Militaria: The Investment You Never Thought About …
Most savvy investors are aware of the fact that “collectibles” have always been a good hedge against inflation and have proven to be a solid investment with respect to capital gains. When they think of collectibles, the usual antiques, stamps, coins, art, etc. come to mind. However, very few think “militaria”.
What is the militaria? It’s not even in my Webster so I’ll define it myself. It’s basically any kind of military or paramilitary collectible. This can range from weapons, uniforms, medals, insignia, insignia, field equipment, etc. If it is of military origin and people collect it, it is military.
There is someone who collects everything you can think of. If you look hard enough, I’m sure you will find someone who collects and wants to buy Argentine army combat boots. However, I don’t think they are a good investment …
The most popular areas or countries for collectors are the United States, Great Britain, France, Japan, and Germany. While interested collectors can be found in all countries and time periods, perhaps the most popular period is World War II. Because this article is about investing, I will focus on the area that has proven to be the best long-term investment. Fortunately, this is the area that I have collected for over 35 years … Third Reich Germany.
Even before the shooting ended in Europe, soldiers were “releasing” memories of German prisoners and battlefields. Before long, a dynamic exchange developed between the soldiers as they traded items back and forth, not really knowing what they had or what they were doing, and basing their exchanges on an item’s purely personal appeal. For several years after the war, some “hardcore” collectors searched for these souvenirs. They appreciated the historical significance and artistic qualities of the relics. Yes, the dress uniform of a “Nazi” officer can be a magnificent thing!
It was in the 1960s that the hobby really “took off.” What contributed the most to its popularity was that it was during this time that reference material became available. Before that date there was very little information available to collectors. Reference books meant that a piece could be identified exactly what it was about. The “old German jacket” was now a Panzer captain’s parade robe “and the” swastika pin “was now a gold NSDAP membership pin.
Now that collectors had an idea of what they actually had, they were able to start putting realistic values on their items. No longer would someone trade a 2nd Class Iron Cross (made in millions) for a rare dress dagger from an army general. The fans were getting organized.
In the 1960s there were quite a few “merchants” buying and selling German military part-time or, in some cases, full-time. Interest grew as more and more people (mostly men) realized what a fascinating hobby it was. As interest grew, demand grew, and as demand grew, prices increased. There was a steady increase in prices for the next 30 years.
A full history of the hobby is beyond the scope of this article, so I’ll move on. It is now 2007 and the prices demanded for the German military have skyrocketed! I estimate that in the last 5 years most of the German military has increased in value by 500%, and in some cases even more. Still, collectors don’t see enough and prices keep going up and up with no end in sight. Some areas of the hobby have always been more popular than others. Among them are the daggers, of which there are more varieties and variations than you can imagine, and the SS. He; the evil SS! Let’s face it, the bad guys are always more interesting than the good guys. After all, which one would you rather have, the outfit that Luke Skywalker wore or the one that Darth Vader wore?
So what does this mean to you as a potential investor? It could mean big profits in the long run. A rare medal, dagger, or uniform purchased today for $ 5,000 could be worth $ 25,000 in a few years. That is, of course, if things continue as they are. Unlike the stock market, the German military “never” goes down in value. I base that on many years on hobby and personal experience. In the worst case, the increase will slow down for a while, but prices will always keep going up.
I’m not suggesting you run out and buy “Nazi stuff” at the local flea market. On the contrary, caution is needed in this, as in all investments. There are some “newbie” traps in our hobby.
Unfortunately, as the values of collectibles increased, so did the number and quality of counterfeits or reproduction items. Spending a lot of money on one of these as an investment could prove disastrous. Be careful! Here are some tips for an investor with limited knowledge of our hobby.
1. Buy quality. Do not buy parts in poor condition. And don’t buy low-quality parts. It would be better to buy a really good item than a pile of junk.
2. Make your purchase through a reputable dealer. This will require some homework on your part, but it will pay off in the long run. The Internet is full of distributors, some good and some not so good. Check them out before dealing with them. Another place to find dealers is at “militaria shows” and gun shows. There are also several online auctions. Again, be careful who you deal with.
3. You may want to hire an experienced collector to act as your advisor. Make sure it’s someone who doesn’t have a financial interest in your potential purchase.
4. Be prepared to hold your investment for a while. Don’t expect to buy it one day and sell it the next for a profit.
I can’t guarantee you’ll make a killing by investing in the Third Reich militaria … no one can. However, if you buy quality parts at a fair price and keep them for a while, you should be doing very well!
This article was written to acquire potential investors and collectors with the hobby of collecting German military. The author does not believe or endorse the ideals represented by these collectibles.