One other thing, when you talk about values of wings.
I have been collecting wings from about 20 years now. Prior to starting collecting, I had heard about the run on silver and how it pushed up prices on sterling silver wings by a significant amount. Then I started collecting about 4-5 years before the first Pinks and Greens book came out. After that book showed up, prices shot up out of the roof again. Ebay used to be a good place to find cheap deals on a regular basis. Then, with the Antiques Road show fad, the prices started to spike again. With the recession we are in now, I see the bottom dropping out on the price of wings, UNLESS you are talking about some rare or highly desirable WWI wing.
However, when I go back and look at the old Wings and Things magazine that Russ Huff put out in the 80's and 90's, the for sale section prices are not that greatly different now from back then. WWI wings were still selling in the 1000-1500$ range.
Another "for example", look at the drop in prices that some of the Angus and Coote and Gaunt wings are taking because of collector concerns about fakes.
Even Duncan Campbell's collection seemed to be selling for less than what one would have expected (outside of some very rare wings).
My point is that more than likely, the real change in wing values will be based on collectors desire (wings were a fad collectable for awhile, with novice and gadfly collectors coming in, buying up stuff willy nilly, driving up the prices and then moving on to other things). The real collectors remain and so the prices are dropping. I have seen this occur with a fair amount of militaria--recall the japanese buying up A2 jackets like crazy!. Another example, the spike in all things airborne after Band of Brothers.
Polished or non-polished wings will likely only impact on individual collectors. I don't care and will buy a wing (or not) independent of when its last bath occurred. On the other hand, I would agree that more important to a wing's value is whether it is hallmarked "STERLING" or not, and if it is clutch back vs pin back. No doubt, a STERLING pin back wing will get more than a non-sterling clutch back. Not how much patina is left, IMHO.
And yet, I know collectors who pay thousands of dollars to re-polish samurai swords or clean and restore old paintings. I would argue that you have to look at the situation in different ways.
1) Tarnish, rust, grease, mold, moths, oxidation and any number of other factors can all damage a piece of art, uniform, insignia, patches, furniture, etc.
Cleaning, restoring, preserving and maintaining them is simply a good idea to avoid any further deterioration. Not cleaning an item may actually damage it further. I once got in an argument with someone over cutting off some nice bullion patches off a deteriorating, filthy and mothed overcoat. I would have LIKED to keep it all together, but in doing so, the bullion patches would have eventually been destroyed. Wings, likely have a much longer life span and are more robust against damage caused by tarnishing, but they will be damaged eventually.
2) Collector fads and tastes. Fads change over time. I seem to recall back in the 70's when restoring and refinishing antique furniture was the rage (and was driven by collectors and dealers--many of who now seem to "tisk tisk" refinishing). My folks would buy old furniture at a garage sale, refinish it and then sell it at an antique show. One of the reason why unrestored furniture is so expensive NOW is that so many pieces were restored back THEN. And frankly, in many ways, what one hears on the Antiques Roadshow is less than bankable. Overpriced evaluations, self serving appraisals, and not-infrequent outright fraud and misinformation, IMHO. Sure, not removing the original finish using sandpaper and paint remover from a masterpiece made by a famous New England cabinet maker dating back to the early 17th century isn't a bad idea, but I seriously doubt that it has that much real effect when you refinish the old family side board to remove the grease rings left over from great Aunt Becky's cooking.
3) Determining fakes. By refinishing a piece (like say a NS Meyer restrike) a faker can fool a collector. It is not uncommon to see fake wings with fake patinas. IMHO, many collectors then drift into a trap of logic and seem to find it reassuring that a wing with its original patina is "better" as it has less of a chance of being a fake. However, I would argue that the patina is one of the least critical aspects of aging or authenticating a wing. Better to be able to ID die struck characteristics, hardware, patterns and hallmarks.
All in all, I would urge the next time you are at a militaria show, argue with a dealer that you want a discount since the wing is ruined because it was polished. I would be interested in hearing how that goes down.
BTW, Cliff, sell me that polished aeronaut wing! :thumbsup: To bad you polished that sucker...took away its value.... NOT.
Edited by pfrost, 16 September 2010 - 08:08 AM.