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Why Can't You Polish?

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Silly question, but I've always wondered..... Why is it verbotten for a vintage wing to be polished? It's not like it's an un-natural thing, back when these were worn they were polished, but yet now collectors insist on them being tarnished.

What causes me to ask now, after collecting several years is that I didn't bid on an otherwise beautiful Luxenberg 1st pattern that had unsightly tarnish on the back and I knew it would have to stay that way. Evidently others felt the same way as it closed with a way below average price.

 

Art

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"Leave the gun - take the cannoli" - Peter Clemenza

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My 2 cents, that's what collector's want - patina. Polishing any insignia regularly will eventually wear down the details (we've all seen jump wings with smooth parachutes). I don't know that you would get the same return on your investment from a highly polished (and smooth) pair of wings that you would from a finely detailed tarnished pair. Ultimately, it's yours now and you can do what you want.


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I think it is entirely up to the owner to choose their own path.

 

I have chosen different with different wings. It all comes down to aesthetics. Yes, in general when dealing with antiques of any kind, patina and original finish is more highly desired. I think the exception is if it really reduces the quality of aesthetic experience. That is why so much art is "restored", sometimes lightly sometimes heavily.

 

In the case of your wings, I can see why you would polish and I would probably do the same because the wear is so uneven. It looks like it was impacted by previous polishing and different wear due to residual lacquer keeping some bright and where worn through it has tarnished. Polishing to get and even finish will not ruin the value of these wings tremendously because there is still demand for them. Since there is no other name engraved or other historical meaning, you are safer to choose your own path.

 

My 2 cents.

 

Tod


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Tod Rathbone
Rathbone Museum of WWII Aviation Uniforms and Insignia
http://www.rathbonemuseum.com
http://www.facebook.com/rathbonemuseum

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I should have mentioned ....... I'm aware of the wear constant polishing will do, but there are many products today that will clean without pressure (or even any rubbing) being necessary - ultrasonic, for one. But yet nobody does it (me neither). And no, the Lux isn't mine - I'd love one, but the looks of that one kept me from bidding :(

 

Art


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"Leave the gun - take the cannoli" - Peter Clemenza

War Is The Only Organized Activity Men Participate In That Women Don't Laugh At

Yes, That Is Me In The Profile Picture Ready To Climb Down the Cargo Net A Long Time Ago In A Place Far Away

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Tarnish and patina are two different things. Patina is green and forms on brass usually and copper. Tarnish is what forms

on silver wings. Tarnish is caused by sulfur in the air reacting with the silver to form silver sulfide.

Ive cleaned some of my silver wings by immersing them wrapped in aluminum foil into a solution of

very hot water and baking soda. It causes a chemical reaction that removes the sulfur from the wing and

leaves a grey milky film which washes of with water. In fact during the process you can smell the sulfur in the air.

I have never damaged pitted or smoothed out any detail using this process.

Its non abrasive and no heavy chemicals like tarnex.

Its a personal choice for the collector. I have some I won't clean and some I will, but after a number of years the Tarnish will redevelop

all on its own. I suspect that besides the age… Military silver wings are so badly tarnished due to the widespread smoking that occurred

and the widespread use of sulfur matches back before bic lighters came about.

My 2 cents. To each their own. Its your wing.

Tarnish comes back on its own with time.

And unscrupulous folks can tarnish silver very easily. I don't see tarnish impacting price for me in any way.

But thats me.

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Good answers - Thanks. I was totally puzzled as to what caused the weird pattern to the tarnish - something as simple and obvious as lacquer didn't occur to me. I wish I'd have posted this question last week - I'd definitely have gone after those wings.

Just for the heck of it - here's the front of them

 

Art

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"Leave the gun - take the cannoli" - Peter Clemenza

War Is The Only Organized Activity Men Participate In That Women Don't Laugh At

Yes, That Is Me In The Profile Picture Ready To Climb Down the Cargo Net A Long Time Ago In A Place Far Away

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leave them as original with all its natural age on them. nothing beats originality in collecting. change that its played with and worthless to me. my opinion.


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Just my two cents worth. The first time I visited with Duncan Campbell we discussed this very topic because I noticed all his metal wings both WW1 and WW2 were clean without any tarnish. He simple stated that no respectable pilot would wear a tarnished wing and cleaned their wings on a regular basis. That being said he insured that the wings in his collection looked like the day they were worn by the pilot during the period. I simply dip my wings in silver polish once or twice a year then rinse them with warm water and dry them off with a towel and back into the case they go. Its strictly an opinion thing for each collector to decide if he wants a case full of dull black wings or as they would have appeared when worn years before. Now coins are another story to polish a coin will for sure decrease its value in the collector community.

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I know sword collectors like the patina of uncleaned brass and iron hilted swords. I can't say for wings, badges etc, but for other silver items such as award plaques and cups, I polish them and store them in tarnish resistant bags. I follow Museum practices of displaying the silver polished. Recently I was at the Met in NYC and saw on display in their arms and armor collection a stunning collection of English and American silver or gold plated presentation swords from the 1700's thru the mid 1800's, all of which were highly polished. Below is a China Marine bought silver cup I picked up a number of years ago in uncleaned condition. I chose to clean it...it brought out the details to the point you could see up close the hammer marks on it which was part of the design....I doubt it hurt the cup's value at least in this small niche of militaria collecting.

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Always looking for items associated with the China Marines! Visit chinamarine.org

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There's this whole thing with some collectors who have the opinion that "the original recipient would have polished their X, so I should too..."

 

First, many original manufacturers didn't sell polished wings. In fact, most wings you come across have a silver-ish or lacquer coating on them (I'm looking at a pair on my desk right now that never was "bright silver" when it was bought or worn). So the thought that "its what the original recipient did" isn't true. It might have been what Duncan Campbell (the infamous polisher) claimed...but not every pilot polished their wings. Sorry. (Same goes for British medals for the people who have this ill idea that all British medals were polished..nonsense...most of them were never even worn, let alone polished...) I've been lucky enough to own groups with wings (and medals for that matter) dating back to WW1 with color photos of the original owner holding the item and (shockingly) they weren't out there polishing the patina off...

 

Second, if we were to do what "the original recipient" did with their stuff, we'd toss most of our collections. Sure, there were some who kept every scrap of paper, but the vast majority of veterans moved on with life after their respective war(s). They might have kept some important papers, a couple of uniforms, and their medals, but the rest went into the dumpster. Why? Because it wasn't important to them and a lot of it was very redundant (12 copies of orders, anyone?). As a collector, when I find a super complete group that comes with a box of paper, do I toss most of it in the trash? Absolutely not! We hang onto it for the purposes of history...absolutely contrary to what the vast majority of the very people whose stuff we now own did.

 

Of course, it's a free world so people entitled to do with their items what they'd like to do with their items. You want to polish vintage wings? Go for it. But it's a lot easier to part with them down the road to someone who'd rather not have the polished wing than the one that's been polished by a collector "because that's what the veteran would do!"

 

Okay...off my soap box now... ;):)


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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In all the years I have been collecting I have heard variations of "its easier to sell if___________(polished/not-polished)" And in all those years, I have found neither to be true. Polished or tarnished does not effect the sale price of a real wing. Individual preferences can and do vary. There are plenty of buyers for good wings.

 

Whenever this particular controversy comes up I universally post a link to professional silver conservator Jeffrey Herman's website, in particular his advice on the care and preservation of antique silver.

 

http://www.hermansilver.com/care.htm

 

The information presented there is well researched and eye opening--some common silver "care" techniques can be very damaging.

 

I won't get on the polish/don't polish bandwagon. I have stated my preferences here on the forum before and they are available should anyone care to find them.

 

I will leave this topic with this notion; Should you decide to polish your silver, do yourself a favor and thoroughly read Mr Herman's advice.

 

I have to imagine that anyone who would purport to conserve historical artifacts would want to know they were not causing irreparable damage.

 

Chris

 


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The great "polish-don't polish" debate raises its head again!

 

LOL, if you aren't using Brasso and a steel wire grinding wheel, you aint doing it right!

 

In reality, everyone is correct. Polish or not, its up to you and your collecting preference.

 

 

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The great "polish-don't polish" debate raises its head again!

 

LOL, if you aren't using Brasso and a steel wire grinding wheel, you aint doing it right!

 

In reality, everyone is correct. Polish or not, its up to you and your collecting preference.

 

 

 

GOOD ONE PATRICK, I LIKE THAT.

TERRY

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Just my two cents worth. The first time I visited with Duncan Campbell we discussed this very topic because I noticed all his metal wings both WW1 and WW2 were clean without any tarnish. He simple stated that no respectable pilot would wear a tarnished wing and cleaned their wings on a regular basis. That being said he insured that the wings in his collection looked like the day they were worn by the pilot during the period. I simply dip my wings in silver polish once or twice a year then rinse them with warm water and dry them off with a towel and back into the case they go. Its strictly an opinion thing for each collector to decide if he wants a case full of dull black wings or as they would have appeared when worn years before. Now coins are another story to polish a coin will for sure decrease its value in the collector community.

 

 

WISDOM FOR THE AGES.....Thanks Terry

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I simply dip my wings in silver polish once or twice a year then rinse them with warm water and dry them off with a towel and back into the case they go.

 

Terry,

 

Have you read professional silver conservator Jeffery Herman's stark warnings about silver dips? It is quite eye opening:

 

http://www.hermansilver.com/tarn-x.htm

 

Chris


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The great "polish-don't polish" debate raises its head again!

 

LOL, if you aren't using Brasso and a steel wire grinding wheel, you aint doing it right!

 

In reality, everyone is correct. Polish or not, its up to you and your collecting preference.

 

 

 

 

Great Patrick!!!

:lol: :lol: :lol:

 

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Terry,

 

Have you read professional silver conservator Jeffery Herman's stark warnings about silver dips? It is quite eye opening:

 

http://www.hermansilver.com/tarn-x.htm

 

Chris

 

Chris,

Read it the other day when you posted the link. Thanks. Every day is a learning experience, that's why I often say there are no "experts" just very learned men and women.

 

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Well, it took me quite a few years, but I finally learned why my parents used to tell me "Keep your mouth shut and don't ask questions".

 

Seriously though, thanks for all the answers and opinions - my collecting wings to this point has been "it looks cool, I think I'll buy it" but now that I'm getting serious your input will be helpful. And an especially big shout-out to Bob Schwartz for the help he gave me.

 

Art


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"Leave the gun - take the cannoli" - Peter Clemenza

War Is The Only Organized Activity Men Participate In That Women Don't Laugh At

Yes, That Is Me In The Profile Picture Ready To Climb Down the Cargo Net A Long Time Ago In A Place Far Away

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