Military Eras: Vietnam War Collectibles on the Rise
Over the last 15 years, Vietnam militaria has become an increasingly popular collectible, with strong collector communities in unlikely places, such as Poland, France, Japan, Australia and Italy. There are still bargains to be had because many sellers are not aware that this era of militaria is steadily rising in price and collectability. Some popular collecting areas for Vietnam militaria include:
A “Golden tiger” camouflage shirt is one of the more uncommon collectible finds from the Vietnam War era.
1. Camouflage: The Vietnam War produced some of the most interesting camo patterns with collector names like cloud, tiger stripe, ERDL (leaf pattern), beo gam, duck hunter, pinks, ARVN, and lizard. Tiger Stripe remains the most popular pattern among collectors because there are many variants; elite forces were seen wearing tiger stripes, and many of the variants are still readily obtainable. A tiger stripe shirt in a common pattern and a small size will bring between $80-100, where as a clean shirt in “Golden tiger” pattern in a decent size will command $500 or more.
A 1967 dated US M1-C paratrooper helmet w/ cloth camouflage cover.
2. Headgear: Soldiers during the Vietnam War wore a variety of headgear, including: the M1 helmet, sun helmets, berets (in cloth and wool), bush hats and boonies, billed caps, and even bandages and do-rags like a swashbuckler. Many caps were “theater-made,” meaning they were manufactured in Vietnam or a surrounding country like Thailand or Japan. Theater-made items are particularly desirable to collectors and you can identify them by their construction, vent grommets, and markings. A complete Vietnam era infantry M1 with a cloth camouflage cover sells for around $30, whereas the airborne M1-C helmet sells for more than $100. A tiger stripe boonie will bring $250 or more depending on the type or provenance.
3. Uniforms and Insignia: Fatigues worn in Vietnam were often adorned with attractive insignia. The value of a uniform depends on several factors, including the unit the vet served in (Army typically sells better than other units), the era or pattern of the uniform (earlier pattern jungle fatigues are scarcer and in higher demand than latter patterns), and the insignia on the uniform (theater-made name/Army tapes and shoulder sleeve insignia, or a pocket patch are desirable). Be very careful collecting Vietnam insignia, though, because it has become a minefield filled with fakes. In fact, handmade insignia is being made today in Vietnam to emulate original wartime insignia and deceive buyers! A badged Air Force green jungle jacket with theater-made insignia sells for less than $30, whereas a green Special Forces jungle jacket in any pattern with theater-made insignia will sell in the hundreds if it has firm provenance.
A 1970 dated Gerber MKII knife.
4. Knives: Soldiers carried a variety of both issued and privately purchased knives in Vietnam. They have serious crossover appeal to both militaria and knife collectors, which contributes to the high prices some types are bringing today. Collectible makers and types include: Gerber MKII, EK, Randall, CISO SOG knives and bolos, Western, Garcia, Buck, and Marbles. A clean, Vietnam-era pilot’s survival knife with sharpening stone ranges between $60-120, whereas a clean CISO SOG knife with provenance from the vet will sell for $2,000 and more.
5. Field Gear: United States involvement in the Vietnam War spanned longer than a decade and considerable development was made in the equipment soldiers used. Many Vietnam collectors enjoy acquiring field gear variations; particularly experimental or limited-issue pieces. Most Vietnam field gear is relatively affordable, but certain pieces like rucksacks (indigenous, lightweight, jungle, etc.) have increased in value largely due to interest in Vietnam historical reenactment. A one-quart plastic canteen in a canvas cover sells for less than $10, whereas a complete lightweight ruck (w/ tubular aluminum frame) sells for around $250.
Chris Hughes is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in 20th century militaria and the owner of Rally Point Militaria.
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