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    INTRODUCTION to GWM & World War One

    Great War Militaria was founded in 1983 as a direct follow-up to the founding of the WWI hobby in 1978. Most WWI reenactors that were involved in those early years will agree that Great War Miliatria made it happen. It was our efforts that found both WWI sites and built them to what they are today. We are the ONLY business in the world dedicated to the WWI hobby, in both  reproduction and original uniforms and equipment.

    The following is some interesting facts and information about WWI that we found fascinating and worth sharing with our readers:

    A total of 28 nations (24 Allied and 4 AXIS) participated in the Great War to end all wars. Those 28 warring nations contained a population GREATER than the remainder of the earth! The conflagration belted the earth and consumed most civilized capitols. A 20th
    century "Babel" of Armies, arrayed in a multitude of exotic uniforms, came to France to decide its outcome. The world would never be the same and the clash of "modern warfare" against antiquated military tactics cost an enormous estimated 33,000,000 casualties and $249,000,000,000  to wage. Civilian casualties were never even counted.

    The following figures (they vary from book to book) will give you a rough  idea of America's involvement:

    America entered the war on April 6, 1917. On June 26, 1917, the first American troops landed in France. On October 23, 1917, the first American troops entered the trenches. On November 2, 1917, the first Americans were killed in battle. By December 31, 1917, 204,965 American troops were in France.

    America mobilized 4,274,991 men of which we suffered 130,494 deaths of all types, 234,000 wounded and about 4,500 prisoners or missing.

    Of every 100 men in the service in WWI, 10 were National Guardsmen, 13 were Regulars, and 77 were National Army(draftees). Of the 54,000,000 males in our population, 26,000,000 were registered for the draft.

    The average soldier who fought in France had 6 months training in the U.S., 2 months training overseas and one month in a "quiet" sector before going into battle. Two out of every three Americans that reached France took part in battle. Out of the 2,084,000 men in France 1,390,000 saw active service at the front.

    For a comparison to the Civil War of 1861-1865,  at the battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863, about 100,000 Union soldiers participated.  At the Battle of St.Mihiel, 550,000 U.S. soldiers participated and the artillery fired more tonnage of shells  than was fired in the ENTIRE U.S. Civil War.  Over 4,000,000 rounds were fired in four hours!  The Meuse-Agonne campaign, lasting 46 days, involved
    1,200,000 American soldiers!

    Ever wonder why there were so many surplus American uniforms and gear left after WWI?

    For every soldier in France there was one uniform in stores there awaiting issue.  There was another uniform on its way to France, another uniform in stores in the U.S., and another in production. This was because a uniform was expected to last THREE MONTHS in the field. America was preparing for a BIG push in the Spring of 1919, so a lot of field gear was ordered in the fiscal year of July, 1918 to July of 1919. Contracts let after JULY of 1918 bear a 1919 date. When Germany surrendered in November of 1919, what contracts the suppliers had purchased raw materials for were completed, with any over that being canceled.

    The era of wartime "chivalry" died in the mud in France, never to be revived in any great extent.  The study of WWI is just beginning with the 100th anniversary just around the corner in 2014. New collectors are finding WWI an affordable hobby as well as a good investment.  We at Great War have helped a lot of collectors build fabulous collections over the almost 25 years we have been in business and we intend to be around into the CENTENNIAL!

                                    "GREAT WAR MILITARIA" - Founded in 1982

                      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 -
                            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, afterall, 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
                            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
                            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,
                      especially with the 100th anniversary around the
                      corner(2014). 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
                            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 thier 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.

                                                                                Richard H. Keller
                                                                                for GWM

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