Observations on the Economy of the Market of Guns, Militaria, et cetera


World War II Jeep on display and sale at the Iola Vintage Military Show

I had the occasion to attend a combination Military Vehicle Rally, Militaria show, Gun Show, and Re-enacting Event this past weekend and it was very encouraging. In the nine years that I have been going, this appeared to be the best attended ever.  The patrons were not just there to look, they were spending money. I can not explain it, but it was good to see.

The 20th annual Iola Vintage Military Show takes place every August in Iola, Wis. Now if you want to find Iola on a map, go to the center of Wisconsin and get a magnifying glass. The nearest city is Stevens Point, but it is several hours away from the major metropolitan areas of Green Bay, Milwaukee, Madison, or the Twin Cities. Therefore, many of the dedicated attendees are travelling a great distance. But, they continue to make the pilgrimage year after year. There is on site camping and a nice inside dining area with reasonable prices, so you never need to leave the grounds.

I am not a vehicle collector, but I have the utmost admiration for the painstaking detail to which these artifacts are restored. It is one thing to look at a static display in a museum, but something altogether different to hear them running and see them moving.  It is too cool. Despite the high price of gas these military vehicle enthusiasts transport or drive their collections to the rally and do a parade every evening. 

If you can’t make it to the upper Midwest to attend this event, there are numerous other vehicle rallies around. What I believe is the largest of these, takes place in Aberdeen, Md., around Armed Forces Day in May. I used to go to that one annually and it is a sight to see.

Now, the militaria and the guns are right up my alley.  I have always found good deals at the vehicle rallies. But, there is by no means a sell off. For the last 30 years I have been  very involved in this market, and there has always been a pretty steady up tick in prices year after year. I believe that in the last year or so it has basically stopped going up, and is holding steady. As someone who is buying more than selling, I wish that I could say prices were dropping.  But knowing that, for now, the stuff that I have bought is holding it’s value, is not bad news. 

There are several re-enactor units present at this event every year. This time there was a World War II American airborne unit, a German unit, a Vietnam-era American unit and a Viet Cong unit. They set up encampments and reenact World War II and Vietnam War battles.

Now, everyone is a critic, and it is easy to sit there and pick out any flaw that the re-enactors make. But when you think about it, these folks spend a lot of time researching their unit. Furthermore, they have a lot money invested in their uniforms and equipment. Then they stay in character, sleeping in small tents, utilizing vintage gear.  They do all of this with usually no compensation, just a bill for their ammunition and pyrotechnics. I, for one, like what they do. Furthermore, my kids are really impressed. 

So, do a little research, find a military vehicle rally and or a re-enactor event near you. Take your children, it will be an educational experience.  It is hard to say how much longer these events will be able to continue, besides it is way more fun than yard work or a trip to the mall.