Editor, Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine
5 Tips for making the
“Went to a show. Talked to vendors. ‘Gotta get
the young involved’ was the most common statement I heard.
Though this was my show synopsis for an event
I recently attended, it could have described any show I have I have
attended during the last three or four years.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR THE HOBBY LATELY?
I just nod and smile when I hear someone on
the other side of the table insist, “We have to get the young involved.” My
first reaction has been, “In your collecting career, when have you EVER seen
the young involved in numbers that made a significant impact?”
This is an old person’s hobby. Collecting
militaria and restoring military vehicles tends to be done by people who have
two things: Money and time on their hands. These are two characteristics not
generally associated with the “young” who are just beginning their careers and
Yes, you can hand out a free patch to a kid or
give a scout troop ride in your deuce-and-a-half, but these kids are not going
be dropping thousands of dollars in our hobby during our collecting careers
(unless you are willing — or able — to wait for about 20 or 30 years for those
seeds to mature).
Oh, but it sounds noble to say “get the kids
involved.” That is a nice, empty demand that makes the speaker feel powerful,
but it actually doesn’t deliver any solutions.
The second thing I say when someone tells me
“You gotta get the young involved!” is, “Let’s get YOU involved!” If you want
to make a difference in the hobby, the best method is for you to get involved.
Here is the kicker…buying another Jeep,
helmet, uniform, or medal is a self-serving activity and does not count as
“Getting involved.” If you REALLY want to make a difference, you have to look
beyond your personal passion and share your enthusiasm. You have to share it
with groups of people who have the means to contribute to the lifeblood of our
hobby—buying and selling militaria and military vehicles.
If you are really worried about the health of
the hobby, you are going to have to think farther than your table, “war
room,” or garage and actually participate
in the “community of the hobby.” Here are five suggestions for how you can do
your membership /subscription dues to OVMS (Ohio Valley
Military Society), MVPA (Military Vehicle Preservation Association), OMSA
(Orders and Medals Society of America), ASMIC (the American Society of Military
Insignia Collectors), local club, favorite internet forum, etc. A good first
step in participating is by joining. Any good military strategist will readily
admit, “there is strength in numbers.” Your membership gives the leaders of
those organizations, clubs, publications, and electronic venues the means to
extend their individual missions.
an “Outside Rep” of the hobby. Put together a
dog-and-pony show that talks about THE HOBBY (not your collection) and what
positive impact it can have. Turn your hobby obsession into a mission for
engagement by offering a fresh perspective on what it is you enjoy doing. Speak
to groups about the positive qualities enhanced through collecting military
relics and vehicles: The awareness of history, preservation, technology, and
national motivations and reactions. You can further talk about the discipline
skills and commitment required to be a dedicated collector. This may get an
audience thinking, “Hmmm. This DOES sound like a noble, worthwhile hobby…”
a hobby evangelist through social media. I am not talking
about participating in hobby-specific bulletin boards or forums here, but
becoming active on broad-reaching media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and
Twitter. Okay, this is KILLING me to type this…I hate at least two of those
channels, but I concede that they are great tools for engaging a whole lot of
people at very low investment. When your posts, photos. or tweets go out to
thousands of people who might be casually curious, you might just snag one or
two who actually will go to a show, visit a business, or log onto a web site
with the intent of buying some militaria or “an old army truck to restore.”
the “business” of the hobby to others. Admit it. Unless you
are one of the “hoarders” in our hobby, you are a wheeler-dealer. You have
built your collection by buying, selling, and constantly upgrading. These are
some very specialized skills that we tend to take for granted. There are people
out there who are intimidated by our seemingly “closed door” events that are
not actively promoted through local media channels, who might benefit from
community education classes in which you talk about how you have turned your
hobby or obsession into a mini- (or maxi-) business. For example if you love
military vehicles and you also believe in buying and selling parts while you
restore a vehicle, you could devote a bit of time and energy into educating
people on ways that they can restore a vehicle on a budget. Not everyone knows
that we can turn a bucket of patches, medals, or motor parts into something
that we are proud to add to our collection.
your Board to do more. “Get the young involved?” How about, “Let’s
get the Board of Directors involved.”
I confess, this week’s blog has been building
up to this specific point: Elect board members to your national organizations
who understand that they have a very specific role in the sustainability and
growth of our hobby.
While it is far too easy to nominate our
collecting buddies to fill slots on the boards of directors of our national
hobby organizations, we must push the organizations to provide a slate of
candidates who understand that their role is protecting the health of the
organization through financial management and membership growth. It is time for
our nominating committees to understand that if a potential candidate has
tables at a show or is actively involved in the buying and selling of the hobby
materials, he or she might not be the best
candidate for the board.
I write this based on my experiences in the
museum world. Years ago, museums (that are still in business today) realized
that the local historians probably didn’t make the best board members. These
museums began to look outside their membership to recruit people who brought a
broader view of mission to the organization: Someone who understood that growth
was imperative to sustain the mission, that promotion had to be done outside
the “museum membership parameters,” and had the ability to raise money for the
mission of the museum.
Your board of directors are the people who we
have elected to safeguard the hobby. Do you know who they are? What is their
strategy to grow your club? How are they accountable to you, the member? I
think it is time for our national collecting organizations to consider
recruiting members to their boards of directors who are actually in a position
to grow the hobby…not simply sustain the status quo.
Maybe it is today’s political atmosphere that
has riled me up about the direction of our hobby. After listening to someone
who readily shares their political views on our impending national election, I
generally ask, “And to what candidate have you donated money?” I am shocked how
many people haven’t contributed dollars. Regardless, they are quick to share
Within our hobby, the surest way to get
someone to listen to your opinion is by paying your membership dues,
subscription fees, or contributing to the maintenance of your favorite forum.
That is how you obtain the opportunity to vote for board members who are
charting the course of our hobby’s survival. Once you have joined, insist on
board members who are going to think outside the hobby to sustain and grow it.
Worried about the health of the hobby? Its survival
begins with you.
Preserve the memories,
Trader and Military Vehicles