“What’s the next great collecting trend?” Not a week goes by that a dealer or collector doesn’t ask me this question. Folks have seen me preaching (usually after a lot of ribs and a few pitchers of Diet Coke), but honestly, I don’t have any better idea than any one else in the hobby.
I have had the opportunity to realize I missed a few recent trends. For example, a couple of years ago, I needed an early 16” bayonet for a Springfield M1903A1 and a 10” bayonet for an M1 Garand to complete a couple of my 10th Mountain mannequins. Well, after a few bids on eBay, I had my long one for $160 and the short for $55. That was three years ago. Recently, I was doing some research on current pricings and realized that the 16” bayonets in scabbards have jumped to around $295 and the short, based on the maker and tip are pushing $195.
Another trend I missed was for WWII parachutes. Reviewing prices for seat-pack chutes recently, I noticed that the demand has driven prices for complete rigs from around $600 to more than $1200 during the past four years. That was some serious investment potential that went right over my head (I wonder how those pork bellies are doing that my 401K plan provider purchased on my behalf?)
Trends...Why I Missed Them, and How They Emerge
Why did I miss these trends? Well, I probably was fixated on something else—you know how collectors can get! We can’t see the forest because we are too busy searching through the piles of leaves looking for that “special rare” leaf!
Why did these trends occur? Well, in both cases, research became available. Someone told collectors what to look for. It wasn’t until someone took the time to photograph and categorize the various makers, variations and combinations, that both the bayonets and parachutes took off in prices. Nothing initiates a trend like a good ol’ survey of the field. Collectors a curious breed...they like one of everything whether it is Garand bayonets or “wheat-back” pennies. We want to “fill the holes” and more often then not, we want some one to teach us what the holes are.
Based on the above pontificating, What are a couple of emerging trends?
So, what are the next trends? I haven’t seen the prices rising significantly in last twenty years, but I suspect that Imperial German “Dunkelblau” (dark blue) uniforms are going to be the target of a lot of collectors. And why? Well, because of the published research on two fronts.
First, Tony Schnurr has established and maintains an excellent web site called “The Kaiser’s Bunker” (Kaiser is the name of Tony’s might dachshund). Karl has systematically broken the code to understanding German uniforms from 1842 through 1918. Now, it is easy to figure out what regiment wore that old “blue and shiny parade tunic” that has been hanging in your closet. Tony’s site (and their are equally fine sections on Pickelhauben, Imperial headgear and Canadian Expeditionary Forces) is located at www.KaisersBunker.com.
Coinciding with this outburst of information were Stefan Rest’s efforts to publish first-class books on the topic. Over the past few years, the Austrian publisher has dug deep into European museums and private collections to photograph and quantify Great War relics. Two of his books, The German Army in the First World War: Uniforms and Equipment: 1914 to 1918 by Jurgen Kraus and The German Cavalry: From 1871 to 1914: Excellent by Ulrich Herr and Jens Nguyen allow the collector to “see the holes” in their collection and provide a ready reference when new discoveries are made. The books are pricey (upwards of $140 a copy) but worth the price when you consider those old “parade tunics” have jumped in value from $35-$85 to several hundreds of dollars in just the past few years. You can visit Stefan’s site at www.militaria.at. I bought my copies in the United States from Bill Combs who is the North American distributor for Stefan. The books are available at his web site, www.agmohio.com
But, just because the research is available, doesn’t mean that Dunkleblau tunics are the magic beans of investment. However, it sure does give them a good chance for growth!
As you walk through the forest of collecting, look up from time to time. It will help you avoiding smacking into a tree.
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine