FORT LEE, Va. — Avid military collectors gathered Saturday at Fort Lee's Army Quartermaster Museum to sell, trade and bargain their prized possessions. The annual show is in its third year and is a way for like-minded collectors to not only expand their collection, but build personal connections, event organizer Kevin Born said.
Retired and active military members as well as civilians interested in military history roamed the two rooms of vendors at the show. All proceeds from the show, including the rental of vendor's tables and concessions, will be donated to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Foundation, which supports the Quartermaster Museum and helps to preserve Quartermaster history.
The museum receives about 70 to 80 percent of its funding through the government, and the museum tries to raise the rest of it, Army Quartermaster Foundation President Robert Barrett said.
Born, a retired Army officer who served for 22 years, wanted to raise as much money as possible, but didn't have a specific goal in mind.
Born started collecting when he was about 13 years old. The show was offering collectors' kits to Boy Scouts in uniform to keep the tradition going, as many other collectors start at a young age.
"You see a lot of the collectors here are older ... We want to keep this hobby going, so we want to have people that are as passionate as we are involved in collecting," he said.
Born said the first show in 2012 was a trial run, but interest quickly grew and the show has gotten bigger each year. The show is made up of collectors with extra stuff they're trying to get rid of, either by selling or trading to professional militaria dealers from bordering states.
Although military uniforms, patches and pins lined the rows of tables, Born said even those that never served in the military are interested in its history and collecting.
"People that have never served in the military are as avid of collector as somebody that has served 20 years and retired or served honorably. It's folks that you would never expect to be a military collector based on their profession and background are passionate about this," Born said of the diverse group of attendees.
Al Barnes, one of the show's co-sponsors, has been set up as a collector every year since it started. He said this year's crowd was the best so far and he's most interested in anything related to World War I.
"I grew up in a military family. Both my parents were World War II veterans, so naturally I went in the service and it's hard to stop collecting," Barnes, who was in the Marine Corps and then spent 30 years with the National Guard, said. "It's kind of neat that we can actually do something we like and the money goes to support the Quartermaster Museum," he added.
Scott Krogh traveled from Williamsburg for the show. He said he has never served in the military, but enjoys history and collecting World War II insignia and equipment. Krogh said he began collecting when he was a kid after his interest in history was sparked by visiting museums and battlefields.
"I love history, everything from Rev War up through World War Two time period," he said.
Vance Zemke, a collector and Fort Lee instructor, also started collecting at a young age. Zemke mostly collects Army patches from World War II through the Vietnam War. He said he probably owns a couple thousand patches.
"I was always interested in the military, so I gravitated towards playing Army and finding different things to play Army with, so then that grew into collecting ... " he said.
"It's really the history of what these items represent that I find the most interesting," Zemke said of his hobby.