Blog Archives

Militaria Bargains to be Had

Taking inventory of my previous blog postings, I find an overwhelming majority of the topics I’ve covered were focused primarily on militaria that is not in the reachable price range for most collectors. These posts have been in stark contrast to my most recent acquisitions, most of which are well below $50 (including shipping costs).

In reality, most of the collectors I know are adept at rooting out the bargains at yard sales, surplus and antique stores, and various other sources. Rather than shelling out loads of cash to online sellers and taking on shipping costs, these collectors locate some very hard-to-find, and in some cases, high dollar items and groups for a pittance.

For the bargain-basement price of less than $11.00, I was able to acquire this fantastic tailor-made set of WWII-era dress whites with the precise rating badge I had been seeking (source: eBay image).

For the bargain-basement price of less than $11.00, I was able to acquire this fantastic tailor-made set of WWII-era dress whites with the precise rating badge I had been seeking (source: eBay image).

One of my collector colleagues spends time sniffing around in bargain bins in a surplus store near one of the local military installations, and once managed to locate a few sets of experimental U.S. Army combat uniform sets for less than $10.00. Subsequently, he discovered that the uniforms were rare and highly sought-after by collectors of current and modern uniforms, and could easily yield several hundred dollars per shirt and trouser set. His find was merely a matter of timing and experience as he recognized that these uniforms had subtle differences from their standard-issue counterparts.

This jumper has a nice, crisp appearance for being 70+ years old. The crow of a Ship’s Cook 3/c is exactly what I was looking for (source: eBay image).

This jumper has a nice, crisp appearance for being 70+ years old. The crow of a Ship’s Cook 3/c is exactly what I was looking for (source: eBay image).

For some collectors (like me), possessing and budgeting for the time to spend scouring these locations for the bargains is difficult. We compensate by letting our browsers and searches do the legwork in discovering the low-priced pieces. Knowledge and experience also comes into play for us as we are able to discover items in listings that are incorrectly identified or tagged by the sellers helping to keep the buyer competition to a minimum.

Still, timing and patience are ultimately the key in finding low-priced pieces. I have been in search of a set of World War II vintage U.S. Navy enlisted dress whites with a ship’s cook third class (SC 3/c) rate and rating badge in good condition for a few years. Such a set would be a great augmentation for the uniform display I am assembling to honor my grandfather. While I already have two sets of his actual dress blues (one is standard Navy-issue and the other is his tailor-made, custom set), his whites were lost to time. When an online auction for a set of whites meeting my criteria was listed for less than $10.00, I began watching, hoping that the competition would be low and I set my snipe bid.

Just a few days ago, I received notice that the auction closed and my bid had been accepted as the winner. I acquired the uniform for less than $11.00 (plus a few bucks more for shipping costs) and I was amazed that this set would sell for such a low price when so many had sold for well over $50.00 during my previous years of searching.

The bargains are still out there for those who arm themselves with knowledge and patience and have a little bit of luck.

Chiefly Limited: Space for Uniforms is at a Premium

Chief Machinist Mate bullion

Always an attention-grabber, vintage silver-bullion chief petty officer rating badges are highly collectible due to their intricate designs and usage of silver thread.

There are many challenges and hurdles for collectors of militaria. Not unlike the difficulties other collectors face, militaria requires research, authentication and a healthy bank account in order to enable the afflicted with the tools to be successful in such endeavors. One of the most significant universal hurdles collectors face is the ever-increasing deficit of square footage needed for storing and displaying collections.

I am no different from any other collector in that space is at a premium when it comes to safely storing my militaria. Without the proper controls being set in place, I could easily displace my closet space needed for hanging my wardrobe in favor of a growing assortment of vintage military uniforms. What sort of proper control could bring to bear the appropriate amount of pause before pulling the trigger on a deal to acquire the next amazing uniform?

My collection, almost from my entry into militaria, has grown slowly due to my tempered approach, focusing on specific areas of interest. Within those areas, I incorporate a finer set of specificity that helps me to keep things under control. Like many U.S. naval collectors, I enjoy uniforms, rates, shoulder insignia, collar and cap devices and other assorted pieces. However, I tend to direct my attention to specific rates when it comes to uniforms and badges. Mostly, my naval uniform collecting focuses on rates that were held by members of my family.

Only one member of member of my family ever advanced through the enlisted ranks to don the rocker-topped chevron of a chief petty officer, so my collection of CPO uniforms is very limited.

On occasion, I might be tempted to acquire an item that falls outside of my parameters if it possesses other aspects that make it too good to pass up as was the case of my most recent acquisition.

WWII CPO machinist's mate jacket

This CPO jacket has it all…well almost. It is an 8-button, tailor-made dress blue, World War II-era jacket complete with a silver bullion chief machinist’s mate rating badge and custom sewn-on ribbons.

A few weeks ago, a chief’s uniform jacket and cap became available that was just too good to pass up. The dress blue coat was an older, tailored eight-button version indicating that it was made during (or prior to) World War II. Affixed above the left breast pocket were 2-⅓ rows of custom (sewn-on) ribbons which clearly showed the chief as having served during and after World War I up to (and probably through) World War II. On the left sleeve were six hash marks showing that the chief served for at least 24 years. I have an affinity for bullion rates or insignia and the chief machinist’s mate insignia on this coat was the icing on the cake that put me over the top to make the decision to pick it up.

WWII CPO combination cap with white cover

Included with the CPO jacket was this WWII-era (wicker-framed) combination cap. The condition of the frame, visor and white cover are outstanding.

For many of us, researching veterans is a challenge and when we learn about the original owners (of military uniforms) were, there is a compulsion that pushes us to discover where the served and what they did during their time in uniform. When a uniform (that we acquire) is inscribed with a name, we are invariably driven to pursue the history in order to retain it with the item. Sadly, this jacket was unmarked which only meant that I wouldn’t have any further work once I had my hands on it.

Navy custom, sewn-on ribbon rack

The custom ribbon rack, though a little deformed from years of use and storage is complete with a Navy Good Conduct, WWI Victory, China Service, American Defense, American Campaign, Asiatic Pacific Campaign (with three campaign stars) and WWII Victory.

After it arrived, I was even more impressed by the condition of the jacket and the silver bullion of the rate badge. One glance at the Good Conduct ribbon (sans devices) and the six red hash marks, it is very apparent that the chief had some challenges with Navy regulations, staying out of trouble (when on liberty) or simply clashed with his superiors. I am sure his disciplinary record would make for an entertaining read. It is unfortunate that the jacket is forever decoupled from the sailor’s service. Regardless, the uniform is a great addition to my collection.

Now…where to put it?