Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the tag “fake”

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.

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Discovery’s “Combat Cash” is crap!

Reality TV is stupid.  It’s beyond stupid.  And it’s certainly not any reality I’m familiar with — actual or imaginary.

People have become hooked on watching other people do incredibly stupid things to get on television with the hopes of winning money, getting married, or just for their 15 minutes of fame.  And what passes for “reality” television these days is horrible.

Last night, I suffered through Discovery Channel’s latest “reality” show, Combat Cash.  I figured that someone, like myself, who is into militaria and World War II reenacting would enjoy a show about others who have the same interests and perhaps I might learn a thing or two.  I learned something alright….I learned that these guys are idiots.

Let’s go back a bit for those who aren’t personally familiar with who I am and what I do.  When I’m not working disasters with a certain governmental agency, I run an online military surplus retail store (you can find the website in my profile information).  Husband and I have collected, bought, sold, and traded military items from almost every major conflict and most of the major players in them.  We specialize in items from World War I to the Vietnam Conflict (although, every veteran and civilian I’ve ever met that was in Vietnam at that time said it sounded more like a war than a “conflict”).  Our main speciality is World War II GI (American) Military Police and the 35th Infantry Division.  We even attend World War II reenactments where, yes, we as fully-grown adults dress-up in uniforms (mostly reproductions since originals are hard to come by these days) and play “good-guy/bad-guy” with others dressed as Germans.  We attend as either US 35th Division MPs if it’s a Western Front event and as USSR NKVD if it’s an Eastern Front event.  Many of our friends portray British, Italian, German, GI, partisan, and Soviet and we have a good time running in the woods shooting blanks at each other just like kids used to do when playing “Cowboys and Indians” with their old cap guns and toy bow-and-arrow sets.  It’s pretty much the same, actually….except that the “guns” are actual military surplus and cost a LOT more than your average plastic six-shooter but the amount of squabbling over who did and didn’t get “killed” is still pretty much the same.

So, it’s pretty safe to say that we know what our items are and what they aren’t.  We’ve had to become adept at detecting the faked items from the real thing — and these days it’s getting harder and harder to do.  There are companies that not only make almost perfect copies of WWII German medals/awards, they even have reproduced the boxes in which they were originally presented!!  That’s one reason I won’t buy German militaria unless I can absolutely, without-a-doubt prove that it’s original.  Too many fakes out there for my wallet.  Sure, it’s great to buy reproduction items when you’re on a budget and need something for a collection to hold a place until you can get an authentic item or if you plan to run around in the woods and don’t want to take your incredibly expensive originals out to play.  But if you’re buying and selling items to make a profit and you don’t have a clue as to what is and isn’t real and how the fakes are fooling many, then you’re in big trouble.

I grudgingly sat down with Husband to watch the premiere episode of Combat Cash last night and laughed about how we’d been contacted months ago by “producers” saying that they worked with Discovery, TLC, and other big cable networks who wanted to do a reality show about military surplus collectors/dealers and if we would be interested.  First of all, this “request” came by email from someone I had no idea and couldn’t find information about who they were.  Secondly, why would I want to show where I purchase my inventory or how I get awesome deals on it??  It’s like announcing to the world, “Here’s how it’s done, so be sure to get there before I do because I don’t have the desire to actually make money anymore.  Oh, and while you’re at it, here’s where we live/work so you can see our collection and steal it from us.  M’kay?”

The first episode was awful.  Pure and simple — just awful.  As a matter of fact, I started live-posting on Facebook about it when I wasn’t either laughing myself silly or having a fit over something stupid said or done on the show.  I posted on my profile and our business’ page.  Here’s a sample:

“Watching the premiere episode of Discovery Channel’s ‘Combat Cash.’  OMG!!  These guys are idiots!  They say they know everyone in military collecting — well, we’ve never heard of them!  Getting ready to watch the episode that includes WWII reenactors.  This should be a fiasco!”

“Watching Discovery Channel’s new show ‘Combat Cash.”  The premiere episode was incredibly stupid.  Watching the second episode which is supposed to feature WWII reenactors.  They just said that ‘not many people have this kind of firepower (i.e. M1 Garands, MP40s, MG34s, etc.).’  No….not in southern California where they are they don’t!  They’re using the firearms to record sound effects for a WWII videogame that has dinosaurs as Hitler’s mechanized weapons.  We’ll maybe they at least won’t have someone yelling ‘Take your hit!’ like Medal of Honor: Underground had.  That is, if they don’t kill themselves — range safety seems nonexistent!”

“Okay….just to let everyone know, we saw the ‘Combat Cash’ guys sell an “original” M1 steel pot painted with medic insignia for $1250.  No, there’s not a decimal point missing out of that — they sold it for twelve hundred fifty dollars!!  Now everyone will believe ANY painted “WWII” helmet is worth at least that.  And they didn’t even prove that it was “original” (stamps, seams, etc.) that people who actually know their stuff would be sure to look for.  I feel sorry for the guys who bought it ’cause now their names are all over national TV!”

You get the idea.  And the show also featured them going to the annual Conneaut, Ohio D-Day reenactment.  Now, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend that even but I’ve heard it’s pretty awesome.  The last D-Day invasion I participated in was the 50th anniversary reenactment at Ft. Story, Virginia.  That was AWESOME!  But, I digress….

These yahoos they call “hosts” of the show started walking through the vendor area and were talking about how “Midwestern prices” are insanely low and how they could go in, buy a lot of stuff, and sell it for twice or three times what they paid to customers in California.  Oh, goody!!  They’re not only incompetent at identifying items or putting reasonable values on them, but now they’re insulting us who live/work in the Midwest by basically typecasting us as ignorant rednecks and hillbillies who are too stupid to know what things are “really” worth.

In the show, they make a point of saying that they’re very busy finding new items for their store and that the store is open by appointment only.  Who can make a living operating that way?  And they charged the videogame dudes $5000 to record sounds of weapons when they could have easily flown themselves to Knob Creek,  Kentucky for one of their Machine Gun Shoots and gotten all the effects they needed for a lot less than that!  The final straw for me was watching these goobers argue over whether or not to purchase a BSA paratrooper bicycle and watching the seller get really irritated at their squabbling.  It was finally decided that if one of the guys jumped out of a plane that they would buy it.  Huh???  It wasn’t even the seller offering to take the guy skydiving!!  Why would you settle a purchase argument by spending more money???

I hope this show either (1) goes off the air soon so that reputable militaria collectors/vendors like myself and many other companies we affiliate with will be able to continue selling items before the general public starts ranting “But on Combat Cash they offered a guy more!” or (2) that they find someone who actually knows what he/she is doing to educate these people that the whole militaria collecting world doesn’t revolve around what’s done in southern California.

But, I did notice one of the guys lost a rear sight on the M1 Carbine he borrowed for the D-Day battle.  I’ve got an original WWII one for sale!!  Maybe I’ll inflate my price on it, just so they’ll feel more comfortable!!

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