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Category Archives: WWI Artifacts

US World War II Wing Qualification Badges Part 1

Military Collectibles Wanted

Although US wing badges have been around since World War I, their issue & usage did not become widespread until WWII. In 1921, the Army authorized four aviation badges:

pilot badge

The Airplane Pilot badge was a pair of raptor wings bisected by a heraldic shield. In 1940, the “Airplane” was dropped, making it simply the Pilot badge. It came in three grades: basic, senior & command, which were determined by a number of factors, including service time & flying hours.

airship badge

The Airship Pilot badge was a similar design, but with a dirigible taking the place of the shield. The badge was abolished in 1940.

airplane observer

The Airplane Observer badge featured an “O” (for observer) with a “US” inside. In 1940, the US was dropped & the name was changed to Combat Observer.

balloon observer

The Balloon Observer badge had the same “O” but applied to a hot air balloon.

Also in 1940, two additional badges were added: Balloon Pilot & Technical Observer. In 1942 the Army added badges for navigators, bombardiers, aircrew members, service pilots, liaison pilots & glider pilots. The Aerial Gunner badge was approved in 1943 & the Flight Engineer badge in 1944.

If you have a military item you would like to know more about, take a picture of it & email it to us or call our toll free Kansas City office. You never know what treasure might be hiding in that dusty footlocker.


The Model 1917 Enfield in World War II

Military Collectibles Wanted

When America was catapulted into World War II in December 1941, it faced a serious shortage in rifles. Luckily, it had a source of somewhat obsolete but still serviceable rifles that could be used during those dark & uncertain early months of the war.


The Model 1917 .30-caliber rifle, commonly known as the Enfield, was a slightly modified version of the British design manufactured in the US for Britain during WWI. When the US entered WWI, there weren’t enough US rifles to arm the rapidly expanding army, so it was decided to modify the British Pattern 1914 rifle so it would chamber the American .30-06 cartridge.


All told, more than 2 million of the new rifles, now called the Model 1917, were produced during the war, which meant more Americans were armed with the modified British rifle than the US Model 1903 Springfield.


Although longer & heavier than the Springfield, the M1917 compared well to the US rifle & was equal or better than any rifle used by ally or adversary during the war. However, despite those favorable comparisons, the US decided to keep the 1903 Springfield as its official rifle & retired the US Enfield to its stockpiled reserves.

In 1939, with England threatened with invasion by Germany, the US shipped many of the Enfields to England under the Lend-Lease Program to arm the British Home Guard. After Pearl Harbor, the rush to rearm & provide US troops with training rifles brought out most of the remaining stockpiles of M1917s, most of which had to be refurbished & repaired, including replacing many of the barrels.


The reissued M1917s were used mostly during new recruit training, although some combat troops received the rifle as they headed overseas early in the war, particularly during the North African campaign. For the most part, however, the Enfield saw very limited use as a front line combat weapon during WWII.

If you have a military item you would like to know more about, take a picture of it & email it to us or call our toll free Kansas City office. You never know what treasure might be hiding in that dusty footlocker.


The “.45″

Military Collectibles Wanted

Without a doubt, the most famous handgun  of World War II was the Model 1911 .45-caliber pistol. Invented by John M. Browning & developed by Colt, the M1911 is known to generations of Americans & gun enthusiasts as simply the “.45″.

model 19111

The .45 was developed in response to problems encountered with the .38-caliber revolvers used in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. In fact, the .38 performed so poorly that many of the antique .45-caliber Model 1873  Single Action Army Revolvers were uncrated from old stores & refurbished for use in the Philippines.

After the Philippines were “pacified”, the US began searching in earnest for a handgun to replace the .38. After extensive trials, the US adopted the Model 1911, a semiautomatic chambered for the man-stopping .45-caliber cartridge.

model 19112

Colt produced most of the .45s during WWI, with an additional 20,000 made by the Springfield Armory. By the end of the war, more than half of the US combat troops had been issued .45s, a testament to its short range stopping power in the omnipresent trench warfare.

The few problems encountered with the .45 during WWI led to changes in the trigger, hammer & grip, as well as some minor frame modifications. Those changes were incorporated in the the new pistols produced in 1926, now called the M1911A1.

model 19113

The .45 saw action in every theater during WWII & proved to be one of the finest handguns ever made. Despite complaints that it was heavy & awkward to hold & was inaccurate at long distances, it was extremely reliable & had a short range stopping power second to none.

If you have a military item you would like to know more about, take a picture of it & email it to us or call our toll free Kansas City office. You never know what treasure might be hiding in that dusty footlocker.


Collecting regimental steins

Military Collectibles Wanted

Imperial German Regimental Steins are a fascinating & still affordable collecting niche.

The porcelain steins, made roughly between 1890 & 1918, are beautiful to look at, but not necessarily rare. Literally millions of the steins were made as souvenirs for  service in the German military, so the trick is to collect steins that are not just beautiful, but also unusual & rare.

Usually, the older the stein the more valuable & that’s especially true with steins made before 1890. However, wartime steins are even more valuable so always be on the lookout for those issued between 1914-1918.


Some steins are rare because they were issued to foreign regiments such as Hungarian or Austrian units. Size is also important. Most steins came in half-liter or liter sizes, so any other sizes are extremely rare. Also look for elaborate pewterwork lids, especially those in unusual shapes such as crowns & other headgear, prisms or combat scenes.


But be especially on the lookout for reproductions, which have been made since the 1950s. What to look for:

Shape – Original regimental steins almost never have a “bell” shape with tapered sides. Reproductions usually do.


Designs – Original steins have decorations that often feature hand painted details, which give the sides of the stein a “bumpy” feel.  The side of repro steins are usually perfectly smooth.

Lithophanes – Lithophanes are the decorative bottoms of the steins revealed when holding the stein upside down & pointed at a light source. Original regimental steins usually feature a soldier & his sweetheart, home or nature scenes or busts of King Ludwig or Kaiser Wilhelm.  The lithophanes on repro steins usually feature “girly” pictures of nudes, dancing girls or girls in suggestive poses. If it’s got one of those, it’s definitely fake.


If you have a military item you would like to know more about, take a picture of it & email it to us or call our toll free Kansas City office. You never know what treasure might be hiding in that dusty footlocker.