Why Collect Militaria?
I try to resist talking to people outside my sphere of militaria collecting acquaintances and friends for the simple reason that I choose to avoid the typical unrehearsed (body language) responses when they learn this particular interest of mine. You might have experienced it – the glazed, vacant stare – uninterested people seem to look way past you as you cautiously respond to someone seeking to learn something about you.
The perception is that militaria collectors are interested in a bunch of junk that can be found for pennies-on-the-dollar at a mildew-laden military surplus store. They assume that we are gobsmacked by olive-drab army fatigues, rusty canteens and other military cast-off items. You should see the eyes roll when I attempt to describe what truly inspires my collecting.
Militaria collecting represents an extensive and broad range of categories. For certain, there are elements such as uniforms, edged weapons, head-wear and medals/decorations at the hobby’s core. But there is incredible variety in this “genre.” Though my own collection pays homage to my veteran ancestors and relatives, I have dabbled in a few of these non-standard areas in militaria collecting. One in particular is the product of combining two passions sports (specifically baseball) and military history. I wouldn’t consider myself a hard core collector in this area, but I have been fortunate enough to land some great pieces that align these two interests. Other than my other focus area (naval history) which I have covered extensively, military sports, namely baseball, has been the subject of many postings in the past several years in writing about this passion:
- Stars, Stripes and Diamonds: Photographs of America’s Pastime in Uniform
- The Corps on the Diamond: US Marines Baseball Uniforms
Collecting militaria can pose some financial challenges when faced with stiff competition for rare or exceptional items. This is something I routinely face as with my special interest in items pertaining to a specific U.S. Navy warship (actually four of them) that was named for a city in Indiana. When items associated with this ship turn up in online auction listings, the competition can get rather fierce, pushing the bidding price out of my range of affordability. There are times when one of the pieces does manage to slip past my competitors allowing my maximum bid to be sufficient in securing the prize. These are rare occurrences that when they do happen, I am elated to the point of becoming borderline-addicted to collecting.
The point of militaria collecting is that it provides for a hands-on connection with history that transcends what is talked or written about in print. It provides those who are interested with a method to comprehend historic events or people while transforming what is read in books or portrayed on screen into (nearly) living history.
In future posts you will, no doubt, observe trends that belie my interests and what I tend to focus my collecting on. However, I will also attempt to provide you with informative posts in order to share the knowledge I’ve gained from a vast network of collectors, historians, museum curators and several other knowledgeable people in order to assist you in making wise decisions with your acquisitions.