What Sells: Military Items
People around the world collect “militaria;” some collect a broad range of artifacts from a specific war or battle; others limit their collection to items of a particular type or from a particular country, branch or division. Regardless of the theme of their individual collections, buyers look for proof of authenticity of reproductions as well as of original items when deciding whether or not to purchase a piece of “militaria.”
- Books, newspapers, videos, diaries and photos about military events
- Military uniforms, helmets and armor (original and replica garments used for re-enactments)
- Medals and ribbons
- Personal belongings (letters, etc.) from military leaders
- Trench art
- Vehicles and equipment
- Weapons and ordinance (see restrictions below)
- Items related to military schools and academies
Militaria collectibles are divided into categories first by age — or the war they are associated with — and then by the nation of origin and/or item type. Original artifacts are generally worth more than replicated items, but even replicated items are sought after by re-enactors, especially re-enactors of Civil War battles. Some original artifacts that are particularly sought after are edged weapons, helmets, and artillery gear and equipment.
Leading militaria collectibles include:
- Revolutionary War memorabilia (1775 to 1783): Original relics are very rare and desired among avid collectors
- Civil War memorabilia (1861 to 1865)
- World War I memorabilia (1914 to 1918): WWI marked the beginning of modern warfare, and buyers collect reminders of the time by looking for memorabilia from countries involved in the conflict
- World War II memorabilia (1939 to 1945): Popular collectibles include edged weapons, artillery gear, medals, paper documents, maps, and field gear.
- Vietnam War memorabilia (1961 to 1975): Popular collectibles include patches, medals, field gear, uniforms and oxygen masks
- Desert Storm memorabilia (1990 to 1991): Rare commemorative items, such as trading cards from the first Gulf War, edged weapons and oxygen masks are the most sought after
Online marketplaces have many restrictions that apply to military collectibles.
These items are not allowed:
- Any type of gun regardless of their ability to fire
- Live ammunition or ammunition that can be made live
- Helmets and other items bearing Nazi or SS symbols (swastikas, etc.)
These items are allowed:
- Grenades and mines that contain inert materials and cannot be converted back into live ammunition (e.g., “trench art” flower vases made from mortar shells).
- German WWII memorabilia that does not bear Nazi or SS markings
- German coins and postage stamps from WWII, regardless of markings
- Books, magazines, newspapers, videos and photos about Nazi Germany during WWII (war documentaries, Mein Kampf, etc.)
- Pocket knives, swords and bayonets
The following websites can help you identify and date your items:
All wars: http://www.militaryitems.com/
Civil War collectibles price guide: http://www.valuetrac.com/
Sword terminology and appraisals: http://www.historicalweapons.com/
Military relics that were used in battle might have a lot of damage; even those that weren’t used might have deteriorated with age, so carefully inspect all items for the following:
- Dents, dings and scratches
- Dirt, grease and oil
- Rusted metal parts
- Broken or missing parts
- Rips, tears, stains and moth holes in uniforms
- Odors, mold and mildew
Include these details in your listing:
- Name of the war, battle or specific event (“WWII” for World War II, etc.)
- Country and service branch
- Name of owner (if it appears on the item)
- Insignia (patches, pins, etc.)
- Item description
- Age (if known)
Store items in a well-ventilated room, away from children, pets, smoke and cooking odors. Never place an item in direct sunlight; cover it with a sheet or better yet, keep the windows covered. Don’t place an item next to heating vents or air conditioners, either, since temperature/humidity changes can cause damage.
If an item includes a case, place the item in the case, pack the case in bubble wrap and place it into a bed of packing peanuts for shipment.
The size and delicacy of a collectible can require special shipping. It’s best to determine the shipping method in advance and to include an estimate of the total shipping cost in your listing.