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Is PROVENANCE just a story ?


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Hello fellow forum members,

 

 

 

There is always a thread someplace, every day, on the forum challenging the authenticity or origins of a medal, helmet, uniform, patch and the list goes on.

 

Stories start to fly as to who said what, many times with little or no evidence.

 

As the hobby becomes more sophisticated and challenging it's becoming more clear that Provenance is very important in many cases.

 

 

As I read through some of these threads I realize that we are not all on the same page when it comes to understanding what provenance is.

 

There are some members who think Provenance is just a story myself included ( especially if I know where I got it but have no proof )

 

Provenance has a definition but what is yours ?

 

What do you think provenance is and what does mean to our hobby ?

 

I have to skip out for a moment but I have some more to ad later.

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My opinion on provenance is actual hard core documentation, number markings, or ink marked names this is different then name tags. Not saying that some one can not ink in a name in uniform and this is where the issue for some comes and understandably. I guess simple provenance to me is something that is provable and not just hearsay. Not saying I do not have groups in my collection that there is not solid proof but just a story. I prefer the proof.

Always looking 33rd infantry division items as well as named items from Illinois but particulary Northern Illinois especially northwest Illinois

 

 

 

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My opinion on provenance is actual hard core documentation, number markings, or ink marked names this is different then name tags. Not saying that some one can not ink in a name in uniform and this is where the issue for some comes and understandably. I guess simple provenance to me is something that is provable and not just hearsay. Not saying I do not have groups in my collection that there is not solid proof but just a story. I prefer the proof.

Well said.... Couldn't agree more.

Check out my online collection of dog tags... http://historicdogtags.com LOOKING FOR DOG TAGS.... CIVIL WAR, WWI, WWII, KOREAN WAR, AND VIETNAM.PM ME IF YOU HAVE ANYTHING! I WILL LET YOU KNOW IF IM INTERESTED.THANKS,USDOG
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I've always viewed it as an unimpeachable chain of custody.

 

True provenance though is rare in the grand scheme of things. I always loved the photos of vets with their items. That was about as good as it got as even written documentation is easily faked.

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Collecting WWII Armor and Tank Destroyer Items

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If I buy the grouping from the daughter of the vet, the markings and patches are correct and checked against a secondary source (his service records) then we have Provence.

 

If I sell the grouping people can believe I'm just selling a story that is where my integrity comes in as a person and dealer. It now comes down if one wants to believe my "story" or not.

Leonardo

I collect items from The Battle of Iwo Jima (1945).

Top Iwo Jima Items I'm Looking For:

1) IDed 5th MarDiv Corpsman Jumper or Forest Green Coat.

2) IDed Coast Guard Navy Jumper

3) IDed CB's Sea Bee's Navy Jumper

4) IDed 147th Infantry Regiment Army Service Coat

5) IDed 32nd ID Army Service Coat (Occupation Kyushu with 5th MarDiv).

I am always looking for named and dated WWII USMC Forest Green wool alpha jackets/coats from the 5th Marine Division or other units who participated in the battle.

My Blog "Marines In Forest Green" http://marinesinfore...n.blogspot.com/

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On the other hand is a "story" provenance?

I have many items I have I obtained from vets over the years or from the auctions of their estates.I know the direct link or change of custody.So is it a "story" when I relate its change of custody or is it provenance? I also have items that dont fit the mold and there isnt any solid answer for it other than the vets story.

 

In the days prior to the internet I would make the effort to obtain a copy of the vets discharge or get a verbal history of his service time.To me it was part of the process of recording or preserving his service and items.Any more the whole provenance thing seem more tied to money and how much more can be squeezed out of an item.I see more and more emphasis put on provenance now than I ever have and Its a bit tiring to see the extremes and the emphisis put on the who,why,where,when,what scenarios and again its all related to value in the end.As a young collector 25-30 years ago no one basically cared.No thats its a huge money making industry it all has to be proven.I realize we all want to be reassured an item we have purchased is original but paper work can be faked,ribbons can be added,numbers stamped etc.In the end it comes down to believing or not believing the "story"and what paper may(or may not) back it up.Also I would say you have to have trust in the source you are buying from.Whether its a dealer,seller or a friend in the collectors community.Plus know what you are buying.

 

I posted a Rangers uniform here once.One of the very early posts said the ribbons were in wron order and he would change them.I knew the ribbons were reversed but it how the vet wore them.Anticipating this I had ready a original photo of the vet wearing said jacket taken in 1946 with the ribbons exactly in the wrong order they were shown on the uniform.With out the photo is ait a hump job or "just a story" since i got it from the vet that way.Just saying not all things can be explained and if the story is all we have in many cases it will haveto be all we have.

 

Many of my things have no paper trail.I know where they came from and Im happy with them.Im not obcessed with finding out every little detail or chasing a grave maker or obituary to legitimize something I have owned for years.Its just me.Provenance is nice but Its not a must for my collecting intests.Does a Japanese rifle with a discharge form a WW2 Marine make it a story or make it provenance?Any rifle can have a name put on it.Same as a 101st patch.How is a patch"named"?Even with a discharge its just a patch and then there is the "story of "it came from the vet"....just saying how do you "name a patch?? Point in case.I have posted a patch group to a Alamo Scout.He was also in Viet Nam and a Son Tay Raider.No "names" stamped on the patches.I know where they came from as he handed them to me.There wasnt anyone there to witness it or to have it notorized.Story or Provenance???

In Memoriam:
Lieutenant J.Kostelec 1-3 First Special Service Force MIA/PD 4 March 1944 Italy
I HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY AND IT IS DAYLIGHT
Forget about the tips..We'll get hell to pay (AC/DC)
"If you cant get out and run with the big dogs then sit on the porch and bark at the cars going by.."

Have you Hugged a Clown Today?

You Cant Get A Sun Tan On The Moon..





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Here is the definition and root of the word PROVENANCE.

 

The word originates from Latin but more recently from the French word provenir which means " to come from ".

 

Definition: The place of origin or the earliest known history of something. ( Oxford Dictionary )

 

Sounds simple enough but is it ?

 

How do you establish the origin, source or pedigree of an item ?

 

Where was it made, who used it and who has owned it ?

 

Or any combination of the above.

 

PROVENANCE ( I'm capitalizing it so that everyone knows how it is spelled ) is different for different items and situations.

 

A patch collector who wants a period patch will require different PROVENANCE than the patch collector who wants to know where the patch was made or who was the first owner was.

 

So what type of PROVENANCE do you need, if you care or if it matters, and how do you get it ?

 

What do you think, is PROVENANCE needed or just a big hype ?

 

Lot's of questions.

 

 

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I think that when folks got at this with monetary resale value as thier first thought the idea of some sort of paper trail etc becomes a selling point. For those trying to buy such items, challenging the provenance is part of trying to lower the price.

 

There will always be a leap of faith with this stuff. But again I think that has more to do with money than actual history.

 

I have my Dads helmet. His name is on the liner strap. It's been with me since he got out in the late 60s. Can I prove he wore it? Other than my word for it, there is no proof, and as people are quick to point out memories go bad, fakers are everywhere, greed trumps honesty etc.

 

I'm glad I'm not in it for the money :)

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I don't think the other thread particularly meant to say that a story is provenance, but a story without provenance is a story.

 

I consider provenance to be anything proving/verifying the item as original. Documentation, photos, etc. Concrete is hard to find. As stated above, if you get something from the vet and see images of him in it, but he does not want to give up the photos, then you do have provenance. However, it ends with you as far as the iron clad goes. You know where you got it, the vet knows it's his...but there's no proof outside of that available to the next guy.

-Brig
GySgt/USMC/0369
RSU-Quantico


"FOR OUR TOMORROWS, THEY GAVE THEIR TODAYS"
RIP
Sgt Jesse 'Jeff Nasty' Balthaser
Sgt John P Huling
Cpl Carlos 'Gilo Monster' Gilorozco
Cpl Stephen C 'Socks' Sockalosky
LCpl Joshua A 'Scottie' Scott
LCpl Jason Lee 'Birdman' Frye
LCpl Nicolas B Morrison
LCpl Jon T Hicks
LCpl Osbrany 'Oz' Montes De Oca
Pvt Lewis T D Calapini
'The SOI 5'

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For me it's simply accompanying items to a piece helping to prove its authenticity. A uniform, or flight gear, or medals, or other item paired with provenance items like period paperwork, photos, letters, laundry marks, name tags, etc. is what equals true provenance to me. As mentioned previously, the gold standard is a period photo of that item being worn or in use.

 

JD

AAF Collector...........
**Always Buying WW2 Aviation Related Items: Especially Operation Tidal Wave items (1st Ploesti Raid) ..... WW2 Fighter Ace Related Items.....Higher End A-2 Flight Jacket Groups....AAF Related Valor Medal Groups**

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My opinion is that there are degrees of PROVENANCE.

There is provenance of the higest order and then there is provenance of the lowest order and everything in between.

 

Provenance of the highest order can approach being impeccable such as direct from the veteran, photographic proof, serial numbered, etc.

 

Sometimes if we're lucky, we can improve upon the provenance of an item. How do we do that? Researching an item can sometimes bring valuable results.

 

A pre-WWII Colt pistol has its own intrinsic value and a low level of provenance (made by Colt pre-war). If one were to do additional research by requesting a letter from Colt showing the pistol being delivered to General George Marshall, that would raise its' provenance to the highest level.

Kim

A member of this fine site since December 16, 2006....Member # 60

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I don't think provenance is the same as original in this context. These days it's much easier in my opinion to prove originality versus provenance. I think provenance for a collector/investor is tracing an item to it's origin or original owner/user.

 

For example, an expert here on the forum can show originality for say a civil war era sword through makers marks, design, manufacturers documentation, age, etc.... But how much more difficult is it to trace without doubt to a specific owner. The importance of that provenance can be worth a difference of thousands of dollars.

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Collecting WWII Armor and Tank Destroyer Items

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Although PROVENANCE and money have a lot to do with each other let's try not to go there yet.

 

And yes PROVENANCE can be faked.

 

But I am going to discuss it from it's pure historical aspects first.

 

After all whether your in it for the money or the history I think most of those in it for the $ started as collectors and were in it for the history or some sort of emotional connection.

 

So let's look at it as an historical problem that needs clarity and solutions for our hobby.

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I only addressed the money end because ultimately, whether we want to admit it or not, the two (history and value) are difficult to separate when it comes to collecting items of value.

 

As far as the historical end of things, I believe originality and provenance are major factors in collecting anything of value. It ultimately has everything to do with items of historical significance and who might have used them or owned them. For example a colt pistol used for guard duty in Kansas versus one used on Iwo Jima.

 

History has value. People sell it everyday.

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Collecting WWII Armor and Tank Destroyer Items

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Senior Moderator Jim Baker has been hitting the nail on the head all the way.

 

History has unbelievable value !!

 

I don't want to put the cart before the horse and yes I want to talk about value because I love value and see it everywhere in people and things.

 

But before we get to value, which is a by product of PROVENANCE, let's talk about what does and doesn't need provenance.

 

And then how do you get the provenance you need ?

 

Is there anything that doesn't need PROVENANCE ?

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I collect mostly patches. I do not necessarily need provenance for a patch if I am buying the patch to fill a spot in the collection. But I do need to know it is "original" to the period I am collecting.

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Collecting WWII Armor and Tank Destroyer Items

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So there are manufacturing processes that establish provenance in patch collecting.

 

A sort of a built in radar a patch collector develops over time.

 

You have memorized and recognize all the processes that establish PROVENANCE ( Anyone tired of that yet ? ) that tell you a patch is real and to the period.

 

The very first thing to establish about an item is it's authenticity by the way it is made and marked because the making and marking is the provenance that establishes authenticity.

 

A story does not establish manufacturing authenticity only certain facts do.

 

Be suspicious of anything that only has a story as it's main selling feature.

 

What I mean by this the seller has no facts about the item but a great story.

 

They have a 1980's helmet and the story is is that it's WW2 and blah blah but the facts of how it's made establish provenance and the provenance says 1980.

 

Does this make sense as a first step ?

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Senior Moderator Jim Baker has been hitting the nail on the head all the way.

 

History has unbelievable value !!

 

I don't want to put the cart before the horse and yes I want to talk about value because I love value and see it everywhere in people and things.

 

But before we get to value, which is a by product of PROVENANCE, let's talk about what does and doesn't need provenance.

 

And then how do you get the provenance you need ?

 

Is there anything that doesn't need PROVENANCE ?

I asked in a thread a while back what would be enough with a helmet. I thought a direct connection to the vet would be good. It was made clear to me that vets memories are bad, photos can be doctored and papers forged.

 

It was at that point it seemed clear that the odds were good that there is no absolute proof or definitive standards outside of what each person sets for themselves. In terms of history I've always wanted at least three sources independent of each other to support a story. That might be tough to get with a piece of militaria.

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38Driver can you establish that your helmet is authentic and from the period ?

 

By that I mean, what does the manufacturing and marking tell you ?

 

If the manufacturing says 1970 and the vets story is 1968 you've got a vet who doesn't remember.

 

I'm sure you know it happens all the time and that's too bad but you still have a vet acquired item and you can put together provenance to document it as such.

 

I've heard plenty of great stories from vets that didn't line up with the FACTS of the item.

 

Here is a side track but has some meaning to the discussion.

 

On my newspaper route as a kid in the 60's I had plenty of vets tell me "I have Goring's this" or "Hitler's that" when in fact they had some insignificant insignia.

 

I could go around boasting "I have such and such and the vet told me so" as my provenance or I can find out what it really is, based on the facts, by matching it to manufacturing, organization it came from etc.

 

It still came from the vet and that provenance can be established.

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38Driver can you establish that your helmet is authentic and from the period ?

 

By that I mean, what does the manufacturing and marking tell you ?

 

If the manufacturing says 1970 and the vets story is 1968 you've got a vet who doesn't remember.

 

I'm sure you know it happens all the time and that's too bad but you still have a vet acquired item and you can put together provenance to document it as such.

 

I've heard plenty of great stories from vets that didn't line up with the FACTS of the item.

 

Here is a side track but has some meaning to the discussion.

 

On my newspaper route as a kid in the 60's I had plenty of vets tell me "I have Goring's this" or "Hitler's that" when in fact they had some insignificant insignia.

 

I could go around boasting "I have such and such and the vet told me so" as my provenance or I can find out what it really is, based on the facts, by matching it to manufacturing, organization it came from etc.

 

It still came from the vet and that provenance can be established.

 

all the specifics about the helmet fit as does the story based on confirming it through other sources. There is even a photo but it's too blurry to know for sure.

 

In the end it doesn't matter as the helmet isn't going anywhere and researching the "story" continues to bring great satisfaction to the historian in me.

 

Again it points to the "leap of faith" we take in deciding if we have enough info to believe the story.

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Which brings up another point

 

Who is provenance for ?

 

The faithful ?

I think people stress PROVENANCE because of the love of history. I think people, collectors especially, want to have an artifact that can positively be identified to a certain person and identified to a specefic time period or battle. In a way, it connects the collector to either that person or to that specefic time period in history.

 

We all know how it feels to hold an artifact in our hands and know where it came from, who it belonged to, and when it was used. I can tell you from my own personal experience that people LOVE that feeling, regardless if they are a collector or not.

Always looking for US and foreign militaria from the Central American wars circa 1970-1990

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On the other hand is a "story" provenance?

I have many items I have I obtained from vets over the years or from the auctions of their estates.I know the direct link or change of custody.So is it a "story" when I relate its change of custody or is it provenance? I also have items that dont fit the mold and there isnt any solid answer for it other than the vets story.

 

In the days prior to the internet I would make the effort to obtain a copy of the vets discharge or get a verbal history of his service time.To me it was part of the process of recording or preserving his service and items.Any more the whole provenance thing seem more tied to money and how much more can be squeezed out of an item.I see more and more emphasis put on provenance now than I ever have and Its a bit tiring to see the extremes and the emphisis put on the who,why,where,when,what scenarios and again its all related to value in the end.As a young collector 25-30 years ago no one basically cared.No thats its a huge money making industry it all has to be proven.I realize we all want to be reassured an item we have purchased is original but paper work can be faked,ribbons can be added,numbers stamped etc.In the end it comes down to believing or not believing the "story"and what paper may(or may not) back it up.Also I would say you have to have trust in the source you are buying from.Whether its a dealer,seller or a friend in the collectors community.Plus know what you are buying.

 

I posted a Rangers uniform here once.One of the very early posts said the ribbons were in wron order and he would change them.I knew the ribbons were reversed but it how the vet wore them.Anticipating this I had ready a original photo of the vet wearing said jacket taken in 1946 with the ribbons exactly in the wrong order they were shown on the uniform.With out the photo is ait a hump job or "just a story" since i got it from the vet that way.Just saying not all things can be explained and if the story is all we have in many cases it will haveto be all we have.

 

Many of my things have no paper trail.I know where they came from and Im happy with them.Im not obcessed with finding out every little detail or chasing a grave maker or obituary to legitimize something I have owned for years.Its just me.Provenance is nice but Its not a must for my collecting intests.Does a Japanese rifle with a discharge form a WW2 Marine make it a story or make it provenance?Any rifle can have a name put on it.Same as a 101st patch.How is a patch"named"?Even with a discharge its just a patch and then there is the "story of "it came from the vet"....just saying how do you "name a patch?? Point in case.I have posted a patch group to a Alamo Scout.He was also in Viet Nam and a Son Tay Raider.No "names" stamped on the patches.I know where they came from as he handed them to me.There wasnt anyone there to witness it or to have it notorized.Story or Provenance???

 

I think this post by Doyler sums it up pretty well for a lot of us. I attend a lot of vet estate sales and such and most of the time you can piece together whether the items were vet used or stuff out of a surplus store. I always look for things that tie all the items together for any particular vets time and/ or branch of service.

 

I think most of us know that anything can be faked but there are some things that just make sense when determining if an item is legit. I purchased a Schlueter fixed bail helmet with early high pressure Firestone liner on ebay about three years ago that the description said it was his Dad's helmet that he wore in France in WWII. This was just a plain Jane helmet and I bid accordingly and won the helmet for what I thought it was worth. When I received the helmet it was as advertised, just a nice solid piece with mid war hardware (green buckle liner strap, etc.) no story, nothing. When I wrote to thank the gentlemen I inquired about his Dad's service and found out that his Dad was a medic with the 119th AA Battalion and had received the Bronze Star for valor. Through further correspondence he sent me his Dads service record and copies of several pictures of his Dad in Europe during WWII with several shots showing his Dad wearing this helmet including a nice profile pic of his Dad showing enough detail you can see a wear mark on the rim of the liner that matches the one on the helmet. The picture was taken in Verdun France in 1944. My point here is I feel that is pretty rock solid provenance but the jest I am getting from some of the folks here it would still be a story and could be "faked". I guess what I am getting at is what is enough evidence to satisfy, say one is to sell it, the future owner. I certainly would not want to pass it on without that history being known whether it adds any value to it or not, as that is the reason I've always been interested in collecting is the history and being able to hold it in your hands, so to speak. If money or anything else for that matter dilutes that then I think we are doing ourselves and history a disservice for that should be the ultimate reason we collect in the first place. If not then all of this becomes just nameless items. Sorry for the rant but I think the dishonest folks out there have really made us distrustful of even the most ironclad of "stories".

 

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I think this post by Doyler sums it up pretty well for a lot of us. I attend a lot of vet estate sales and such and most of the time you can piece together whether the items were vet used or stuff out of a surplus store. I always look for things that tie all the items together for any particular vets time and/ or branch of service.

 

I think most of us know that anything can be faked but there are some things that just make sense when determining if an item is legit. I purchased a Schlueter fixed bail helmet with early high pressure Firestone liner on ebay about three years ago that the description said it was his Dad's helmet that he wore in France in WWII. This was just a plain Jane helmet and I bid accordingly and won the helmet for what I thought it was worth. When I received the helmet it was as advertised, just a nice solid piece with mid war hardware (green buckle liner strap, etc.) no story, nothing. When I wrote to thank the gentlemen I inquired about his Dad's service and found out that his Dad was a medic with the 119th AA Battalion and had received the Bronze Star for valor. Through further correspondence he sent me his Dads service record and copies of several pictures of his Dad in Europe during WWII with several shots showing his Dad wearing this helmet including a nice profile pic of his Dad showing enough detail you can see a wear mark on the rim of the liner that matches the one on the helmet. The picture was taken in Verdun France in 1944. My point here is I feel that is pretty rock solid provenance but the jest I am getting from some of the folks here it would still be a story and could be "faked". I guess what I am getting at is what is enough evidence to satisfy, say one is to sell it, the future owner. I certainly would not want to pass it on without that history being known whether it adds any value to it or not, as that is the reason I've always been interested in collecting is the history and being able to hold it in your hands, so to speak. If money or anything else for that matter dilutes that then I think we are doing ourselves and history a disservice for that should be the ultimate reason we collect in the first place. If not then all of this becomes just nameless items. Sorry for the rant but I think the dishonest folks out there have really made us distrustful of even the most ironclad of "stories".

 

 

 

Dan you nailed it.

It has gotten to the point nothing is taken for what it is and has to be proven.For some there is or never will be enough proof.With the advent of the internet the obcession for information and hunting down the facts has gotten to be more important than the item it self in my opinion.Seems that there is a need to always prove some one wrong or question everything.God send or curse its here to stay.

In Memoriam:
Lieutenant J.Kostelec 1-3 First Special Service Force MIA/PD 4 March 1944 Italy
I HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY AND IT IS DAYLIGHT
Forget about the tips..We'll get hell to pay (AC/DC)
"If you cant get out and run with the big dogs then sit on the porch and bark at the cars going by.."

Have you Hugged a Clown Today?

You Cant Get A Sun Tan On The Moon..





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