Getting Started Collecting


Active member
I am thinking about getting started collecting insignia, medals and other small types of memorabilia. I was hoping if some of you have experience in collecting these things you could help me out with some info. Are there some good websites or books that I should check out to get started? I have found quite a few websites, but since I am new to the topic, i don't know how accuarte the information is. I have seen lots f stuff on ebay for sale, but that I don't really want to jump in there without knowing my stuff a bit better. Thanks for any help you can provide.
Are you thinking about modern or historical/older items, and from what country?
I too am looking for historical items, mainly Fascist and/or Italian objects from pre WW2 (Ethiopia Invasion) or WW2. Anyone know a place?
D_Plus_One - It helps to know what kind of stuff you want to collect. Even the comparatively small field of Canadian and American stuff from WWI to the present is very large. What are you looking for? Cloth insignia (units, rank, specialty/trade badges), metal insignia (same), medals? ribbons (a good alternative if you are unable to spend a lot of money)?

I'm a small time collector and I have some of all of the above - including a WWI Canadian Mother's Cross I found in an antique store in southern California. You kind of have to decide what area you really like the best (and can afford).

GuyontheRight: With that kind of stuff you really have to be careful as there are SO many fakes out there. Any historical field that becomes popular attracts fakes by the boatload and a lot of them have come out of Spain for some reason over the years. Need to do some research.
I am going to have start out relatively small and inexpensive, because grad school just doesn't pay enough to keep me in expensive hobbies. I was thinking mainly cloth insignia and ribbons, because I have some things from relatives. I have uniforms (short coat, pants, great coat) from my grandma's cousin who was in the Royal Canadian Engineers and my family also has the dress hat he wore when they paraded for Diefenbaker. I doubt I will come across much stuff like that in my price range, but I will probably narrow my focus to Canadian stuff. I just don't know what is out there. Is there any reliable way to tell if things are fake - telltale signs or anything? Thanks for your help - I'm glad I came here before I broke out the wallet.
Telling fakes is sometimes difficult as the fakers out there are getting better all the time. Fortunately, none of the stuff you are looking for is very valuable in and of itself, so there should not be too many fakes.

Good ways to judge authenticity:

1. If it's supposed to be old, it should look and feel that way. Unless we are talking about an treasured family heirloom or something that has been put away and forgotten for years and years, there should be wear marks, loose threads (cloth or embroidered insignia), dust, fading and etc. - or at least a little bit. An example is the Canadian Mother's Cross I found - the box it was issued in is worn, inside and out and the violet suspension ribbon has a good deal of wear on it.

2. Makers hallmarks or government acceptance stamps or marks. Most items have these somewhere, particularly metal insignia, weapons or other equipment. Cloth insignia don't usually have these marks, but you can usually tell by the way the item is made (see #3). Going back to the Mother's Cross, the name of the fallen soldier is engraved on the back and it's stamped on the back with the accpetance mark.

3. The item should look like it is supposed to and as if it were made for use in the period it was supposed to be made in. That is, if the item is a Canadian Mother's Cross, then it has a violet silk ribbon and is cast sterling silver, not a blue nylon ribbon and made of Stay Bright.

Two things to always remember:

1. Never spend more than you can afford.
2. Always deal with reputable people (no ebay stuff for me!).

There are some good dealers in US and some other countries stuff out there and I have dealt with the following. They are OK, if sometimes a little pricey (since I am US Army I have access to the exchange and clothing sales system for most stuff):

You can find more thru Google or Ask Jeeves, but Caveat Emptor :wink:

As far as books go, I have a good one from the UK that I bought years ago, but it is out of print. I typed in military collectables on Amazon and 10 different books on that came back, but I can't vouch for any of them.

What I would do is go to a big public library and do some research there first (cause it's free and you can actually look at the pictures, which you can't always do on the internet!). Another route is finding a local veterans or collectors society and visit one of the shows (sometimes you won't believe what you can find).

Hope that helps. :)
This is totally contradictary to what Gunner13 said but, I work at gun shows and swap meets and there are a lot of people whom sell medals and ribbons and stuff (some real, some reproductions). You can get a good deal, and its lots of fun too.
FutureRANGER: What do you mean contradict me? I never said anything about guns shows - my comments were all about eBay! Gun shows are indeed a good source as you can size up the item in person and talk to a live body about it (source, background and price). I agree with you!!!! :eek:

Antique stores and surplus stores can be good too, for the same reasons, but are more problematical as folks at gun shows tend to pick up on a fake faster (I think anyway).
Also, check out WWW.ASMIC.ORG and see if maybe this would not be of interest to you. Military Trader Magazine has a ton of shows listed. Suggest you go to a couple in the local area just to observe and bourse and maybe delay buying until you feel more confident about what you want to collect and spend money on and also to see who seems honest and who is perhaps a bit shady. Several local shows across the country to try, I am going to one in Hillsboro, TX tomorrow that has always been a wonderful show for me. It starts early-about 8 am and by noon or 1 pm is pretty well played out but what fun for a few hours and then a few of us old-timers gather to enjoy lunch and talking about those who did not join us. What better life can there be in this collecting world. ASMIC since 1971........Emil
Some things to think about prior to investing your hard earned cash.

How familiar are you with the collectors items you are interested in?

Are you ready to lay out as much as $200.00 for one patch?

Can you tell the difference between a copy and an original?

I suggest you read up on what you want to start collecting, then go talk to a collector in the same interests as you and find out what to look for in your interests.

I have been collecting US Army Cheverons and Shoulder Patches for over 25 years and a member of ASMIC (American Society of Military Insignia Collectors) this is a must if interested in DI's or Patches.

You can also check out the following:

Military Vehicle Preservation Association "MVPA"

National Rifle Association "NRA"

Ohio Valley Military Society "OVMS"

Orders and Medals Society of America "OMSA"
How much of this stuff ever shows up on Ebay?

If it did, I'd guess it would be a bit spendy, but maybe not.

There is a surplus store near here in Aloha, Oregon that has quite a few things.

In the medal category, I think they only sell those to people that received one and need a replacement.
selling lifetime collection of militaria....

collection of roughly 43 years of us,german,japanese,& other foreign medals,helmets,field gear,etc,,,,,my main specialty has been us & german wwi & wwii items,,,,,all items purchased from respected collectors/dealers or have been locate by myself.....all items lifetime guarnanteed....let me know if i can help anyone in any way with their wants or needs, me at,,,,robert......will also trade for good non-firing replicas of the fg-42,mp-44 for my displays....thanks again..... :shock: