Spring Gun Show: Day One
I’m surprised. I’m very surprised. I’m actually on the verge of being stunned. Today, I didn’t have to yell at anyone in disgust during the gun show. And that’s a first for me in a long time!
I don’t consider myself a rude person. I try to be friendly and cordial with everyone I meet, especially if they’re a customer, until they give me a reason not to be. Then, depending on the amount of stupidity or rudeness received, all bets are off. My business is there to make money, not to please the entire world. I’ve spent years of my life studying and researching information so that I am as close to being an expert as I can be with regards to the items I sell. And since 99% of all of the items are either from the Vietnam War era or earlier (I deal in military surplus, in case you forgot or are new to my writings), a lot of my information has to come from hands-on experience with the items, talking to veterans who owned or were issued the items, and doing a LOT of reading so that I’ll know the little details. Not every helmet is the same. Not every weapon is the same. And just because you watched Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan doesn’t make you an expert on WWII militaria! You might own the entire DVD set of every Tour of Duty season or you have every M*A*S*H and After M*A*S*H episode memorized, but that doesn’t make you an expert on the Vietnam or Korean Wars!
The worst thing to do is to come up to my table (which I have spent a fair amount of money to rent so that I can sell my items) after I’ve traveled a long distance to be at the show (sometimes I’m lucky and the shows are actually at a center across the street from my house!) and made sure that I’ve brought a wide variety of items (because one of the biggest complaints at shows is that “there’s nothing worth buying”) and trying to inform me that the polyester-blend jacket you’re holding was passed-down three generations from your relative that served in the American Revolution and because you’ve seen the latest documentary on History Channel that has one “just like it” that I must purchase it from you for an ungodly amount of money. Or, you bring an item to me and tell me how you watched a television show where someone had one exactly like it except for the color, size, and rust on it and that you demand that I pay the appraised amount from the show. I’ll make this simple — do either of those things, and the answer is going to be, “Not gonna happen in this lifetime, buddy!”
Another one of the top items to not do is to bring your item to my table, stand in front of me and give me a very, very long, very, very detailed “history” of the item and how you came to own it and then ask me what it’s worth. It’s even worse when you start your diatribe with, “Do you know what this is?” not in a manner of “Can you help me?” but with the attitude of “I’m going to teach you something.” What’s most irritating is when I’ve answered your question that I do or don’t know what the item is and ask if you want to sell the item to me and you respond with a resounding “Of course not!” or “Depends on what you tell me it’s worth! Why should I give you an appraisal for free? You don’t get other items appraised for free. Why should I utilize the many years research and knowledge that I have to tell you something that (1) you think you already knew or (2) had no clue about and not get anything out of it? I don’t work for Antiques Roadshow so my appraisals aren’t free!
Also, when I give a “value” on an item, it’s going to be one of three things — (1) the current market value of the item based on others I’ve seen sell at retail or auction, (2) an estimated insurance value if it’s something that I’ve already been informed is going to stay within the family (and my appraisal fee is paid), or (3) what I think it’s worth to me or what I’m willing to pay because I am going to resell it and need to be able to make a profit. I’m not buying your memories or appraising your family’s history — I’m in this game to make money and just because you saw someone else told that their item is worth $30,000 doesn’t mean that your’s is as well! Not every World War II uniform was worn by Eisenhower or Patton and not every German pistol was carried by Goering or Hitler. And trust me on this, there are a LOT of faked items out there! Collectors and reenactors have demanded reproduction items and manufacturers have been more than happy to provide them, especially if they’re Nazi items! They first started reproducing the uniforms but used actual WWII-era materials and thread which made detecting a fake almost impossible. Then they reproduced weapons with old parts found in defunct factories. The parts are “original” but the build of the weapon didn’t happen until the 1980s — so saying it’s “real” is kind of hard to do. Now, there are companies that not only fake the medals (and not just the high honor ones but even the ones that EVERYONE got) but they even fake the presentation boxes the things came in from the 1940s!! It’s getting so you can’t trust anything as “authentic” anymore!
Oh, and when I said “real” above, that word drives me insane. People come up to me when I’m wearing my WWII-era authentic uniform and ask, “Is that real?” I tell them, “Why, yes, it is — in the sense that it takes up time and space.” That usually baffles them for a few moments until they decide to ask, “Is it really your uniform?” I reply, “Yes, it is mine because I bought and paid for it myself and am the only person who wears it.” Again, I’ll get some blank stares because they’re not sure of what to say. What they should have asked is, “Is that an authentic WWII uniform?” or “Is that uniform original to the WWII-era?” or “Was that uniform made during WWII and possibly used by a soldier then?” Then I could answer them whether or not my uniform is “authentic,” “genuine” or “vintage.” “Real” is a word that has way too many meanings. And asking if it is “mine” implies that I am the person who wore the uniform during World War II and earned the medals pinned to the dress jacket and actually obtained the rank worn from the United States Government. I may be starting to look older, but I’m not THAT old yet!!
So today wasn’t filled with as many questions or issues like those. It was nice to have intelligent and humorous conversations with prospective customers. And when some would ask me for my “expert” opinion or for clarification with regards to an item or type of items I’ve spent a lot of time researching, I was happy to oblige. True, there were a number of people who tapped on the helmets to make sure they were really made out of metal and others who tried to “inform” us that we couldn’t own or sell our wares because “it’s illegal to own government property” even though the items are edging 70 years old and no one in the government has been searching for them (especially since they discontinued them and threw away what was left-over ages ago).
Hopefully tomorrow will go well. And if not, at least I’m still on my painkillers from yesterday and they help mellow me out for short periods of time.