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IDENTIFYING MILITARY ANTIQUES FAKES AND REPRODUCTIONS - Due to the high popularity of the military collectibles, a wide variety of reproductions have made their way to the market. These reproductions vary from the obvious to very high quality items which are extremely difficult to tell apart from the real thing.

The German military reproductions are perhaps the most widely produced and among the most difficult to identify.

The information presented here on identifying fakes reflects the author's opinion only. As a collector, I have been "burned" by paying top price for items that were not the real thing. So I decided to document some of the things I have learned along the way.

This section is intended for reference only. While several hours of research and consultation have been spent on ensuring the accuracy of this information, it is possible that some of the data is incorrect. Use this section as a guide.

The author appreciates any information you may want to share regarding military replicas. As you make your way through the entire site you will see that I have posted contributions made by fellow collectors.


   
THE SOURCES FOR REPRODUCTIONS
Reproductions actually have a valid place in the market. Many of the items being reproduced are too rare or too expensive to purchase, therefore, the only way to complete a display is to use a reproduction.

The most common sources for finding reproductions are listed here:
  1. MOVIE PRODUCTIONS
    The popularity of WWII movies has created the need to produce reproductions to outfit all the actors and extras participating in the production. This need coupled with the large budgets assigned to the movies are fueling the production of very good replicas. After the filming is done, many of these items find their way to the collector's market.

    In and of themselves, these items are valuable for the mere reason that they were used in the production of famous movies. The problem arises when they are sold as the real thing. Examples of some of the movies causing the influx of replicas are:

    a.) Saving Private Ryan
    This movie produced a large number of replicas that include: rubber gas mask carriers, ranger patches, boots, paratrooper uniforms and much more. These items are sometimes marked with the initials "SPR" but most of the examples I have seen did not have any markings.

    b.) Band of brothers
    This is another large budget movie that produced multiple replicas. Some examples I have seen include: paratrooper uniforms, paratrooper patched, rubber rifles, entire parachute rig, and more.


  2. REPRODUCTION SHOPS
    There are several shops around the world that earn a living manufacturing items to a particular specification. Most of these palces are honest businesses trying to make a living.

    for example:

    a.) India is a place where high quality cloth insignia are being produced. In addition, metal badges and medals are coming from there. In a more recent turn of events, leather goods (such as belts and holsters) are being manufactured in India. WWI and M35 WWII German helmets are also being manufactured.

    b.) Several of the clothing shops in Vietnam that used to produce cloth insignia for the GI's are still in business and know how to produce the items.

    c.) Enthusiasts who are handy with production techniques can produce very good replicas. I have seen a local collector take an M-24 German helmet and turn it into a very close looking paratrooper helmet.
    In another instance, I have seen a person create paratrooper helmet liners (WWII German).


  3. QUESTIONABLE DEALERS
    This category represents the biggest problem to collectors. Some of these individuals will produce the items themselves and try to sell them as real. Others will purchase known replicas and pass them for real.

    The best way to protect yourself is to deal with reputable individuals who have a money back guarantee.


HOW TO RECOGNIZE REPRODUCTIONS
As stated earlier, recognizing fakes can be a tricky thing. This section explains some of the things that might help you when trying to determine if an item is authentic. Be aware that sometimes even all these methods may fail to detect a fake.
  1. EXPERIENCE
    Experience is acquired with time. Talk to people who are interested in the same field. get to know the local dealers. Read books and magazines. The more you are exposed to the items you want to learn about the more you'll learn.

  2. ATTENTION TO DETAIL
    This activity is particularly helpful when dealing with German badges. Always pay attention to the details of the piece you are examining.

    For example:

    a.) When looking at badges, use a magnifying glass. Pay close attention to the lines in the badge (i.e. wing feathers, eagle's nose, etc. The original badges will have sharp, well defined lines. The reproductions tend to be smoother.

    b.) When looking at leather items. Look for color differences. Areas that were not exposed to the light and air will have sharper colors.

  3. LATE WAR
    As the war approached an end. Japan and Germany were suffering from severe shortages of raw material. All available metal was sent to factories that produced weapons. In turn, the badges and awards manufactured during this time were not as high quality as early in the war.

    It is difficult to tell the difference between late war and reproductions. personally, I stay away from late war items unless the price is right or I want the item bad enough.

  4. BLACK LIGHT TEST
    A black light can be used to determine if cloth-related items are authentic ot reproductions. During the war, the cotton used was not trated at the factories in the same way that it is now. The test is conducted by placing the item under a black light. If it shines it is a newer item. WWII era items wull not shine.

    To see what "shining" means, take a black T-shirt and place it under a black light. The reflection produced is almost blinding.

    From personal experience, I have a "Ranger" patch used in the movie Saving Private Ryan. The item looks old. It is soiled and it shows wear. It could fool anyone. Turn it around and place it under a black light, the shine is very noticeable.

  5. THE BURN TEST
    This is a more extreme test. It helps identify the authenticity of cloth items. The test consists of taking a thread from the item. Burn it with a match. The old thread will burn out instantly, almost in a flash. The new material will burn slower. This is because the newer cloth is fire resistant.

  6. STRENGTH TEST
    This test works with German badges. Take the badge in your hands, without applying much force (and for a short time) try to bend it. If it does, the badge is fake. Real badges are quite strong and will not bend with light pressure. Remember that soldiers wore these items in battle. They need to be strong.




WHAT TO DO WITH REPRODUCTIONS
If you have purchased a reproduction believing that you are getting the real thing (as most of us have), make the best of it. Chances are that during your life as a collector of militaria you will get "burned" a few times. Look at it as part of paying your dues.

Here are some ideas of what to do with replicas that were purchased unintentionally:

  1. Use them to complete collections. I have a drawer where I keep all my replicas. As I attempt to complete my uniforms, I use the replicas as "place holders" until I find the real thing.

  2. Replicas are easier to show. Since you are not concerned about them being damaged, they are easier to carry and show to friends and fellow enthusiats.

The most effective way to avoid being decieved in a purchase is to deal with reputable dealers.

When making a purchase, make sure you have an inspection period and a money back guarantee.


EXAMPLES OF GERMAN REPLICAS
The following are pictures of replicas ranging from high quality to lesser quality. Whenever possible, the replicas are compared to authentic items. The countries covered are those where replicas are more abundant.
   
GERMAN BADGES, AWARDS, DAGGERS, ETC.
Undoubtedly, the German items are the most widely and better reproduced items in the militaria collectible world. Some of the examples I have ran across are listed here:



WWII GERMAN ANTI-AIR FLAK BADGE - This is a 1960's replica.


WWII GERMAN BRONZE TANK BADGE - This replica dates back to the 1960s.


WWII GERMAN GENERAL ASSAULT BADGE - This is a .


WWII GERMAN SUBMARINE CLASP BADGE - This is a 1970's example.


WWII GERMAN SS HIMLER PRESENTATION DAGGER - This is a 1950's Spanish production of the Himler presentation dagger. Some of the parts are original.


WWII GERMAN SS HONOR DAGGER - This is a 1960's Spanish production of the SS Honor dagger. Some of the parts are original.


WWII GERMAN NPEA DAGGER - This is a 1960's Spanish production of the NPEA studen dagger. Complete with the leather frog.


WWII GERMAN HIGH SEAS FLEET BADGE - This is a .


WWII GERMAN HAT EAGLE - This is a .


WWII GERMAN LUFTWAFFE PARATROOPER BADGE - This is a .


WWII GERMAN NSFK BALLOON BADGE - This is a .


WWII GERMAN LUFTWAFFE OFFICER BELT BUCKLE - This is a .


WWII GERMAN LUFTWAFFE OFFICER BELT BUCKLE - This is a .

  
EXAMPLES OF AMERICAN WWII REPLICAS


AMERICAN REPRODUCTIONS
More and more companies are begining to produce American WWII equipment for sale to reenactors and colelctors who cannot find the real items. These replicas are of very high quality and it is difficult to differentiate from the real.

Unfortunatelly, the original die cast strikes to manufacture "Myers" brand WWII pilot wings were sold and are being used to make reproductions. These are tougher to identify because they are identical to the old ones.




WWII US AAF AIR APACHES SCARF - This is a reproduction of a silk scarf from an AAF unit. A patch is sewn on each end.


WWI/WWII US TRENCH FIGHTING KNIFE - This is a reproduction of a three edge blade fighting knife. Complete with scabbard.



EXAMPLES OF JAPANESE WWII REPLICAS


JAPANESE WWII REPRODUCTIONS

China is manufacturing a wide array of Japanese WWII reproductions. It is now possible to outfit an entire foot soldier with equipment manufactured there. Of particularly good quality are the Japanese Army helmets.

The Samurai swords are also being produced in large quantities. The WWII Japanese NCO sword replicas are of very good quality.


JAPANESE KATANA SAMURAI - This is a .


WWII JAPANESE KATANA SWORD - This is a fake Japanese katana sword.


WWII JAPANESE SAMURAI NCO SWORD - This is an example of a fake NCO sword.



EXAMPLES OF VIETNAM WAR REPLICAS


VIETNAM WAR REPRODUCTIONS

With relations having been normalized betweem the US and Vietnam. Tourism is flourishing between the two nations.

The same mom and pop shops that produced the insignia during the war are now manufacturing replicas to sell to the tourists. This presents a problem for the collector because it is not easy to recognize the fake from the real.

The same material and techniques are being used in the new patches. The lack of manufacturing controls during the war make it nearly impossible to determine the age of the items.


MACV SOG 5TH SPECIAL FORCES FLAG - This is a high quality reproduction of a US Army special forces camp flag.


VIETNAM WAR 1970 FLAG - This is a reproduction of a 1970 Virtnamese flag.


VIETNAM WAR TUNEL RAT BERET - This is a high quality reproduction of a US Army Tunel Rat Black beret.


VIETNAM WAR TIGER STRIPE BERET - This is a high quality reproduction of a US Army special forces tiger stripe beret.





IRAQI REPRODUCTIONS

Reproductions of the Iraqi medals of the Saddam Hussein era are begining to be reproduced. The quality of the reprodcutions at the moment is very poor.

Most of the real medals were manufactured by European countries. They were of very good quality.



 
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