What Did that Dealer just Say?

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Through the course of a year, I interact with several militaria and MV dealers, either as a consultant on special projects, a customer or a supplier. After working closely with one or two, I started to pick up on several dealer expressions: Some funny, some a bit harsh but all unique to our hobby. Without betraying any confidences, I am going to share a few of my favorites, but I am advising you right now…if you are squeamish about words or are the type to take offense about darn near anything, stop reading right here.

“Ricky Ricardo” If there is “too much ‘splainin’ to do about a particular relic, it is deemed “Ricky Ricardo.” For example, A German Model 36 tunic with late war insignia, no markings, an altered collar, and a cloth Paratrooper badge on it. Could be real, but there is just too much explaining to make it a viable product, so a dealer will heap it into the “No-Go” pile with other Ricky Ricardo items.

“Will-to-Believe” This expression is used to describe those artifacts that are just too good to be true, and yet, there always seems someone willing to believe them. It describes that quality of “I sure want this to be what I really know it isn’t”. A lot of wives seem to understand this expression better than most husbands.

“Smoking Tax” I have heard this one when a dealer is considering the purchase of a large collection. If the owner is a smoker and his stuff stinks, the dealer factors in the “smoking tax”. This isn’t just an arbitrary penalty. Stuff that reeks of smoke sells for less. That’s just a fact of the hobby.

“Angel fart away…” An angel fart away is closely related to the “will to be believe”, such as, “The unmarked, rusty German M40 shell without any liner is just an angel fart away from being a double decal SS lid”.

“Sincerity Factor” When a dealer recognizes a true scholar or student of militaria and not just someone trying to buy low to sell high, sometimes they will readjust their prices by multiplying by the “Sincerity Factor”. This calculation lowers the price just a bit to reward a really conscientious customer.

“Frankenstein Militaria”
Most can figure out the meaning of this one…when parts and pieces are slapped together to create something that might resemble a piece that existed historically. A good example of Frankenstein militaria would an Ike jacket that someone has sewn on an 82nd Airborne patch, pinned on some wings, looped a fouragerre over the shoulder and dropped some dog-tags in the pockets. People who suffer from the “will to believe” are very susceptible to Frankenstein militaria. They never seem to consider that such items are too Ricky Ricardo to be true.

“Rumplestiltskin Militaria” A certain segment of the hobby loves to go to thrift stores, antique malls and flea markets and pick up whatever remotely military-like items they can find, take them home and try to polish, leather preservative coat, shellac, or cobble together in the attempt to make something valuable. Unlike the miller’s daughter in the Brothers Grimm tale who supposedly spun straw into gold, these collectors try to convert bottom-of-the-barrel militaria (the kind of stuff most of us would throw out…or donate to a thrift store) into something valuable. In fact, no matter how much someone tries to polish that apple, it is never going to come within an angel fart of being anything. Again, the “will-to-believe” plays a big role in the life of a Rumplestiltskin militaria collector.

“Bubba’ed” Have you ever sold something to someone only to have them come back later and say, “I showed this to my friend and he didn’t like it. Can I return it?” You are supposed to assume his friend is some sort of expert and not just a Bubba. Bubba may, or may not, know diddly about the topic, but, somehow, he exerts enormous sway over many collectors. Bubba is consulted more often than quality research books. Bubba is all-knowing. You will never meet Bubba, but rest assured, he has more influence on your fellow collectors then you can ever imagine.

“E-Bubba’ed” Bubba may or may not know militaria, but unfortunately, he has figured out how to use a computer. Bubba can be found on every forum the hobby has. He goes by a lot of different handles, but you will recognize him by the number of responses he has made—it will be in the thousands. He might be 16 years old or 76, collected for years or for a month, yet he is never, EVER shy about voicing his opinion about the authenticity of a relic. He won’t give any blow-by-bow reason why he doesn’t like an item, but rather, he will just chime in, “It doesn’t look good to me….” And that’s how an artifact gets “E-Bubba’ed”. Once Bubba waves his magic wand of disapproval over an artifact, the piece is tainted for life.

And finally, the king of all expressions, the one that I hear and use more than any other is….

“Relic Sex” Relic sex can be had with or without consent. It is the act of fondling, touching, holding, cleaning, discussing or any other routine before or after a sale has been concluded. From a dealer’s point of view, “relic sex” is when they go somewhere to buy a collection, and instead of hearing that the collection costs x dollars, handing over the money and packing up the purchase, he has to listen as the seller tells a story about each and every item. This can go on for hours and only the most patient dealers can sit through these long orgies of relic sex to finally make the purchase. It is worse when a customer calls and wants to recount the whole deal again. This is called “Relic phone sex” for obvious reasons.

From the collector’s point of view, relic sex is that thing you do in the privacy of your own home. For me, a good night of relic sex involves booting up the computer, pulling out all my Tank Corps notes and selecting one identified relic to research. After hours our searching, evaluating and compiling, my “relic sex” concludes with assembling a data sheet on what I know about a particular piece. It is the way I enjoy my collection.

I am sure this little glossary of collecting slang is just the tip of the iceberg. Drop me a note and share some of the terms that you hear or use regularly in the pursuit of the hobby.

Keep em rolling and finding the good stuff,

John Adams-Graf
Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles