Civil War Show offers up close opportunity to look at military and civilian artifacts
Donnie Todd’s sons, Robert and Ellison, weren’t so excited about attending the 20th annual Civil War Show at the Omar Shrine Temple on Saturday morning — until they got there.
The elder Todd was interested in getting appraisals and more details on a Colt revolver dating to 1868, an 1894 Winchester rifle and a fraternal sword from the 1860s, all handed down through his wife’s family, and he brought the boys along.
The boys were all smiles leaving the show late Saturday morning.
“It was a lot of fun,” Robert said.
The two-day show resumes today, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. About 100 vendors have 250 tables featuring an array of historical items to buy, including many that have nothing to do with the Civil War.
Among other items are Native American artifacts, items from other wars from the American Revolution to World War II and plenty of civilian clothing and housewares from the 19th century.
Knowledgeable vendors, many of whom have been coming to the show for years, offer history lessons even for those who aren’t interested in buying anything.
Jerry Lynch of Lititz, Pa., prefers to sell civilian artifacts. Among them on Saturday were four pairs of infant shoes, one of which he had already sold for $100, from the Victorian period.
Lynch’s specialty, however, is selling “patriotic lamps” — oil lamps made and marketed by manufacturers to show support for the Union starting in 1859 and continuing through the war in the 1860s. The lamps commonly feature shields. A “Shields and Stars” lamp made by the Pittsburgh Lamp Co. was going for $295.
“These lamps are nice accent pieces and they still work and throw off nice light,” said Lynch.
Jon Vastine of the Ohio-based Veteran’s Footlocker sold primarily items from World War II, much of it helmets, hats, uniforms and patches worn by Nazis.
While he also sells Civil War memorabilia, he thinks World War II items are actually more popular because Civil War artifacts are getting more expensive and more rare, while World War II items are still relatively inexpensive.
Vastine said interest in World War II items started rising after the film “Saving Private Ryan” was released and that the younger generation, which plays video games with World War II themes, are more interested in it than the Civil War.
But the draw in Charleston — which has the fifth largest Civil War show in the United States — remains the war famously known in Dixie as “The War of Northern Aggression.”
Bob Wilson of Columbia, a lifelong stamp collector, was looking through Confederate currency.
“I look for bills I don’t have, ones that have nice color and are in good condition,” Wilson said. “I’m not a collector but an appreciator. The appeal of it is the possibilities — did a soldier carry this bill? It lets my imagination run free. That’s the charm of all this stuff.”