equipment we collect. The stories are what we can pass on to the next generation of collectors.
And what about the “Holden hopeful?” Well, it was back to the jeep and look for more evidence...evidence that could be seen: weld marks, modifications or anything else that would help put the story back with the artifact. I hope he finds it! But no matter, he will discover the stories that his WWII jeep has to tell.

Keep em rolling and finding the good stuff,

John Adams-Graf
Editor, Military Vehicles Magazine and Military Trader

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