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- Medal collecting
- Medal Collecting - Part 3: How I got started
- By Roy Bassett
Experienced collectors in any field will tell you errors
in judgment can be costly and time consuming. Beginners can avoid
the early pitfalls with research and by listening to veteran
collectors and learning from their mistakes.
- We all start somewhere as serious collectors - that initial
decision to focus your hunt on a particular field of collectibles.
It can be as a youth keen on collecting stamps, coins, comics,
sports cards, marbles etc., or in later years.
- This is my story and it spans six decades, from childhood
in Great Britain to adulthood in Canada, with thoroughly challenging
and rewarding collecting experiences along the way.
- I believe I have always been a collector of one thing or
another, but it wasn't until the 1960's that I became a serious
collector of anything. My first interest was in postage stamps,
specializing in Canada, Great Britain and the United Nations.
- I soon had a modest number of stamps in my collection and
it was fun to find those difficult ones to complete a set or
year. Soon after this, I started to collect coins, mostly Canadian
and it was during a search of Toronto shops that I met Edward
Denby, who ran a medals store.
- We became friends and Ed never tired of talking about medals.
Over a period of time, he educated me in many aspects of medal
collecting. When I learned most British medals were named and
it was possible to research medals and recipients, I decided
I was to become a medal collector.
- (Ed Denby was a captain in the Parachute Regiment during
WW2, but rarely spoke about his experiences during that conflict.
One memory he couldn't erase was being the first British officer
to enter through the gates of the Belsen Concentration Camp in
- I did make the mistake at first
by just collecting any medal I liked, but soon wised up and specialized
in medals, first those awarded to the 9th Queens Royal Lancers
(see medals photo), and later police and Masonic medals.
- I purchased my first group to the 9th Lancers from John
Laidacker of Pennsylvania, and this was the start of a friendship,
which lasted until his death some 20 years later. The group I
purchased was the 1914 Star, War medal and the Victory medal
and by this time, after reading many books and regimental histories,
I realized the recipient of this medal had actually been involved
in the last battle fought on horseback and with lances against
a German Cavalry Regiment in WW1.
- Collecting medals became my main hobby and I cut back on
the stamps and coins. However, any stamp I came across which
portrayed a military, police or Masonic subject, I added to my
collection. (In 2006, I added Canadian and British coins commemorating
the anniversary of the Victoria Cross.)
- I joined several Military Collectors Clubs and attended at
least one medal show each month. The shows increased my knowledge
of medals and introduced me to dealers I thought always acted
fairly. I knew the ones I dealt with would stand by the authenticity
of medals they sold.
- It was through the monthly club magazines that I read of
dealers from Canada, Britain and the United States and gradually,
over the years, I received their catalogues or medals lists and
was able to add to my 9th Lancer collection. I also attended
auctions, but only bought if the auctioneer would certify that
the medal I was interested in was genuine.
- Within several years, I finally achieved my goal of obtaining
a 9th Lancer medal for each of the campaigns they had fought
- Over the years, I have learned to only completely trust dealers
who will give a guarantee that your purchase is genuine and if
found not to be, will provide an exchange or refund.
- I have also learned a serious collector of medals can never
get too much information from books and conversations with knowledgeable
collectors. I have also learned how to identify genuine medals
within reason, but I also know it is possible that I could still
be fooled by a very clever fake or copy.
- You must always remember that most medals groups tend to
be very expensive and this attracts unscrupulous people trying
to get your hard earned money. So set your budget and do not
rush into any deal. Do your research before buying.
- The research can include books and the Internet. My main
interest being British medals, my book selection deals mainly
with British medals.
- At the top of my book list is British Battles and Medals,
by Major Lawrence L. Gordon, published by Spink and Sons,
London. Several editions have been printed. I consider this book
to be the bible for British medals researchers.
- (By reading the appropriate sections of British Battles and
Medals, you can confirm the 9th Lancers, my regiment, were at
battles which entitled the recipient to the medals and bars in
the photo above. Medals in the photograph are named to William
Betts - 9th Lancers and span several years of fighting on horseback.
The left medal in 1848 and 1849 and the one on the right, 1857
and 1858. In those days, soldiers wore their medals most of the
time and in fighting on horseback, they would bounce around hitting
each other causing edge nicks and bruises. The wear is another
clue in authenticating the medals. The book will tell you the
9th Lancers were the only British Regiment to earn the three
bars on the Indian Mutiny Medal (the one on the right.)
I would also recommend Medal Yearbook, published by Token Publishing
Ltd., the editorial team of Medal News; The Medals Yearbook,
printed and published by Cadet's Own magazine and Spink's Standard
Catalogue of British Orders, Decorations and Medals, published
by Spink and Sons Ltd, London.
You may find one or all of these books at your local library,
or, search the following web pages: www.militarybookworm.co.uk
- To compare prices for British medals, try www.medalsonline.co.uk
- Medals clubs you can join include the Orders and Medals Research
Society at www.omrs.org.uk
and the Military Collectors' Club of Canada. John A. Zabarylo,
secretary-treasurer of the latter, can be reached by at firstname.lastname@example.org
for information on joining the club.
I cannot stress the importance of learning all you can about
medals before you purchase the more expensive ones. "Buyer
beware" is very true in this hobby, so do a lot of talking
and reading before you buy.
- You have my e-mail address; write
me if you have any questions or concerns.
- Roy Bassett is a veteran of the British army (1950s) and
a retired Toronto policeman. He can be reached at email@example.com
- This photo of Roy in uniform was taken in 1956 in Weymouth,
England, when he Roy was a member of the Dorset Constabulary.
He emigrated to Canada and joined the Toronto police force the
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