Volume 42, Number 4, April 2004
Collecting medals is a relatively easy hobby. We collect to our surname, collect to a regiment, collect to casualties of particular actions or to members of particular units; we collect particular medals to particular people and really it’s just a case of getting out there and finding them. We scan lists, auction catalogues, dealers’ tables at shows and the internet – you search and sometimes you find. Often we don’t but sometimes we get lucky. But then what? What do we do with our new acquisitions? Do we hide them away in a safety deposit box or safe for fear of losing them to some opportunist thief? Do we put them in albums to be brought down occasionally and thumbed through like stamps? Do we display them, framed, on our walls like fine art? Yes is answer, it seems we do all of these things and more. I am constantly being asked at fairs and via letter what the best way to store medals is and I’m afraid I have no definitive answer – the storage of medals is very much like the collection itself – a matter of individual taste, and there are a hundred and one ways that it may be achieved, whether they are all completely satisfactory is a matter of opinion. The option of a safety deposit box is an obvious one – it ensures complete security (well as far as any security can be complete) for those valuable groups and allows the collector to continue to accumulate without the worry of space in their home, unfortunately the drawbacks are obvious too – there is a cost involved and the collection isn’t readily accessible by the collector; I defy any of us to say that there isn’t something satisfying about being able to sit in our own homes and gaze lovingly at the pieces we have searched long and hard for over the years, somehow the back room of a bank doesn’t have quite the same atmosphere. A safe is another option but again there is expense involved and the storage of a safe is no easy matter either, they don’t tend to sit well with the décor of your average family home. There are small discrete safes available on the market but they are by their very nature generally too small to be of much use to collectors of anything bar Army Gold Crosses or VCs! If a safe or deposit box are out then we have to look elsewhere for options – albums are very useful, particularly for singles but a large collection soon fills up more albums than can be usefully stored, besides which the nature of the leaves means groups cannot be displayed all together and those medals mounted for wear are not able to be stored at all. Framing is a nice idea but has it’s drawbacks – it’s expensive and let’s face it even the most hardened collector isn’t going to want to see every medal from his collection adorning his walls. The odd special group maybe with a photo but every single QSA/Trio/pair he possesses? Unlikely! Trays are always a good alternative, there are a number on the market, all with glass/plastic tops so that the medals can be viewed and generally they are lined to protect the contents from damage, unfortunately there remains the problem of where then to put those trays when they are full – this is where cabinets come into their own, they can be beautiful pieces of furniture in their own right and, with the right draw dimensions and combinations can accommodate either trays or medals on their own. Unfortunately such cabinets are not readily available on the market, they need to be made of particular wood to prevent damage and corrosion of the medals themselves and need to be lined with specific, acid-free material for the same reason. Those for coin collectors are always on sale but with “holes” ready cut for coins and very thin drawers they aren’t generally suitable for a medal collection; occasionally you find a nice piece that has been custom made for a collector but if you are lucky enough to do so you generally find that the price reflects its bespoke roots and it tends to be far in excess of what most of us are prepared to pay. We at MEDAL NEWS hope we have found the answer – we have recently in discussion with a manufacturer of wooden furniture with a view to getting such cabinets built commercially and if there is enough interest we will endeavour to do just that. They won’t be available for a while but if enough readers come forward saying that they would consider such a cabinet if the price was right then we hope to be able to take things to the next stage – let us know. In the meantime if anyone out there has any other ideas for storage not mentioned here do please drop us a line. There are hundreds of collectors out there stumped on the question of how to store and display their collections properly and I am certain they would welcome any little nuggets of wisdom you could provide. From biscuit tins to blanket boxes and from filing cabinets to library record card drawers, we all have our own way of storing and displaying our pride and joy – perhaps you could share yours and make a fellow collector’s hobby that little bit easier and more enjoyable.
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