Caveat Emptor

I have put this page up to assist buyers of German Militaria in getting the best value for their money and possibly not get ripped off by the hundreds (or thousands) of people out there just dying to take money from people just like you because you’re not as informed as you could be about what you’re buying .I’ll advise you now that the following information may come across as the ranting of a lunatic (which could be entirely true), so consider yourself warned. Anyway, I’m not just a seller. I’m a buyer too and some of the behavior and tricks that some sellers use to try to rip you and me off completely baffle me. I’d like to start with some of the most basic guidelines focusing on tricks that people use to sell reproductions as originals. First and foremost: Let’s be serious, if there were as many German soldiers in WWII as there are reproductions of German badges on the market, the Allied forces would have been outnumbered 10000 to 1 in every battle they fought and we’d all be wearing leather shorts and speaking German right now. Since that isn’t how it happened, it is completely and totally impossible that all of the items that people are describing as real are actually originals. Approximately 60% of ALL of the items described as originals are obvious copies with probably an additional 10% to 20% that are higher quality copies. To explain, there’s a small number of reproductions out there that are extremely high quality and almost impossible to tell from the real thing. That leaves about 20% that -might- be real. Always remember, you’re better off to complete a sale for an item that you’re not sure of than to get ripped off.

In no particular order, the following are some of the most important things to keep in mind before purchasing ANYTHING described as original :

1. Quantities for of items sale: One of the main things you should keep in mind is that NO ONE will have 20 or 50 or 100 of exactly the same ‘original issue’ badges for sale. Watch how many identical items the seller lists over a period of time. If they list the same thing week after week and sells dozens of them, it’s pretty conclusive that they’re not original.

1a. “Comes with original paper packet! Never issued!”: Mmmmm…….. For those people not aware of it, they still make paper. They still make envelopes. They still print words on them

As you know, German WWII badges are regularly reproduced and the envelopes are 1000 times easier to make. I could go to my local printing shop today and have the exact same envelopes made for about 10 pence an envelope in about 3 days and they would be impossible to tell from the ones that people are offering as ‘real’. I would guess that 80% of the items offered as ‘never issued with packet’ are probably copies. Nothing sits around for 60 years without some effects from passing time.

2. “Estate sale!”: This is one of the most overused and completely untrue terms to describe the origin of an item. People use it because it’s practically impossible to refute or disprove and the seller can plead ignorance if the buyer finds out the item is a repro (“I had no idea that it was fake! I didn’t know anything about it because it came from an estate sale!”). No less than 85% of these items described with this term are obvious copies to the trained eye or people who just own originals to compare.

3. “Rare!” (as opposed to medium rare or well done): Repeat after me: ‘Rare’ is frequently just another way of saying for ‘These are hard to find because people usually throw them in the rubbish’ and ‘No one wants this worthless piece of ……’. I use this term myself when I know it to be true, BUT ONLY THEN. Not every single item a seller lists can be rare, especially if they’re listing 100 of them at the same time (see point #1 above).

4. “Brought back by my <insert relative here, real or fictional> from the war! Absolutely real!”: Hard call, however if it was brought back by a relative, they should know details about the relatives service, like where they served, their rank, unit, division, etc. As odd as it may seem, wars usually stand out in people’s minds and they don’t usually ‘forget’ the details. More likely, crazy old Uncle Bob has probably bored anyone who would stand still for more than 30 seconds to tears or unconsciousness with every little detail (“We were so hungry we ate our helmets! Helmet soup with dirt sandwiches!”). Now, you don’t have to interrogate them, just ask some basic questions and tell them that you’re doing so to try to authenticate the item. If they can’t tell you anything, it’s very possibly a fake being passed off.

5. “I don’t know much about it, but…”: Faking ignorance is another popular tactic that people use. They drop some vague nonsense about where it came from and babble about not knowing what it is, etc.


Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Either they’re complete idiots that can’t do a basic search online to research what they’re selling or they know exactly what they’re selling and they’re playing stupid to get you to make assumptions about what it is so they can sell it for more money. Either way, do you really want to buy from these people? You’re just begging for trouble.

5a. Addendum: “German pin??? It was beside a Volkswagen hub-cap on the floor of my basement in London !! It must be a World War II German badge that Hitler personally wore!!!”: Nothing like wild leaps of logic and improbability to really make for an unlikely and usually pretty obvious attempt at making you think something is authentic when it in reality it has nothing to do with WWII, Germany or anything else . These people are either delusional or just stupid, avoid them. Here’s a really big clue for the people that list this stuff: 99.99999% of the items produced by the Germans in WWII didn’t have English on them at all (why the hell would it?). Zero, nada, zip, zilch, squat, none. As hard as this may be to comprehend, they do NOT call their country Germany or spell it that way. They have this funny and whimsical method of speaking and spelling. Its called their language and they spell it Deutschland.

6. “This was just dug up outside of <insert Eastern European city name here>, the site of the famous battle where Field Marshall Kartoffelkopf’s (Potatohead’s) forces clashed with blah blah blah blah…”: The ever popular “Baffle them with Bullshit” tactic. First, the person writing the description forgot to mention that they buried the item there 2 weeks earlier. Second, IT’S BEEN 60 YEARS SINCE THE END OF THE WAR! Anything underground, under water, under a rock, under a house, etc will have significant corrosion and damage to it and it won’t just be covered with dirt (see next tactic), it will be practically unidentifiable. Here’s a picture of what you can expect to see if the badge has actually been buried since the end of the war

7. “It’s dirty! It’s got to be old!”: Put some mud and bird poop on it and it’s original. See the details about corrosion and age in the previous point. If it’s so dirty, where the hell was it? Why wasn’t it cleaned? Would YOU keep a badge covered in dirt and bird poop in your collection? Didn’t think so, neither would I.

8. Materials and specifications of manufacture: This is a big one. If you forget everything else I’ve mentioned, remember this one. Before you buy ANYTHING find out what it was originally made of, how it was originally made and what markings should be on it. It’s not that hard to do: Go to the library, buy a decent reference book or at least do a web search.

A couple really good examples of this are Iron Crosses and Totenkopf and Eagle badges.

First, Iron Crosses are manufactured a number of ways and there’s some good repros out there, however there’s 1000 times as many bad repros out there and all of them, good and bad will probably have someone try to pass them off as original. The main thing that you should keep in mind is that there’s a reason it’s called an Iron Cross. The centre should be made out of iron, or more specifically, steel (unless it’s a Navy one which was changed to brass because the steel ones rusted). This is why checking the centre to see if it’s magnetic is a good way to check. Also, 95% of them made during the war (other than a few special cast precious metal ones made for high ranking officials) are 3 piece medals, that’s the backing, the trim ring and the centre part. Or if its 2 sided, it will have the Reich side dated 1939 and the Imperial side with crown, ivy leaves dated 1914 (or 1813). THERE WERE NO ORIGINAL ISSUE CAST ALUMINUM / ZINC / BRASS / IRON CROSSES EVER MADE FOR ISSUE BEFORE 1957.

NOTE: These rules do not apply to Spanish crosses or Maltese (bronze) style crosses, only the Iron Cross.

Second: Totenkopf and Eagle badges: There are so many copies of these out there and it’s unbelievable how bad most of them are. Most don’t even look remotely like the originals, but sooner or later someone will come along and still try and pass them off as the real thing or ‘copied from the original’. Unfortunately, materials are not the best way to tell originals for these badges. They were made of a number of materials as other previously used metals became scarce during the course of the war. First thing to look for: Makers marks: all of these badges should have the correct makers logo and manufacturing number if they’re real. This is not specific to the Totenkopf and Eagle as other badges will have it, however it’s one of the main ways to tell.

Second: The Eagles have 3 prongs, not 2. Simple, but you’d be amazed at how many people miss this detail.


Caveat Emptor

Let the buyer beware!