Understanding The

Military Collectibles Hobby



If you happened upon this site and are a novice to the world of collecting militaria (war souvenirs) it may seem quite overwhelming, or to some even shocking, depending on your perspective.  This is nothing unusual as being a collector, one often gets asked;


“Why do you collect this stuff, what is the attraction?”


To the uninitiated, the world of collecting military items can seem rather strange at first….especially the collecting of the Third Reich, or “Nazi” era items.  It’s not unusual for those on the outside who are getting their first look at the hobby to wonder if collectors are somehow trying to resurrect the ideals of Germany (or Japan, or Soviet Russia) during the war.  It is an unfair stigma that has dogged WWII collectors for many decades, and nothing could be further from the truth.


The attraction to these items is almost unanimously the history.  Guys buy this stuff because they were fascinated with World War Two…..the largest war in the history of mankind.  This is reflected in the fact that the vast majority of today’s collectors are the post World War Two baby boom generation and grew up playing with toy soldiers, playing army in the backyard and building model planes and tanks.  They watched World War Two themed TV shows such as “Combat” or “Hogan’s Hero’s” and motion pictures such as “Patton” and “Kelly’s Hero’s”.  Their fathers, grandfathers, uncles and neighbors fought in the war and proudly showed off their souvenirs of the enemy they had conquered.  This generation knew that a sense of pride came with the capture of these things, and it was among the first stimuli that triggered their interest.


But, this is certainly nothing new. The collecting of military souvenirs began centuries ago, as the first conqueror took a sword or helmet from his fallen foe as a trophy of his success.  Of course war has always been about land and resources, which are also taken by the conqueror, but there is something different about taking an item symbolic of the soldier and the army that you have just defeated.  It is more personal, an individual trophy representative of your participation in the battle and celebration of the victory.




Now spool ahead several thousand years and you find the same behavior still occurs in modern times, though it has now also expanded into areas other than war.  The sports memorabilia market is one that comes to mind, with collectors paying premium prices to obtain souvenirs worn or used by their hero’s while conquering their rival teams.  If you think it is crazy to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to own a uniform belonging to the leader of a country, like Stalin, or high ranking leader like Hermann Goring, just contrast that with the sports collectors who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a baseball that was hit by a modern-day, steroid fueled sports “star”.  Which do you think will still garner historical, international importance in the world history books centuries from now?



In the area of military collectibles, World War Two is king….and this is for several reasons.  First off, it was the largest war of mankind and even though it is now 60 plus years in the past, it was relatively recent and many of the participants are still alive.  It also produced some of the best “villians’, right out of Hollywood central casting, with smart looking uniforms yielding endless variations….perfect for collecting. 


Secondly, many of the other large wars were fought so long ago that very little in the form of souvenirs survived.  Civil War collectors, for example, are largely left collecting buttons, belt buckles and ammunition as most of the uniforms were worn post-war by the soldiers when they returned home and worked on the farm.  The remaining other cloth items were thrown out or deteriorated over time.  The farther back in time you go, the less chance any fabrics survived, so again, all you are left with are small metal items.



In contrast, World War Two produced literally millions of uniforms, hats, helmets, medals, guns, etc. and much of it has survived, some still sitting in attics and basements throughout the world.  So, it is the perfect convergence of available material from a recent war, and modern technology such as film and television to fuel the passion, that allowed boys and men to form a bond with the war and now collect the mementos.  The internet has come along now and widened that passion, by offering a worldwide venue to see the many items that are available as well as the opportunity to acquire them.  So there really is no mystery as to what developed the yearning to collect these souvenirs of a war long past.  If you love history, it is hard not to find a fascination with relics from such a tumultuous time on our planet.



The investment angle;


There is another ‘angle’ on collecting, that has surfaced primarily in the last 20 years of the hobby, and that is known as ‘investment collecting’.   Collecting has been going on since the first soldiers grabbed their own relics off the battlefield, and continued from the day the war ended as those who had manufactured the regalia continued to produce it to meet the growing need of soldiers to bring home souvenirs of their time overseas.  For several decades after the war the hobby grew, yet there was plenty of merchandise to be had, and it was largely very cheap and often free.  However, starting in the 80’s the prices started to escalate, coinciding with many of the baby boomers moving into their peak earning years.  The decades since have seen appreciation unlike most other investments, with some items appreciating two to three times their value in just the last dozen years.  As a result, the hobby has attracted many investors who see the opportunity to obtain a historical artifact that will appreciate in value and realize a sizeable profit upon resale.  As one might imagine, this quest for profit also has attracted other elements into the hobby resulting in a large amount of fraudulent merchandise thrust into the market…making entry into the hobby a dangerous move to the uneducated.  One of the goals of this website is to assist in that education and, hopefully, create a comfort level and interest in the niche of high ranking collectibles.





The People Who Collect;


Again, to the uninitiated, the hobby may seem unusual at first glance, and with that sometimes comes a generalization or prejudice as to what the people who collect this stuff must represent.  It is an unfortunate pre-judgment, as there are some very intelligent and talented people whom possess this love for collecting the artifacts of war.  Militaria collectors are not some strange, closeted beings who still live with their mothers behind closed curtains in their childhood bedrooms.  They come from all walks of life, and all professions; They are doctors, lawyers, construction workers, business owners, mailmen, policemen, mechanics, entertainers, engineers, artists, scientists, judges, investment bankers, plumbers….the list goes on and on.  Militaria collectors represent a wide array of society, yet all have one thing in common; they love history and have an appreciation for the ability to own a piece of it.  They like the ability to hold in their hands and possess an item that survived a war unlike we are ever apt to see again…and feel the history.  Try it sometime…you just might get hooked too!