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Medal of Honor Buying/Selling/Possession


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OK, I took up the challenge, and decided to write a FAQ for the board about MOH's and the law. Here's my initial draft. If anyone has any input on it, or wants to write a specific Q/A that I didn't cover, buy all means have at it. Post your input here, and I'll revise and reformat the FAQ as necessary, and pin in to the board for future reference.

 

I’d love to have a Medal of Honor in my collection, how to I get one legally?

 

If you’re living in the United States, the simple answer is, you can’t. The sale of Medals of Honor is regulated by federal law, specifically Title 18, United States Code, Section 704. The law prohibits the buying, selling, trading, importing, exporting, or bartering for anything of value for a Medal of Honor. The law makes no mention of inheriting a MOH, or gifting one, so the only way you can legally obtain one is if you are given or inherit one.

 

Is 18 USC 704 what’s called the Stolen Valor Act?

 

No. The Stolen Valor act, signed into law in December 2006, revised the existing 18 USC 704. The SVA in itself is difficult to read and understand, as all it does is state “insert this paragraph here, change the wording on this sentence to this” etc.

The SVA changed the law in three ways:

1) It closed a legal loophole in the previous version of 18 USC 704, which would allow the buying (but not selling) of a Medal of Honor

2) It criminalized the act of simply claiming that you were a medal recipient (prior to the SVA, it was against the law only to falsely wear medals you didn’t earn)

3) It increased penalties for false claims on certain other medals and decorations

 

OK, I found 18 USC 704 on line. I’m not a lawyer, and the law looks like it’s saying that the buying, selling, trading, importing, exporting, etc., etc. of all US medals is illegal.

 

The important phrase to read there is except when authorized under regulations made pursuant to law in the first paragraph. Those regulations are in the Code of Federal Regulations, specifically Title 32, Part 507. You can look it up on line yourself, but it says that anyone can buy, sell, or manufacture any medal, except for the Medal of Honor

 

USC, CFR? I’m so confused.

 

Basically, the United States Code is the law, and the Code of Federal Regulations are the rules and regs for how the law gets applied. For example, the Clean Air Act of 1990 (42 USC 7401) was enacted to control air pollution on a national level. It was up to the EPA to write the rules about how the Clean Air Act would be implemented, and those rules are published the in the Code of Federal Regulations.

 

Are you absolutely positively sure it’s not illegal to own a Medal of Honor?

 

Absolutely. There is nothing in existing US law prohibiting the simple ownership of the Medal of Honor (see below for the one exception), or any other US medal for that matter. Once awarded, medals are considered personal property.

 

What's the story I keep hearing about Lordship Industries MOHs being sold out the back door?

 

In 1996 HLI Lordship Industries plead guilty in federal court to selling 300 Medals of Honor to the collector's market. They were fined and prohibited from receiving government contracts to produce medals for 15 years. Since these medals were manufactured as part of a government contract, they are considered stolen government property. If you knowingly possess stolen property, you're breaking the law, and could be prosecuted.

 

So if they’re personal property like you just said, why can’t I sell or buy one?

 

The simple answer is because the law says you can’t. It certainly would make an interesting court case for someone with a lot of time and money to challenge the law.

 

I’ve seen a bunch of obvious repros of the MOH coming out of China showing up on eBay, can I buy one of them as a place holder in my collection?

 

Nope, sorry. 18 USC 704 prohibits the buying, selling, trading, etc., etc. of “the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof

 

So how can someone in China (or any other country) get away with selling fake MoH’s anyhow?

 

US law only applies to actions taking place within the borders of the United States. In any other country there are no laws prohibiting the manufacture or sale of the MoH. In a famous case a few years ago, a Canadian militaria dealer was arrested for selling two legitimate Civil War and Span Am MoH’s, but he was arrested by US law enforcement only after he crossed the border to complete the transaction in the US. He would have committed no crime if the transaction took place in Canada.

 

How about ribbon bars, lapel pins, etc?

 

See my answer above

I’ve got my great great grandfather’s Medal of Honor from the Civil War. Can I sell that? It looks nothing like a modern piece, and no medal impostor would ever use that to claim they were a MoH recipient.

 

The law makes no distinction between the various designs of the medal.

 

I just saw a real MoH in an auction listing from a European auction. I’d like to bid on it. What do you think?

 

18 USC 704 prohibits the importing and exporting of the medal. Bid away, but you run the risk of having federal agents at your door when the mail man arrives. [A point of clarification: I am not advocating anyone break the law. Even if a MOH is purchased overseas, it is illegal to import the medal into the US.]

Tom Lane

www.purplehearts.net

TURKEY TROTS TO WATER.... THE WORLD WONDERS

 

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Thanks Tom. I find and found this very well written and accurate. I also think it should be pinned and required reading.

The only other thing I might have is a question I get asked frquently. Does the law ONLY apply to the MOH, or does it include the DSC, NC, AFC and purple heart?

What about the Soldier's medal, Navy and Marine Corps medal etc? Army, Navy commendation medals? Any input on these would be helpful. I personally think it applies to any unauthorize wearing of a medal that was not earned, however, I maybe wrong and probably am. Tom could you clearify this please sir.

4starchris

 

It doesn't necassarily have to be here. But I would like a clarification somewhere.


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Thanks Tom. I find and found this very well written and accurate. I also think it should be pinned and required reading.

The only other thing I might have is a question I get asked frquently. Does the law ONLY apply to the MOH, or does it include the DSC, NC, AFC and purple heart?

What about the Soldier's medal, Navy and Marine Corps medal etc? Army, Navy commendation medals? Any input on these would be helpful. I personally think it applies to any unauthorize wearing of a medal that was not earned, however, I maybe wrong and probably am. Tom could you clearify this please sir.

4starchris

 

It doesn't necassarily have to be here. But I would like a clarification somewhere.

 

I touched briefly on it in the Q/A about the Code of Federal Regulations, but I can expand on it a bit. My dilemma with the FAQ is that you can spin off almost every Q/A into it's own topic. I've tried to address specific questions regarding MOH collecting and the law, and tried to dispel certain erroneous statements that showed up earlier in this thread. And I specifically didn't dwell on the whole false statement/impostor issue, as I would hope readers of this forum are more interested in collecting, rather than what is essentially a side issue to the topic of collectibles.

 

So in answer to your question:

18 USC 704, as regulated by 32 CFR 507, prohibits "purchasing, attempting to purchase, soliciting for purchase, mailing, shipping, importing, exporting, producing blank certificates of receipt for, manufacturing, selling, attempting to sell, advertising for sale, trading, bartering, or exchanging for anything of value" the Medal of Honor only. All other medals can be bought/sold/traded, etc.

 

Regarding the whole false statement/unauthorized wearing/impostor issue, it is illegal to state verbally or in writing, or to wear, any medal you did not earn. The penalty for false statements/wearing certain medals (MOH, DSC, NC, AFC, SS, and PH) is basically double that of any other medal.

Tom Lane

www.purplehearts.net

TURKEY TROTS TO WATER.... THE WORLD WONDERS

 

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  • 1 year later...
Oh boy, I hate to ask but…..would taking a photo of the medal and mounting it on a flat piece of balsa wood or plastic and mounting it for display constitute “Manufacturing”? Maybe a better question is if you make a TOY of one could that be seen in the same way? :crying:

 

It seems far fetched to me and would really be an interesting situation if the news got word the FBI arrested someone for making a paper and wood/plastic toy of the medal. :blink:

 

Feel free to delete if necessary.

 

 

 

 

Do you like sticking forks in bears or something? Post deleted...

Only a weak society needs government protection or intervention before it pursues its resolve to preserve the truth. Truth needs neither handcuffs nor a badge for its vindication. -Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Peace is not the absence of war, but the defense of hard-won freedom. -Anton LaGuardia


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