Pieces of the past: Jayden VanMaurick’s historical collection


Hailey Warsaw


Most would dismiss an old oil can as nothing special, but the case was very different for Jr. Jayden VanMaurick. For VanMaurick, this experience was inspirational, leading him to pursue what would become a true passion: collecting military artifacts. “I was inspired to start my collection because of my grandfather when he started collecting old oil cans,” VanMaurick said. From this point on, VanMaurick’s interest has grown into the extensive collection he owns today.

  “I collect equipment from many wars, but mostly WWII. I have a few things from WWI and the Civil War too,” VanMaurick said. A self-proclaimed “history buff,” VanMaurick has always enjoyed history, and collecting these artifacts has allowed him to grow his knowledge and appreciation of the subject even more.

   “I think the most impressive thing I’ve found so far is this WWII military radio,” VanMaurick said. “Even though it doesn’t work, it’s still complete and It’s got all the different things that it would traditionally have. I think it’s pretty cool,” VanMaurick said. “It is rare to find a radio itself because it is one of the most sought after things for military collectors.” Luckily, VanMaurick was able to find one close by in Allegan and add this historic artifact to his own collection. “This radio was used in WWII most likely during the Normandy invasion or Italian campaign,” VanMaurick said. “This radio was used by infantry and was called the scr-300-a. It was used to communicate with other units about enemy positions and dangers.” Even though this radio does not currently work, it still holds year’s worth of stories and encapsulates moments of WWII forever.

  Besides the radio, VanMaurick has nearly 50 other additions to his collection, including some artifacts that have surprised him. “I’ve found a lot of things I didn’t think would be military related,” VanMaurick said. “I’ve actually found medic kits from Vietnam and also military kits with things like spoons and shaving equipment,” an unlikely find when compared to VanMaurick’s other warfare related pieces.

   “The kit was used in the Vietnam war by field medics to help aid wounded soldiers. I think it would have been important because of the brutal fighting between the US soldiers and the NVA during the war,” VanMaurick said. “The roles of field medics were vital to help keep soldiers alive and help them return home from the war unharmed.” These medic kits, although surprising, have proven interesting and valuable additions to VanMaurick’s collection.

  Other times, VanMaurick finds artifacts that hold a deep meaning to him, besides just being beneficial to his collection. “This one shovel I have actually has a cross on it,” VanMaurick said. When he found it, the shovel stood out from others he had seen in the past. This shovel was complete, including its own sheath. But, that’s not the only detail that caught VanMaurick’s eye.

  It was the cross etched onto the handle that made it all-the-more-special to him.  “[I] thought it was unique, [and] that this object had a past or story with this cross symbol,” VanMaurick said. “That was pretty neat especially because I’m a Christian.” The religious significance to the shovel resonated with VanMaurick, even impressing family members like his dad. “I thought maybe the shovel was a sign of [a soldier’s] faithfulness to God that he would get through the war,” VanMaurick said. “I just could not pass it up.”

  For VanMaurick, the process that goes into finding these interesting pieces of history isn’t anything out of the ordinary. “I usually go to antique markets, and my favorite one I like to go to is in Allegan county because that is where I usually find the best artifacts for my collection.” VanMaurick shared. Not only does VanMaurick find collectibles here, but he also knows another collector from this shop that offers deals on historical artifacts he is selling. “Basically if it is something that interests me, and is something I might not have I buy it,” VanMaurick said.

As impressive and interesting it is to own all these artifacts, collecting these pieces has come to mean a lot more to VanMaurick. “The reason I collect is because I have a true interest in history and the history of these different conflicts,” VanMaurick said. “[I find it interesting] to learn about the struggles of the soldiers who served, fought, and died in the most memorable wars in human history.” But, VanMaurick doesn’t only focus on one side of these wars, he considers both sides when it comes to his collection, as well as when it comes to his own personal learning experience. “It is interesting to see both sides of the conflicts. You gain a new perspective on these events even if some sides were more black or white than the others,” VanMaurick said.

  When it comes down to it, VanMaurick values every piece in his collection, and the stories and history that come with them. “Whether it’s a bayonet or a simple ammo pouch each is a part of that history. The history and stories of these wars and the soldiers who fought in them will continue to be told.”    

  It might have been an oil can that inspired VanMaurick’s collection, but now VanMaurick hopes to grow his collection to include as many military artifacts as he can find. ”With the growth of my collection comes the growth of me, as I find out more wars and history,” VanMaurick said.