Bayonet collecting is a specialized area of military collecting that suites many novice and entry level collectors who may not have the funds to afford sword collections. This is not to consider bayonet collecting as anything lesser, in fact bayonets can command extremely high premiums and some of the rarer blades may cost several fold more than even a sword. Luckily though, bayonet collecting may begin with very little investment and cost and yet accumulate an impressive collection of finely made edged weapons.
Bayonets are edged weapons that are placed on the barrel of a rifle or musket to defend a soldier. Original bayonets were 'plug' bayonets that resembled knives placed within the barrel. By the time of Napoleon though, bayonets evolved into a long spike that attached to the barrel by a socket ring. These bayonets often defended against cavalry but also could be used for 'bayonet charges'. During the mid to late 19th century bayonets evolved into many various styles. While some countries remained with the trusty socket bayonet others utilized a sword bayonet or yataghan which had a long curved blade. Pioneer and specialized troops may have received saw back bayonets or thick bladed variants for chopping. By WWI though many countries began evolving their bayonets into short utility like knives.
Bayonets from WWII are extremely common and well sought after. Entry level bayonets may cost a few dollars or pounds but well made examples, rare bayonets or ones with rare makers, markings, unit marks or matching serial numbers on the bayonet and scabbard do usually cost more. It is also important to inspect bayonets closely to ensure the markings and characteristics are authentic. Sometimes to increase 'value' very cheap bayonets are altered by adding saw blades or fake marks such as German WWII unit marks or important military dates (such as D-Day 1944) to attempt to increase their value.
Bayonet costs remain largely set by the availability and rarity of a blade as well as the country issuing it and how well made it is. Bayonets usually hold value and rarely would depreciate. It is important to care for them, but properly with some gun oil and/or grease and very light cleaning. Bayonet blades are also often dull, they were made as penetrating and not cutting items as thus sharpened bayonets are often altered afterwards... no not sharpen your bayonet collection as this damaged the original value!
The internet is also full of many very good clubs, societies, dealers and information sites where experts may lend advice. There are international groups such as the Bayonet collectors Network who are willing to assist collectors in gaining knowledge about their collections and network with others. So happy collecting!
Bayonet Collecting, a primer
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13 January 2007
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