West Coast Historical Militaria Collectors Show
Those who remember the Great Western Gun Show know it as the “good old days.” It was a massive show that eclipsed most others gun shows and attracted firearms enthusiasts, militaria collectors and even celebrities. Yet it still had a “California vibe” as it was held at the Los Angeles Fairplex in Pomona and spread out over several buildings. In those good old days it was common to see movie stars in attendance. Of course, for many years the show’s home base was just a short drive from Hollywood.
The Great Western is as much in the past as the Old West, and today California is hardly the epicenter for anything gun related (perhaps except for the gun control movement). In 1999 the fairgrounds banned gun shows and the show was forced to move to Las Vegas. It didn’t so much stay in Vegas as it simply died in Vegas.
However, thanks to Bob Chatt of Vintage Productions the show—or at least its spirit—lives on in the annual West Coast Historical Militaria Collectors Show. This event, along with the Ohio Valley Military Society’s Show of Shows (SOS) and the Maryland Antique Arms Collectors Association’s Baltimore Show, is one of the true “must attend” spring events.
The West Coast show has been rightfully dubbed the “third jewel in the triple crown” of military collectible events; and unlike the slow-dying Military Antique Xtravaganza (MAX) this show offers much, much more than just overpriced Third Reich items. It is a show that caters to the collectors, the re-enactor and the history buff. There were plenty of war-themed movie props and displays from local museums including the Fort MacArthur Museum and the USS Iowa Battleship Museum.
Among the items was one of the largest offerings of First World War trench art from Advanced Guard Militaria’s Jeff Shrader, who along with his wife made an epic trek from eastern Missouri. While not exactly a Grapes of Wrath journey to the “promised land,” the show is part of Shrader’s usual travel schedule.
“This is one I don’t miss,” he said. “I do very well at this show and meet people who can’t come out east.”
Mixed in with real militaria—of which there was much—there is also plenty of great-looking gear for the aforementioned re-enactor, much of it made by Hollywood pros, since the show is just a short drive from Tinsel Town
“The original stuff is too fragile to use in a re-enactment,” said Rob Lihani, who produced Mail Call for The History Channel and who recently supplied props for the upcoming Brad Pitt film Fury.
While there were plenty of dealers offering militaria from the Civil War to the modern day, the show brought out re-enactors, military vehicle enthusiasts and casual onlookers.
“I’ve never been to anything like this,” one attendee told this reporter. “I’m not into this stuff and came with my buddy. Now I can see why he collects, so maybe I should say I wasn’t into this stuff.”