Note:  This page is intended provide general tips.  It is not to be used to authenticate medals, badges or other items.  Remember to always conduct thorough research using more than one resource.

A considerable portion of the Polish Medals and Badges available on the market today are not originals, they are replicas of variable quality.  These replicas are usually of low value, but are often sold for more money than the cost of some originals.  Most Polish medals and Badges have been reproduced but Badges, Rare and High Decorations of the II RP and Exile Forces are the main area of activity.  Most original items of the People's Republic (PRL) are more abundant and of low cost and are not often reproduced.  

Here are some categories:

REPRODUCTION/REPLICA:  Made to look close to, but not exactly like the original.  Sometimes these are purchased by Veterans as replacements if originals are un-available.  Panasiuk and Olszewski are two of the most prolific makers of Replicas.

COPY:  Made to look exactly like and original, sometimes made by casting in a mould made from an original.  Of variable quality, often showing flaws.  Sometimes these are purchased by Veterans as replacements if originals are un-available.  When supplies of originals ran out, many Veterans had to resort to getting cast copies made of certain decorations, such as the Australian Tobruk Cross.
This qualifies some copies as legitimate items.

FAKE:   A more deliberate effort to produce an item that appears original.  Often replicas or copies are modified in some way:  Artificially aged, serial numbers added, simulated wear, fake nuts on badges replaced with real nuts, ribbons faded or replaced etc.  In some cases, entirely fictional items are created that are passed off as "rare" or "unlisted" varieties.

10 things you can do as an amateur to protect yourself:
1)   Obtain good reference material and books;
2)   Consult a knowledgeable person (expert) with a good reputation;
3)   Learn some of the tricks used so you can spot the fakes;
4)   Buy from only those you can trust and who offer refunds;
5)   Find out from several sources what a realistic price is before buying;
6)   Study carefully any originals that you do come across;
7)   Find out where the item has been all these years.  Originals have been someplace all this time;
8)   Never judge a Badge by the Nut.  Nuts are faked too;
9)   Obtain any documents that support the item;
10)  Colourful stories by sellers can be worth little, but bad items are worth even less. Be skeptical.

10 ways to help spot a fake
1) Magnets stick to iron and nickel.  If it sticks to something marked silver it isn't made of silver;
2) Old enamel on originals is of higher quality than that found on fakes;
3) Originals usually show wear and/or damage and age.  If it looks new, it probably is;
4) Numbers are usually, but not always stamped.  They are not usually engraved;
5) Cast items can show minute bubbles on the surface.  Examine with a magnifying glass;
6) Casting leaves a seam on the edge where the 2 parts of the mould met (unless ground off);
7) Expect dirt in cracks and crevices.  It should be there after all this time even if cleaned;
8) Things from the 1930's should not have 1990's materials such as epoxy or plastic;
9) If the item does not show up in reference books it is more likely fake than an unknown rarity;
10) Examine items under a black UV light (like those used by stamp collectors).  You may be surprised at what shows up- Repairs, unusual materials, stains etc.

Problem Areas:
These are just some of the problems encountered by collectors of Polish Militaria:

Virtuti Militari:  Good Replicas made by several makers with Panasiuk being one of the most common.  Official replacements produced for the Government in Exile until the late 1980's by firms like Spink.  The replacements that were being sold by Spink for around 15 pounds as late as 1998 are now being sold as WW II originals for well over $100.  Some are adding numbers to the replica/fakes, especially Panasiuk's.  Often the metal is heated to soften it so the numbers are easier to stamp into the cross.  The metal will discolour from the heat.  Recent stamping also can look recent.  Look closely at the number.  Recent stamping can show shiny metal showing through inside the numbers, along the edges.  It is not easy to clean inside the stamped numbers.  Old dirt, oxidation etc. should be there on originals.
High Decorations:  Replica Orders like the White Eagle, Polonia Restituta and Virtuti Militari are still made today and sell for very little in the Polish militaria flea markets.  Many come complete with the Star of the Order, sash or neck ribbon.  Chances are the one you saw for sale was a replica.

Rare Decorations:  Many decorations are so rare that you may never see one in your lifetime.  Replicas are made of these decorations but are sometimes passed off as originals.  Many awards of Upper Silesia, Lwow and other places are commonly reproduced.  Also many WW I and WW II medals for units that fought in France are commonly reproduced, among countless others.

Cross of Valour:  Still being officially made today, current issues (with 1920 on them) are being passed off as old originals, often with freshly applied numbers.  The 1939, 1940 and 1943 crosses found today are likely fakes or replicas.  The 1939 Cross is widely considered a fantasy item.

Cross of Merit:  Still awarded today, these crosses come in a bewildering number of variations.  Current production or fakes are sold as old originals.  Crosses with swords are being produced now and are sold as WW II era items.

Monte Cassino Cross:  Replicas and fakes are being made.  Be especially careful of those without serial numbers.  This item and many others are often faked by casting and then they are bronzed.  Look for signs of casting.  Bronze (silver and gold as well) plated items can be found by scratching the item (a small scratch in an inconspicuous place, like the edge) with a sharp pin or scriber.  If it is plated, the other metal can be seen in the scratch.

Surplus Decorations:  The Government in Exile sold off many decorations that were made, but never awarded.  Although technically originals, some are not worth that much as they were produced as late as the 1980's in fair quantities.  These late production items are often sold as WW II originals.

Un-Awarded Decorations:  Some decorations were never authorized or even awarded.  Although they can be historically interesting, many are not rare.  Included are the Cross and Medal for War Volunteers proposed by the Polish Government in 1939.  WW II prevented ANY from being awarded.  All examples are either extremely rare prototypes or very common replicas, neither of which were awarded to anybody.

Cinderellas:  Fairy tale and fictional awards were and still are being made by illegitimate organizations not recognized by any government or Veterans Group.  These are not considered Polish.

Regimental Badges:  Almost all Polish Regimental badges have been reproduced.  Anything marked Panasiuk or Olszewski are replicas.  The vast majority of badges seen for sale today are replicas or fakes.

Medal Groups:  Often made up of a combination of original, surplus or replica decorations.  Relatively common original British medals (such as the Italy Star and others) are often used to make groups with non-original Polish decorations of various types.

Ribbons:  Ribbons are often of modern manufacture, even as replacements on original decorations.
Modern materials such as viscose imitate the original silk ribbons.  Originals are often faded and damaged.  If a ribbon looks new, it probably is.

Helmets:  Often a cheap French WW I or British WW II helmet is made into a Polish one by applying various items such as painted on eagles or in some cases, badges.

Uniforms:  Just as with medals groups, original and replica components are used to make a fake uniform.  This includes using an original WW II British uniform with a combination of original, replica or fake Polish badges and insignias.

Documents:  Often documents are rarer than the medals.  Many people destroyed their documents to avoid  reprisals from the Germans, Soviets and the PRL.  Because of increasing demand, forgeries of supporting documents for Polish medals are starting to show up.  Advances with laser printers make possible some very convincing fakes.  By adding writing with a fountain pen, fakes can look fairly real.

I am working on finding consistent sources for several reference books.  I will post this information as soon as possible.

An Article on the difference between fake and real Polish badges

Dr. Zdzislaw P. Wesolowski, the author of several books and articles on Polish
militaria, will be pleased to assist in the identification of your collection.
Contact him at
Web site

Dr. Wesolowski has kindly provided this article on the problem of fakes:
Polish Fake Militaria

Originally posted 27-IV-2001.  Last updated 3-V-2001
Copyright ©2001
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