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Fake Vietnam War KIA Medals - a new trend?


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A particular seller not on this forum has offered some fairly amazing posthumous Navy and Marine Corps Purple Heart groups from the Vietnam War over the last few months. There were several that I would have liked to have purchased to include in my book as they were more unusual, but sadly I couldn't afford them for the sole purpose of photographing them and reselling them (as I often do with medals I need to fill gaps in the books).

 

With that said, I may have actually been lucky. 

 

Almost every time one of these groups has been posted, another forum member asks me about the group, and my response has typically been the same "the engraving looks fine; I'd buy the group to have in my collection". His concern was that one seller having so many very nice Vietnam War groups was an indication that someone is faking these awards. I assured him that he was probably being overly cautious and to not worry about it...after all, I've never seen a fake Vietnam War posthumous Purple Heart before, and I've seen and photographed hundreds of them (real ones, not fake ones, just to be clear) 

 

Yesterday, I finally had to tell him that his paranoia might be justified. 

 

The seller posted a Purple Heart with perfect posthumous Navy engraving for the last Navy KIA of the Vietnam War, Gary L. Boyce. For my book, I'd obviously LOVE to have purchased this and included it (I might have even kept it...) In a case like this, money really isn't a limiting factor. Like the Biblical "pearl of great price" sometimes you have to sacrifice a chunk of your collection to own a truly special medal. And this medal was definitely in that category.

 

BUT

 

First, I noticed that the Purple Heart had a round hanging loop. That, by itself, is a bad sign. I went through all of my photos of post-WW2 Purple Hearts, to include GWOT awards, and not a single one had a round hanging loop. The Purple Hearts that DO have round loops are the Chinese knockoffs that are sold on eBay. Granted, sometimes a planchet goes awry from it's drape and an unknowing collector might replace the drape with one from another medal, creating a round hanging loop. If it was just that issue, I would be willing to overlook it.

 

Second, the quality of the medal strike is abhorrent. And I think that's a generous description. Looking through my photos of actually-awarded Purple Hearts from Vietnam to the present time and not a single one had a strike this poor. But what does have a strike like this? Yep...you guessed it, the Chinese (and I should say "Chinese" as the fakes could be made anywhere...they are most often sold from China).

 

So you have exactly correct engraving for the Navy...but on a medal that is clearly not a US government contract piece. 

 

All the while I've been telling this forum member not to be paranoid...but now, I think he's justified. 

 

What makes this worrisome is that the engraving is 100% correct and if the faker had engraved this on a $50 Army Purple Heart, I would have easily dropped a large sum of money on it. Even more frightening is that the person who faked this medal is probably reading this and saying "Dang...I screwed that one up...that's not going to happen again..." However, I felt that a public warning to all was worth it if it prevents people from spending their hard-earned cash on fake awards. 

 

I am all ears if anyone else thinks this medal is actually correct. I'd LOVE to be proven wrong and go back to my comfortable world where I feel confident in Vietnam War engraving and my thoughts that my fellow forum member and friend is overly paranoid. However, based on what I've seen, I can't. And I now think that his paranoia is more than justified. 

 

Happy to hear anyone else's opinions. In fact, I'd be delighted to hear a defense of this medal. But, as someone who has seen a lot of posthumous Purple Hearts, I can't defend this one, even though the engraving is exactly correct.

 

Dave

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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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That was a monumental mistake not to buy a good medal for their escapades. I have had many discussions with the same gent you have Dave, we have been monitoring this situation. As you, never really bothered by the engraving just the amount of rare medals appearing. 

Always Buying...Medals...Patches...Wings... Singles or Groups...Top Cash Paid!!!

My Website...http://www.purpleheartsnorthcarolina.com/

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I one time tracked down the son of a WWII PH KIA to confirm he still had the medal. He did, and therefore my engraved heart was a different guy. That being said, if the family has this sailor's PH, that may answer your questions.

 

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11 minutes ago, smwinter207 said:

I one time tracked down the son of a WWII PH KIA to confirm he still had the medal. He did, and therefore my engraved heart was a different guy. That being said, if the family has this sailor's PH, that may answer your questions.

 

I have seen times when more than one Heart was giving out to NOK though . Say a divorced parents ? 

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First of all Dave, I have a lot of respect for you for posting this.  It demonstrates humility and care for fellow collectors.  I feel that sometimes hubris keeps those viewed as “experts” from doing what you did.  So, foremost, bravo Sir.

 

So, I am wondering, as the conversion from hand to machine engraving happened, and machine engraving styles have changed, what happened to the old engraving machines?  Did they go to surplus, like the old dog tag machines?  If so, or if maybe unofficially, is it possible that a medal engraving machine made it into private hands?  The logical follow-on from that is, well, I think you probably get my drift...

 

 

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