In The Pipeline: Military antiques are worth their history

April 06, 2011|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy Chris…)

In a nondescript warehouse tucked in off Edinger Avenue near Gothard Street, there exists a mind-boggling, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring collection. An emporium crammed with so many fascinating artifacts and dusty, musty, one-of-a-kind pieces of history that it's hard for the mind to process.

No, you haven't just stepped into "The Twilight Zone." It's Vintage Productions, and it's the sort of time-warp place that makes you feel as if you've climbed into one of the great attics on the planet.

I met Danielle Chatt when I spoke at Hope View Elementary School in January, on Author's Day. She's a school mom who helped show me around, and that day she said to me, "You really need to meet my husband. He's a history buff like you."

Little did I know she was talking about Bob Chatt, renowned war-era memorabilia collector and dealer.

Several days later, my son and I were at Vintage Productions, being given a tour by the burly legend himself.


With a self-effacing sense of the absurd, Chatt picked through his warehouse collection, calling out certain favorites.

"See this flight jacket?" he asked, holding up a worn, frayed old bomber. "The patch on the pocket is from the Manhattan Project. The guy that wore this worked on the atom bomb."

With a devilish chuckle, we moved on.

"I'm a third-generation antiques seller," Chatt said. "My grandfather dealt in guns. My dad dealt in Indian art. When I'd come home from school in the early '70s, the house would be full of just the most amazing Indian art known to man. If there was one rare blanket, there were 100 of them. I have a photo of me wearing Kit Carson's leather jacket."

But traveling to hundreds of Indian and folk art flea markets took its toll on the youngster who grew up in Los Angeles.

"I got sick of it," he said. "I got so sick of Indian art, I rebelled. I thought, what's the exact opposite of Indian art? Military. And so that's what I started collecting."

By 13, Chatt was actually dealing military antiques. Today, he's known as one of, if not the top, Vietnam War dealer on the planet.

"It's a specialized market," he said. "To the high-end collector, a patch that's $1,000 isn't going to scare him. They're serious."

As we walked into the second, larger room, a customer left the warehouse. Chatt told me who it was: a well-known, Academy Award-winning screenwriter. He's a collector as well, and comes in to do research for upcoming film projects.

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