With Remembrance Day and Veterans Day ceremonies rippling across North America today, we wanted to devote this week's blog post to war collectibles.
Many collectors can be unsure what certain military memorabilia may be worth, and that's why we interviewed one of the leading experts in the world on the topic: John Adams-Graf, longtime editor of Military Trader and Miltary Vehicles Magazine. He's also collected military goods his whole life, thanks to his father's similar passion.
He first advises people to go through that shoebox in their attic of war memorabilia from their parents or grandparents and to not discount anything. "Just because an item might have been common during wartime, doesn't mean it's worth anything. There's the monetary value of an item to collectors, and also the historic value. War collectibles are snapshots of history."
We then wanted to know: What type of war memorabilia is most valuable right now?
Adams-Graf notes that in 1986, the U.S. banned the sale of machine guns, so among the weapons of old, machine guns from World War II can fetch up to $60,000 each. "But when it comes to more common weapons, the M1 Garand rifle shot up in value," he says. Since it's the US-made rifle most common in the Second World War, "it's the rifle that won the war and very American, to a lot of collectors," Adams-Graf adds.
Looking at medals and honours, if you come across a wartime medal, consider its value and place in history. "If this item has a name on it, which many Canadian medals do in fact, then we can trace the medal to a soldier, and it can be worth something if that soldier was in that first wave in Normandy, for example," says Adams-Graf.
The same holds true for uniforms and jackets. Adams-Graf recalls meeting with someone who showed him what he found at a garage sale: a gor blimey cap, a five-button tunic complete with Canadian machine gunner insignias on both shoulders and a photo album with photos of the soldier. "Thanks to knowing the history of this soldier, it sold for around $3,200," recalls Adams-Graf.
Last year, we learned about a Brit's lifetime collection of war memorabilia that was valued at $167,000 CAN, due to his unique collection of ejector seats, missiles and jet engines.
For example, he had a Firestreak, an infrared homing air-to-air missile developed in the 1950s and was the first such weapon to be used by the RAF.
You don't need to own such eye-popping items to be a successful war memorabilia collector. Adams-Grad says correspondences from soldiers back home are highly valued, especially pre-WWI, due to that war's focus on censoring what soldiers said to their loved ones back home. "Civil War letters are dynamite," he says, "and their value can range from $100 to several thousand dollars for a recount of the Battle of Gettysburg."
Finally, he cautions about the spread of fraudulent items. Fake collectibles are found most often among Third Reich memorabilia, so be sure to have those collectibles analyzed by experts, such as war memorabilia collectors Muzeum works with regularly.
If you have questions about war memorabilia, don't hesitate to email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org