About the MAX Show
The MAX Show idea was launched in a lunch booth at a show near Baltimore, Maryland back in the spring of 1984. Taking a coffee break from the show were LTC Thomas M. Johnson, Thomas T. Wittmann, and collector/dealer Jack Staehle. The conversation concerned the fact that from all observations, the hobby of Militaria was beginning to grow. Over the 1970's and early 1980's, there was Militaria to be had at gun shows, but rarely were German artifacts welcomed by gun show promoters or gun collectors of the day. During these years, many participants at gun shows were WWII veterans and often held 3rd Reich material in contempt. And, why wouldn't they? These brave and experienced vets fought the Nazi's, and understandably, the last thing they wanted to see was a young guy sitting behind a table full of German armbands, helmets and uniforms! After all, part of basic training for the war required an installation of "hate" for the enemy. Because of these attitudes, 3rd Reich and other Militaria was often relegated to the worst spots in the gun show. Although small shows for Militaria artifacts began to appear at this time around the country, the true potential was yet to be realized.
As the early 1980's approached, young people were becoming aware of and thus were beginning to appreciate the beauty, craftsmanship and historical significance of these "war relics" now coming out of their father's attics and neighbor's garage sales. For the history-minded, the material was fascinating and true to the original designs, the artifacts had great looks. At the same time books began to appear and for a new generation, it was the start of a new hobby. As a bonus, it was also attractive from an investment point of view. Values had yet to be established, so the lure of finding a"treasure" was a reasonable goal.
The conversation in that lunch booth touched on these things, and the three soon-to-be partners all agreed that there seemed to be enough interest in Militaria collecting that it could support a large, internationally-attended show. It was decided that the threesome would join together to create an all-Militaria grand show. They each threw $1,500 into a pot. A location should be found and a date for the show should be set.
For a new show, the location should be central in the country and with convenient access by road and plane. An old St. Louis hotel called the Chase Park Plaza, was recommended by a collector friend. The three partners met with the hotel and were able to cut a deal with the Chase, whereby if the attendees filled the hotel, the ballroom (upper and lower) would be extended at no charge. This deal was music to the ears of the partners. There was room for approximately 750 tables. The contract was signed and the necessities such as rental tables, security and insurance were contracted. As an extra feature, it was decided to hold free seminars on collectibles, as well as a live auction in the evenings. The first show was held in November, 1985. Despite freezing temperatures and blustery wind, it probably was the best all-Militaria show to be held anywhere, even today. All tables were sold, dealers came out with exceptional merchandise, and the collecting community loved it. The MAX Show was born. Today, nearly 30 years later, the annual MAX Show is still known as a show no serious collector or dealer misses and continues to hold collector attention as THE place to purchase the best in Militaria.
MAX Show Promoters
LTC (ret.) Thomas M. Johnson retired from a successful military career in the United States Army in 1981 to pursue a professional writing career. He has been an avid edged weapon collector and researcher since around 1960. His eight-volume series, Collecting the Edged Weapons of the Third Reich, has brought him international acclaim, and his series is considered the standard upon which all other hobby references on the subject are based. He recently completed his eighth volume of the series. LTC Johnson has penned eighteen reference books and numerous articles for various hobby and military publications. Since 1986, LTC Johnson has been Chief Exeutive Officer of Johnson Reference Books and Militaria, a mail order wholesale/retail reference book and military ollectible business located in Fredericksburg, VA. Additionally, he was one of the founders of the MAX Show in 1985, and serves as a major stockholder and the president of MAX Promotions, Inc. Under LTC Johnson's outstanding leadership, the annual MAX Show has become the one of the most successful militaria events in the world.
Thomas T. Wittmann has been an edged weapon collector since 1966, specializing in the Naval dirks of the German Imperial Era under Kaiser Wilhelm II. He is the co-author of one of the few references available on the subject, Collecting the Edged Weapons of Imperial Germany. Moreover, he is the world's foremost authority on German Third Reich edged weapons and is regularly called upon by dealers,collectors,and hobbyists worldwide for his expertise. He has been a stong advocate of militaria collecting as a legitimate hobby for many years, being the first to offer authenticity videos on the hobby, beginning in 1987. In addition to publishing a respected militaria edged weapon mail order catalog, his office maintains the most informative website on the Internet for the various categories of edged weapons carried by Imperial and Third Reich Germany, known as Wittmann Antique Militaria. Since the mid 80's, Mr. Wittmann has written and published a 4 volume Exploring set. This set includes books exploring the dress daggers of the German Army, Navy, Luftwaffe and the SS. Mr.Wittmann currently serves as advertising and promotion coordinator of the MAX Show, and is Secretary-Treasurer of the organization.