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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
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 -
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
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