A COLLECTOR’S DREAM – Greerton Arms & Militaria Show


They’re setting up this specialised show in the Greerton Hall when I show up unannounced on a cold and windy Friday night. I thought I was coming to a fashion recycle event so I’m surprised to find the orderly rows of tables, some already set up and covered and collections of military uniforms and equipment. Well now I’m here I ask if I can look around.


Keith Frazer, who is pointed out to me as one of the organisers, gives me a guided tour of the show. Keith tells me that Saturday is the main day and they expect 700-800 people and there’ll be lots of buying selling and swapping. And yes you must have a firearms licence and yes they check.

The show has a strong commemorative and memorial feel and the theme of this year’s show could very much be described as “relics and memorabilia”. The foyer displays the images of long gone young men from Tauranga who died as a result of World War I.

In the hall I start off looking at firearms and replica firearms of the 1800’s and the knife is a bayonet. Keith leads me down one of the aisles of trestles and uncovers a superbly presented table sized exhibition. “They never knew there were worse things than dying” – it’s a quote from the historic storyboard accompanying this contained but emotionally moving collection of WWI items – puttee cloth, medals, the small metal trench shovel and the rifle mounted on top of the wooden container. Anyone establishing a museum should look at how much of a story can be told with so little. “…And the band played Waltzing Matilda…”

There are further displays and exhibitions on the stage. Keith’s focus is South African militaria. He tells me there are prizes for the exhibits and displays At the bottom of the stage there’s a table of books for sale – Peter McIntyre’s “Painted Years” immediately catches my eye. There’s one wall displaying buttons, badges and buckles. Each presented with the care of an international jeweller.

Against another wall glass display cases have been brought in. They contain a naval exhibition. There are photographs and personal letters. It’s heartbreaking.

Keith laughs when I think the bullet moulds are bottle openers. There are swords and scabbards – some plain and ready for business another ornate, shining woven metal. There’s a periscope – a simple way to avoid having your head shot off. A WWI German helmet with its little silver spike stands silent sentinel – “it would have been taken off the battlefield.”

There’s a display of “Wild West” weaponary – the goodies are on one side and the baddies are on the other. The handguns are so big and so heavy I comment there’s no way there could have been a quick draw. The tiny “Derringers” look like children’s pop guns by comparison.

There is also a collage of the Guns of Theodore Roosevelt. One of the guns is engraved. They have the pistol-grip gunstock favoured by “Teddy”. Underneath the guns is a huge stag antler handled hunting knife. The table next to this display belongs to the exhibitor’s partner Ronda – collectible jewellery, costume jewellery, glass paperweights, collectable watches and vintage mantelpiece statues. Ronda tells me “it’s something for the ‘girls’ “ While we’re talking and laughing (Ronda and I have previously lived in the same rural fringe of Auckland) I notice she is holding a vintage doll. There’s the composition face and stuffed-fabric body, arms and legs. It’s a Taihape Girl Guide. Uniform, hat and shoulder badge.

My preconceived image of this show was that it was for “the boys” and most probably the majority of collectors would be male but the historical content of this show and the beautifully crafted and curated displays and exhibitions are more museum experience than arms show.

(I’d like to thank Keith, the exhibitors I spoke with and Ronda for taking the time to show me around and speak with me during my unplanned and unannounced visit)

Rosemary Balu


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