10 September 2016

Replica medals anyone?

I am often asked if I can recommend a good replica medals' provider. The honest answer is, I cannot.

By replica medals I mean replacement medals; copies of campaign and gallantry medals to replace originals that have been lost or sold over the years.

The truth of the matter is, I just cannot see any reason why anyone would want to go along this route. Neither would I advocate buying original medals which have had the recipient's details erased - neatly or otherwise. To me, that is vandalism and desecration which simply encourages more vandalism and desecration.

I rule out the replica/replacement/copy/fake - call them what you will - medals, simply because they are not the originals. Furthermore, from what I have seen, the vast majority look and feel awful.

For me, as a collector, I give myself two options: 

1. Post online appeals and create web pages for medals in the hope that one day someone might read that post or web page and recognise those same medals in their own collection
2. Buy identical contemporary medals

I recently purchased the campaign pair and Rifle Brigade cap badge to S-28524 Pte Leonard Thomas Bouchard. In due course these will go into a display for my great uncle, Rifleman John Frederick Nixon, who was killed in action in October 1918. Jack had attested under the Derby Scheme in 1915 and been mobilised in 1916 - so had Private Bouchard. The fact that the two men served in different battalions of the Rifle Brigade - albeit both service battalions - is irrelevant to me, although had I been more pedantic I might have held out for a closer medals-match.

Neither does it matter to me that when ultimately mounted in a display case alongside Jack's photo and identity tags, I will know that the medals next to him are not his. To me, displaying the medals of a contemporary is far preferable to displaying poor copies. For all the claims by medal companies, I have yet to see any produced with the toning that comes with decades of being hidden away in a drawer - as in the British War Medal example above. Buying another man's medals also enables me to take on another research project and to remember another man alongside Jack. Once the medals have been mounted I will record a brief service history on the back of the frame.

Finally there is the matter of cost. I note that one copy medal specialist by Royal Appointment, sells a First World War medal pair for a little over £55 (including VAT). The nasty modern shine on both medals comes free of charge. I paid £55 on eBay for the Bouchard pair, and furthermore have what looks like an authentic Rifle Brigade cap badge to boot. 

If Jack's medals ever do turn up I would of course remove Leonard Bouchard's pair and display these separately. Until that time though, I will be happy to honour both men's service for King and Country.