A piece of history

PUBLISHED: 06:29 21 July 2014

Collecting militaria

Collecting militaria


With the first centenary of the First World War rapidly approaching, the interest in collecting militaria has never been stronger, and so it should be. Millions of people across the world still feel a connection with the Great War for Civilisation. They knew the people whose lives were changed by it. They remain moved by the enduring works of art that were created as a response to it. They live with its unresolved political legacies. The First World War created a common sense of history that, decades later, still links people from many disparate nations.

Historical militaria is an important and tangible remnant of the past, which helps people to remember that these events actually occurred. Helping to preserve these items for future viewing is a vital contribution to the study of history.

Those interested in owning a genuine piece of history are almost immediately faced with a couple of decisions: What do I collect and how do I know it is real?

What to collect is, of course, down to personal preference – your own interest in history and what finances are available will guide you in this. You can collect such items as patches and buttons for a few pounds, but if you aspire to collect medals, swords and guns, costs can run into the thousands.

Reproductions and fakes run rampant in the military field. Some are obvious - and others are so good that even the best of the best can be fooled. The question therefore as to how one knows whether something is real can be a hard one to answer.

The best suggestion I can give to anyone starting out in this field is to educate yourself and to buy quality from the start. Quality items retain their value and “stuff” is just stuff. You may have to wait a little longer and pay a little more, but you won’t regret it later. I know how hard it is to resist something you have never seen before, so spend wisely. Be prepared to spend money on good reference books – they aren’t cheap, so treat them as part of your collection.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the auction house or dealer that you are buying from – you are far better off to make an informed decision not to buy something than to get your fingers burned. Even if you miss out, you will have saved the money to put towards another future purchase.

I am delighted to announce that militaria and gun expert Mark Whistler has joined our team – he will be running a series of specialist valuation events over the summer, so if you have any questions about any family items, or items in your collection, Mark would be delighted to share his knowledge.

Durrants’ next Militaria and Sporting Gun Sales are on May 30 (catalogue available) and August 29, with entries now being taken. Contact Rebecca Mayhew on 01502 713490 or Rebecca.Mayhew@durrants.com

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