Auction Action News

05/24/06 Vol. 11 No. 41:

Article by Brian Maloney

Collectors Flock to Zurko’s Civil War Show

It was billed as Chicagoland’s Massive Civil War Collectors Show and Sale, and that it was! April 15th marked the inaugural edition of Zurko Promotions latest venture, bringing back a Civil War Show to the DuPage County Fairgrounds after an absence of several years. Big crowds were the rule all day, as shoppers wandered through the more than 260 tables of artifacts from the Civil War, Spanish American and Revolutionary War.

Inaugural Zurko Civil War Show a BIG hit
with both Buyers & Sellers

Anytime I attend a specialty show, it strikes me how many different worlds of collecting there are – and how those worlds often don’t overlap much with each other. Such is the case with those folks interested in the American Civil War. Exactly why interest in the subject is so high might have something to do with the very scope of the conflict. Over three million Americans fought in the Civil War, with 600,000 perishing either on the battlefield or from disease.

Or perhaps it’s because the American Civil War was the first war that was so meticulously documented, both in print and in photographs. Whatever the reason, Civil War buffs have been around since right after the end of the conflict. The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), the fraternal Union Army veterans, alone boasted over 400,000 members. And you can add in the countless thousands more members of similar Confederate veteran organizations.

Modern Civil War enthusiasts are as varied as they ever were. Civil War reenactment clubs are very popular all over the U.S. and beyond. There are scores of reenactments throughout the year; in fact, there are sometimes several to choose from on any given weekend! A good place to find more info:

Those with a more scholarly interest in the Civil War often join one of the dozens of Civil War Round Tables, located both in the U.S. and in countries as far away as Australia, France and Denmark. Illinois and the Chicago area in particular, has always been a center of Civil War interest. In fact, the very first Civil War Round Tables started here nearly 50 years ago. There are now nearly a dozen round table groups scattered throughout Illinois.

And then there are the Civil War artifact collectors. There were over 100 of them displaying their wares at the show, completely filling the main hall of the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton, just west of Chicago. As you might imagine, there was no shortage of firearms, but the breadth of Civil War collector’s interests was surprising. In the booth of Miles of History, for example, Civil War era jewelry is the specialty. I was fascinated by their large selection of hair-art pieces, with examples featuring everything from locks of newborn babies hair to remembrance brooches with the hair of the deceased.

Many of the dealers featured some Civil War uniforms or uniform accessories. At Mark Sherman’s booth sat a pristine Union infantry great coat ($6,500) along side a rare 68th Division officer’s forage cap, priced at $1,900. One thing that strikes you as you look at the typical Civil War uniform is how much smaller the average soldier was in the 1860’s!

Whether you are interested in Civil War era firearms, photography or Native American artifacts, you can find it here. One dealer, Warren Barber, specializes only G.A.R. and U.C.V. items, and had literally thousands of ribbons and medals to choose from.

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