'The Junk Lady' enlists

by Leslie Turk

If military collecting is your thing, you can find WWII uniforms and patches and Japanese-German WWII trophies right here in the Acadiana area.

I just returned from a five day stay at the Marine Depot on Parris Island South Carolina. You are probably wondering what an extremely out of shape middle aged woman, whose idea of exercise is unpacking boxes for the next estate sale, was doing on the famous Parris Island.

For many years, the Marines bring groups of teachers, school counselors, and administrators to the base for us to describe what we see to the graduating seniors, and let me say that I was absolutely fascinated by the order, discipline and work ethic these young recruits demonstrated. I know that by leaving their homes and families, and submitting themselves to a punishing physical routine, they did something that I couldn't do and that is to become a U.S. Marine. This brings me to another popular collectible in the U.S. today: collecting military items or militeria.

In several estate sales that I have held in the past few years, I have sold many examples of war trophies or what we in the trade call "brought back souvenirs." With the passing of so many WWII veterans, you can find many examples of WWII uniforms and patches and Japanese-German WWII trophies. I do not claim to know much about this hobby, but I do know that "brought backs" from the Germans bring more money than the items taken from the Japanese.

What can you expect to find on the hunt for WWII collectibles? Flags, uniforms, helmets, weapons, belt buckles, pins, photos, diaries and letters. I have sold many interesting items including a WWI airplane propeller, several WWII aviator helmets, a Nazi flag and belt buckle, a cool WWII Naval uniform that was owned by a guy who was a mechanic on the first "Blue Angels" and candid snapshots of Japanese prisoners of war. All of these items came from local veterans in the Lafayette area, and I am proud of the fact that I saved many of these items from the trash heap.

If military collecting is for you, make friends with your local estate sales coordinator and let him or her know of your interest. I would much rather keep the mementos of  local Acadian veterans in the hands of Acadian collectors. In fact I am getting ready for an estate sale of a deceased WWII former POW, and there are a few items that will interest collectors in this sale. Collecting militeria is a fascinating and affordable hobby, and you can make history come alive by reading the letters, looking at the pictures, and preserving our veterans' memories. I hope to see you at the next sale.

[Editor's Note: Cheryl Cockrell, aka The Junk Lady, specializes in estate sales. Check back regularly for her blog, "The Weekend Hunt." Read more about her and get info on upcoming sales here.]