Let's make a start to stop

May 2006, Volume 44 No. 5
Apologies to those readers of our sister magazine COIN NEWS as they will find this “Comment” somewhat familiar – but I feel the issue is important enough to be mentioned in both publications.

I read with disappointment, but no real surprise, that the much loved television programme Blue Peter was suspending its Blue Peter Badge scheme because it was being abused. For those who don’t know the scheme allowed winners of the badges (awarded by the programme for fundraising, “good deeds” or for winning competitions) to visit certain countrywide attractions free of charge. Now it seems that fake badges are being sold on the internet to allow groups of people who had never earned a badge to take advantage of the free entry system enabling them to have cheap days out. The BBC had no option but to suspend the scheme and as a consequence the whole thing has been ruined for those who earned their badges by few greedy individuals (and the tight fisted buyers) who will “do anything for a quick buck”. Now you might wonder what relevance this has to medals but there are direct parallels; somebody decided they wanted to make some cash, they didn’t care how they did it, didn’t care about the wider consequences all they were in it for was money today and who cares about tomorrow, as a direct result there are many disappointed people who won’t get the chance to enjoy what they should. Ringing any bells yet? I’m talking of course about those who are profiting from the sale of “copy” medals that they know full well are being sold on as genuine but simply don’t care, and of course those breaking the law by knowingly selling as genuine something they know not to be.
Of course proper “Museum quality copies” (with that fact clearly marked on them in some way either with the word copy or a distinctive trade mark) do have a place in our hobby – after all few of us can afford a VC group yet we might want to have a representation of one in a display and often “broken groups” are put together with such copies until such time as the original medal can be located. This sort of practice is perfectly acceptable and whilst there are some who frown upon it it is obviously here to stay. However the sale of “copy” medals has now become big business and what I am referring to in this piece is the kind of medal made with no marking to indicate that it is a copy, the kind of medal that can be and is passed off to the unwary as genuine, the kind of medal that has had cast marks filed away from its edge with the sole intention of deceiving those who might come across it. We’ve all seen them, they’ve been filed, aged, toned and turn up on the internet auction sites as “rare” specimens, often “as awarded to foreign servicemen” (be wary – there really ARE many unnamed examples as awarded to foreign nationals available, you really do need to know your stuff, if in doubt only buy such medals from a reputable dealer). Still others have been named, ostensibly to add authenticity but we all know that a few years down the line the fact that the naming was done in 2006 will be conveniently forgotten and that medal will be sold on as perfectly “legit”.
Not everyone is fooled of course but many are, only discovering their mistake when they later come to sell on their wonderful collection and find that many of the better items are in fact nothing of the sort. Admittedly I am over egging things slightly, the problem isn’t that widespread yet but sadly we do here of such incidences happening time and again – you only have to look at the internet auctions to see how many of these copies are available and it doesn’t take a genius to realise how easily these things can find there way into the mainstream hobby. Of course with medals the fact that so many are named does add to the “defence” against the fakers but as so many aren’t named (higher level gallantry – the DSO, MC etc, World War II campaign medals, even many of the Crimeas) we cannot entirely rely on that and as naming techniques get better so may more of us will be caught out.
A couple of years ago we made a stand regarding the advertising of copy coins within COIN NEWS we decided that those not properly marked up as such could not be sold through the pages of our magazine and have said the same regarding medals – well now we’d like to go a step further, we would ask that all involved in the hobby, dealer and collector alike turn their backs on these medals – if it isn’t clearly marked as a copy then don’t touch it, walk away and don’t be tempted. Certainly you might know it’s a copy and think it would look good in your collection to complete a group, you might even be tempted to get it named up, just to add to the look, after all what’s the harm; you know it’s not real. But one day you won’t be around and your collection will be sold, what then happens to that “copy”? It gets sold too and gets pushed from pillar to post by those in the know until one day some poor unsuspecting soul, probably a beginner, gets lumbered with it, thinking they’ve got a bargain only to discover later that it’s nothing of the sort.. Once that happens you can bet that that beginner will be put off for life and so another is lost to the hobby. This may seem melodramatic but it’s happening, right now, so called copy medals, fakes, are being sold on as real ones to fledgling, and in some cases experienced, collectors and that will damage the hobby beyond repair. Of course no reputable dealer or collector will ever sell such things as “genuine” but two or three transactions down the line that medal, once clearly described as a copy, has somehow lost that tag and has gained a few noughts on the end of the price.
The only way to stop this happening is to stamp out the market for such medals in the first place, and to do that collectors have to stop buying them. So my plea this month is that from now on if you desperately need something to complete a group and can’t afford or find the real thing then only buy a “filler” if it’s clearly marked as a copy in some way. If medals so marked are the only ones that sell then maybe the manufacturers will realise that to stay in business that’s what they need to put on their wares – then and only then might we see a change to this worrying trend – a trend that could destroy our hobby if we don’t make a stand now. If it isn’t real and doesn’t say “copy” on it in some way then it’s a fake, fake medals will damage medal collecting forever, let’s do our best to get rid of them once and for all. – and lets start now.

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In This Issue

Gunner Perry and the Sirius at Trafalgar
An ambitious and resolute seaman
A Grenadier's Wife and Mother
A family regiment saves the day
The Regiment that burned down the White House
The evolution of a formidable fighting force
HMAS Sydney medal group sold in Queensland
Medals from Australia's tragic WWII loss
Medals mark the anniversary of the Leningrad Blockade
The liberation of a beleagured city
World War I Victory Medals of the United States
A fascinating look at a vast collecting interest
Kasigau---an East African skirmish
A much fought over, rocky outcrop
John Oscar Norton & his military career
An interesting family member
Operational Honours and Awards List
March 24, 2006