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Advice for New Collectors


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Wow...this is quite a resurrected thread!


Eleven years later though...I still agree with my comments in post #1. :)


Went back and reread your post. Still excellent advice!


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  • 1 year later...

There is excellent advice in this thread for both the new and advanced collector, and I have read through it several times. Thank you Dave for starting this topic, and thanks to everyone that participated and shared their seasoned wisdom and thoughtful recommendations.


Unless I have overlooked it in an earlier post, I would also advise new collectors to do something I wish I had done when I first started out, which is to:


Document your collection.


This documentation can be written in a notebook, kept in an Excel spreadsheet, Word document, Access database, written on a hanging tag attached to the item, or; what I do since I primarily collect patches and insignia, written on a 3x5 card and placed behind the patch when placed in the sleeves I use to store the patch, then the sleeves organized by unit in notebooks.


This documentation begins with the excellent advice vintageproductions points at in an earlier post, which is to ask questions, and also what others have pointed out several times, which is to do your research. Documenting the item establishes provenance, which complements the enjoyment of our hobby adding an appreciate for our country’s history and for the sacrifices of those who served.


Include such information as:


a. What the item is. Also include an explanation of any manufacturer’s or other markings and what they mean. Is the item U.S.

issued or a custom-made item? Does the serial number on it mean anything special? How many where made, if known?


b. Who originally owned the item. Did the item come directly or indirectly from a veteran, or someone else that was there actually

there, such as a civilian advisor or government employee? What unit or agency did this individual serve with? What timeframes

did he/she serve? What else is known about this individual, such as his service records or his/her place of burial?


c. When the item was made and/or used; the specific or approximate timeframe the item dates from. Does it date from between

1941-1945 during World War II, or from 1950-1953 during the Korean War? Does the serial number indicate it was made April

23, 1943? Does it date to between 1969-1970 when the unit was deployed to Vietnam?


d. Where the item was made, as specific as possible. Was it made at a specific manufacturer which had a plant which was

located at a specific street/city/state address? Was it made at a specific sew shop located in Bagram, Parwan Province,

Afghanistan, outside the gates leading into Bagram Airfield? Was it made in Italy or Japan?


e. Was the item made for a specific unit or event, or to commemorate or honor a event or deployment, such as a specific mission,

task force, to honor an individual KIA?


f. Who used the item, such the Army, Navy, Air Force, etc. As specific as possible, down to detachment, company, battalion,

platoon, brigade, division, squadron, command, regiment, etc.


g. What you paid for the item, and the items approximate retail value. When the time comes to sell your acquisitions, you or your

heirs will appreciate this information.


h. When you got it for your collection, where, and from who, such as “purchased at the Show of Shows, February 22, 2003”, or

“purchased from ebay seller xyz 10/18/15”. Like most everyone else, I have unfortunately and unknowingly purchased fakes. I

have tried to cull these from the collection, but if I had taken the time over the years to have documented who I got the item

from I could have more easily identified these fakes. There are still items in the collection I’m unsure about.


As time has passed and memory fades I’ve grown to appreciate the time I’ve taken to document the items in the collection. I wish I had started out doing more of it when I first started the collection 30+ years ago.

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And while this subject is on my mind, I'd like to offer one other bit of advice for new collectors, which I think had been mentioned in an earlier post but to reemphasize it again, is to:


Throw your net wide and far.


Let others know of your interest and your appreciation for items connected to the history of our U.S. military, and for those that served. Hopefully this will lead to the acquisition of some outstanding items that you will honor and cherish that otherwise would have continued to collect dust in someone's attic, or evenutually been tossed in the trash. Dealers and other collectors will also be informed that you collect specific items, and will keep you in mind if they run across anything, happen to have duplicates, or are selling or trading.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Such a great thread! So many wise and helpful comments here. I hope you'll indulge my reiteration and summerization of what others have said.

1.) Knowledge is key in any endeavor. Collecting is no different. The more you study and learn, the better off you will be. To go one step further on this point...use your common sense. Try to put yourself in other people's shoes. I know I'm painting with a broad brush, but truly....when you interact with others, when you consider what your interests are and why, and at the time you decide to acquire an item. Ask yourself what amI buying, from whom am I buying it, does what I have in my hands all make sense according to what I know, etc., etc.

2.) Decide if you want to be a dealer or a collector. By default, most of us end up as a dealer of sorts, because in the field of collectibles, more often than not out in the bush, you buy what you find, not neccessarily what you collect. I rarely happen upon what I collect for myself and most often trade or sometimes sell what I find to obtain what lay in my interests. Keep this in mind as many have stated in this thread, you will end up with a pile of things you don't collect. Now, that being said, becoming a part time or full time dealer helps this hobby survive, begins and develops friendships, and most importantly, keeps the stories of those men and women alive and breathing. A famous quote is "the last time your name is spoken is when you truly die". By collecting and attending shows, we continue to carry the story of our incredible world history into the future, to learn and educate. The collecting community is much more colorful than any library. I encourage all to attend shows whether just to browse, educate yourself, buy an item, or catch up with friends.

3.) Decide if you want to collect as a hobby, or as an investment. Any market that is supply and demand based (as are most), will ebb and flow over time. If you are in it as a hobby, then consider how much some spend on a golf club, an R/C airplane, a nice night on the town. We make money to spend in one way or another, so if someone ever asks, "why would you spend ANY money on that thing....I wouldn't give you a nickle!" don't let it ruffle your feathers. We all get to enjoy what we choose and spend what we feel something is worth.

4.) Never stop learning. There are general "rules" but we ALL are eternal students. I don't consider anyone an "expert", but would grant some the title of "authority".

5.) Go to shows and look at items up close. Books are incredible reference, but nothing will ever compete with your 5 senses.

6.) Pointing out the obvious, but needs to be said to younger collectors. Only a few decades seperate 1945-1965. Many reproductions were made in the 1960's and 70's. Being close to the year 2020, you now have a 50 year gap as opposed to a 20 year gap of questions. Again, I urge young people to attend shows and learn 1st hand, in person of what you collect.

7.) In closing, be an honorable steward of your collection. Many have tried, but I've not seen anyone be able to take any of this stuff with them. I'm hoping that history drives your passion and not greed. If you follow this ethos, you may find you've saved yourself in many ways. Thanks for reading.



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I don't know that there is much that can be added to this thread but I have a couple thoughts. I've been collecting antiques for over 25 years since I was 12 years old. I look like I am in my 20s and most people assume I don't know anything. There are lots of people that will take advantage and lots of people that are kind and willing to share their knowledge if you take the time to ask. So many times those two forces butt heads. I bought an M41 field jacket at a flea market a couple weeks ago for $25. The seller was a real douche and was going on about it being an Ike jacket and was worn by Eisenhower himself (at least that part was just joking around). It was obvious he assumed I knew nothing about it. If he had been kind and asked about it instead of assuming the worst of his customers I would have offered him more instead of less. Instead I turned it within a week for $180. On the other side of the table, if I am selling something and the buyer haphazardly throws your stuff around as they go through stuff, when they ask you the price it will be twice what I would offer had they been respectful and not stepping on uniforms to get to other stuff. If it is already a good deal, don't offer less. I may sell something worth $50 on ebay for $20 at a flea market but if you offer me $10 for it, I might accept it, but you don't make lasting friends that way. The bottom line, is be honest and kind.

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Also, don't be greedy. I totally understand making a good deal but if I buy a $100 item for $20, I have no qualms selling it for $50. I got a good deal and so did the buyer. Six months later you might sell the item for the $100 and there is nothing really wrong with that but people will come back for more when they get a good deal out of it. I get some funny looks at the flea market with my prices. I sold a beautiful 1850s pocket percussion pistol for $100 and I am sure the buyer turned around and sold it for $300 but I paid $150 for it and an original flintlock. So they get a good deal and I got an original flintlock for $50.


Don't be ashamed to buy what you like AND buy other items for a good price. It doesn't really make you a dealer but can help with finances. Often on live auctions I will buy one piece I want and three or four pieces that were a good price. I can usually make back all of what I paid in the auction on the pieces I didn't want and get the one piece I wanted for free.

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US Victory Museum

In the earlier posts (i.e. those twelve years ago) a common suggestion
was to purchase good reference books, and at the time that was good
advice; however, the collective wisdom of this very forum has made this
less of a necessity. Even a well documented book can only offer a
limited number of views and close-ups. By perusing some discussions on
this forum, a novice collector can find a plethora of photos showing fine
detail and in depth discussions of what to examine to authenticate an

The collectors on this forum are proud of their collections; this is why
they take the time and put forth the effort to photograph their prized
treasures, and to post them for the enjoyment of their USMF friends.
For this reason, should the novice collector not quite find what they're
looking for, a polite request via USMF personal messaging will likely
result in desired additional photos of detail, and an informative discourse
from a collector who owns a specimen. However, do your own due diligence
If you haven't put forth the effort to search through the forum
first, then don't expect everyone to answer some really basic questions
that have been answered in dozens of prior posts.

Be cognizant of the difference among collectors, pack rats, and hoarders.
Buy quality! Quality isn't expensive... it's PRICELESS!

Buy the best condition specimen as you are financially able. A ratty artifact
is just that - a ratty artifact. It will always be a ratty artifact.

Focus! Focus! Focus!

Ebay is great for finding items, but always remember that when you've won
an item you also paid top dollar. If you buy top quality then you may
recover your money when you sell (or your heirs sell).



If you want an investment, buy stocks.


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  • 3 years later...

Hello everyone

I know it's an old post, I'm new to this forum, but this post can be updated with new opinions from collectors.

In my collection there is a lot from the USA, Germany WWII, some Russian medals, even 2 Japanese payrecords, uniforms and documents from the Spanish army.

I have always bought what I liked, without looking at specializing in something specific, without looking at selling it in the future.

Always in what I liked from a historical perspective as well.

In the end I have seen that I have specialized, unintentionally and indirectly, in the dog tags WWII, Korea, Vietnam, German erkennungsmarke....

As I said, buy what you like, what you consider historical, without looking to sell it in the future...

Why buy things of your specialty if you don't like it?

It's just my personal opinion.

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