The Flying Coppers
Volume 46, Number 2, February 2008
A "dim" view... The Ottawa Citizen of November 24, 2006 carried an interesting article on the medals of two brothers, both World War I casualties, that had appeared on eBay in Canada. It was interesting not so much because of the story of the brothers themselves, which was a tale of a family torn apart, sadly all too familiar to anyone who collects medals, but rather because it gave a particular Canadian MP a chance to voice his rather strong views on the subject of medal collecting and collectors. According to the Citizen, the MP, one Peter Stoffer, MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore, has long campaigned to outlaw the sale of military medals saying that he is “disgusted” by collectors, or even family members “profiting” from the sale of medals. He has, it seems, introduced a private members bill to outlaw the sale of medals and, whilst it has been stuck at the first reading for years and there is little hope of it ever being passed into law, it does highlight the staggering ignorance of some people when it comes to our hobby. He believes that nobody should financially profit from the “valour of others”, stating that “we have already profited from their sacrifices”. He apparently doesn’t mind if a veteran wishes to give away his medals, doesn’t mind if we collect them should they have been gifts but apparently (again according to the Citizen) “the minute you sell them, as far as I’m concerned, you’re scum of the earth”. So there you have it everyone—any of you who have ever sold a medal to help fund another purchase are, apparently, “scum”; any dealer you’ve ever bought from is “scum”; any member of a family selling off a long gone ancestor’s medal is “scum” We don’t rate very highly in Mr Stoffer’s opinion it seems. Nice to see a balanced view isn’t it? Needless to say once this story came to our attention via the Internet group, the British Medal Forum, we felt we simply couldn’t let it lie and emailed Mr Stoffer. We politely pointed out that far from being “scum”, medal collectors cared passionately about their hobby, were responsible for caring for medals and keeping the memory of the recipient alive. We pointed out that often medal recipients’ families are long gone, or those that remain often simply aren’t interested in their long dead ancestors, and so we, as collectors, are now the only ones still remembering the sacrifice made so long ago. We went on to say that we don t simply collect metal and silk, but carry out research on the man behind the medal too, care about who he was and what he did, and that actually, as medals are private property, we wondered why Mr Stoffer felt it was his right to tell recipients what they could or couldn’t do with their medals after they’d been awarded them. We were not expecting a reply and were therefore surprised when one appeared, sadly it was a “form letter” and identical to the one received by the British Medal Forum members who also emailed him but at least there was a response and for that we were grateful. We were interested to note that apparently the proposed bill had received an “overwhelming amount of support” from veterans and their family members as well as members of the armed forces and veterans’ organisations. We were even told that the idea came from them in the first place! Mr Stoffer claimed that the bill would still allow medal collectors to collect—they just could not buy or sell medals for financial gain. Admittedly, he did acknowledge that collectors do a “wonderful job preserving war medals” and that we do keep the memory of veterans and their sacrifices alive. We are very grateful that our efforts haven’t gone completely unnoticed by the illustrious MP but saddened that, in order to avoid being branded scum by him, such efforts must only be undertaken if we get the medals as gifts or by trade—we mustn’t, apparently, buy or sell them! The fact that the bill has the backing of an “overwhelming” number of veterans, their families and relevant organisations did come as something of a surprise—in all my time in the medal world I’ve never once heard a veteran or a member of their family voice such an objection—have you? We sent another email to Mr Stoffer, again pointing out the fact that medals were private property and it really wasn’t up to a Government to decree what happened to them and also pointing out that to propose we swapped or traded medals like bubblegum cards or marbles would do far more to demean the sacrifice of the recipients than sel1in them ever could—we have yet to receive a reply. Needless to say we disagree with Mr Stoffer 100 per cent and are, frankly, shocked that anyone could hold such an attitude; but this attempt of his to outlaw the sale of military medals in Canada, coupled with the recent “Stolen Valour Act” in the States, does again highlight the potential threats posed by people outside of out hobby who don’t really understand what we do. If you would like to help enlighten Mr Stoffer a little about who we are and what we do then do get in touch with him, I’d like to think that if enough of us told him what we’re really about then he’d actually realise that we aren’t the money grabbing mercenaries he believes. His contact details are a matter of public record and are as follows: Mr Peter Stoffer MP 2900 Hwy #2 Fall River, NS. Canada B2T 1W4. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know how you get on.
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