Walt Johnson, 87, Show Producer & Collectors’ Extravaganza Founder

Walt Johnson, show producer and founder of Collectors’ Extravaganza, died on July 28, in California, with his daughter Nancy Johnson at his side. He will be interred in Des Moines, Iowa, during a private ceremony.

Walt founded the Collectors’ Extravaganza in Des Moines in 1969. His were the first megashows in the area, and his template for bringing together dealers and buyers in all specialties became the norm coast to coast. It was not uncommon for show managers across the country to attend Walt’s shows in the 1970s in order to see the innovations he was making. They would then apply some of Walt’s designs to their events. 

He expanded his shows to Kansas City and Denver in the mid-1970s. The show name and logo were the first events in the antiques show industry to be trademarked. Collectors’ Extravaganza was incorporated at Walt’s request in 1996, and Nancy Johnson became CEO. Walt continued to be involved in show management and never missed a show in 44 years.

The consummate collector of many things, an expert in Canadian and Mexican coinage, Walt was still buying and selling at age 87.

Walt Johnson was a veteran of World War II and Korea, serving in the United States Navy. He served 35 years on the Des Moines Police Department, rising to rank of detective. He had opportunities to advance in grade but enjoyed the work of a detective, which included cold cases. He worked with the Secret Service detail when the president or vice president would visit Des Moines and he was the president of the Des Moines Police Burial and Protective Association.

Born in Anita, Iowa, May 24, 1926, he was a resident of Des Moines from 1940 through 1978 and resided in Overland Park, Kan., from 1979 to 2013. Memorial contributions may be made to Frances Goodman Johnson Foundation, PO Box 692, Des Moines IA 50303, which was established upon the death of Mrs. Johnson in 1997. The foundation focuses its work on literacy and education.

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