Very rarely, you will find the "graduation" or "issue" style US pilot wings stamped with a "Made From Official Dies" or something very similar. My understanding is that these were sample wings produced from the master dies by the Institute of Heraldry and provided to the companies so that they could make their own working dies and manufacture the wings under a US Government contract.
As to the original wing that raised this thread. I had a couple of observations that had been bugging me.
First, the "WWII vintage" wing and the wing made in 2003 both have similar levels of wear and the same finish. However, the WWII version should have been of an oxidized silver finish (where the silver is chemically oxidized and then the high points are polished, finally the wing would have likely been laquered). Unless the scans are really out of whack, these two wings look like neither one has had this process done to them--in fact both the front and back of both wings show the same level of patina. This means that if there is indeed 60 or so years between the two strikes of this die, one has not aged at all.
Second, if you carefully examine the front of the wings, you can see that they both have very similar details and patterns of wear--specifically in detail of the parachute canopy and the feathering. Since both wings have the same wear and level of detail, it means that this is a fact of the details in the die being transmitted to both wings. Since both wings are exactly the same, and the point was made that these wings are from exactly the same die, then it suggests that the "60 year old" wing and the 5 year old wing were never worn (or worn to exactly equal amounts).
Third, the WWII vintage wing, we are told, comes from an employee of BB&B who worked there during WWII. I assume he wasnt a paratrooper (I also assume if he was, then this point would have come out already), and as such would likely have not actually worn this wing on his person. Then, why is that wing damaged? The pin is all bent and the catch is missing its roller. It is not easy to break these catches and pins. Unless someone really wore this wing and exposed it to lots of wear and tear, then it should also be perfect (like the 2003 marked wing). However, since both wings have the same amount of wear, its not logical to believe that one has a seriously damaged pin and the other is perfect.
I guess a number of hypothesis can be put forth to explain why the wear and patina of two wings that are 60 years apart are the same. However, I would think it likely that those scenarios explaining similar levels of wear would be at odds with other hypotheses that could explain the striking differences in damage to the pin.
Edited by pfrost, 08 January 2008 - 09:04 AM.