Historical military commendations and awards have become very popular among collectors. Because of this, a large market for reproductions has arisen. These replicas vary from obvious reproductions to items which are difficult to tell apart from the real thing. Reproductions of German military medals and badges, especially those from the Third Reich, are perhaps the most widely produced and among the most difficult to identify as fake.
Educate yourself about German military decorum. Talk with recognized experts in the field and acquaint yourself with the dealers. Read books and publications about the Wehrmacht's (German military) awards and commendations. The more you learn, the less likely you are to be deceived.
Scrutinize the badge with a magnifying glass. Pay close attention to the lines in the badge (i.e., wing feathers, eagle's nose, etc.). Original badges will have sharp, well-defined lines, while reproductions and replicas tend to be smoother.
Examine leather items and look for differences in color. Areas that were not exposed to light and air will have sharper colors.
Shine a black light on both sides of the badge in a darkened room. Cotton fabrics made during this period were not treated with the chemicals now used in modern textile factories. These chemicals will cause recently made or fake items to shine under a black light, while authentic relics from the period will not.
Remove a spare or loose thread from the item in question and burn it with a lighter or a match. Again, period materials lack modern chemical treatments, so a thread from a true WWII badge will burn instantly, while a thread from a replica will burn more slowly, having been treated with fire-resistant compounds.
Hold the badge in your hands and apply light, brief pressure to try to bend it in half. If it bends easily, the badge is fake. An authentic badge will be stiffer and will not bend under light pressure.
Things You'll Need
- Magnifying glass
- Black light
- Lighter or match
Due to the shortages of raw materials near the end of the Second World War, badges and military decorations made late in the conflict tend to be of lesser quality and thus more difficult to discern from modern replicas.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images