You didn’t think you would receive a Militar-E-News that didn’t have an obtuse Super Bowl reference, did you? After all, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine are headquartered in Wisconsin. I have been telling people who write to me that our parent company, F+W Media, even mandated that we sign all correspondence during the month of February with “GO PACK!”
Football withstanding (I am really an Oakland Raiders fan—ouch!), February is a standout month in my book. Having grown up in Minnesota, I have an ingrained sense of February being the “hump month” of winter. Subconsciously, my body knows there are only a few more months before I will have to begin mowing the lawn again.
Of course, February also means that an old, hopeless romantic will look through the mail with anticipation of Valentines (well a guy can hope, can’t he?). And, February marks the anniversary of the Battle of Buena Vista, a self-proclaimed two-day holiday that I have celebrated for the past 30 years.
But, probably overshadowing all of these events (and I better mention my dear partner’s birthday also falls in February as well—right on the kickoff of Buena Vista Days—what else?), February culminates with the Show of Shows.
For those of you who are not familiar, the Show of Shows is the ultimate militaria show in the United States. Hosted by the nation’s largest militaria club, the Ohio Valley Military Society, collectors from around the world converge on Louisville, Ky., for the pinnacle of militaria buy-and-sell.
The SOS wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the dedication of the Ohio Valley Military Society. It is nice to see an organization truly committed to understanding the needs of its members. If you aren’t a member, you should consider joining (you don’t have to live in Ohio… just an old name for a club that grew way beyond its expectations). Log onto www.sosovms.com for more info on the OVMS and the SOS. They are on Facebook, too.
With more than 1,600 tables, the Show of Shows is probably the best cross-section of the hobby. While there isn’t a particular theme, one will find dealers who specialize in Third Reich, WWI, Civil War, Commonwealth, Japanese, Russian, military vehicles, books and movies, and of course, U.S. militaria. There truly is something for everyone in the hobby at the SOS.
Many collectors have been saving money or material for months in anticipation of the SOS. Me, I have an account at my bank marked “SOS Funds” into which I trickle money all year just so that I can be ready… why set aside funds that could be spent on other relics? More than any other show I have attended, the SOS has the mystique of “Ya never know what will show up.” Over the years, I have been surprised at the treasures I have found at this show.
And surprises they are! The past two years, I have escaped from my tables to walk around and shop. And yet, I have been able to spend thousands of dollars each year. Thankfully, as a result of networking, many people know that I am a serious collector and buyer of WWI AEF Tank Corps material and WWI real photo postcards. They come by my tables, drop a stack of stuff off for me to review and come back later. I hand them the money and whatever I didn’t purchase. It is a system that has helped add serious material to my collection.
But like any show, luck has played an important role. Two years ago, on a trip through the show to retrieve books from the truck, I spotted a trench art model tank made by a member of Company C, 304th Heavy Tank Battalion. Without missing a stride, I asked, “How much for the tank?” The dealer could see I was in a hurry and probably thought I wasn’t serious. He said, “$400 Firm.” I pulled out four Benjamins, handed them over and continued to the truck. In a matter of 10 minutes I was back at my table but had added a significant piece to my collection.
Last year, I thought I was going to be skunked. My tables were VERY busy and I only snuck away occasionally to head to the restrooms. By Saturday, I was beat… I didn’t want to see any more militaria, any more people and I was questioning why the heck I do any of this. I snuck off for yet another bathroom break, taking a different route than all the other trips. On my way, I spotted a brass match safe with a tank engraved on one side. I still don’t know how I spotted it… it was in a case with a lot of splendid Third Reich material and bullion U.S. insignia. I asked if I could look at it. It was elaborately engraved by a member of the 306th Salvage and Repair Battalion. A couple more Benjamins and I had added another piece to the collection that has grown to be one of my favorites!
This year will be no different. I work for some pretty demanding taskmasters who don’t seem to think I have any interest in the show, so I know I won’t be getting any “breaks” to go shopping. But I promise, I will be making as many trips to the restroom as I can get away with! Don’t be offended if I don’t recognize or even see you… my head is going to be pointed down at the cases and tables looking for that next Tank Corps goodie.
So to recap, the important dates to remember in February:
February 14, Valentine’s Day (this Monday, meatheads!). Dip into the collecting funds and buy your sweetie a card or some flowers. (Don’t pull the tired old collector ruse, “I bought this militaria for HER collection!” Seriously, I don’t think there is a lady out there who would want a camouflaged M40 helmet if she wasn’t hooked up with a militaria nut!)
February 22-23. Buena Vista Days. Go out for some Mexican food and raise a glass to old Rough and Ready and the 4,500 American soldiers who soundly defeated 20,000 Mexican soldiers in 1847.
February 24-27. Show of Shows at the Kentucky Exposition Center, South Wing B in Louisville.
GO PACK! (sorry, the boss says we have to say that)
John Adams-Graf, Editor
Military Vehicles and Military Trader