Medal News

Volume 41, Number 2, February 2003

A problem shared

Volume 41, Number 2, February 2003

In any walk of life where there is money to be made there will be unscrupulous people trying to make it dishonestly and to the detriment of others. Sadly “collectable” based hobbies have been hotbeds of such criminal activity for many years. In the art world there have been forgers for as long as there have been artists; counterfeiters have long been a problem in numismatics and our own medal world has had its pitfalls too. Up until recently the problem that e have had to deal with have usually been related to the adding of medals to groups which shouldn’t have been there in the first place, adding clasps to otherwise fairly common medals, the renaming of medals and passing them off as original and the odd crude forgery easily detected by most of us. However with the advent of computer aided design and the arrival of technology made simpler and cheaper by scientific advances, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of having our hobby targeted by those determined to make money at all costs regardless of what the effects will be to the hitherto overlooked world of medals. There have always been forgeries of course but rarely have they been good enough to trap a keen collector, now however even the most eagle eyed of us must be careful. We all know about the “copy” Air Crew Europe Stars that abound, they can be found almost anywhere, but they are not alone. Peter Helmore’s letter last month drew attention to a possibly worrying development with unnamed MMs and DCMs and we have also learned, from the OMRS discussion group, of a proliferation of fake, named, Bronze BWMs emanating from the West Country. This is on top of the array of other WWI medals, and others, coming from the West Midlands area that are being sold, ostensibly as copies, but which are undoubtedly finding there way onto the open market. There is no doubt that if we let this situation continue, if so called copies, almost indiscernible from the genuine article, are allowed to continue to surface in the trade they will, eventually, end up being sold on as such. Anyone involved with Third Reich memorabilia in the past few years will testify to how similar such copies, sold on by the unscrupulous or unwitting led to there being almost as many fakes on the market as genuine items a situation that has almost destroyed that hobby. We cannot allow the same thing to happen to us. Copies of course have their place and we wouldn’t dream of suggesting that none should be manufactured, the “museum quality copies” that abound on dealers lists play a valuable part in many collections (after all we aren’t all billionaires, sometimes that VC to complete our Zulu War display just has to be less than original) but a problem does exist and needs to be tackled. The question is how. If companies are manufacturing these items as “copies” (and of course that is exactly what they will say they are doing even if we all suspect differently) they are doing nothing illegal, even naming a medal is not against the law, and as they are not members of the OMRS no censure can come from that direction; yet to allow this practice to continue is to condemn our hobby to eventual destruction as collectors will soon become so wary that no one will want to run the risk to buy or trade - “just in case”. For our part we will do our best and, as from next month, we will be running a “Copy Watch” feature pointing out how to detect individual medal fakes and would appreciate any information from our readers as to how they have unmasked any forgery they have come across. We will also keep readers informed as to any new fakes we hear about and again would be grateful for any information regarding this. We also want to hear your views on this growing problem; is there anything that can be done to combat this threat? Does anyone have any suggestions how we can stop this before our hobby is brought to its knees? You might think that a tad overdramatic but it isn’t so far from the truth, how is the hobby expected to survive, let alone flourish if every medal has to be checked, double checked and checked again before it is purchased? Yes buyers must beware but it would be nice to think they didn’t have to be paranoid. Carry on as we are and they might have to be. We as a “fraternity” must act now, something must be done – but what? We await your comments with interest.

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