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Tips on buying Uniforms


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I need some help please. I just recently started to collect WW2 US Uniforms and was wondering is there any way to tell if all the insigina are original to the uniform or if it is a put together item? Is the best policy is to buy only documented pieces? Any and all help appreciated.

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This is a very good question. Unquestionably, the best way to guarentee that your uniform is 100% ORIGINAL is to buy them directly from primary sources, i.e. veterans, families, etc. There are a few things that you can look for, however, to determine overall authenticity of a uniform, and its components. Here are a few basic guidelines that I have learned in my 15+ years of collecting.

 

Ribbon bars do not neccesarily have to appear in any specific order, even though they may be contrary to regulations at that time. This was actually just discussed on a recent thread. It is also important to know that the order of precedence changed at different periods, and this should be taken into consideration with the period of your uniform.

 

The patch should generally match the condition of the uniform. In some cases, and I am sure that some of the more experienced collectors here will concur, certain varieties of 60 year old white thread will acquire a somewhat milky/translucent color with age, a feature that is unmistakable of originality. The styles of thread are infinite, and range from regulation issue thread, to private purchase thread. In some cases patches will be sewn on with a very thick, brightly colored yarn-like thread, in a cross-hatch style, something that clearly defies regulation.

 

Since we are on the topic of textiles, I wanted to add a note about synthetic fibers, and their use during the Second World War. Germany, in particular used Rayon for many of their textile wears, however, such use was very, very limited in the United States. Rayon is a nature cotton fiber that is processed, so it is synthetic in manufacture, but not chemically. If one was to look at a piece of synthetic material, as opposed to natural woolen, or cotton material, one would see a vast difference. Under a simple loupe, the highest quality natural fiber will have a certain fuzzy attribute, even though with the naked eye it appears smooth. Synthetic fibers are very smooth under a lense, almost plastic like. In fact, this is why synthetic material melts, as opposed to turning to ashes like cotton. So in short, if you detect synthetic threads, or material, it is most certainly post 1945 construction.

 

One controversial aspect to consider is to be sure that everything "makes sense" on the uniform. For instance, a marksman badge on a Navy jumper would be suspect. However, I want to caution you that just because something looks out of place, and even though it may very well be, it could still be original to a uniform. There are a lot of "experts" out there that want things to conform to their little "box", and if it doesn't quite fit, they will dismiss it as junk. Just remember, American military uniforms are noted for their individuality and variety, and that is one reason why I am attracted to this field. I also love German daggers, helmets, and Deutche Volks Standarte. As with any field, educate yourself, and always remember, we never, never stop learning....

 

Feel free to ask more questions

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In addition to Chris's excellent points, try not to pay more than what the "sum of the parts" add up to. If you do that, you can't really go wrong. It's when you pay for a "story" things get dangerous. And stories "can" be worth the money, but there must be all kinds of supporting documentation and provenance (not just a few inked-in numbers that match those of Audie Murphy).

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The best advice I can give, based on 30 years of collecting this stuff, is to first, do your research. READ, not just the collector/collection books and reference material out there, but also this forum, and others. Don't "leap before you look" at something, unless it's for so little money out of pocket that it makes the difference between buying, or not buying, a lottery ticket that day. Because, without research, that is exactly what you are doing. You 'could' hit the jackpot, but most lottery tickets end up as windblown paper in the parking lot.

 

Try to handle, up close, as many of these things as you can; if you can't handle them, then at least look at them. Old magazines, such as Life, Look, National Geographic, etc, of the period will often have layouts of uniforms, as well as showing them actually being used the way the soldiers used and wore them. After looking at those kinds of photos, you'll have a good idea, like has been already stated above, that the American GI was nothing if not resourceful in the way and manner he modified his uniform to fit his own personal needs, or the directives of his command. Those magazines are usually available at flea markets and the like for pretty in-expensive prices, page through them and purchase them if you see something you like. The overall cost is usually worth it.

 

Veterans organizations after the war published multi-vol historys, usually with hundreds and hundreds of photos. These are easy to come by and are a good start to see exactly what was being used and worn, and by whom. Plus, they are fun to read.

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After having a double bypass this past year, it's time to downsize and pass along much of my 'stuff'. I've had my fun, now it is someone elses turn.

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Very good information so far on this topic. I agree with the "sum of the parts" theory. If someone tells you something could not have been, take it with a grain of salt. Your gut feelings and own knowledge will generally get you by. Ask questions of others, evaluate the parts and price, and most importantly to me "buy what you like". Lastly, I do not believe anyone is an "EXPERT". All of us have some valuable information to share and we have all made mistakes. Have fun with this hobby, thats the key.

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Sell and / or trade items: http://s1080.photobucket.com/albums/j335/36tex/Military Collectables For Sale or Trade/

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The first thing you have to decide is how important it is to you that the uniform is all original and how much you are willing to pay for that. I will never pay more than the sum of the parts for a uniform, this way you don't have to worry. If I want a story I will buy a book. To my way of thinking if every thing is correct, who pined it on dosen't really mater. One of the rarest things to find is a uniform that is complete with everything, simply because over the last 60 years at some point the vet has removed the insignia to have it cleaned or he was showing it to his grandson who thought it was really cool so he gives the kid one of the insignia or his VFW buddy says "I wish I had one of my old DIs" so the vet says "I have two on my old uniform you can have one". That being said and you decide you are willing to pay a premium for an all original uniform there are only a few hard and fast rules. First make sure everything is the right time period, remove the insignia (if the seller says "NO, NO don't take it apart" just say thank you and walk away) if you see a letter and number (G-1 etc.) manufacturer's code or Made in USA these are post war insignia. Also look at the clutches, there is some misunderstanding on these, clutch back insignias go back to the 1930s but the Ballou Fasteners came out in 1942 and were an over night success, the thing to look for is, the WWII version of them had a smooth face, the eight little studs on the face came later. The way things are manufactured has changed over the years but this is mostly something you will have to learn from experience. There are some things that will raise a red flag, things that may or may not be a problem but if too many of them show up it is best to walk away. As already stated the overall condition, everything should be about the same. Look for laundry marks, they should match in each piece, they may be a reissue with someone else's number but it is a red flag. Check sizes, if the coat is size 36 and the pants are 38 something is wrong, but don't worry about colour they never match. Just use some common since and remember if you don't get this one you will find a better one later, it is out there. Oh yes, just because you buy something from a little old lady at a garage sale don't automatically assume it is real, she may be a front for someone who is buying them wholesale.

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All advice given here is tremendously good, I can only second and third some of the points already mentioned. The one point I will focus on is to get your hands on as many uniforms as you can before getting serious. Honestly, my trial by fire was buying cheaper $15-25 Ikes and 4 pocket coats from eBay, shoot I still do it. I find them to be the biggest bargains in militaria. As I handled more and more of these, I acquired more of a feel for them, how they are stitched, how they are assembled, how their conditions run after 60 years, even how they smell, yep, ask some patch collectors, smells do play a part. After focusing on "cheapy" material for awhile, you get to be quite good at seeing the red flags and recognizing the green ones.

I am actively seeking USMC Named Good Conduct Medals and items pertaining to the USS Indianapolis CA35.



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That looks really nice! A close up of the wings, especially the back of them is important. If this is a government issue officer uniform, there should be a spec label, with date in the pocket. That is a very nice, and rare bullion 12 AAF patch as well. The patch is worth more than the uniform with nothing on it!

 

The Ike has a general issue, cut edge China-Burma-India theater patch. This is just a very nice looking group.

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