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MAX tent Unfolds in Monroeville

The 24th Annual Xtravaganza opens to the general public on Oct. 3-4. 

By Thomas T. Wittman

All the stops are pulled, and the 24th annual MAX Show is geared to open for dealer set-up beginning on Thursday October 2, 2008. The show opens to the general public on Friday and Saturday, the 3rd and 4th.

The recent and abrupt sale of our host hotel, the Radisson, certainly caused some promoter sweat, commotion and a few financial problems, but MAX has managed to scramble and the Comfort Inn (412.244.1600) and Holiday Inn (412.372.1022) have acted to fill the void. Both hotels have rooms available at MAX rates in the under $100 bracket. Both hotels are also equipped with all of the ammenities, and each have their own restaurant and bar.

To ease the pain of no longer being able to flop out of bed and take the elevator to the show, there will be shuttle buses running back and forth between the convention center and the hotels, so transportation should not be a problem. We know its an inconvenience compared with the adjoining hotel/convention center in the past, but we can make it do.

For those flying into Pittsburgh, there will be airport-to-hotel service available also—please check with the MAX Web site ( to make a reservation for this service. If you work it right, there is no need for a car rental.

The promoters and staff will be staying in the Comfort Inn. The seminar program will be held in The Comfort Inn, 699 Rodi Road, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15235, on Friday night, beginning at 8 p.m.

Let’s talk about why you should come to the MAX. There are some adverse factors this year – high gas prices, high airplane flights, being at the top of the pile. Obviously, we can not do anything about this, but we know there is a hobby to support and protect out there.

There are many negative factors that affect shows in general. Most of you have noticed, there are not as many shows as there were a few years ago.

Lots of new collectors have joined the hobby through the many Web sites and chat room forums which have become popular. There is no better way to get instant information – right or wrong – and to have someone to talk to – good or bad. These sites are here to stay, and there is no question they serve a need for many of us.

It can be discouraging, though, when I read the comments from time to time, and I find there seems to be an under current of negativity regarding shows. Why spend the money or the time to go is a frequently asked question? After all, you can buy what you want over the Internet without ever getting into the car or paying for a plane ride or hotel room nights.

I think the answer is that our hobby needs true live people and actual artifacts to gather around it. Virtual reality is a pretense – it is plugged into a computer by a brain – communication is done anonymously – no one has to step up to the plate – and much seems to go down that may be real or not.

Only at a large convention/show can we see the face behind the name. Only with face-to- face contact can we judge people’s abilities to determine whether their persona and demeanor works with our own way of doing things. If you collect German militaria, you should know you are in a controversial field.

Go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. You will see the most magnificent of weapon’s collections – but nothing German. Watch the Antiques Road Show on cable – you will see many artifacts from WW II being appraised, but you sure won’t see anything German.

Try selling your father or grandfather’s German “bring backs” on eBay. You’ll get kicked off. You can sell any kind of porn, repulsive dolls, Charles Manson “T” shirts, etc., but you can’t sell any German historical artifacts. It is considered dealing in “hate”. This means that the NSDAP armband or flag that your father risked his life to bring home, can not be sold by his family on this auction.

But it even gets worse in Europe which is also supposedly a free society. Did you ever notice that our fellow collectors that operate in the Germany of today have to put little “band aids” over top of the “Hakenkreuz” on the item pictured on their Web site – their own country can’t stand to be reminded of its past history.

Did you know that any item with a swastika on it sent to collectors in Germany, gets confiscated by the German Customs agents! How would you like to live in Germany and not be able to have any of your new purchases sent to you? For some strange misunderstood reason, we who seriously collect 3rd Reich artifacts are considered skinheads, white supremacist or worse.

I don’t know anyone in this hobby that hates anyone else. It is past history and it is filled with artifacts that had a great appeal to people a generation ago, and still do today. Why do you think our American GIs brought the things home to begin with? It’s pretty simple — they liked the way they looked! That’s is also why the Germans made them to begin with. The artifacts had mass appeal and made people proud of their country. It feels good to own something that looks good.

Granted there were many bad things about the Hitler regime, but we don’t have anything to do with that. It was not our time. We were born after the war. Somehow, all of this adds up to a “cover-up” in modern times.

We have a free society here in America, so it is hard for us to imagine, but do you know a well-known author recently did a couple of years in an Austrian prison for merely speaking about the war and the holocaust at a seminar held in an Viennese hotel. Ben Franklin said, “Those who sacrifice Liberty for Security deserve neither.” Just like guns, the day could come in America, where with the sweep of a pen, Third Reich artifacts will be illegal to own. What a shame, as little could be done if we are all scattered groups living in cyberspace and have never personally met each other.

The point of all of this, is to stress that a show like the MAX is important to attend. It gives everyone a chance to express themselves to new friends and to learn about their hobby. The artifacts we collect can be displayed and traded in a free environment.

It is different than cyberspace. You see the next collector, you can feel the artifact, you can meet others in person who share the same interests, you can attend exciting seminars and educate yourself. By coming to the MAX you validate Militaria as a true, legitimate hobby.

You also demonstrate to others in the hotels, local restaurants and bars, that our collecting group is just like any other group. Come to the MAX and share your experiences with the rest of the collecting world. We all need each other. Your attendance at the MAX is the one thing you can do this year to assure that the hobby continues to grow. It has been a worthwhile enterprise for half a century now. Let’s assure its future by attending the functions that make up its core.

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