Thousands of native American arrowheads, spearpoints, stone tools and clay pots filled 370 tables in the exhibit hall at the Owensboro Convention Center on Saturday.

And fans filed through, looking at the artifacts, some of which were 10,000 or more years old, at Brandon Vanderver’s fifth annual Native American Artifacts and Ethnography Show.

Some came to buy or trade with the collectors.

Robert Matthias of Crown Point, Indiana, has been collecting artifacts for 45 years, he said.

It was a lot easier to find arrowheads back then, he said.

So many artifacts have been destroyed by farming, subdivisions, highways and shopping centers since then, Matthias said.

“People don’t seem to want to preserve history,” he said.

Matthias hunts for artifacts all over the Midwest and down into Arkansas and has a collection of hundreds of items, some dating back 10,000 years or so.

He was selling some items Saturday, buying some and trading for others.

Mark Smith of Friendship, Indiana, said his uncle got him interested in collecting when he was a kid.

“I’ve hunted in 38 states,” he said. “I once drove to Texas for one arrowhead.”

Smith’s collection includes clay pottery, stone tools, large clay figurines and small figurines made by the Incas from gold and copper.

“Those were never in the ground,” he said of the Inca art. “They were found in a cave.”

Smith said he plans to eventually leave his collection to his nephew, who he hopes will carry on the tradition.

A collector from Illinois, who didn’t want his name used, was displaying three large pre-Columbian figurines that he said were worth $10,000 each.

They were likely made in Mexico or South America.

“They’ve been in this country since 1930,” he said.

He also had two stone “ballgame yokes” — U-shaped stones that were worn around the waists of ballplayers to strike a solid rubber ball.

The man said, as he understands it, the players who lost the game also lost their heads.

A few booths down, another collector was offering a saber-toothed cat fossil for $2,400.

Other booths offered a wide assortment of items including moccasins, cannon balls, World War I helmets, swords, antique firearms, suits of armor, canteens, stone axe heads, stone tools (pestles, grindstones), coins, knives, jewelry and other collectibles.

In the past five years, the show has grown into one of the nation’s largest artifact shows.

This year, vendors came from as far away as Wisconsin, Arkansas, Florida and New York.

Vanderver and several of the collectors used to attend the Indian Artifacts Show that Kathy Pohl Finley of Cannelton, Indiana, had at the Executive Inn Rivermont for 28 years.

But the Executive Inn closed in 2008.

When the convention center opened seven years ago, Vanderver decided it was time to bring an artifact show back to town.

And the collectors came with him.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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