MAX Out!

To many it marked the end of an era. With warm temperatures, no rain and often clear blue skies late September in Monroeville, Penn. felt like summer – and it made for a great backdrop for the "final" MAX Show to be held in the Monroeville Convention Center.
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A report from the final MAX Show in Monroeville

Peter Suciu

 The large "trade show" style hall of the MAX on Friday morning.

The large "trade show" style hall of the MAX on Friday morning.

To many it marked the end of an era. With warm temperatures, no rain and often clear blue skies late September in Monroeville, Penn. felt like summer – and it made for a great backdrop for the "final" MAX Show to be held in the Monroeville Convention Center. But there was also a little uncertainty, even sadness as folks said goodbye to what has been the show's home for more than a decade.

This wasn't the first time MAX has said farewell to this location, and in fairness the show began in St. Louis, and has been held in Baltimore, Charlotte and even Indianapolis at various times – the Pittsburgh suburb has been the show's "home" for much of its run. The MAX is simply associated with Monroeville – even if the show's return to the town meant being held in a new building.

 Anyone who says, "The MAX Show is just a Third Reich event" clearly hasn't been to it! There was a great mix of militaria from across the world covering the last three centuries and more!

Anyone who says, "The MAX Show is just a Third Reich event" clearly hasn't been to it! There was a great mix of militaria from across the world covering the last three centuries and more!

Looking Forward

However, instead of lamenting the move, as Bill Combs, business manager for the Ohio Valley Military Society, suggested, "This isn't the end of the era, but rather the beginning of a new era next year with the move to York, Penn. The MAX will be bigger and better than ever."

Not all the dealers believed it. Those from the Midwest and points further complained about the added time on the PA Turnpike and the unfamiliarity of York. There were also the rumblings that a move is never good for a show – despite the fact that this one has packed up more times than an "Army Brat" and has actually continued to improve, notably since OVMS acquired the show. There are also those from the Northeast and other points who welcome the idea of a show that is a few hours closer, and a new location that will bring new possibilities.

 We'd be remiss if we didn't include a photo of Bill Combs and his wife Joyce. Bill is the man who makes this show possible and the hobby should be grateful that it is in some capable hands.

We'd be remiss if we didn't include a photo of Bill Combs and his wife Joyce. Bill is the man who makes this show possible and the hobby should be grateful that it is in some capable hands.

Truth be told, Monroeville was always a mixed bag for a show that is the second largest militaria event in the country. On the plus, it is close to the Ohio Turnpike (but that just means unavoidable tolls) and it has plenty of restaurants of varying quality. However, it really doesn't offer enough hotel rooms and most could be fairly described as having a middling quality at best.

Then there was the 100,000 square foot elephant – the building itself, one that is a "convention center" in name only.

 A future collector who we hope to see at York as well as at Show Of Shows and other future events.

A future collector who we hope to see at York as well as at Show Of Shows and other future events.

Not actually designed from the ground up with trade or collectible shows in mind, the Monroeville Convention Center has meant that dealers have long been spread out across three rooms or technically two halls. It created an atmosphere that was almost like "two shows in one," but never in what could be described in a good way. Loading in and out was always a trying experience. And those who flew into the city had to endure an hour long odyssey through the winding roads of Western Pennsylvania.

Simply put, dealers and collectors really just liked Monroeville for the nostalgia, the familiarity and not for what the venue – or to be blunt – what Monroeville had to offer.

 The MAX is still the place to find quality German helmets.

The MAX is still the place to find quality German helmets.

What attendees ever thought the parking lot was adequate, the roads easy to navigate or again that this town had truly inviting hotels? If anything Monroeville has become a stark reminder of the decline of the traditional shopping mall, an overbuilt main drag of strip malls with vacant store fronts and roads in need of repair! Simply put, the Ohio Valley Military Society should be lauded for its efforts to find the MAX the home it deserves!

The Show Did Go On

As noted the weather didn't really seem like the beginning of the fall "show season" but that didn't stop the collectors from coming out strong. The MAX again drew in collectors and dealers from around the world. In addition, this year included the Friday night seminar from noted author Kenneth Alford, "Jim Atwood: Army Officer, Charmer, Entrepreneur, Collector, Risk-Taker, Rogue & Con-Artist;" chronicling the early "wild west" days of militaria collecting.

This might have been the final time that Monroeville played host to the MAX, but it was still a great time with plenty to see and buy!

 A uniform to the 93rd Infantry Division, which was a "colored" segregated unit of the United States Army during the First World War. It was never fully formed, except for the infantry units that included the 369th Infantry Regiment ("The Harlem Hellfighters") and the 370th Infantry Regiment ("The Black Devils"), which fought under French command. The unit earned the nickname "Blue Helmets" as a result as the troops were issued blue French Adrian helmets, and this became the shoulder patch!

A uniform to the 93rd Infantry Division, which was a "colored" segregated unit of the United States Army during the First World War. It was never fully formed, except for the infantry units that included the 369th Infantry Regiment ("The Harlem Hellfighters") and the 370th Infantry Regiment ("The Black Devils"), which fought under French command. The unit earned the nickname "Blue Helmets" as a result as the troops were issued blue French Adrian helmets, and this became the shoulder patch!

 As noted by this display, the Prussians/Germans didn't have a monopoly on dress helmets with plumes and spikes.

As noted by this display, the Prussians/Germans didn't have a monopoly on dress helmets with plumes and spikes.

 Today's militaria shows aren't just khaki and olive drab either! You can find some quite colorful and truly fascinating artifacts.

Today's militaria shows aren't just khaki and olive drab either! You can find some quite colorful and truly fascinating artifacts.

 Field gear, patches and so much more can be found. If you don't take the time to look you might miss it!

Field gear, patches and so much more can be found. If you don't take the time to look you might miss it!

 One of the show's standout pieces wasn't for sale – a tunic and cap of the Russian Liberation Army (POA), which in 1944 became known as the Armed Forces of the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia.

One of the show's standout pieces wasn't for sale – a tunic and cap of the Russian Liberation Army (POA), which in 1944 became known as the Armed Forces of the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia.

 A Presidential Military Uniform that was once worn by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was on display this year!

A Presidential Military Uniform that was once worn by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was on display this year!

 A Boxer Rebellion era German banner shows how for a brief period the "Great Powers" found common cause in China.

A Boxer Rebellion era German banner shows how for a brief period the "Great Powers" found common cause in China.

 Venell showing how he creates his "snapshot" in time! This was just another "day at the office" for him.

Venell showing how he creates his "snapshot" in time! This was just another "day at the office" for him.

 Noted sculptor David Paul Venell was at the MAX Show to demonstrate his skills.

Noted sculptor David Paul Venell was at the MAX Show to demonstrate his skills.