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By Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski

On the Polish collectors militaria market today we can find up to 90% of items to be fake or

There are several reasons for this state of affairs which is unknown by an average Polish militaria collector.  The first reason is that Polish militaria, especially decorations such as orders, crosses,
medals, insignia and regimental badges were rarely awarded and had to be earned.  The next reason is that Polish decorations if awarded, were awarded in hundreds and thousands, not in millions such as American, Japanese and German.  Award statistics shown in my books and articles indicate that military and civilian Polish awards in contrast to the number of soldiers served and conflicts engaged in during the last two hundred years is very small.  Another reason was that the number produced was government controlled.  It was a federal crime to sell or buy or hold Polish national decorations to which a person was not entitled.  So collecting militaria in Poland before WWII was an unknown and a prohibited hobby.  In addition, regulations established by the Polish General Staff even today, establishes specific criteria and limitations as to who receives the decorations, how long one must serve and for what specific actions or service he/she performed in combat or in peace time service.  Automatic awarding of regimental badges upon joining a regiment is unheard of in Polish military history.  Most regimental regulations required 3 years of perfect military service or 3 month in combat before a regimental badge was awarded which is unlike in American regiments were one can place a patch or a badge upon being assigned to a new regiment.  So for all practical purposes, the regimental badge is an honor for long and faithful service such as our American Good Conduct Medal.  Simply put, Polish decorations are being copied because its impossible to obtain originals at any price and it motivates jewelers to profit by making copies to meet the demand from collectors, veterans and their families.

Polish military and civilian decorations from 1705 to 1831 are impossible to obtain at any price.  They can be found in a few Polish museums.  Collectors being approached with a decoration from this era should very carefully check their origin and authenticity before paying thousands of dollars.   The era 1914-1939 still represents a potential of obtaining a few originals for your collection, but in very limited supply at very high prices.  Don't count on getting an original Virtuti Militari or a regimental badge for $100.  An original pre-VM even in the 5th class is worth at least $1,500 if
you can find it. Since only 9,999 were ever officially made and awarded about half have been lost or destroyed, what makes you think that yours is an original?  The same for regimental badges.
Some Polish pre WWII regiments came in existence 5-10 years before the outbreak of WWII and only 50-100 badges were awarded. You just got one of these for $25 from reputable dealers at the local gun show?  Get real.

Last year I bought a White Eagle circa 1705 from a very reputable antique dealer in Texas who
guaranteed it was an original for $2,000 and upon its arrival I found it to be a fake which was sold last year at the Warsaw flies market for $200.  To this day he has not returned my money.  Entrepreneurs are now beating numbers into Panasiuks copies and selling VM as originals.
One dealer even went so far as to take a number from my book of a Polish general and placed a number not on the lower reverse arm, but the upper arm and he took placed a O zero in front of a two digit number.  I used zeros before the number to help my computer sort the VM numbers for publication; the joke is on the enterprising dealer because there were never any zeros in front of original numbered VM’s.  The poor buyer will find out very soon that he has been had.  Another instance were an American general of Polish heritage proudly showed me what he thought was an original pre WWII VM 5th class for which he paid a dealer $500. He was very angry when I told him that it was a Pansiuk’s recent copy worth no more then $100.  Another example of this unethical behavior of dealers is a young collector from the northeast.  He mailed his regimental badge collection for me to view.  It was lot 150 badges for which he paid more then $100 each and were sold to him as originals.  All but 5 badges were fakes.  To this day the dealer has not returned his money.  It is sad to know that thousands of Polish militaria collectors have never even seen an original Polish regimental badge.

The WWII era 1940-1946 represents another interesting collecting area of specialization.
Polish decorations were made during that time and after for this era in England, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Poland, France, Italy and Tel Aviv, Jerusalem then called Palestine.  The Polish forces fought or were stationed in each of these countries.  In addition, some regiments made decorations in their own machine shops because it's was almost impossible to get one in the field for months.
The availability of original militaria is getting very hard to come by because some of these veterans are still alive and their families are holding on to these precious family treasures.  So you get a badge at the gun show of an original 303 Polish Fighter Squadron for $50 and a original Polish Combat WWII Para Jump wing for another $35?  I guarantee you that these are fakes.

Polish Peoples Republic era 1943 to 1990.  This controversial era of Polish history represents another interesting collector's area of specialization.  The prices for these decorations are
ridiculously low at the present time.  In about 5 years, their prices will be just as high as the WWII era for many reasons. Collecting this era has greatly increased in Poland because millions of Poles are convinced now since they had a good taste of the market system, their past peoples republic was not that bad after all.  It is harder to find these decorations in Poland then outside of Poland which command a relative high price.  A Moscow made Virtuti Militari now costs $500 and an original Order of Builder of Poland sells for $250. Some of these decorations were only award in several hundreds and fakes have not become economically feasible for jewelers to start production. I fear that not too long and we will have an avalanche of fake communist items on the market.  This is the time to buy these items.  Remember that original communist era Polish decorations were also a controlled production items made by then the Warsaw State Mint and not by the local jeweler.



April 2001
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