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Amount of value reduction for "cleaning" sterling wings?


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#1 jetteraf

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 04:26 PM

I came across a common set of "graduation" wings that someone had thoughtfully cleaned. How much is the value reduced, and are they even worth picking up? Thanks!

#2 Dave

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 04:34 PM

I came across a common set of "graduation" wings that someone had thoughtfully cleaned. How much is the value reduced, and are they even worth picking up? Thanks!


The value isn't reduced much, and in some people's minds, at all. So long as the "cleaner" just took the patina off the wings and didn't damage the wing irrepairably, I don't see any harm in it. I wouldn't do it personally, but I do know of several collectors who prefer them like that. One foreign medal collector I know (an American who collects foreign awards) would always change out the ribbons and polish all of the medals he bought, even if they were worth thousands of dollars. It didn't change the value drastically, but for someone like me who really liked original ribbons with original patina, I tended to avoid his groups when they came on the market...

Dave

#3 MAA

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 04:37 PM

I guess if someone "spit shined" them to a bright silver, maybe 25% less, otherwise not too much less than value uncleaned. If you are talking a WWI pilot wing or similar, it would hurt the value much more. Rarity of the badge will coinside with value or loss there-of after cleaning. My opinion ~ hope this helps you. Dave

#4 pfrost

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 05:34 PM

I guess if someone "spit shined" them to a bright silver, maybe 25% less, otherwise not too much less than value uncleaned. If you are talking a WWI pilot wing or similar, it would hurt the value much more. Rarity of the badge will coinside with value or loss there-of after cleaning. My opinion ~ hope this helps you. Dave


Frankly, I don't think it changes the value at all, as long as someone didn't use steel wool and a grindstone to polish them.

Putting tarnish back on sterling silver isn't that hard. I was once playing around with some wings that had been polished and used egg yolk to put some color back on them--a tip from my mom based on having to polish her silverware after cooking some eggs. Handling and rubbing wings with your hands (especially if you have sweaty palms and the right body chemistry) can also tarnish the wings. An Aussie wing collecting friend of mine once suggested peeing in a tin can full old coffee grounds and tossing the wings in there, and then leaving the whole thing buried in the garden. Of course, we were well into our 3rd bottle of wine when he shared that gem with me, and I am not sure I would take that at face value :w00t:

;) Hey Iain, you out there buddy reading this thread? :lol:

You can also get some liver of sulfur (here is a method from the internet http://hollygage.com...rofsulfur.html), mix it up in some water and boil the wings in that solution for about 20 minutes--not sure how "healthy: the experiment was, but it worked. Turned a brightly polished set of wings jet black. I was told of this trick by a man who was working on putting a chemical patina on silver jewelry. He also had an "ancient" Japanese technique for patinating different types of metal using rat poo, straw, and some other stuff. I am totally serious!

I think you can also purchase some other stuff (ie here: http://www.contenti....oxidizers.html) that would likely be useful in darkening up silver.

Still, the natural look of age-darkened wings are always the nicest, IMHO. Duncan Campbell seemed to have very strong opinion about keeping the wings polished.

Patrick

Edited by pfrost, 15 July 2010 - 05:37 PM.


#5 pfrost

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 05:42 PM

Of course, I forgot to say that sometimes these techniques are used to hide flaws in a fake wing. I have found that the "Patina From a Can" fake wings have a much duller and less attractive look to them when compared to wings that have earned their patina over time and exposure to the elements.

Understanding how some of these techniques work and the way that they are applied to wings, especially when they are used to hide flaws or imply age in fake or reproduction wings is a critical skill as a wing collector. Thus, my semi serious experimentation with adding a patina back on to a wing that was polished up.

You should be careful though as some non-silver metals can be damaged by some of these techniques.

Patrick

#6 Allan H.

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Posted 16 July 2010 - 04:50 AM

The famous Duncan Campell used to polish his wings. His reasoning was that they were MEANT to be worn polished and that no aviator worth his salt would ever walk around with tarnished wings.

How much did his polishing the wings in his collection decrease the value of the wings?!?! :unsure:

I think so long as you don't use a buffer or some other mechanical means of removing the tarnish, you aren't significantly hurting the value. That said, I do NOT polish my wings.

Allan

#7 Lee Ragan

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Posted 16 July 2010 - 05:18 AM

I think there is a difference in cleaning wings and polishing them. I have always cleaned mine with either a white eraser or by brushing them with a toothbrush and toothpaste. The object is to clean off the heavy tarnish but not shine them up like a new dime. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Campbell, that anyone wearing metal wings on a uniform would never wear them when they are tarnished and grunged-up. The value is in the badge itself, not how much tarnish it's accumulated.

#8 mshaw

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Posted 16 July 2010 - 06:29 AM

I guess I have to disagree with everyone. I collect Civil War artifacts as well and removing patina effectively destroys most of the value of the artifact. At most, I will use dish soap to remove greasy grime from a wing from handling. That's it. Less is more, IMHO.

#9 flyingfortress

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Posted 16 July 2010 - 07:24 PM

As a collector, I wouldn't think of polishing or dipping my wings because it will highlight unattractive high point wear, scratches, and nicks. And excessive polishing over time will eventually soften wing details. In my opinion, original, uncleaned, and unpolished wings have better eye appeal. Highly polished wings under light can hurt the eyes especially mine which are sensitive to brightness.

George

#10 Dave

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Posted 17 July 2010 - 05:55 AM

When I was a mod on the Soviet Awards Forum, I did a study on patina using a product called Silver Black. I know it's a foreign award, but here's a picture of one of the steps...the right half is covered in Silver Black, the other is natural. As you can see, it's very easy to restore a patina, even a very nice looking one (when done, this medal looked like a million bucks!) So, if anyone is really concerned about patina, they can always add one at a later time, and it's very easy to do.

Dave

Edit - added the picture of the final patina on the medal...looked killer!!! :thumbsup:

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Edited by Dave, 17 July 2010 - 05:58 AM.


#11 pfrost

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Posted 17 July 2010 - 10:27 AM

You can also get some liver of sulfur...mix it up in some water and boil the wings in that solution for about 20 minutes--not sure how "healthy: the experiment was, but it worked.


Hello Everyone

I was kindly contacted by Joe W about the above statement. Joe pointed out that this is potentially a very dangerous statement as boiling liver of sulfur is not a good idea, and that a person doing this would expose himself to toxic fumes. He makes a very good point.

The statement I made was not intended as a Do It Yourself (DIY) directions, but rather the results of what I did once. However, Joe is correct, it produces horrible sulfur stench that likely include sulfuric acid fumes. This should NEVER be done inside and without carefully reading of the safety directions. When I tried my experiment, I got some of the liver of sulfur powder, read the directions on the bottle, and tried it outside on the BBQ. It produced a horrible stench and I never really felt like it was something I wanted to do again. I like my wings the way they are, and if they have been polished, so be it.

Like anything else, I hope people aren't just doing "stuff" because they read it on a forum much less something I said.

I would like to thank Joe for providing me the information and heads up, it was greatly appreciated. Thanks Joe! :thumbsup:

Best regards

Patrick

Edited by pfrost, 17 July 2010 - 10:28 AM.


#12 Nack

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Posted 19 July 2010 - 11:37 AM

When I was a mod on the Soviet Awards Forum, I did a study on patina using a product called Silver Black. I know it's a foreign award, but here's a picture of one of the steps...the right half is covered in Silver Black, the other is natural. As you can see, it's very easy to restore a patina, even a very nice looking one (when done, this medal looked like a million bucks!) So, if anyone is really concerned about patina, they can always add one at a later time, and it's very easy to do.

Dave

Edit - added the picture of the final patina on the medal...looked killer!!! :thumbsup:


Nice Slava :thumbsup: I've still got mine from the olden days :)

#13 Dave

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Posted 19 July 2010 - 03:29 PM

I was kindly contacted by Joe W about the above statement. Joe pointed out that this is potentially a very dangerous statement as boiling liver of sulfur is not a good idea, and that a person doing this would expose himself to toxic fumes. He makes a very good point.


And you can simply avoid all of this by buying a bottle of Silver Black if you really need to create a patina since it's already pre-mixed...I've had a bottle for 5 years and I may have about 1/4 of it gone (most from evaporation...)

Dave

#14 Brig

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Posted 19 July 2010 - 03:58 PM

oh thanks pfrost, I already huffed a healthy (or I guess unhealthy) dose!

;)

#15 John Cooper

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 01:16 PM

Just my 2cents worth... depending on the condition i.e. if they are real real dirty some warm water + a babies tooth brush and mild liquid soap i.e. the kinds for babies or people with senitive skin.

Cheers

BTW

#16 dave summers

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 03:51 PM

J. Duncan Campbell indeed thought that wings should be cleaned. What he used was "Wrights Silver Polish." He advised using a soft toothbrush on very tarnished wings. A soft sponge comes with the polish for less tarnished wings. All you have to do is wet the sponge and put a little polish on it, then lightly rub it over the wing. Then wash it off with soap. What he (and I) like about it, is that it just takes off the tarnish and doesn't damage the wing. In most cases, it even leaves the factory oxidation intact.

In days gone by many pilots and aviation crews polished their wings. Try this on a badly oxidized common wing and see if you like the results.

I'm new to this site and am really glad that there is a chance to converse with other wing collectors.

Dave Summers

#17 bschwartz

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 04:03 PM

Welcome to the site Dave, it's great to have you!! I'm hoping you'll share some of your amazing collection with the fellow members of the forum over time. Great to have another wing fanatic on board.

Bob

#18 bobgee

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 04:21 PM

J. Duncan Campbell indeed thought that wings should be cleaned. What he used was "Wrights Silver Polish." He advised using a soft toothbrush on very tarnished wings. A soft sponge comes with the polish for less tarnished wings. All you have to do is wet the sponge and put a little polish on it, then lightly rub it over the wing. Then wash it off with soap. What he (and I) like about it, is that it just takes off the tarnish and doesn't damage the wing. In most cases, it even leaves the factory oxidation intact.

In days gone by many pilots and aviation crews polished their wings. Try this on a badly oxidized common wing and see if you like the results.

I'm new to this site and am really glad that there is a chance to converse with other wing collectors.

Dave Summers



I'll Second that! Welcome, Dave. Look forward to seeing some of the great stuff in your collection. Semper Fi.......Bobgee

#19 John Cooper

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 08:34 PM

J. Duncan Campbell indeed thought that wings should be cleaned. What he used was "Wrights Silver Polish." He advised using a soft toothbrush on very tarnished wings. A soft sponge comes with the polish for less tarnished wings. All you have to do is wet the sponge and put a little polish on it, then lightly rub it over the wing. Then wash it off with soap. What he (and I) like about it, is that it just takes off the tarnish and doesn't damage the wing. In most cases, it even leaves the factory oxidation intact.

In days gone by many pilots and aviation crews polished their wings. Try this on a badly oxidized common wing and see if you like the results.

I'm new to this site and am really glad that there is a chance to converse with other wing collectors.

Dave Summers



Welcome to the forums and glad to have another wing collector in the group! Thanks for the information and your insight! I think you will find some interesting threads with many interesting comments and opinions.

Regards,
John

#20 hawk3370

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 05:58 AM

I came across a common set of "graduation" wings that someone had thoughtfully cleaned. How much is the value reduced, and are they even worth picking up? Thanks!


Personally I never wore any brass or later wings that had tarnished in fact if one did the Sgt would soon be jumping down your throat. As for my early WW1 wings I take them out of the case and dip them to take off the tarnish about once a year. As well stated by Duncan years ago, "no self respecting officer would wear tarnished wings". I don't think that cleaning the tarnish off has any effect on the value providing they have not been polished on a wheel or some method that has marred the wing. Attached is a picture of a Robbins that I dipped just last week. Looks a lot better than it did with all the tarnish on it.

Dave, welcome abord I think you will find some old friends here.

Terry

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#21 Leatherneck72

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 02:49 PM

Maybe wings are the exception to the rule, but in most areas of militaria collecting (take your pick) cleaning, washing, or polishing anything greatly decreases the value. Take old swords for example. When they were first issued and used the soldiers and officers would keep the hilts and blades polished and bright. Same goes for the brass and barrels on pistols and muskets. However, any polishing beyond that phase in the weapon's lifetime decreases the value without question. We all have opinions of course, but I strongly feel that the vast majority of collectors cringe when they hear that some "dipped" or polished off 100 years worth of patina.

#22 pfrost

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 03:38 PM

Hello,

An old member of this forum (Joe W) emailed me and asked if I would include this information on cleaning wings on this thread.

"Polishing wings - please warn all never to use toothpaste or even a tooth brush to clean a wing. It will damage the surface. Toothpaste will result in a layer of argentous fluoride and silver monofluoride on the wing which turns black when exposed to air. So cleaning with toothpaste actually will turn a wing black again in time and could result in pitting the surface. A toothbrush will actually make small fine cuts on a silver surface.

Also tarnish left unchecked will also damage a wing, as the tarnish gets deeper over time you are getting a layer of silver sulfide, this can pit the surface. If you want to stop the tarnish process and keep it as it currently is, you should store any wing in a zip lock bag. The sulphur in the air is what causes tarnish and this is as harmful to silver as rust is to steel."

He also agreed with Duncan on a polished wing. But suggested only polishing "where the highlights are polished and the deep background has a natural darkness. Then place the wing in a plastic bag to protect it. It will stay that way. Also a wing in a sealed case such as most of the display cases will also prevent tarnish."

For myself (and for what it is worth), if you are happy with your collection, polished or not, then that is all that really matters. I have yet to see any dealer offer a discount because a wing is polished or a buyer pay premium simply because of the level of tarnish. I suspect that some collectors, especially newer collectors, may use the presence or absence of patina to "date" a wing (ie differentiate between vintage and fake). My self, I like salty wings that show signs of the original owner's polishing them, but I have no real interest in changing them from the way I found them.

Patrick

#23 Paul S

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 05:49 PM

For myself (and for what it is worth), if you are happy with your collection, polished or not, then that is all that really matters. I have yet to see any dealer offer a discount because a wing is polished or a buyer pay premium simply because of the level of tarnish.

As a semi-serious coin collector in my earlier life, I knew that advanced collectors simply abhorred cleaning rare coins in any way; however, silver coins seemed to be an exception. In silver, they seemed to acknowledge the personal preference aspect of rating and valuing a high-grade older coin. If the piece was pleasingly toned, they left it alone, if not, they considered cleaning it, but never, never cleaning it with an abrasive cleaner as that would impart tiny scratches into a mirror surface (in the case of proofs)...and never, never scrubbing it with anything--always using soft cloth.

Thankfully, wings collecting is a less mature collecting activity, so even the rarities in wings are relatively low value when compared to some of the rare coins collectors have coveted for generations. So, even if you foul something up, you haven't lost very much. My example below is a B'craft that came in new in the box with an ugly mottled tone--to me it was ugly (1). I gave it a very gentle cleaning with Wright's cream polish and almost instantly, I had a shine like a patent leather shoe (2). Although interesting to learn that B'craft finished its new wings in that manner, it was not to my liking on a 60+ year old piece. So I tried the boiled egg in a small container treatment (sulfur) and soon had a black wing which I lightly cleaned again to the finish shown in (3). I've had it wrapped in wool for about a year to see if that would start some more pleasing toning...so far it looks the same (3). For me the jury is still out...should I have left it alone or not? Seems to be a matter of personal preference. All things considered, in this case if the wing had been a high value piece, I think I would recommend leaving it alone with its ugly mottled tone and boot the problem along to someone else.

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#24 CliffP

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 06:30 PM

:unsure:

To each his own, meaning each person is entitled to his or her own personal tastes and opinions, but cleaning or polishing a silver wing badge occasionally does not harm or reduced its value in any way.

If you just want to clean the dirt and grim off a badge the best method is to spray it with "Greased Lighting" if you can find it or dish washing detergent, then lightly scrub with a very soft bristled toothbrush (they are available Joe W) and rinse with H2O.

If you want to polish it follow Dave's suggestion and apply "Wright's Silver Cream" using a cotton ball, then wash the residue off with dish washing detergent. Next, to prevent tarnishing, simple apply a light coat of clear paste wax and buff by hand with a soft cloth. That will keep air off the badge and the shine will last for years.

-cliff

#25 mshaw

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 07:40 PM

Maybe wings are the exception to the rule, but in most areas of militaria collecting (take your pick) cleaning, washing, or polishing anything greatly decreases the value. Take old swords for example. When they were first issued and used the soldiers and officers would keep the hilts and blades polished and bright. Same goes for the brass and barrels on pistols and muskets. However, any polishing beyond that phase in the weapon's lifetime decreases the value without question. We all have opinions of course, but I strongly feel that the vast majority of collectors cringe when they hear that some "dipped" or polished off 100 years worth of patina.


I completely agree. I know collectors who won't buy a Civil War weapon even if just the brass has been polished. They want that deep mustard brass patina that only 150 years can put on the weapon. If one doesn't have an interest in selling it and the resale value doesn't matter, clean away. Cleaning can be really deadly if one plans to sell a wing on Ebay. Just by going on what a picture shows, I would never buy a bright shiny wing. While it's true that patina can be added, the trained eye can look for artificially induced patina.

It's not just militaria. It's any collectible. Watch Antique Roadshow some time. A 1740's piece of furniture that has been cleaned will be worth $20,000 and one that has the original patina is worth $100,000.


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