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Amount of value reduction for "cleaning" sterling wings?


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#26 CliffP

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 08:24 PM

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.


Sorry, even fine furniture should be kept clean and waxed. In other words, if a fine piece of 1740's furniture had its original varnish removed and then refinished it might only be worth $20,000, whereas if it has its original coat of varnish and is cleaned up it could be worth $100,000.

Ever see a fine art auction house sell a heavily tarnished set of silver candle sticks? No, because they always polish them first to get top dollar.

So which badge below would look best in a display? :think: It's really a matter of personal taste, not value.

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Edited by CliffP, 15 September 2010 - 08:51 PM.


#27 mshaw

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 09:05 PM

Sorry, even fine furniture should be kept cleaned and waxed. In other words, when a fine piece of 1740's furniture has its original varnish finish removed and then refinished it might only be worth $20,000, whereas if it still has its original coat of varnish it could be worth $100,000.

Ever seen a fine art auction house sell a heavily tarnished silver candle stick? No, because they always polish them first to get top dollar.


Watch the show sometime to see for yourself. They don't even like for the grime to be cleaned off. That is a quote from the Keno Brothers. Doing as little as possible to an artifact is the standard for any collectible I have ever seen. Most if not all militaria dealers will refuse to give you your money back if you want to return a purchase after you have cleaned it. I don't leave greasy dirt from handling on a wing but I know collectors who won't even wash the dirt off.

#28 mshaw

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 09:14 PM

You are right, Cliff. It is a matter of personal taste. But I collect many different areas of militaria and other collectibles and this wing forum is the ONLY place I have ever read where some of the participants think it is OK to remove patina from an artifact. Yes, I know that Duncan Campbell thouht wings should be cleaned but during his lifetime collectors also thought it was OK to break the pins off wings and cut the hooks off the backs of Civil War belt buckles and nail them to boards so they would display nicely. The value of those artifacts now is greatly diminished.

#29 CliffP

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 02:05 AM

You are right, Cliff. It is a matter of personal taste. But I collect many different areas of militaria and other collectibles and this wing forum is the ONLY place I have ever read where some of the participants think it is OK to remove patina from an artifact. Yes, I know that Duncan Campbell thouht wings should be cleaned but during his lifetime collectors also thought it was OK to break the pins off wings and cut the hooks off the backs of Civil War belt buckles and nail them to boards so they would display nicely. The value of those artifacts now is greatly diminished.


:unsure: Break the pins off the back of wing badges? I can't say it never happened but I've never met or heard of a collector who would do such a thing. Back to the topic of weather the cleaning of a silver wing badge would hurt its value. We are not advocating the cleaning of rare swords, refinishing old furniture, polishing silver candle sticks to increase their value... or defending the act of breaking something off a rare item. My point? Check again the two images above. If only the badge that had been cleaned became available at an auction would its value really be less than the one that was tarnished? Not today, tomorrow or in our lifetime.

#30 Paul S

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 05:16 AM

I watched my father use a pair of wire cutters to clip off the pin & posts from one of his wings so it would lay flat in a framed display he was building...they were the common GI wings, but neither of us knew that then. The clean, no clean conversation has flourished for as long as I can recall. Silver collectors tend to accept cleaned artifacts more readily probably because they know the silver will tone fairly quickly and there is no denying that a bright silver piece is more attractive than a tarnished one.

I think the furniture experts demand untouched patina because it takes decades for it to develop and fakery in that field is probably even more difficult to detect than the wings, especially absent the old patina. Personally, at estate auctions I focused on modern reproduction furniture...it was made to precise measurements from highly regarded originals, and others in the room either turned up their noses because it was modern or if they were just furnishing a house, they usually hadn't studied the field enough to differentiate between the really good stuff and the ordinary. Further, I reasoned that the 1770 purchaser of a nice table would not have accepted a banged up old piece with lots of patina...he wanted a modern table! Sorry about the furniture tangent.

Old Copper, brass, iron, and bronze are much too difficult to clean and their return to an older appearance seems to take much longer than silver...I wouldn't touch any of them, other than to remove crud sitting in the crevices. I'm not a fan of chemical toning anything, seems to carry a risk I don't fully understand.

My 2-cents.

#31 pfrost

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 07:16 AM

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 - 07:23 AM.


#32 mshaw

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 08:06 AM

:unsure: Break the pins off the back of wing badges? I can't say it never happened but I've never met or heard of a collector who would do such a thing. Back to the topic of weather the cleaning of a silver wing badge would hurt its value. We are not advocating the cleaning of rare swords, refinishing old furniture, polishing silver candle sticks to increase their value... or defending the act of breaking something off a rare item. My point? Check again the two images above. If only the badge that had been cleaned became available at an auction would its value really be less than the one that was tarnished? Not today, tomorrow or in our lifetime.


I saw an entire board of wings at an antique show in which someone had cut the attaching devices from the back, drilled holes into the wings and neatly screwed them to the board. I regularly see defaced wings and other militaria. Some people seem to have a fascination with screwing things to wood.

Patrick: I've never tried to get a discount on a polished wing since I'm not interested in them.

Here's a question. We know that Luxenberg wings have a finish applied to the wings and that it gets yellow and kind of unsightly with age. Should that be removed to reveal a shiny silver wing??

#33 pfrost

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 08:06 AM

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.

P


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.


#34 pfrost

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 08:21 AM

I saw an entire board of wings at an antique show in which someone had cut the attaching devices from the back, drilled holes into the wings and neatly screwed them to the board. I regularly see defaced wings and other militaria. Some people seem to have a fascination with screwing things to wood.

Patrick: I've never tried to get a discount on a polished wing since I'm not interested in them.

Here's a question. We know that Luxenberg wings have a finish applied to the wings and that it gets yellow and kind of unsightly with age. Should that be removed to reveal a shiny silver wing??


Screwing wings into a board is another story. However, I doubt that this was done by a dealer. Like Paul said, he watched his dad do it to his OWN wings so if that were the case, then I would argue, the wings become "trench art" and still have value. If I found that a B17 crewman had taken wings from all his crewmates, and mounted them on a display board to amuse himself while waiting for his next mission to Berlin, then I would find that to be VERY collectable, even if he used a mallet and galvanized nails to do so.

As for changing a wing after I buy it, I don't care one way or the other. I don't do anything after I buy them, other than fondle and study them. Polished or not means nothing to me. I PREFER salty wings that have been worn to NOS in a box that came out of surplus, but I wont pay more for them. I can promise you that a Luxenberg in any state of polish, will still likely bring in top dollar. If one collector only wants it to have its original finish and passes it by, I am pretty sure the guy right behind him won't be so picky.

One last point. Not being interested in buying a polished wing is vastly different than a wing having lost its value because it is polished. There are many things that I don't want to buy because I don't value it, but it doesn't make it less valuable to someone else. I am not terribly interested in buying any more graduation pilot wings, polished or not. On the other hand, I will buy an interesting WWI wing and the state of its patina will be one of my most minor considerations. Trust me, of all the collections of wings I have been able to look at, no one has ever said..."Damn, I wish I hadn't bought that polished wing"

Patrick

Edited by pfrost, 16 September 2010 - 08:41 AM.


#35 Paul S

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 11:06 AM

Mark,
Your point about the Luxenberg wing pretty much matches the problem I had in Post #23. Leave it ugly or try to improve it? While the quandary with that wing involved a relatively low value piece, if it had been a much rarer piece, I would have most likely left it ugly.

Patrick, I can't find anything in your words to quibble with--I think you're spot on.

#36 Paul S

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 11:23 AM

Here is the framed display Dad built. On the back is a bio including a list of his missions and a brief genealogy linking him to his grandfathers' and father's service in earlier wars. Would its value be significantly diminished if you knew that he clipped off every pin on the board! Although he accumulated things, he lacked the soul of a true collector....sigh

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Edited by Paul S, 16 September 2010 - 11:25 AM.


#37 pfrost

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 11:40 AM

Here is the framed display Dad built. On the back is a bio including a list of his missions and a brief genealogy linking him to his grandfathers' and father's service in earlier wars. Would its value be significantly diminished if you knew that he clipped off every pin on the board! Although he accumulated things, he lacked the soul of a true collector....sigh


Pretty neat! Thanks for sharing. But, I think your dad DID have the soul of a true collector. He obviously assigned a value to those items that is so much greater than the individual parts. I my opinion, it seems to me that a DEALER would say, "to bad, the pins are gone off the wings, and the medals aren't named, and nothing is all that rare". A COLLECTOR would say, "Damn, this man did some brave things and took pride in his accomplishments, that has a great value in my collection".

#38 Paul S

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 01:22 PM

He accumulated all that in 14-mos (except the Nat'l Defense which was for KW service). I've often thought it ironic that the survivors able to stay in it and come out of it whole tended to accumulate more decorations than those shot down and/or killed, thus truncating their flight career. In Dad's group just one man was awarded the CMOH. He was killed on his sixth mission. He wasn't in it long enough to be awarded even one Air Medal or a DFC. The same goes for most of the POWs and KIAs. Otherwise, in the air, most of them experienced about the same fear and horrors as the other.

#39 Paul S

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Posted 20 September 2010 - 08:28 PM

Finishing a thought started in post #36, here is a picture of my father taken just after he had returned home from England and about 2-mos before mustering out of the AAF. Note that he was wearing his DFC, Air Medal, and ETO ribbons, but not the others which were apparently awarded and obtained sometime after WWII. At the time this picture was taken he was not sure if he was headed for the Pacific or not.

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#40 Paul S

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 08:36 AM

This wing shows the kind of rainbow toning I like to leave alone...takes a long time to develop and few pieces seem to do it.

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#41 Paul S

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 04:42 AM

I've found it difficult to accurately portray a set of heavily tarnished wings in a photograph...the result nearly always appears brighter that it really is. However, here is a comparison setup that turned out nicely. The lower wing was packed away in storage for 65-years until brought out recently; the middle wing had a similar dark look before cleaning with soap and water; and the top wing, though not as old, still retains its original finish. All are Meyer.

The middle wing came with no attribution and was soiled as well as tarnished. That's the kind of wing I don't mind cleaning to some degree. It still retains some of its toning and is attractive in person.

The lower wing came with attribution to a young P-47 pilot who didn't come home. No doubt it was one he left with his family or it could have been sent home with his other things and simply packed away. Since it has attribution and the tarnish, although heavy, is even and not unattractive. It is an example of a wing that I would not clean unless it were also heavily soiled.

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#42 Robswashashore

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 05:33 AM

Interesting thread. Rather reminds me of Antiques Roadshow, when the kids bring in Grannie's old chair and the expert says, "Oh I notice you have CLEANED Grandmama's Chippendale whosiewhatsit! Well, that just reduces the value from 15,000 to 100 dollars, but I am sure that this lovely piece has great sentimental value..." At which point the camera cuts out to avoid witnessing the kids going out into the parking lot and shooting themselves! :lol:

But, to our tale: What about badges like driver, AAF Tech and marksmanship? I have a few sterling ones left over from my family members below and they are pretty well tarnished. Not a great fan of the new super shiny ones, but I would like to take some of the black off with some Wrights Silver Polish (Mama always swore by it for the silver service that like all proper Southern ladies, she accumulated!) I am not exactly sure what the difference between "soiled" and "tarnished" is, although I am quite sure my dear late mother's silver service was NEVER soiled. (She did, however, polish it every month, and I have sweet memories of sitting at her home on a Saturday night helping her polish and "Talking about things.." (Wow, now THAT was a "Girl and her Mother" reminiscence...)

I realize that Drivers and Marksmanship badges are not sexy like wings, but Inquiring Minds want to know.

Looking forward to the input from you badge experts!

Oh, and my "newbie question of the day:" What is "BOLO?"

Thanks and everyone have a good Sunday!

Jean

Edited by Robswashashore, 24 October 2010 - 05:34 AM.


#43 Dave

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 05:40 AM

I just read through the second and third pages of this thread...it's fascinating to see the differing opinions. This is one case where it's really:

"To each his own"

Some people like polished wings, others don't. I will admit that when I was collecting Soviet medals I abhorred the thought of polishing them, but I would normally wash them with dishwashing soap (good for removing grease and grime) and then gently buff them with a silver polishing cloth. The medal would then be clean, and the highlights would be very lightly polished, thus accentuating the deep patina in the crevices. Of course, this looked good TO ME...I never really paid much attention to what other folks thought about the medals because they looked nice to my eyes...and really, in the long run, I guess that's what counts.

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#44 teufelhunde.ret

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 06:54 AM

I just read through the second and third pages of this thread...it's fascinating to see the differing opinions.


Likewise. Every person is entitled to his or her personal preferences and tastes.

#45 Paul S

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 09:26 AM

Personal preference should be the rule. I don't think that any antique sterling collector would value a fine piece any more or less based on its accumulated tarnish or lack thereof. However, a coin collector would lower the value of a piece that had been dipped or brightly shined with an abrasive polish. A used coin could be cleaned with an ammonia and baking soda paste (as could a sterling wing) without affecting its value. But a pristine, mint state coin would have to be treated more carefully...I don't think that wings fall into that latter category as they were generally not struck with the same attention to detail.

The horror of cleaning or refinishing antique furniture is another matter since the issue there is twofold; one, the old finish itself is much of the prize; and two, once stripped and refinished it can be more difficult to determine if a piece is entirely original in terms of its construction details.

Brass, bronze, copper, and some other metals I would think are best left alone since they take a long time to reacquire their patina after cleaning; silver, tarnishes pretty quickly by comparison.

My father polished his sterling wings from time to time during the 55 years he had them after the war. About 1990, he made up a display of his medals and one pair of wings, which were brightly polished at the time of framing. When they passed to me about 10-years later, the wings were as dark as the Meyer pilot shown a few postings earlier. So you could infer in that case, a brightly shined set of wings took 10-years or less to turn black, and that being so, the argument for leaving tarnished sterling tarnished as a sign of its age simply isn't valid.

#46 juvatwad

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 08:00 PM

When it comes to silver, though, the process of developing tarnish is also a destructive. Polishing from what I can see does not affect the value of other silver antiques, and the same should apply to our trinkets. As stated above, though, some like them tarnished and may not put as much value on a cleaned piece.

#47 Navybob

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 04:41 AM

Coins are graded for the slightest imperfections, as a bag mark would bring down the value considerably. Original condition is the first numismatic rule. Where military accoutrements are concerned, you were always graded on bright and shiny, i.e., my brass belt buckle (fingers are still black from polishing).

If you have a wing that still has original lacquer intact, I would be inclined to leave it as is.
If the appearance could be improved by restoration, and by that I mean not disturbing any detail or removal of actual metal, I would think it a positive.

Just my humble opinion.

#48 Kadet

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 05:27 PM

Sorry, even fine furniture should be kept clean and waxed. In other words, if a fine piece of 1740's furniture had its original varnish removed and then refinished it might only be worth $20,000, whereas if it has its original coat of varnish and is cleaned up it could be worth $100,000.

Ever see a fine art auction house sell a heavily tarnished set of silver candle sticks? No, because they always polish them first to get top dollar.

So which badge below would look best in a display? :think: It's really a matter of personal taste, not value.


Your before shot looks far better...just my opinion. I think it is a travesty to polish and/or clean these artifacts unless they are absolutely filthy, or have some sort of post war defect (like glue residue on the back of a medal).


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