Discontinued Collectibles Guide

Military Medal Collecting

Used as a generic term to describe collectibles, "Military Medals, " is a bit of a misnomer because so many of them are not, strictly speaking, medals at all. Many are crosses and, certainly in Britain and Europe, their names refer to them as such. The most obvious British example is of course the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valour which can be awarded to military personnel.

The world of collectables sometimes gives us interesting insights into social history and the British obsession with class and rank, once so prevalent. So it is with military decorations. Generally speaking, in the British armed forces, crosses were awarded to officers for acts of bravery and medals were awarded for similar acts to "other ranks, " that is non commissioned officers and privates and their equivalents in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The one notable exception to that generality was the Victoria Cross, which was always applicable to all ranks.

The most notable examples of this distinction between commissioned and non-commissioned ranks are the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), AFC (Air Force Cross), DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) and MC (Military Cross), all awarded to officers only. Their equivalents, the DFM, AFM, DSM, and MM, all medals, were awarded to non- commissioned personnel.

Note the past tense. It all changed in 1993 when the class distinction was removed. Since then, the DFC, MC and the other crosses can be awarded regardless of rank and the equivalent medals were discontinued. Military Medals, Air Force Medals etc can only become even more collectable as a consequence.

Looking back from today’s perspective, this idea that similar acts of bravery should be recognised by different awards based solely on the distinction between officers and others may seem somewhat distasteful. However at least it was relatively simple. Some other countries’ systems were far more complicated, notably Germany.

History had a great deal to do with that of course. Take the Iron Cross as the prime example. Between 1813 when it was originally introduced by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and the end of World War II in 1945, what we know as Germany underwent numerous changes of government and status. The Iron Cross changed every time. Each time several different grades of Iron Cross were introduced. Each time too the previous classes of Iron Cross became ever more collectible.

That shows just how large a field Military Decorations is and what possibilities there are there for the collector. Just about every nation that has ever been a significant military power has its own range of medals, stars, crosses and other decorations. The first recorded award of a military decoration arose from the campaigns of Alexander the Great in the Fourth Century BC. Later the Romans adopted the practice of recognising outstanding deeds and service to the Empire by the award of medals.

Decorations for acts of courage and valour above and beyond the call of duty are but one group of military medals. Campaign medals form the other principal group. The practice of issuing medals to combatants of all ranks in recognition of participation in particular battles or campaigns began with the Waterloo medal issued to every surviving soldier who took part in the famous battle and some other associated actions.

Many of the campaign medals awarded in subsequent campaigns have been in the form of stars rather than circular medals. The Mons Star, 1935-45 Star and Atlantic Star are just some examples of these.

Military medals, awards and decorations constitute such a large category of collectables that it could easily be further broken down into sub-categories, any one of which could form the subject of a fascinating collection. The distinction between decorations for bravery and campaign medals provides one possible division. Specialising in the medals etc awarded by a particular country or during a specific period in history are also possibilities. Britain or the USA for example would each provide enormous scope.

It is a sad fact that at no period since Alexander the Great has there been any shortage of wars in the world to provide opportunities for medals to be awarded. They are all collectible and many of them are still out there just waiting for collectors to find them and give them a home.

The following is a list of live auctions for "Medals Military Medals" currently listed on eBay. Hover the mouse cursor over the current price for details of postage and packaging. If you would like to see more information on a particular piece and maybe even bid on it, simply click on the item description to be magically whisked away to the wonderful world that is eBay. Alternatively you may use the search box to look for a specific piece for your collection.

Please also check out the Medals Military Medals Books, Related Dealers and Useful Resources listed at the end of this page.

Useful Resources

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