In order to avoid financial losses, military medal collectors must know how to visually, historically and scientifically determine if potential collection pieces are real.

Standard Testing
A magnifying glass is the basic piece of equipment to allow you to carefully examine the medal. Be sure to pay very close attention to the details because the official government manufactured medals are made with only the highest quality materials. They should have a perfect smooth finish that covers firm metal. Some collectors try to gentle bend the piece, because if it does, then it’s a fake that is made of cheap materials.

The older the piece is, the more likely that it will be durable. This is because officers were expected to wear their medals and badges into combat. To visually examine the fibers, use a black UV light. Modern fibers brightly glow under black UV light, but old fashioned fibers that are made from cotton will not glow. For the burn test, take a tiny bit of thread from cloth and light it with a flame. Modern fibers burn very slowly because they are coated with flame retardants.

Review the Manufacturing Process
Military medal collectors must know the differences between die-stamping and die-forging. They must also understand the casting process because almost all fakes are cheaply cast from a single raw piece of metal. Bear in mind that government suppliers use complex equipment, so the manufacturing process is expensive. There are three primary methods of military medal production. Die stamping involves a thin sheet of metal being pressed with an industrial die image that is powered by electrical or hydraulic machines. The flat metal’s reverse side will mirror the front, so the details are consistent.

Die forging is similar, but uses a thicker piece of metal that is heated in a furnace to the point of pliability and stamped with a heavy tool die. This process was geared towards heavier badges with 3D designs. The reverse image is unique and will typically appear flaw or slightly hollow. Die casting is when molten metal is inserted into a closed die. After cooling, it is removed and finished by hand. Die cast medals usually contain a hook or hinge that connects to a badge.

National Tips
American bravery medals, such as the Navy Cross or Army Distinguished Service Cross, are high quality pieces of art that start selling at 20 to 30 dollars each. Keep in mind that it is illegal to sell or buy the distinguished Purple Heart Medals. The most popular types of available British medals are Gallantry and World War One medal groups. The most commonly available Australian medals are from the Boer War, Gallipoli Campaign and the French-World War One collections. German and Austrian medals are ubiquitously available, but it is illegal to buy or sell any items that display the infamous Nazi Swastika.

To learn more about collecting medals, visit the popular Military website.