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Why Do You Collect Mint/NOS Gear?


Jake the Collector

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Jake the Collector

Every militaria collector knows that "mint condition", "pristine", and "un-issued" items are by far the most desirable. Some collectors can even spend years hunting down a mint example of a single item, oftentimes willing to pay mind-boggling amounts of money. But why? Why are mint/NOS items so desirable? Yes, they look nicer than used items; they're clean, they're crisp, they have clear and readable markings- in other words, they're the pristine, textbook examples of military issue gear. And, of course, they're more rare, and rare means collectible. But, as militaria collectors, if we proclaim to be preservers of history, of the fading memories of wars, of people's stories, why are these qualities so immensely attractive? What history does an un-issued item that's spent its entire life sitting untouched in a storage box have? Do items like this really have any connection to a person of the past? Used and abused pieces, on the other hand- pieces that are stained and soiled, sun-faded and scuffed, inked with names long forgotten- have have real history behind them. They're the tangible links to the historical events and people we are so interested in. They have seen war, they have been through combat, they were used and depended upon by their owners, owners that sometimes wore the very items until their death. They bear the marks of their use in the field so many years ago: holes, rips, rust, worn brass, maybe a name, the name of some nineteen-year-old infantryman forever lost to history, and, sometimes, even the haunting stains of blood. And so I wonder why items like these are so often passed up for items in mint condition. A common thought in the heads of collectors is, "I wonder what this item would say if it could talk." Would those mint items collectors so cherish really say anything at all?

 

I would love to hear more thoughts on this.

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Some of us collectors purposely PASS on mint condition items and not every collector thinks mint condition items are the most desirable.

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Jake the Collector

Some of us collectors purposely PASS on mint condition items and not every collector thinks mint condition items are the most desirable.

Yes, I understand. I would consider myself one of those collectors. I didn't mean to encompass all collectors in this, and I didn't mean to make it sound like a bad thing either. I was merely wondering why mint items are so often more desired than the grimey, beat-up items.

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TreasureHunter

I have often thought about the same, always wondered why knife collectors go after the mint shelf riding item instead of something with a little use or patina. I prefer patina and dont mind a zipper missing or a little rust on the blade of a knife. I wont pass up something priced right and mint but prefer the patina with a story.

 

Bill

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Jake the Collector

I have often thought about the same, always wondered why knife collectors go after the mint shelf riding item instead of something with a little use or patina. I prefer patina and dont mind a zipper missing or a little rust on the blade of a knife. I wont pass up something priced right and mint but prefer the patina with a story.

 

Bill

I completely agree.

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Rakkasan187

A very interesting perspective and question that you brought up. Working in the museum career field we have a mixture of items that were used by veterans in conflicts but we also have an equal share of unissued mint examples of items. The importance of the mint unissued in the museum arena is to record for history our progress and development of military gear. You can still do the same with gear that has been used, but it is more important to see how our equipment looked when it was first out of the factory.

 

The US Army Quartermaster Museum for example will have mint condition items to again show the evolution of equipment and the improvements (in some cases) of the gear that has been carried by the Soldier for the past 2 centuries.

 

The individual stories are just as important as they are the link between that issued piece of equipment and how it was used, carried, modified from its original purpose, (for example the Gas Mask Carrier in WW2), This was used for so much more than just carry the gas mask after the threat of chemical weapons diminished. The gas mask carrier was used as an ammunition carrier, ration carrier first aid pouch and other uses. This usage of a piece of equipment by the Soldiers helps civilians understand what the Soldier's had to use and improvise with to carry their belongings.

 

We still do this today with discarded equipment that was intended for one purpose but used for another when the original piece of equipment was expended. A perfect example was (is) the cloth claymore mine pouch. Once the mine was deployed and used, the pouch was used to store extra magazines, grenades and I even used one as a toilet kit that held my shaving gear.

 

There are differ types of collectors. Those who wish to preserve the history of the individual soldier and then collectors who want to preserve the equipment that was used, how it has evolved and how it has been modified over the years..

 

Great question

 

Leigh

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Jake the Collector

A very interesting perspective and question that you brought up. Working in the museum career field we have a mixture of items that were used by veterans in conflicts but we also have an equal share of unissued mint examples of items. The importance of the mint unissued in the museum arena is to record for history our progress and development of military gear. You can still do the same with gear that has been used, but it is more important to see how our equipment looked when it was first out of the factory.

 

The US Army Quartermaster Museum for example will have mint condition items to again show the evolution of equipment and the improvements (in some cases) of the gear that has been carried by the Soldier for the past 2 centuries.

 

The individual stories are just as important as they are the link between that issued piece of equipment and how it was used, carried, modified from its original purpose, (for example the Gas Mask Carrier in WW2), This was used for so much more than just carry the gas mask after the threat of chemical weapons diminished. The gas mask carrier was used as an ammunition carrier, ration carrier first aid pouch and other uses. This usage of a piece of equipment by the Soldiers helps civilians understand what the Soldier's had to use and improvise with to carry their belongings.

 

We still do this today with discarded equipment that was intended for one purpose but used for another when the original piece of equipment was expended. A perfect example was (is) the cloth claymore mine pouch. Once the mine was deployed and used, the pouch was used to store extra magazines, grenades and I even used one as a toilet kit that held my shaving gear.

 

There are differ types of collectors. Those who wish to preserve the history of the individual soldier and then collectors who want to preserve the equipment that was used, how it has evolved and how it has been modified over the years..

 

Great question

 

Leigh

Well said. You make a good point about collecting mint items for the sake of recording the evolution of the gear.

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stealthytyler

Very good point. I love the history behind an item but I often find myself wanting mint items. I cannot tell you why though! I even look at my grandfathers helmet from WWII and wish it was in a little better shape... but then I remind myself that it went through 3 invasions and countless hours of training on his head. The look and condition of his helmet was EARNED and tells a story in itself!

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Rakkasan187

Very good point. I love the history behind an item but I often find myself wanting mint items. I cannot tell you why though! I even look at my grandfathers helmet from WWII and wish it was in a little better shape... but then I remind myself that it went through 3 invasions and countless hours of training on his head. The look and condition of his helmet was EARNED and tells a story in itself!

 

 

Excellent Perspective....

 

Well put that the condition of your Grandfathers helmet was EARNED...

 

Well said

 

Leigh

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Jake the Collector

Very good point. I love the history behind an item but I often find myself wanting mint items. I cannot tell you why though! I even look at my grandfathers helmet from WWII and wish it was in a little better shape... but then I remind myself that it went through 3 invasions and countless hours of training on his head. The look and condition of his helmet was EARNED and tells a story in itself!

Yes. Don't get me wrong, I do see the appeal of mint items; I have a few of them myself. I admit there is something satisfying and appealing about having an item that's in such good, clean, crisp condition.

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Every militaria collector knows that "mint condition", "pristine", and "un-issued" items are by far the most desirable.

I don't believe this to be true in any uncertain terms. I think there are those collectors out there who do desire this in "as issued" condition but I think they're the small minority. I believe that what the vast majority of people want isn't necessarily the item itself, but the story behind it. If you offered me a 'crated' helmet that has been on the USS Missouri since the 40's, I'd be interested in it as a helmet, but nothing more. You offer me a beat up helmet that an flak gunner used on the ship, and I'd be all about that. The difference in the two is that they're both from the Missouri, but one was a literal witness to history and the defense of the ship, while the other was in storage.

 

I think what you'll also notice is that while some of the mint items do make those extremely high values, it is probably because of supply, demand and those collectors. If you spend all of your time looking for mint unissued for your collection, and only those items, you're going to have a lot of cash reserves. When that item comes up, suddenly you have this group that has a lot of money that all want that item for its condition. You'll have a few bidders who just happen to like the helmet, but those hard core mint collectors are competing with each other, driving the price up.

 

With Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the trend, as Nkomo put it, is for dirty, grungy and beat to hell pieces. The reason is that these have been used and abused. Many times the items come with the story either first hand from the vet or second hand from vet->seller->you. Even with that though, you get items without stories, but their use is apparent and sometimes known just by their setup. Ebay and surplus shops are flooded with ACU's with nothing on them, DCU's without the service members name, and helmets that have replacement parts added for resale value. These combat used items are being destroyed now because of airsofters, paintballers, hunters and in some cases soldiers trying to replace lost/damaged gear.

 

So while there is a market out there for the pristine, I believe it is a very small group competing for a small portion of gear. What you collect and the condition really comes down to what you find as the 'best' for your collection. For me that answer is not pristine, but beat to hell. Do I find fault with their, or others, stile? No, not a bit. There is room for everyone in the field, it comes down to perception on an individual basis.

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For me, I collect used items because I think they tell a story. Some items can be traced to specific individual or to a specific unit. This gives the owner the ability to research that item and be able to place it in a specific campaign or battle. Collecting is fun, but the research is just as much fun to me.

 

Furthermore, used items display better on mannequin. Again, this is merely my opinion.

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Jake the Collector

I don't believe this to be true in any uncertain terms. I think there are those collectors out there who do desire this in "as issued" condition but I think they're the small minority. I believe that what the vast majority of people want isn't necessarily the item itself, but the story behind it. If you offered me a 'crated' helmet that has been on the USS Missouri since the 40's, I'd be interested in it as a helmet, but nothing more. You offer me a beat up helmet that an flak gunner used on the ship, and I'd be all about that. The difference in the two is that they're both from the Missouri, but one was a literal witness to history and the defense of the ship, while the other was in storage.

 

I think what you'll also notice is that while some of the mint items do make those extremely high values, it is probably because of supply, demand and those collectors. If you spend all of your time looking for mint unissued for your collection, and only those items, you're going to have a lot of cash reserves. When that item comes up, suddenly you have this group that has a lot of money that all want that item for its condition. You'll have a few bidders who just happen to like the helmet, but those hard core mint collectors are competing with each other, driving the price up.

 

With Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the trend, as Nkomo put it, is for dirty, grungy and beat to hell pieces. The reason is that these have been used and abused. Many times the items come with the story either first hand from the vet or second hand from vet->seller->you. Even with that though, you get items without stories, but their use is apparent and sometimes known just by their setup. Ebay and surplus shops are flooded with ACU's with nothing on them, DCU's without the service members name, and helmets that have replacement parts added for resale value. These combat used items are being destroyed now because of airsofters, paintballers, hunters and in some cases soldiers trying to replace lost/damaged gear.

 

So while there is a market out there for the pristine, I believe it is a very small group competing for a small portion of gear. What you collect and the condition really comes down to what you find as the 'best' for your collection. For me that answer is not pristine, but beat to hell. Do I find fault with their, or others, stile? No, not a bit. There is room for everyone in the field, it comes down to perception on an individual basis.

Well said. You make some valid points. And like you said, I find nothing wrong with collecting mint items; I was just wondering why those who do, do.

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Jake the Collector

For me, I collect used items because I think they tell a story. Some items can be traced to specific individual or to a specific unit. This gives the owner the ability to research that item and be able to place it in a specific campaign or battle. Collecting is fun, but the research is just as much fun to me.

 

Furthermore, used items display better on mannequin. Again, this is merely my opinion.

I totally agree.

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The used piece is part of the story of the soldier who wore it. It is an experience.

The mint piece is part of the story of the helmet. It is the object.

They can both be appreciated as different facets of the same thing.

 

I like named pieces, but I also like mint pieces because I like helmets - as objects. Also, as a caretaker, mint pieces are free from the oils and grime and rust that will more quickly degrade used pieces in the future. For some reason that's important to me.

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Jake the Collector

The used piece is part of the story of the soldier who wore it. It is an experience.

The mint piece is part of the story of the helmet. It is the object.

They can both be appreciated as different facets of the same thing.

 

I like named pieces, but I also like mint pieces because I like helmets - as objects. Also, as a caretaker, mint pieces are free from the oils and grime and rust that will more quickly degrade used pieces in the future. For some reason that's important to me.

Very valid points, especially your noting of the appreciation of the objects themselves. Thank you for your input.

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willysmb44

Why would you want something in not as good a shape if you can get it in NOS or great condition?

Wear, to me, means nothing in regard to a service life unless it comes from the vet and has photos to support it. How do you know that tear, fading or stain occurred in Normandy as opposed to happening in the 1960s by the Cub Scouts or at any point afterward by kids or re-enactors in recent years?

Used items don't tell you ANY story other than someone wore it out at some point and you'll never know who did it and when.

Seems to me that people asking why a collector would want the best condition example of an item they're wanting is just looking to justify their beat up and worn out items that they didn't want to spend a little more to get something in great condition.

You wouldn't sneer at a gun or car collector for wanting the best condition stuff they could find, why would anyone think otherwise for someone collecting military field gear?

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warcollect1942

I put a lot of things in a museum for three months a year. I like items that have been personally

altered or enhanced by a soldier. I find that torn, oily and dirty is a turn off to guests of the museum.

The non collecting public considers that junk. I want to present the best I can for the time period.

Indian wars will have lesser quality items than a more modern war. The farther you go back the lessor

the condition. I won't polish a sword but I will apply oil to prevent further rust. To me a holster or sheath

with a name or picture carved in to it will present a vision of the soldier doing the carving. Dirt or a tear not so much.

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Jumpin Jack

I believe that Leigh speaks well for my position as to why I lean heavily towards the mint items. But, there is a much deeper reason in that I'm a research historian bent on educating the collector public witness having taught tactics for four years, and having published 43 books to date. It has long been my wish to provide the best possible examples in my books to allow those that want the information to have a start point of what they looked like when first issued. This, of course, does not preclude named items with a history attached to them as these support the thrust that I have long followed--I (we) don't collect "things" but rather peoples history. Jack

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Jake the Collector

Why would you want something in not as good a shape if you can get it in NOS or great condition?

Wear, to me, means nothing in regard to a service life unless it comes from the vet and has photos to support it. How do you know that tear, fading or stain occurred in Normandy as opposed to happening in the 1960s by the Cub Scouts or at any point afterward by kids or re-enactors in recent years?

Used items don't tell you ANY story other than someone wore it out at some point and you'll never know who did it and when.

Seems to me that people asking why a collector would want the best condition example of an item they're wanting is just looking to justify their beat up and worn out items that they didn't want to spend a little more to get something in great condition.

You wouldn't sneer at a gun or car collector for wanting the best condition stuff they could find, why would anyone think otherwise for someone collecting military field gear?

You make a good point about general wear and tear- there is indeed no way to determine where that came from. There is, however, absolutely no "sneering" coming from me. As I've already said multiple times, I'm not bashing collectors of mint items; I'm simply wanting to know more about their motivations. If I've angered you or anyone else reading this topic, I apologize, for that was not at all my purpose.

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Jake the Collector

I put a lot of things in a museum for three months a year. I like items that have been personally

altered or enhanced by a soldier. I find that torn, oily and dirty is a turn off to guests of the museum.

The non collecting public considers that junk. I want to present the best I can for the time period.

Indian wars will have lesser quality items than a more modern war. The farther you go back the lessor

the condition. I won't polish a sword but I will apply oil to prevent further rust. To me a holster or sheath

with a name or picture carved in to it will present a vision of the soldier doing the carving. Dirt or a tear not so much.

 

 

I believe that Leigh speaks well for my position as to why I lean heavily towards the mint items. But, there is a much deeper reason in that I'm a research historian bent on educating the collector public witness having taught tactics for four years, and having published 43 books to date. It has long been my wish to provide the best possible examples in my books to allow those that want the information to have a start point of what they looked like when first issued. This, of course, does not preclude named items with a history attached to them as these support the thrust that I have long followed--I (we) don't collect "things" but rather peoples history. Jack

You both have valid and understandable reasons for collecting mint gear. I absolutely agree that when it comes to educating the public and attempting to present to them the equipment of a certain time period, good condition items are essential. Thank you for your input.

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willysmb44

As I've already said multiple times, I'm not bashing collectors of mint items; I'm simply wanting to know more about their motivations. If I've angered you or anyone else reading this topic, I apologize, for that was not at all my purpose.

 

I wasn't referring to you specifically, as you're not the first person who I've heard ask this question over the years.

Some folks can be downright hilarious on this point, as they can't accept that used gear could possibly have been gotten that wear at the hands of the local boy scout troop in the 60s.

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The used piece is part of the story of the soldier who wore it. It is an experience.

The mint piece is part of the story of the helmet. It is the object.

They can both be appreciated as different facets of the same thing.

 

I like named pieces, but I also like mint pieces because I like helmets - as objects. Also, as a caretaker, mint pieces are free from the oils and grime and rust that will more quickly degrade used pieces in the future. For some reason that's important to me.

 

I like your reply quite a bit

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Rakkasan187

There are some very good valid points and each personal reason is very accepted in the collecting community. What makes us so unique are the individual collecting habits of all of us, and because each of us has a collecting arena we can all learn from each other.

 

One other point that I will add from the museum point of perspective.

 

Conservation of artifacts is very important in our profession. To ensure artifacts will last into the coming ages careful preservation and conservation must be done on a continuous basis. We have segregate and quarantine items that come in to the museum so that they can be carefully inspected and cleaned. We do not know what environment some of these items came from and the risk of a bug infestation or mold or other damaging element is very risky.

 

New unissued items will have less of a chance of having dirt, oils, chemicals and other items that could degrade an artifact and could bleed over to other artifacts.

 

For example: We have a mint unissued field jacket and a old combat worn pistol belt. We would like to use both in an exhibit on a mannequin. There are alternatives of course. We could purchase a replica mint pistol belt and place it around the waist of the mannequin, display the belt and jacket separate, but it would not express our intentions as to how the two were worn together, so we try not to mix mint with used equipment.

 

It is a conservator in the museum that will take all precautions and try to protect each artifact regardless if it is mint or combat used.

 

This is a very good thread and it is very interesting to see the very good valid points of each collector on here.

 

This type of conversation generates discussion, opinions, we can share information with each other and it is to be honest with all of you a pure pleasure to discuss and contribute to.

 

I look forward to reading more input on this thread and see what other collectors have to say about the topic of mint vs combat used.

 

In our facility, we have both, The POW uniform worn by SGM Dennis Thompson while a POW in Vietnam, The OG 107 Jungle Fatigues and field gear that was worn by CSM Gary Carpenter when he jumped into Grenada with the Rangers in October 83, and Prototype Dress green uniforms designed by the Sergeant Major of the Army but never brought into production. So we too have a large assortment of both types of artifacts..

 

Leigh

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dave peifer

i have always liked id'd items and groupings but i could never resist buying a mint "unissued" example of whatever the gear was i have found.it's interesting to have these as examples in the collection............dave

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