For collectors of military memorabilia, every item has a story.
The Olympic Flight Museum hosted its annual Spring Military Collectibles Show and Sale on a recent Saturday in Tumwater, Wash.
One table was filled with rare Nazi Germany artifacts such as soldier medals, helmets, uniforms, Adolf Hitler postage stamps, swastika flags and propaganda pennants. One particular SS dagger carried a price tag of $6,800.
“The Nazis took a lot of pride in their awards and decorations,” said Tacoma resident Bob Moser, who manned the table alongside Steve Olhausen of Vancouver, Wash.
Adding to the rarity of Third Reich collectibles is their stigma. Moser said that younger generations inherit these items but will sell them at a cheap price because of Nazi Germany’s war crimes. Collectors simply look at the items for their historical value, he said.
In addition to dozens of vendors, the museum’s show attracts 300 to 400 people each year from all over the region, said executive director Teri Thorning. She noted that “the vendors are their own best customers.”
Most vendors at the show have been collecting for decades.
Pete Darrah traveled from Raymond to display his collection and make a few dollars. He sold a hat from the Spanish-American War for $500. His most valuable item was a set of buttons from a U.S. Marine Corps uniform dating to the Revolutionary War.
Alice Miller of Covington displayed a handful of restored U.S. Army nurse uniforms from the World War II era. The pristine uniforms were accompanied by leather shoes, gloves, socks and other memorabilia from the time. Miller was mentored by Army nurses in the 1970s and has since built up a collection of 140 uniforms, dating to World War I.
“The uniforms all have fabulous stories behind them,” said Miller, a civilian nurse who maintains her collection with help from volunteers.
Many collectors are veterans. Michael Caines of Kelso always meets up with fellow Vietnam War veteran Harold Rubin of Shoreline to swap stories and peruse the memorabilia.
This year, Rubin sold Caines a poster of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that was autographed by the pilots on its maiden flight. Caines also marveled at Rubin’s extensive collection of military patches, which numbers close to 50,000.
Rubin said he began collecting military items after finding a box in the basement that once belonged to his father, a World War II veteran.
“That got me hooked,” he said.
The event attracted a number of “living historians,” many of whom re-enact scenes from military history while wearing authentic gear.
Lacey resident Connor Hancock, 18, was dressed as a World War II soldier with a green helmet and combat uniform. He joined others in a group called Friends of Willie and Joe, which specializes in historical displays and presentations from that era.
“I love history,” Hancock said. “Seeing this military history is an inspiration.”