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MAX-ing out in Pittsburgh

I am just back from Pittsburgh where I attended the MAX Show. Many have asked about my experiences there.

To be honest, I didn’t see much of the show. Working for several masters, I spent the show behind tables. My walking around time was expended with trips for Diet Coke and resulting visits to the restroom.

However, standing behind a table, does provide an interesting perspective. Here are a few things I observed:

First, I have to compliment the MAX organizers. I really liked the new facility. It was divided into two major rooms, but it was like that at the old Monroeville location as well. Parking seemed to be very limited and dealers were asked to park in the adjacent K-Mart lot to make room for the large, expected public attendance. We parked across the highway, but apparently something more had to happen to draw in the public.

Public attendance was about nil. I would be surprised if more than 500 people paid to come through the show. But that really isn’t a criticism. The MAX Show is really a “trade show” where dealers come together and refocus their wares by selling and buying among themselves. Any public that comes through door is just a bonus. And let’s face it, if a person is going to spend more than $50 at the show, they are already there as a dealer or a table helper. Military collectors are very aware that the early bird gets the relic, so there are very few who will patiently stand outside waiting for the doors to open on Friday morning.

I heard some dealers complain that the admission price was too high ($12 per person). Come on. If a person isn’t willing to pay $12 to get in, do you really think they are in a position to buy that $6,000 SS helmet on your table?

I can’t say that sales were “brisk”, but there were sales. I didn’t witness fast, “I see it, I’ll take it” sort of transactions, but rather, very slow, patient negotiations. Discounts were there to be had, for sure. The smart dealers recognized the lower demand and were willing to respond with discounts to close the deals. I’ve said it before: “Supply side economics works!” When demand is low and supply is high, a retailer has to lower prices. At the end of the show, the dealers who were happy had done just that.

In the November issue of Military Trader, MAX organizer Thomas Wittman addressed some dealers’ concerns about the MAX Show’s responsibility in enforcing an ethics policy. Some anticipated a showdown at the show over this matter, but it never played out as far as I could see or hear. There was no drama, no scenes.

Some have asked, “What was the most unusual thing you saw, John?” That has to be, without a doubt, high-end dealer Craig Gottlieb gliding through the show on a Segway Personal Transporter. I scoffed, snickered and looked away, but by the end of the show, I was thinking, “I bet Gottlieb’s legs don’t hurt anywhere near as much as mine!”

As for cool relics, I honestly can’t say! I never got out to the walk the show. But, that isn’t to say I didn’t make any purchases.

On set-up day, I glanced at the table behind mine, and there sat a complete WWI 6-pound projectile like those used on MK V “Male” tanks. I snatched that up right away.

When making a delivery of magazines to the front table on Sunday, I spotted an officer’s Tank Corps pin on a tunic that a fellow was carrying in his arms. I stopped to talk to him about the tunic and ended up adding a very nice 307th Tank Brigade officer’s uniform to my collection.

It was an absolute delight to reconnect with a lot of friends and many readers of the magazine. I was able to sit and talk wih Bob Chatt (organizer of the Pomona Show), Arizona dealers Larry and Terry Stewart, Pennsylvania dealer Dan Griffin, Bay State Militaria owner Scott Kraska, dagger entrepreneur Tom Johnson and my buddies from Manion’s, Andrew Turner and John Conway. That is the great thing about the MAX show, it draws from across the nation — and world — anyone who is active in the hobby.

So what is my opinion of MAX 2009? Overall, it was a very good experience: The facilities were really nice, the restrooms were always clean and food service adequate, the organizers made a very strong effort to promote and publicize the event, and there were was a wide representation of the hobby present.

All the ingredients were there to make any militaria dealer or collector happy. If anyone complains that the sales weren’t there, I can only say it was their own fault (remember, I adhere to supply-side economics!).

Keep finding the good stuff, and if you deal, adjust your prices to match the demand.

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

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