The term militaria refers to military and police objects, which constitute one of the most curious components of the equipment of a soldier of an armed force, collected because of its historical significance. Among the most collected objects are firearms, knives, uniforms, helmets, medals, ammunition cartridges, exhibits, friezes, insignia, ranks, uniforms, combat equipment and photographs. The field of collectibles must respect the regulations of each country, applying in particular regulations on the possession of weapons or ammunition, and with some restrictions on the German military, as in Germany for example.
The term derives from the military dona of the legionnaires of ancient Rome, which were the military rewards assigned to brave soldiers and officers.
Each element has a precise meaning, based on a true identification code that represents the military world, its values, its history, sinking its roots in the traditions that make it a key element in the evolution of an armed force, in its evolution. in history and its coding systems.
Also associated with the military are all replicas of weapons, vehicles and materials, decorations, prints and everything related in some way to the history of a military corps.
The historical militaria is also collectable all over the world, which feeds a real dedicated market.
In military collecting, one of the most interesting collections is that of regimental postcards.
The collection of postcards was spread in the last decade of the 19th century and the most important branch was the military one. It was developed in particular from 1900 to 1910 and collected everything related to the Risorgimento and the most recent history of the army.
In this period, postcards were made in black and color and the same postcard was printed in different colors and with several inscriptions.
Italian printers and lithographs were involved, reproducing paintings by the author and some artists made the sketches.
Catalogs of military postcards came out, with a subdivision by weapons, bodies and specialities, with the description, the indication of the value and, consequently, the degree of rarity.
For the war 1915 – 1918, there are approximately ten thousand different types of postcards.
Later more modern postcards were published in the bill, which showed new weapons. There are postcards of the Army, Navy and Air Force also those that refer to the conquest of Ethiopia.
During World War II there were “free” postcards for the operational departments, issued by the government and those printed by the National Agencies.
The postcards sent from the front may have irredentism as a theme, with Italy represented by a woman figure; democratic interventionism, with images representing Garibaldi, Cavour, Vittorio Emanuele II, Mazzini. Then there are the patriotic-nationalist postcards; some of them support national borrowing, others are anti-German or anti-Austrian, with the enemy portrayed as a “gross” invader and plunderer, also using satirical images. In others, finally, civil life is represented.
Phaleristics is a discipline dedicated to the collection and study of honors, medals and any other sign of civil or military distinction. Once considered a branch of numismatics, from the second half of the 20th century it has assumed an increasing autonomy, being considered a totally different discipline.
The term was coined in 1936 by Kristian Turnwald and Oldřich Pilc.
The technical term derives from the Greek τά φάλαρα that in the classic texts was used to indicate the metallic decorations that were placed in the helmets of the warriors and in the harnesses of the horses of the Greek soldiers, term that later the Romans took up again with the name of phalerae to indicate the medallions. applied in the lorica of the officers.
Faleristica centers its field of study around the official and unofficial decorations (religious, associative, corporate) conferred on natural or legal persons, divided by seniority or period of concession, as well as by type:
The research is therefore aimed at the various types of bodies issuing various awards and concession decrees, including the collection of diplomas and distinctions on paper.
Today, the acquisition of militaria is an established hobby among many groups of people without a common ideology or thoughts; they only share an interest in historical military objects. Many European families, especially royal families with a military tradition, have large collections of military objects that are passed on from generation to generation. Also, many people today acquire military for profit.
An alternative name, used by some people, for the militaria is “military antiquities” or “collecting military antiquities”.
Because of the large number of objects that can be considered ‘military’, most collectors will focus their collection on a particular period, such as a specific war or battle, or a particular army uniform.
The approach can be more specialized: many collectors may be interested only in a particular object, seeking to gather all possible variations (models, years of manufacture or manufacturer). Militaria collectors generally have a favorite period in which to specialize.
Due to the large amount of fake items and reproductions in the militaria collection market, documentary research is vital to determine the authenticity of an object.
“Not just Militaria”: a passion for military objects at the Casa de Campo
The military collection fair “Not only Militaria” has become one of the most popular events among those who annually host the Crystal Pavilion of the Casa de Campo. The event, which will take place this weekend, serves as a meeting point for those who have a true passion for objects related to the world of defense, bringing together collectors who sell, buy and exchange all kinds of objects. From historical uniforms of armies from all over the world, through a wide repertoire of weapons, decorations or models of vehicles and aircraft.
This is the largest fair held in Spain on this subject and also attracts many people because of the curiosity that the warfare genre and its instruments arouse among history lovers. The important concentration of battle tanks, Jeep models in their multiple combinations, Hummer H2 or BMW motorcycles, among other military vehicles, contribute to this. Most of them originate from the Second World War and the armored divisions of the Spanish Army.
The exteriors of the Crystal Pavilion usually concentrate several groups of historical reconstruction. In the last editions, recreations of Roman, medieval or Viking camps have been seen, as well as of troops from the Civil War or the Second World War.
The event also serves as a meeting point for associations of veterans of the Armed Forces and State Security Forces and Corps. “Among the many stands that host the fair, those who attend can buy or exchange medals, uniforms, helmets, caps, gas masks, sabers, bayonets, specialized books, original documents, grenades, photographs, flags, badges, models or antique toys, among many other objects,” report from the Don Rodrigo Foundation, organizer of this event that holds two annual meetings every six months, in March and November.
The festival also houses a space for the Airsoft and several shooting galleries so that attendees can try out the latest weapons in this military simulation activity. “These types of activities are a delight to the public of any age,” say the organizers.
The next big auction of militaria and other rare collection objects of several centuries of antiquity will take place in Hermann Historica in Munich.
The German auction house Hermann Historica auctioned rare, collectible and antique objects in an auction that lasted 5 days. It began on May 20, 2019 with “Schusswaffen aus fünf Jahrhunderten” which included firearms of several centuries of antiquity. Among the 832 lots in the catalog were a couple of very interesting luxury rifles, which were manufactured around 1820 by the gunsmith Joseph Reisinger in Wels.
The extraordinary detail of these rifles decorated with finely engraved locking plates with ignition mechanisms for chemical explosives. In addition to the English gunsmiths, his Austrian colleagues in the early 19th century were particularly interested in developing new chemical-based ignition systems.
The 1110 lots of the auction “Alte Waffen, Jagdliches und Kunsthandwerk, Antiken” comprises antique weapons, hunting weapons, handicrafts and antiques that were distributed on two days: May 21st and 22nd. On the first day of the auction interesting antique pieces were very well represented. Coming from Late Archaeic Attica, the scene of a crater with black figure painting stands out, whose style would soon be replaced by the painting of Greek vases with red figures. The craters were large vessels for storing wine. The modern name of the type “Kolonettenkrater” refers to the shape of the handles.
Exceptionally well preserved is a pseudo-calcified bronze hull from the northern Black Sea from the 4th century BC. The helmet is a good example of the adoption of Greek forms by the equestrian peoples of the Near East.
He made a leap to the Middle Ages with a Viking piece from the 10th century. The object is made of silver leaf and represents a stylized bird of prey, whose details were decorated with granules and filigree wire.
In the beginning, traveling by rail was not only a very difficult matter but also very dangerous, since it was constantly being attacked by men from the roads. To avoid this, the safe was placed under the wagons so that access by possible thieves was as difficult as possible.
The second day of auctions was filled with sharp weapons, as well as military pieces and crafts of non-European origin, including Japan, China, India and Africa. Of course, the Ottoman and Persian empires cannot be missing here. In the latter, around 1800, a luxurious set was made with gold inlay. These are daggers used in Persia since the Middle Ages, whose single-edged blade can be up to 30 cm long.
Another extraordinary weapon is an extremely luxurious rapier made around 1620 by a blacksmith in Germany. The elegant and elaborately designed piece has an s-shaped crosshead, which like the handle was decorated with great attention to detail.
Among the selection of weapons is a gilded and engraved muzzle to emphasize that it was once used by a member of the honor guard of the Christian Elector of Saxony I (1586-91). In line with the military fashion of the time, the iron helmet is adorned with representations of the mythical heroes Mucius Scaevola and Marcus Curtius.
On May 23rd, 902 lots were gathered in the category “Order & Military History” with historical military collectibles (including Germany until 1918). An interesting piece among the often profusely designed medals from the auction is one of the Order von Chula Chom Klao, which was donated on November 16 by King Rama V and Chulalongkorn of Siam on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the reigning Chakri dynasty and is still awarded today.
In 1898 it had been thought as a personal gift from the Russian Tsar Nicholas I in this miniature of the ruler that shows a reverse engraving. The portrait was made by the important miniaturist Johannes Zehngraf, who worked together with Fabergé. Therefore, it seems likely that the molded frame comes from the production of the famous jeweler.
An even more personal piece is a summer hat decorated with feathers, which belonged to the wardrobe of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The beautiful Empress placed great emphasis on elegant clothing and preferred the colors black, white, gray and purple. However, after the suicide of her son, Crown Prince Rudolf, in January 1889, she wore only black. Thus, the hat would have adorned the monarch’s legendary head and hair, earlier.
The last day of the auction, May 24, was dedicated to contemporary German military history since 1919. In this offer of 787 lots, the Key Unit 41 developed during the Second World War stands out. After the English mathematician Alan Turing had deciphered the code of the ENIGMA machine in 1941, the German Wehrmacht needed a new security device. The result was the Key Unit 41 which was also called “Hitlermühle” because of its side handle. However, by the end of 1944 alone about 500 units of the machine had been delivered, most of which were destroyed after the war.
Military items are always in demand by collectors. One of the historical periods that most interest the fans from this point of view is the Second World War.
These are some of the most outstanding objects that managed to be sold at the most important auctions in the world at exceptional prices.
The auction company Bonhams is planning to release a Hawker Hurricane single-seater fighter jet. The initial price is between 2.1 and 2.6 million dollars. It is believed that it belonged to the Royal Canadian Air Force and its mission was to patrol the U.S. East Coast to watch over enemy submarines. It retained its original appearance and interior, includes 12 machine guns and is the only Hawker Hurricane still operational. Bonhams assures that he will provide the buyer with a permit to fly as well.
The family of Australian foot soldier Edward ‘Ted’ Kenna sold their decorations at an auction they held for $990,000. The collection included the Victory Cross, the highest military decoration for “facing the enemy”, which is rarely auctioned. Kenna received it for single-handedly attacking a Japanese bunker in May 1945 in Papua New Guinea and wiping out the enemy.
She was taken from the Führer’s residence by an American cash dealer. The auction house Alexander Autographs sold it for $423,000.
Two letters and a postcard that the Frank sisters sent to some friends of theirs in the USA during the war
An anonymous collector bought for $165,000 (328,000 in current prices) in 1988 two letters and a postcard that the Frank sisters sent to friends of theirs in the US during the war. He then gave the letters to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an NGO dedicated to documenting victims of the Holocaust and keeping records of Nazi criminals.
Christie’s auction house managed to sell this model of Enigma, a widely used encryption machine in the Third Reich, for £133,250 ($208,137). The high price was due to the fact that this particular piece participated in the movie of the same name, ‘Enigma’, a 2001 film starring Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet.
Sotheby’s auction house sold the decorations of a British non-commissioned officer named Robert Dennis Gay for £45,000 ($71,289).
Helmet of an anonymous soldier who participated in the Battle of Normandy in 1944. The initial price for the helmet found in the 1960s in the city of Saint-Mere-Eglise was 3,500 pounds (about $5,300). It was finally sold for 46,000 pounds ($68,621).
Archives of the American infantryman Peter White
Christie’s auction house managed to sell them for $59,790. They consist of several notebooks where White described in detail his adventures in the battlefields between 1938 and 1944, accompanying the descriptions with more than 730 drawings.
The letter from the future president of the United States and supreme commander of the Allies on the western front during World War II, Dwight Eisenhower
Logbook of the British pilot Douglas Bader
The auction house Dominic Winter Book Auctions sold it for $37,300. Bader had both legs amputated, but was fighting in World War II with two prostheses. He had 22 confirmed victories. The booklet includes the description of the 1931 flight in which he lost his legs.
Controversy over the record sale of a medal awarded to Hitler’s bodyguard
Agency AJN: “Perhaps it is time for a clearer regulation on the sale of these objects in the United Kingdom,” said education organizations about the Shoah.
Agency AJN: A medal awarded to a bodyguard who received bullets destined for Adolf Hitler was sold for a “world record price” in England.
The Blutorden Blood Order Medal was awarded to Ulrich Graf, who protected Hitler when he tried to take power in Bavaria in November 1923.
The item exceeded nine times its initial price of 3,500 pounds and was sold for 36,500 pounds at the Military Auction in Derbyshire on July 26.
Karen Pollock, executive director of the Holocaust Educational Trust, commented: “We have long felt that it is inappropriate for items such as this to be on the market for personal gain or ghoulish interest, but rather to be placed in archives, museums or an educational institution.
“Several leading auction houses and online sites already refuse to sell such material and many countries have banned the sale of Nazi items. Perhaps it is time for clearer regulation of the sale of these items in the UK,” Pollock said, as published by jewishnews.timesofisrael.com.
The silver medal – with the Nazi eagle on one side and an image of the Munich monument on the other – was awarded to Graf after he threw himself at Hitler and survived after being shot.
The following anecdote is told by a militant collector:
A man in line at the bank once asked me, “Why, if you reject Nazi ideology, do you love to collect Third Reich medals and decorations?
It caught my attention and I thought that we should have points in common since the same thing was happening to me. When I buy German medals I don’t think about politics or ideologies, but rather about the history of the object or its beauty.
Then I stopped to think what else we could have in common and I thought about making the blog entry. Obviously they are personal evaluations, surely a collector of British medals does it simply for the pleasure of doing it.
If you think that there are more reasons than I will be talking about I encourage you to leave it in the comments.
The first thing that strikes you when you look at these decorations is the beauty and care with which they were made. Once the Nazi party came to power in 1933, it created a propaganda industry with the decorations. Creating a bureaucratic network of laws, manufacturing codes and controlled licenses in order to motivate and encourage the German people after the setback suffered during World War I.
In this way they created a wide range of decorations for almost everything. Commemoratives with that of the Annexation of the Sudetenland (left photo), civilians, for officials or military as the Iron Cross (right photo). These medals were awarded in a very specific period of history 1933-1945, being one of the main reasons.
In addition to the medals there are an infinite number of variants and manufacturers that favor their collection giving an incredible game when collecting medals of the Third Reich.
It should also be noted that no army had such a wide and varied catalogue as the German one. What was a kind of incentive for the troop to get those decorations. This has favoured the appearance of collectors who only dedicate themselves to one branch of the Wehrmacth, for example (Her, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe). Collecting exclusively that branch of the army.
It is amazing to know that the industry that produced these medals preserved the quality of the medals until the end of the war. Both in the fineness and in the materials. Although it is true, that at the end of the conflict they were using materials more by hand for the manufacture, but without lowering the quality of the design. This is because they could lose the license granted by the state for their manufacture.
The Second World War is a period of history that attracts us to the collector of this time. And just like those who collect coins or bills, the medals of the Thousand Year Reich, captivate. Obviously they did their marketing well.
As a curiosity to say that a Purple Heart delivered in World War II has the same design as the one delivered in the Vietnam War, even today they are similar. As I said, German medals are unrepeatable. We know that they will never be made again, and that’s what makes your collection so appealing.
A collector can be both the researcher and scholar of them, as well as the one who simply has them for their beauty. Behind all this we can say that it is simply a hobby.
Since I was a child I remember that the Americans were the good ones and the Germans were the bad ones. As I grew up I discovered a world in the encyclopedias about the world wars. Until you get to a point where you want to touch history, besides knowing it. And that’s when the passion to study and have these pieces begins.
Another user comments the following:
I have no Nazi ideology, of course, but I only collect things from the Germans, I like their language, culture, personality and from the Nazis I like the uniforms, medals, vehicles, their flag, but I reject their ideology.
My passion for the Nazis started when I was 4 years old and I played with my uncle the first Call of Dutys they made, which was about WW2.
Honestly, I’d rather be obsessed and collect things about the Nazis and WW2 than be a Star Wars or Star Trek obsessive and stuff like that.
And you, what part of the story do you like best?