HISTORY OF THE OHIO GUN COLLECTORS ASSOCIATION
The Ohio Gun Collectors Association (OGCA)
started from the dream of one man, Miller Bedford. He sent out
postcards in 1937 with 1 cent stamps to interested souls.
Perhaps it was only natural that the simple, one penny
announcement which spawned the world's largest and oldest
assembly of firearms collectors would be generated in Ohio.
Nowhere has the spirit of the early American pioneer, the
legends and lasting footprints of the old frontiersmen been more
deeply perpetuated than in this state named by Iroquois and
Wyandotte hunting parties for its "Beautiful River."
It is a matter of record that 32 collectors responded to Miller
Bedford's invitation, bringing along with them the prize pieces
of individual collections. They assembled in Bedford's backyard
and the meager accounts do indicate that a substantial trading
session took place that very first day. For sure, overall
enthusiasm was high enough to warrant formation of a permanent
organization on the spot
So it was that from this acorn of an
idea, this humble beginning, there was born an organization that
would one day overflow virtually all existing exhibit space in
the state. There is small doubt that a major stimulation through
the ranks of those charter members was the wholesale opportunity
to swap and sell old firearms, hopefully updating their own
collections, ideally swinging at least a material profit in one
fashion or another.
Miller Bedford, founder and
first president of the Ohio Gun Collectors Association
A one-time vanilla extract salesman
who would later try to market a product loosely termed "gun
juice" to his OGCA friends, Bedford, himself, had long been a
cagey trader and dealer. But that is the essence of every
collectors group, and it is thus even more noteworthy that the
very first OGCA guidelines were both totally unselfish and
prudently dedicated to the future growth and welfare of the
Objectives described in the preamble
and articles of that original constitution, adopted during the
inaugural meeting stressed the upholding and promoting of the
highest ethical standards in all activities. They also pledged a
united stand in opposing legislation "which might be injurious
to the collection, possession and use of firearms by responsible
collectors, shooters and sportsmen." Membership, with proper
endorsement from 2 current members, would be open to any
American citizen over age 18, with no criminal record, and
"having interest in the collecting, preservation, use and study
of all kinds of arms and accessories."
From the very beginning, spouses of
the members were encouraged, even urged to attend meetings,
which ranged in location from National Guard armories and
fraternal halls to parks and fairgrounds. Today their growing
number of female collectors chuckle to read early historical
newsletters encouraging wives to bring their needles for the
"knitting circles," which took place in the "air-cooled" (early
air conditioning) sitting rooms.
Captain Clark Gable,
a former member of the OGCA
Continuous flurries of newspaper and
radio attention served to further popularize and swell the
membership of OGCA and, unknowingly at the time, help prepare it
to robustly weather the tumultuous years of World War II.
Sessions were enlivened by the presence of distinguished
military personnel and arms experts and technicians, and by a
constant influx of brand new members. At an early 1944 meeting
in Cincinnati, 90 new members were accepted, one of them an
eager gun collector with proper sponsorship. He was Capt. Clark
Gable, U.S. Army Air Corps, native Ohioan and yes, in peace time
a professional movie actor.
The OGCA wheeled by its 10th
anniversary in 1947 with a membership of over 800, incorporated
as a non-profit organization in 1949, and that same year,
without dissent, increased its annual dues (now $30.00) all the
way to $1.00.
There also had developed a strong
sense of confidence and feeling of mutual respect between the
National Rifle Association (NRA) and OGCA. When, in 1954, the
NRA invited collectors groups to erect organizational displays
at its annual meeting, the OGCA responded with an enthusiasm
that would soon bring them top honors in the firearms exhibition
This includes the NRA Gun Collectors
Committee Trophy, better known as the Silver Cup, which the
organization has accepted eight times including their 2004
collaboration with the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) to
present "100 years of the National Matches" also an Ohio
tradition. The OGCA is proud of its long record of support for
NRA goals and objectives and was honored to receive the NRA's
Outstanding Gun Collector Organization Award for the year 2000.
OGCA's official Credo was formulated
in 1975. Then and now, the OGCA Credo states, "We believe every
responsible American has the unrestricted right to own pistols,
rifles and shotguns. We believe when a person is convicted of a
crime when a weapon is used, the punishment should be swift,
certain and severe."
Now in its 79th year, the 18,000
member Ohio Gun Collectors Association is faced with continuing
challenges in terms of gun freedoms, shifting demographics and
other market forces, and requires more and more increased
leadership and experience within the ranks of its officers,
directors and committee chairmen. Long time life member Robert
Ray Preston serves as our current president. Directors are
elected from the membership and provide leadership to over ten
different committees. An active Past
helps the organization keep its iron sites on founding
One of the busiest committees plans
the Annual Display Show competition in which thousands of
dollars, beautiful bronzes and prizes are
awarded to the best exhibits. The May Display Show
Committee is busy
preparing for what is one of the best events of the year and brings
in many thousands of members. In addition, OGCA began a related
program for members to exhibit their special collection at each
regular meeting which is then featured in their 16 page
With the members who display, it is merely pride
of ownership and a desire to be in the company of others who
speak the language of the true firearms collector. "Camaraderie"
among collectors is the key, pure and simple, and it is the
primary reason the organization has thrived.
The social event of the year for the organization is the annual
Membership Recognition Banquet held in conjunction with the
display show, bringing in such top speakers as Sandy Froman,
General Paul Tibbets, and this year's keynote speaker, Phil
Schreier Curator of the National Firearms Museum.
Our 75th Anniversary Banquet featuring keynote speaker Wayne
LaPierre of the NRA was held Saturday evening, May 5th,
2012, at the Manor House in Mason, Ohio which can accommodate
over 500 people.
The OGCA also sponsors book signings by member authors, as well
as other opportunities for new members to learn from veteran
collectors. Incidentally, its veteran members are well published
- over 90 of the best firearm-related books have been written by
current members, a fact in which the OGCA is duly proud.
OGCA is also proud of rising to the challenge of rallying behind
The Late General Paul Tibbets and NRA
Past President Sandy Froman, OGCA 2004 Banquet
In recent elections, the OGCA Political Action Committee
supported pro-freedom candidates and informed Ohioans on the
voting record of the candidates. The PAC fund has successfully
supported numerous Pro-Freedom Candidates in Ohio and
Washington, and the OGCA was recognized in 2001 by the Citizen's
Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms as the Gun Rights
Organization of the Year.
Recognizing that the future of this
hobby rests with the youth of today, charity and funding
assistance has included the shooting programs of 4-H
and Boy Scouts of America, as well as other deserving programs
such as The Disabled Shooting Championship, the Heritage
Foundation, and the educational "100 Years of the National
Matches" exhibit at the CMP.
The 6-7 yearly OGCA meetings are a
lively and active trading place of firearms - as well as ideas.
Members come from 49 states of the union and 17 countries.
Always family-friendly, membership includes free admission for
the member, his or her spouse, and children under the age of 18.
Their handsome convention center in Wilmington, Ohio holds
800 8-foot tables, which are strictly limited to gun or
gun-related items. Each member can bring a limited number of
guests, and can sponsor others for membership after one year of
probation. Applicants for membership are sponsored by 2 members
and go through a rigorous screening process.
Always family-friendly, membership
includes free admission for the member, his or her spouse, and
children under the age of 18. Their handsome convention
center in Wilmington, Ohio holds 800 8-foot tables, which are
strictly limited to gun or gun-related items. Each member can
bring a limited number of guests, and can sponsor others for
membership after one year of probation. Applicants for
membership are sponsored by 2 members and go through a rigorous
Their home in Wilmington, Ohio
brings them back to the central Ohio area between three major
metropolitan areas: Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. It is
arguably one of the most convenient and functional halls for the
serious gun collector with its highway access, easy unloading,
free parking and on-site hotel and restaurant in a gun friendly
community known for its antique and outlet shopping. It is
visible from I-71 and U.S. 68, Exit 50.
Above everything else, the Ohio Gun
Collectors Association was born with a rustic charm that is as
American as ice cream and apple pie. It has continued to grow
and prosper, not because the exhibition halls of The Ohio Gun
Collectors Association hold the tangible tools that made history
- but because they hold the people who are making history - and
who are willing to take the time to preserve that history for
Adapted in part from “The History of
the Ohio Gun Collectors” by the late, Earl Flora, printed in
1987 in celebration of our 50th anniversary. The
OGCA Historical Committee seeks to preserve and protect our
club’s heritage. Please contact Laura Knotts, Business Manager, if you have an item of
historical significance to donate, a display piece to loan, or a
story about our history to tell.