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.
There is nothing wrong with purchasing a reproduction as long as you know that
it is a reproduction.
|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:
- 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
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.
- 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.
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).
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
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
- 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.
- STRENGTH TEST
This test works with German badges. Take the badge in your hads, 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:
- 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.
- 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 REPLICAS |
The following are pictures of high quality replicas and, whenever possible, the replicas are compared to
authentic items. The countries covered are those where replicas are more abundant.
GERMAN BADGES AND AWARDS |
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:
AMERICAN BADGES AND AWARDS |
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.
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
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.
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.