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Weekly World War One Wing #4


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How rare is my World War One wing?


I get this question a lot and I suspect other wing collectors do as well. Why does one wing sell for around $800 when another superficially similar wing will sell for three times that amount?


Partially it's a question of the numbers.


There were roughly 10,000 Junior and Reserve Military Aviators who earned their wings before February 1919 when the Adams style wings became regulation. Although solid silver wings had been authorized since the prior December, nearly all of these first Aviators would have received at least one pair of embroidered J/RMA wings upon graduation. Most, upon commissioning as 2nd Lieutenants would have gone to a local tailor and purchased at least two sets of uniforms. Some would have proudly chosen expensive and flashy sterling silver wings, some would have opted for cheaper embroidered badges fashioned with a pin back, and some would have chosen the least expensive option; embroidered wings sewn fast to the uniform jacket.


For non durable artifacts, a rough rule of thumb for survival might be 10% over a century.


In WW2 wing collecting, many collectors are familiar with; "graduation wings." If there is a WW1 graduation wing analog, I am unaware of it. However there is one wing that among all WW1 wings is most commonly encountered:



This wing is almost certainly American-made. The type is normally characterized by a first row of feathers picked out individually in silver bullion, surmounted by a two-tier shoulder with feathers constructed with rachis of one type of bullion and vane a second, contrasting type. Sometimes, the lower feathers are separated by a line of fine black thread. Other times, as in this example, there is no thread.


The shield chief usually contains 13 small "stars," executed in an x-configuration, affixed atop a field of horizontal rows of bullion. The lower portion normally consists of vertical stripes made from two contrasting types of bullion. The chief and the lower portion are frequently separated by a bullion wire coil. Sometimes, as in this example, there is black thread separating the two sections.


The tops of the wings and the perimeter of the shield are normally bordered with coiled bullion wire and both wings and shield are normally fairly well padded.


Finally, the US of this type of badge normally consists of gold bullion coils configured in a two-strand twisted helix. There are normally no serifs or periods. Overall, the most common configuration of this wing, as in this example, is as a sew-on badge.


If there is such a thing as a WW1-era "graduation wing" this is likely a good candidate. Although no WW1 wing can be called particularly "common," without a doubt this is the most frequently encountered WW1 wing by collectors today.


Because each of these bullion wings was hand embroidered, even two wings made by the same hand will vary somewhat over the course of a day's production.


There are literally hundreds of variations of this particular wing out there--I would love to see yours!





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I for one would like to say I enjoy the weekly posts that you have been doing.


Thank you!



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Terrific info Chris! Thank you for all of your well focused input and efforts! I think your "Weekly WWI Wing" threads are worthy of condensing into one pinned thread for reference...

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Russ, TH1, & mghcal,


Thank you for the kind words! My main goal is to stimulate conversation. So far we seem to be off to a good start. Only 48 more entries to go! :blink:



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Here are some variations to the style. I also believe that these were all US-made. The top wing is a known sub-variant of the other wings, and is typically found attached on a brass plate with a pin for removal off the uniform. It also has some heavy padding and an extra large shield with "ears" or "horns". Perhaps it was made in Texas? For some reason, a mounted bullion wing seems to command almost 1.5-2X the price of a bullion wing of the same exact pattern.


The middle two are very close cousins to the OP wing. There are a number of subtle variations. The second wing is very interesting if you note how the natural vegetable dyes have faded from a dark blue/black color to a dingy purply-gray color. This is what happens when natural vegetable dyes are exposed to the sun and bleach out. It is hard to fake--and if you were to look at the back of this wing (where it was protected from the sun by being sewn on the uniform) the fabric retains its original dark color. This is a good way to see if a wing is naturally aged or faked.


I suspect the bottom wing is a transition bullion wing, using a WWI bullion pattern, but lacking the US and stars. IT could also have been a wing that wasn't finished, but... In my collection it is called a transition wing... LOL





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In this picture of (left to right) Lt Shirley Short and Lt Ormer Locklear, Lt Short appears to be wearing a flared shield variant very similar to the top example you presented above:



As for the bottom wing, If I were to guess, and it's only a guess, it would be that wing represents a manufacturer's attempt to meet the new February 1919 standard before having actually seen the Adams wings. It looks (to me) like a WW1 design that has been modified to include the wings touching the shield as per the Adams design. Probably a very rare transitional piece!




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