If you are planning to hit any military shows this winter, we applaud you. We hope you have a great time buying, selling, interacting with your fellow enthusiasts and growing the hobby.
As a service to our readers (and a friendly reminder), we’ve got a little list of tips for proper etiquette at a military collectors show.
20 Tips for Show Goers
1. Don’t set your drink on somebody’s table. Better yet, don’t even bring a drink to a table! If you are eating in the aisle, don’t handle stuff on their table. You might think your hands are clean, but others don’t know that and can only see how messy that nacho platter is.
2. Seriously, this is not a haberdashery: don’t try on helmets, hats, or jackets without first asking.
3. We all love bargains, but try to be respectful when you are bartering with a dealer. No one really believes you need a pair of WWII leather Japanese boots to wear hiking, and no one really believes that you want $50 off because the size is 2 sizes too small.
4. Do not open or reach into cases without asking. Always ask to pick up items from a dealer’s table. Doesn’t cost anything to ask, and it lets the dealer know you are a serious customer.
5. If you don’t see what you are looking for, ask. Most dealers bring way more than they can display. That item you want might be under the table or out in the van.
6. Once a negotiation has begun, remember to be courteous and polite if you are going to question the authenticity, era, or provenance of an item. What might appear as “questionable” to you might prove to be real once you learn more from the dealer.
7. Carry a variety of currency denominations — if you buy something for $1, don’t hand them a $100 bill. Ask if a dealer will take a check before you work a deal. The best price is a cash price. Many dealers won’t even take out of state (or out of the country) checks.
8. Remember, the table space is a premium at a show (and I had to pay for it). Please don’t put your bag of heavy ordnance on cases to show/sell something to your friend at the next table or just to relieve the strain on your back. Their table is their store. Please don’t block their products.
9. If you see boxes under somebody’s table, those are off limits. You can ask, but don’t be offended if they don’t want to tell you that their slice of pizza, change of shoes, paper towels, and diamond-encrusted Knights Cross are in those boxes. Their boxes, their business.
10. A basic reminder: Keep your hands and other people’s stuff where they can be seen. Don’t pick up something and then turn your back to show the item to your friend.
11. If you run into a buddy in the aisle, step away from the tables to catch up on old times. Other guests may want to get close to my table.
12. While a dealer is interested in you as a customer, please don’t tax that relationship. They really don’t have the time to listen to your long stories. They are at the show to sell. If the end of your story can’t be reached within a couple minutes, it’s probably too long. The longer your story, the less time there is to engage other potential customers. They didn’t come from many miles away to catch up with your life…They came to sell stuff.
13. If you agree to your price, don’t decide to not buy it. This isn’t time to just practice your bargaining skills.
14. NEVER butt in on someone else’s deal. This means, don’t be offering encouragement to the buyer or the seller, don’t even make a wink, a smile, or utter a word. Dealing is best between just two people without an audience or cheerleaders. Once the negotiation between two others begins, it’s best you find something else to occupy your attention.
15. Don’t be afraid to ask opinions of other people before you make the purchase. Bring them to the item. Don’t ask if you can take the item over to Dealer X’s table. They have a lot to keep track of at a show…walk-away relics are tough to remember.
16. When you are negotiating, don’t hesitate to ask about return policies before you buy it.
17. If you are offered some space under a table to store your purchases from the show, don’t plan on bringing in all of the trade items you had in your car for storage under my tables. As mentioned earlier, space is at a premium, so don’t abuse a goodwill gesture.
18. Everyone wants to know “what’s in your bag.” If you have items to sell, don’t be bashful. Come right out and ask, “Are you interested in buying X?”
19. If you want to shoot a photo or two of an item, ask first. Some people have reasons they don’t want their items (or themselves) to be captured in an image. Remember, though, permission to photograph doesn’t negate all the other common sense reminders: Don’t touch/pose items without asking. Don’t occupy the space too long, and for Pete’s sake, don’t set your backpack, purse, a bag of goodies, or other items on someone’s table or case so you can handle your phone or camera.
20. Bob Chatt once posted what I think is the most important rule to remember: “It all comes down to common sense: Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
Enjoy the hunt, preserve the memories.
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