Collecting Tips

NOTES:       This page describes variants of Polish medals in general terms.  Exceptions to these
                     guidelines can occur.  Diagrams follow the text.

                     Copies can exhibit the same characteristics as an original does, including hallmarks
                     and numbering.  This guide is not intended to be used for authentication. Please be
                     aware that there are some people out there trying to sell copies or new production
                     medals as originals.  There is always a danger, even to knowledgeable collectors,  that
                     a given medal could be a cleaver forgery.  

Virtuti Militari 
1919-1939 (RP)         Most are numbered and Hallmarked on the reverse lower arm of the
                                   cross.  All with crowned eagles.  Most with a roughly tri-angular tab on top
                                    (Fig. 1) with a small ring that the ribbon ring then goes through.  Some
                                    versions with a tube-like device (Fig. 12).  Copies are plentiful.  Many fakes
                                    have numbers and markings.  The most common replicas have an
                                    imperfection on the front, the presence of which is a certain indication
                                    of a PANASIUK manufactured replica.  It can be spotted as a slight
                                    protrusion on the 4th feather down of the wing on the right side of the eagle.
                                    Some PANASIUK replicas do not have this flaw.
                                    Look at the wording at the back.  Many copies of pre-war versions have
                                    character 'sans serif', or without the little cross marks at the base and top of
                                    letters like "A" or "I" (Fig. 2, right side.   Compare to Fig. 2 left side).

1939-1989 (RP)          Exile Crosses were made by SPINK (England) and in the Middle East and in Italy.
                                    The wreathes of most versions go in 2 directions from the bottom center,  Spink versions
                                    have a "D" loop on the top (Fig. 3) for a small ring that the suspension ring then passes
                                    through.  Some Spink versions have "Feathers" in the enamel of the Eagle.  Middle east
                                    versions have a lacquered eagle as opposed to an enamel one.  

1944-1989 (PRL)        Communist versions are without a crown on the Eagle.  They also have, for the most
                                    part, a band of metal bent around to the back as the device to accept the suspension ring
                                    directly (Fig. 4).

1990~ (III RP)             Current versions have a distinctly "Stamped" appearance to the eagle.  Crowned eagle,
                                     gilt portions look more like paint.

Polonia Restituta 
1921-1939 (RP)            Most are gold plated.  Crowned eagle.  Eagle is plain white enamel.  1918 on reverse
                                      Made by various  manufacturers including KNEDLER, which can be seen as raised
                                      letters on the reverse.  Look for Hallmarks between the arms of the cross on the side of
                                      the center of the cross (Fig. 5) on some privately purchased Crosses.  Government issued
                                      Crosses  are not Hallmarked.  Looking edge on, the arms of the cross are convex (Fig. 6).

1939-1990 (RP)             Exile versions have crowned eagle.  1918 on reverse.  Eagle often with more detail than
                                       pre-war version.   SPINK versions, sometimes in silver, have "feathers" on the eagle,
                                       showing details  in the enamel.  Later versions almost seem to have a "bubble" quality to
                                       the eagle, almost a thin convex lens appearance to the eagle.  Arms appear convex if
                                       looking edge-on.

1944-1989 (PRL)           Communist issue. A very small number have crowned eagles (first production).  Usually
                                       without crown.  1944 on reverse.  2 main variants.  Looking at the medal edge-on, the
                                       arms appear convex on earlier production, and flat on later production (Fig. 7).

Cross of Valour  Pre-war/Communist WW II Exile
1920 Crosses -               Pre War issue is usually numbered on upper reverse arm.  All the letter "A"'s have a  'v'
                                         crossbar (Fig. 8).  Tail feather of eagle extends below the talons on most versions
                                         (Fig. 10).  Good quality bronze.
                                          WW II Exile versions usually not numbered.  "A" has a straight crossbar (Fig. 9).  Tail
                                          feathers  of the eagle are even with the talons or the talons extend lower than the tail
                                          (Fig. 11)  Middle east specimens exhibit a lower quality finish that looks painted on.
                               * 1920 also appears on current III RP Crosses.

1939                                  This issue is likely a fictional creation of engravers in Poland, but some claim a few were
                                          made in 1939.  Chances are most 1939 Crosses seen now are of modern manufacture.
1940                                  This issue is very rare.  Beware of copies.

1943                                  This Communist issue is also rare, beware of copies.

1944                                   This Communist issue has several variants.  The most recent issue has a cheap looking
                                           finish on it.  Older issues have a nicer finish.

Cross of Merit 
1923-1939 (RP)                 Most Crosses have cut-outs between the arms and the rays of the cross.  Many are
                                           numbered, but later issues are often not numbered.  Center has "RP" in the wreath.
                                Privately purchased examples are often marked by the jeweler, such as
                                           Nagalski or Gontarczyk.  Original ribbons have a hook/clasp.

1939-1989 (RP)                 Exile issue came in many variants, the most important was the addition of the "Swords"
                                           device from which the medal is suspended.  Crosses without swords were still issued.
                                           The swords were added to denote an award for Military Merit in time of War (not in
                                           direct combat) or acts of bravery in perilous circumstances.
                                           Still retains "RP" center, but some no longer have cut-outs between  the
                                           rays and the arms.  SPINK is stamped on the reverse upper arm of the crosses made by
                                           that firm.  Some versions are un-marked.  Not usually numbered.  Some crosses were
                                           made in Italy by F.M. Lorioli Fratelli and others were made in the field workshops of the
                                           2nd Corps during the war.   Crosses with  Swords were sometimes issued with the
                                           Swords device copied from pre-War Independence Crosses with Swords  or even
                                           genuine pre-war devices left over from old stock.  When the Crosses were authorized
                                           in 1942, some left-over pre-war Crosses were awarded.

1944-1989 (PRL)               Communist issue Crosses have many variations.   Most  Communist issues are without
                                           cut-outs between the arms and rays of the Cross, but some do have cut-outs.
                                            Some left-over pre-war Crosses were also awarded.  Some early communist issues
                                           made in Moscow have a "Dimple" in the center of the reverse of the Cross  and have
                                           "RP".  The next variant has a concave reverse without the dimple.  It also retains "RP"
                                            on the front.  The next variant has a concave reverse, but the front now has "PRL" in
                                            the wreath.  The final Communist variant has "PRL" on the front and a flat reverse.

1990~ (III RP)                   New issues marked "RP" come in many variants, some of which look very similar to
                                           pre-war Crosses, complete with cut-outs.  Other new issues  have a concave reverse and
                                           examples without cut-outs are known.  Most new issues have lower quality finish and
                                           look distinctly "New".  Be careful that these new production Crosses are not confused
                                           with pre-war originals.



FIG. a: State Mint,  II Republic.
FIG. b: Wiktor Gontarczyk, II Republic
FIG. c.  State Mint, Warsaw, PRL

Special thanks to:  Dr. Wesolowski, Cezary, Piotr and Stefan for information used to compile this page.  If you have any information that would be useful to this page, please e-mail me: