LESSONS LEARNED THOUGH THE YEARS AND HOW TO “COLLECT” or “Things that only honest dealers will tell you”.
Our business was founded in 1982 to support the fast growing World War I hobby that had no uniforms or equipment. We have since grown to be one of the largest
businesses in the world dedicated to supplying QUALITY ORIGINAL and REPRODUCTION uniforms and equipment to the World War I reenactor and collector.
GWM is actually one of the original founders of the WWI hobby as we know it today and our name is synonymous with World War I collecting and reenacting. Without our business, WWI collecting and reenacting would not be at the point it is today. Our reputation for quality and service speaks for itself throughout the hobby – WORLDWIDE.
Our uniforms are found in almost every museum in the country and over the last 25 years we have supplied many hundreds of uniforms to reenactors, movie companies, prop houses, schools, play houses and hundreds of collectors.
ALL of our reproduction uniforms – France, England, United States and Imperial Germany – are made of the same heather-woven wool as their WWI counterparts – which means the yarn is dyed and then spun into the finished product. Our wool is made in Philadelphia, Pa. to our specifications and then custom sewn in our own workshop in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to the finished product – which means you can get any size uniform you need.
Due to our extremely high quality, we provide a lifetime guarantee to the original purchaser – in short – we will fix it for free if it is damaged or fails during use. Another interesting note – GWM’S “used” uniforms will command 75% of original purchase price in the secondary market after many years of use because, if properly cared for, it will not stretch, shrink, or fade beyond that of the original WWI uniforms – which, by the way, had an expected “trench life” of only THREE MONTHS. Our uniforms have been around for over 20 years and are still in service. So if you want the BEST that money can buy – we MAKE IT. We have always said – we are not the cheapest, but we are the best. REMEMBER, in the uniform business – “YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR”.
And just in case you may wonder why no one else builds WWI uniforms of U.S. made custom wool, it is because the profit margin is very small. Having wool MADE is very expensive and requires an outlay of about $15,000 per run. With that amount of wool, we have to sell HALF in uniforms before we are even into the plus side. That takes about 5 years. We do not make a lot of money on uniforms, but we did it because the hobby needed them. Without our business supporting the hobby in the 1980’s and 90’s, it would not be where it is today. We found and developed both the old Shimpstown site and Newville Site into battlefields, otherwise the hobby would not even exist.
There was a real Neuville in France that was totally destroyed. We built a small destroyed duplicate of it at the site from 19th century rubble in mid 1990’s. That is all now history that speaks for itself.
We also maintain a large stock of original items, from the rarest to the most common. At this writing we have over 3,000 WWI items in stock: Trench art, bayonets, belt buckles, weapons, uniforms, spiked helmets, steel helmets, equipment, boots, shoes, hats, medals, insignia, relics, web belts, books, manuals, personal items – everything imaginable from WWI. We actually had ORIGINAL WWI cooties brought back by a vet! Our ORIGINAL merchandise carries a full lifetime guarantee for authenticity, so you can buy with confidence that you are getting exactly what you pay for. No one is above making a mistake, so the only way to avoid any misunderstandings is to back the original material with such a guarantee. We are probably the only business in the world with such a policy, after all, IF IT IS ORIGINAL, there is NO risk. Only those selling bad merchandise fear such a policy, so DEMAND it from anyone you do business with. It would certainly stop the selling of bad material to unsuspecting new buyers that are the future lifeblood of the military collectible hobby. By selling and guaranteeing original and authentic materials to the new collectors, we secure our future investments, so new collectors must be encouraged, not discouraged by bad experiences which comes from being stuck with bad investments. If you are new in the hobby, buy only from reputable dealers. You may have to pay a fair market value, but it will be worth it in the long run. If you go outside of that advice, you may learn a hard and expensive lesson.
Educating new buyers is one of our main concerns, so we offer free advice to any of our customers – a policy that has saved our clients a lot of money through the years. Remember – we judge only the ITEM, not the person selling it.
We are now working on ONE catalog photo of each item only because they take up a lot of space in a computer – BUT if you need additional photos, just E-mail your request for them and they will come ASAP. If done after hours (0930-1600 Mon-Fri), we will get back to you the next work day. SOME WEEKENDS are good for visiting the shop if in the Chambersburg area, but you NEED to call to be certain we are not at a show.
WWI collectibles are still a very good investment. Military Collectibles never drop like the stock market and they have risen in value of about 5% a year, some even more – especially the very rare and desirable items (some light machineguns such as the “BAR” and Thompson MG’s have tripled in 5 years). It is an investment that becomes your “personal property” under your total control that you can enjoy, sell or trade it as you desire. Learning about the material is a lot of fun and there are not too many hobbies that you can “enjoy” and then get your money back, often with a profit, when you are tired of it.
In the market of military collectibles – YOU, THE COLLECTOR control the market, not the “Wall Street” boys. The last March Baltimore Antique Gun Show(2009) did not see a drop in prices, which meant our 2009 investments (and beyond) is secure. Dealers were complaining that no one was “dumping their collectibles” like the boys on Wall Street did with their stock. I told him NOT to complain – that this was GREAT for the collectors. He reluctantly “saw the light” and quit complaining.
One other very important aspect about collecting as an investment. You should collect for enjoyment and let the investment end take care of itself. Any good collectible takes 5 years to mature. After that you can usually realize a decent profit – just like equity in a home. At the point where you really “need” to sell, you can sell it outright to a dealer or collector, or put it on consignment with a dealer. The last option, if time is important, you can take it to of the BETTER auction houses.
How much you pay for and item is determined by RARITY, QUALITY. and DEMAND. RARITY is determined by quantity made, but DEMAND trumps rarity. A million of an item can be made but if the DEMAND is there, it will bring more than an item that only 100 were made. Keep this in mind when choosing a field to collect. QUALITY speaks for itself. With HIGH QUALITY, RARITY, and DEMAND, your investment will be sound.
Now “rarity” is determined by Always has been and always will be, so buy the BEST and RAREST that your pocket book can afford. Many of my friends are “collection poor” (I was also when I started and still am!), but we look at is as a “forced” savings account that is always there when needed. One of my very good friends who passed away years ago – Bill Pulaskas – always told me that “his collection was his inventory”. I never understood that until I got older. That simply means that if you are offered a good price for something in your collection – SELL IT. No different than selling stock at its high end. There will ALWAYS be something else “neat” out there to buy! If you think the item may go up more – then don’t sell it! YOU are in control. My famous saying is that I never regretted anything I bought (even if I overpaid at the time to acquire it, but time catches up to the value), but have many times regretted some of the things I passed up, especially items that you may have one chance in a lifetime to own.
Anyway – bottom line: If you want to “collect” for enjoyment and investment, buy the best you can from the most reputable dealers out there. You will not regret it. One other sound piece of advise given to me 30 years ago. For every antique weapon I bought, I bought a BOOK on collectibles. The BEST thing that can SAVE (and MAKE) you a lot of money is education on the subject. Don’t be stingy with buying reference materials. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing among those who pass on bad material. It still holds true that “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is”! Beware of rare items being sold at prices way under their real value.
The internet has helped and hurt the hobby. Be especially wary of buying from overseas if not from a very reputable source. If the item is bad, you have a slim chance of getting your money back. Beware of auctions unless you are very knowledgeable of the material being sold. Auction houses are often used to dump bad material without the owner’s name attached. You can get some good deals but you can also get stuck with bad material.
World War I material is not faked in large quantities. Most of the fakes are readily identifiable with a little expertise on the subject. Again – get a full lifetime guarantee, if the item is authentic the seller takes no risks. Be smart, be educated in your field, be patient and choose wisely those you deal with.