I would like to take this opportunity to share some
thoughts on the
annual CLA show in Lexington, Kentucky.
If you have
been able to attend, you know it is not like any ordinary gun
show. An ordinary gun show, for either modern or antique arms,
is usually sponsored by a collectors club, a company or simply
by an enterprising individual. Put in the simplest terms, the
sponsor’s mission is to attract exhibitors, dealers and
customers and, by so doing, to make a profit for himself or his
club. The sponsor wants the right mix of dealers whose tables
will be full of items that appeal to that show’s customers.
Because of the relationship between what is either displayed or
sold and the customers who are attracted to attend, shows have a
“personality.” Here on the east coast, the “Baltimore” Show is
known for quality antiques and prices to match.
We have all
seen shows evolve over time. Sometimes they change for the
better and sometimes, if it drifts away from our particular area
of interest, for the worse. A show’s sponsor needs to be aware
of the changing market and make the show attract the right
exhibitors and dealers so the customers who pay admission will
return year after year. If the show offers space for educational
exhibits, the sponsor needs to recruit and reward them. For a
dealer at one of these shows the decision to return, or not, may
be a simple business equation—return on investment.
To me the CLA
show is quite different. Our show is really a multi-day meeting
sponsored by the CLA for the CLA. When the first annual show was
being planned, it was originally envisioned as a completely
closed show. The exhibitors, dealers and customers would be
members only. The purpose of the annual meeting would be to
promote the study, identification and collection of Contemporary
Longrifles, Contemporary Pistols and accouterments among
ourselves. The show was to be a place where collectors could
come to learn about the contemporary work and perhaps, upon
seeing work they liked, add to their collections.
Some of you
are members of, or at least familiar with, the Kentucky Rifle
Association and their annual meeting and show in PA. The KRA is
primarily a collectors association and the show is for members
only. In the early discussions about the formation of the CLA,
and how our show would work, the KRA was frequently referred to
as a possible model. Since 1997 our association has evolved
considerably from the KRA model. For the past several years CLA
shows have been advertised and open to the public, as new
members for insurance purposes, for part of the multi-day event.
successful show is key to the success of the CLA. Gordon Barlow
and the board of directors have always been concerned with
making the show meet the membership’s needs. They must do this
while remaining aware of the intent and by laws of the
Association. That has been and is a tremendous challenge because
our diverse membership can have very different expectations. As
an example of how the board has changed the show rules because
of requests from the membership, look at the issue of displaying
Originally it was thought that none should be allowed unless
an antique was being exhibited to show what a contemporary
piece was based on.
who felt they would benefit from seeing more old guns asked
for and got a table reserved each year for the study of a
carefully selected exhibit of antique arms. (Thanks to Henry
Bishop who displayed some of his rifle collection last
2001the board decided that a small amount of space on any
table could be used to display antique items as long as they
were clearly marked as such and related to the subjects of
interest to the Association—contemporary longrifles,
contemporary pistols and accouterments.
the board discussed again just what percent of an exhibit
could be antiques and how best to communicate that to the
The board is
working for you the member. They welcome your input and a chance
to answer your questions.
So is the
show a success? If you come to the CLA show with the expectation
that it is like an ordinary gun show, and base your opinion of
the show on your return on investment, you may be disappointed.
This unique show is first of all a place for meeting your fellow
CLA members, sharing ideas and knowledge with them and,
together, promoting the art of rifle making and the
collectibility of contemporary longrifles, pistols and
accouterments. Do that and the day will come when we all look at
it as a commercially successful show as well.