American Digger Magazine’s Chattanooga Civil War Show & Sale

American Digger Magazine Chattanooga Civil War Show

As a visitor to American Digger Magazine’s 1st Annual Chattanooga Civil War Show & Sale, you would have thought it was the 10th such show. The inaugural event was flawlessly executed in every imaginable facet. From the signage leading patrons to the show, the welcoming reception of those working the entrance, the well-organized layout of exhibitors, and the quality of items on display; down to the facility itself, the visitor experience was nothing short of phenomenal.  

Undoubtedly, such success is the culmination of hard work that most people never see or even think about. What is seen however, is the byproduct of that hard work. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that successful people are great at making the difficult look easy!

Being that we’re a curious bunch here at RelicRecord.com, we reached out to the organizers of the show, Butch and Anita Holcombe, to learn more about what went into the making of the show, the response they received from visitors and exhibitors, and some of their favorite highlights from the two-day extravaganza.

Give us a rundown of what went into the making of this show.

We began planning the show in early 2018, knowing that the shows hosted in Nashville (Franklin) and Dalton are the two biggest in the Southeast. So we thought, why not hold one at a location between the two?

With that in mind, we decided to locate our show at the Camp Jordan Arena, which turned out to be a great venue in a very receptive town, East Ridge; a suburb of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Camp Jordan Arena

Two different views of the exhibitor floor inside Camp Jordan Arena.

Instead of locating the show in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, we determined that East Ridge would be much more accessible for us, our exhibitors, and most importantly, our visitors.

In terms of the dates we chose to host the show, we had to balance the availability of the Camp Jordan Arena against the schedules of other artifact, gun, and military shows. From there, we got the word out through our magazine, our podcast, trade shows, social media, vendors, dealers, and the collector grapevine!  

What kind of response did you get from exhibitors, visitors, and the city?

Positive responses all around! The dealers made great sales and great buys, visitors came and most stayed for several hours, and the city went out of their way to be supportive, even hanging a huge banner across the main street of town. Not only did the mayor, Brent Lambert, cut the ribbon to launch the event, he even set up as an exhibitor promoting train tours in Chickamauga!

It appeared as if you had tremendous support by many notable exhibitors and dealers. Can you elaborate on why so many came out to support the show?

Reputation. We have long had a reputation of fairness and accessibility with our magazine; and now, with three South Carolina (Charleston) Lowcountry Civil War Shows under our belt, that reputation has spread. The people we work with know they can trust us to deliver an outstanding product, whether it’s our magazine or an event.

Civil War Dealers

(Top Left) John and Nikki Walsh of Fort Donelson Civil War Relics talking to fellow dealer, Larry Hicklen of Middle Tennessee Civil War Relics. Also pictured are several exhibitor displays.

RELATED ARTICLE: 9 Websites Every Civil War Relic Collector Must Bookmark

It seemed as if you were able to procure a significant number of great raffle prizes for the show’s participants. How were you able to secure so many items to give away?

In the words of Stuart Smalley: We’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like us! Many of our magazine’s advertisers expected this to be an outstanding show because they know our name means quality and they didn’t want to miss out on a great opportunity to get their brands and products in front of so many people.

Metal detectors

(Left) Metal detectors and other gifts raffled away to a few lucky visitors during the two day show. (Right) RelicRecord’s youngest staffer pulling double duty – advertising and collecting!

Many of the world’s finest manufacturers of metal detectors ― Garrett, First Texas (manufacturer of Bounty Hunter, Teknetics, Titan, and Fisher), and Minelab ― all stepped up to provide outstanding prizes. And yes, RelicRecord.com gave away two, one year subscriptions to their best plan!

It seemed as if a younger demographic was well represented at this show. Tell us more about the youth movement in this hobby and what’s driving it.

Simply put, if our hobby is going to survive, we need more young people to get involved. To attract younger generations to participate in the hobby, we showcase them in our magazine, we share their videos and pictures on social media, and we have them as guests on our podcast.

RELATED ARTICLE: Larry Hicklen: Putting Your Passion First

What drives them is the same as what drives most people in this hobby: a love of history and the magic of finding a relic that was used by those who shaped this great Nation. Anything we can do to encourage that, we will.

What were some of your favorite highlights from the show?

A big steak dinner after the show, followed by large amounts of rest. Oh, you mean during the show!?

Highlights would include visiting with Rafael Eledge of the Antiques Roadshow, who had a block of tables featuring amazing Civil War artifacts, including one of six Arkansas belt buckles known to exist. The price? A mere $75… thousand dollars!

Anitques Roadshow

(Left) Rafael Eledge of Antiques Roadshow. (Top Right) Rafael’s rare Arkansas Civil War belt buckle offered for sale. (Bottom Right) Several Civil War firearms offered for sale by Rafael at the Chattanooga Civil War Show & Sale.

Also, being that I have a face for radio, I immensely enjoyed taking part in three live podcasts and two live FM radio interviews. And of course, my favorite thing to do at every event, is meeting all the great collectors and diggers from across the country! 

What was the coolest Civil War artifact you saw at the show? 

To be honest, there were too many to pick from. However, being that I already mentioned the Arkansas oval belt buckle, I would have to say a mint condition, non-dug Colt revolving rifle. It definitely ranked high on my OMG list! Then again, Little Dirt Digger’s first cannonball was pretty cool, too!

RELATED ARTICLE: Our Favorite Civil War Artifact Stories

Building on the success of this show, what will you do differently for next year’s event?

Due to the great turnout, we’ve already seen a tremendous amount of exhibitors and dealers sign-on for the 2019 show. Anticipating more will follow suit, we’re already drafting a new show floor layout that will accommodate many more exhibitor and dealer tables. Our goal is to add another 100 tables to next year’s event!

From a promotions point of view, we’ll evaluate what worked well and what didn’t. And for the things that worked for us, we’ll double down on those for next year while also trying a few new tactics.

For those that missed this show, where can they see you next?

If your readers aren’t subscribed to American Digger Magazine, I would suggest they start with that first. It’s a great forum for metal detectorists, diggers, collectors, and those that enjoy history. It’s also a great resource for those interested in attending clubs, shows, and special events, as we list many such venues in every issue.  

In addition to hosting the South Carolina (Charleston) Lowcountry Civil War Show & Sale and the Chattanooga Civil War Show & Sale, we also attend most shows throughout the Southeast. To find out where we’ll be next, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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