Being relatively new to the militaria scene, one of my favourite things is that I can go up to anybody and they will happily talk at length about whatever item has caught my eye that day. The Chatham Militaria Fair takes place at the dockyards in Chatham, Kent – the perfect location as there is so much history in the local area!
One of many militaria fairs in the South-East of England, Chatham is one of those where you walk in and everybody knows everybody. I have to admit I ask some ridiculous questions at times, so what better place for me to start. Everybody has their own story about how they got into the trade, so I went to chat to some of the dealers that I already know to find out about what drew them in.
I stopped by to chat with Dave Glover who runs DBG Militaria for some advice about being a newcomer. Having known him a good few years I’ve spent a lot of time already asking question after question and hearing various stories, followed by more questions. People get into the militaria collectors scene for all sorts of reasons, but Dave’s interest started with his own family’s history. His great uncle Percy Millard was killed in action in May 1918 and his grandfather Harry Millard enlisted that same year, serving in the Rifle Brigade/Royal artillery and staying in Germany as part of the occupation force. Dave began collecting when he was a teenager and has been collecting seriously for the past 30 years.
With such an interest in his own family history, it is obvious that Dave’s favourite collectors items are mostly British. He says he loves to collect British officers equipment from WWI and British home front items from WWII. He also has a keen interest in bayonets and daggers, as well as military watches from all periods.
Dave shared some advice with us for any new collector. He says: “My best advise for any new collector is to read and look at as many items as you can to gain experience from good items to bad items, all areas of militaria are faked or reproduced. A good dealers will always offer a full money back option on any item he sells if you are not happy and do not be afraid to ask – most dealers will always share useful knowledge to encourage new and young collectors.”
Another of the local dealers who has helped me out along the way is Denis Exall who runs Cinque Ports Militaria along with his military bookshop in Tenterden, Kent. Denis is always happy to chat so I cornered him and asked about how he started collecting. He told me he got drawn to the ‘dark side’ when he started trading items in junior school, with encouragement from those at home. His dad being ex airborne was certainly a help, which is where he learnt his unhealthy appetite for anything that went bang!
Denis also has a particular interest in all things World War II. He said: “I like the European Second World War Period. It’s on our doorstep, not too long ago and I just can’t quite comprehend how the whole of Europe ended up fighting such a bloody conflict and 20 years later we were all going on holiday over there as if nothing ever happened.”
When we asked him for advice for new enthusiasts, Denis said that everyone has a certain subject that they are drawn towards, and to try not to be distracted away from that area of interest. He says to get good advice on spending money on that subject, don’t buy at boot fairs or on Ebay as fakes are harder to detect. It is overwhelmingly agreed the militaria fairs are the best place to meet the dealers who stall out every week, and they are the ones who want ongoing business and are more than happy to offer advice and stand behind everything they sell with a money back guarantee of authenticity. Denis also says to not be afraid to ask questions, knowledge is key in any collectors market and even if a dealer doesn’t know the answer to something themselves, they will more than likely know who to ask and can point you in the right direction!
To find out some more information about the next Chatham Militaria Fair, visit our fairs page themilitarianetwork.co.uk/fairs/