How to Buy World War I Medals

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How to Buy World War I Medals

World War I was the first major conflict of the century where medals were roundly awarded to anyone that took part and are the most prevalent pieces of memorabilia still widely available.

The following guide explains the reasoning behind medals, what World War I medals look like and how to buy them safely and securely using eBay.

Why Were Medals Awarded in World War I?

  • The government handed out medals to those that took part in World War I in order to reward them.
  • Medals have been handed out to participants in a number of conflicts since the 19th Century and World War I saw the most medals handed out of any conflict.

Types of World War I Medal

When buying World War I medals it’s important to first decide on which medal it is that is required. World War I saw four main types of medal handed out to soldiers with a different reason for each. Recipients of the medals were given them in groups, usually of three, with two of the medals always given out together.


The table below gives the name of the medal, which soldiers were eligible to receive it, with more details alongside:

Medal

Eligibility

Characteristics

1914 Star

Must have served in France or Belgium between 5 August 1914 and 22/23 November 1914.

  • Bright bronze star with four points, a height of 50mm and a maximum width of 45mm.
  • Approved in 1917 and first awarded in April of the same year.
  • Design features two crossed swords pointed up.
  • Wreath of oak leaves is over the swords.
  • Royal Cypher of King George VI is at the bottom of the wreath and there’s an overlay scroll inscribed 1914 across the wreath’s middle.
  • Reverse always features an inscription unique to the soldier.
  • Inscription has recipient’s number, rank, name and unit.
  • Ribbon is the red, white and blue colour of the French tricolore.
  • Always awarded with British War Medal and Victory Medal.
  • If under fire during the period the soldier could add a clasp inscribed ‘5th AUGUST – 22nd NOVEMBER 1914’.
  • No one person could hold this and the 1914-15 Star.
  • 378,000 awarded.

1914-15 Star

Served in any ‘theatre of war’ between

5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915.

  • Bright bronze star with four points, a height of 50mm and a maximum width of 45mm.
  • Approved in 1918.
  • Design features two crossed swords pointed up.
  • Wreath of oak leaves is over the swords.
  • Royal Cypher of King George VI is at the bottom of the wreath and there’s an overlay scroll inscribed 1914-15 across the wreath’s middle.
  • Reverse always features an inscription unique to the soldier.
  • Inscription has recipient’s number, rank, name and unit.
  • Ribbon is the red, white and blue colour of the French tricolore.
  • Always awarded with British War Medal and Victory Medal.
  • 2,366,000 awarded.

British War Medal

Completed service between

5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918.

  • Circular medal that is silver and sometimes bronze.
  • Gained approval in 1919.
  • Design has King George V’s head on one side with the legend GEORGIVS V BRITT. OMN. REX ET IND. IMP. around the edge.
  • Opposite side has St. George riding naked on horseback.
  • The horse is stomping on the Prussian shield as well as skull and crossbones.
  • Ribbon is watered orange central stripe bordered by white, black and blue.
  • Awarded with the Victory medal, and either of the 1914 and 1914-15 Stars but never alone.
  • 6,500,000 awarded.

Victory Medal

Given to all Navy, Army and RAF personnel that were involved in any ‘theatre of war’ between

5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918

  • Medal that is circular in shape and lacquered in bronze.
  • Got approval in 1919 to commemorate the Allied victory.
  • Design features winged full-length figure of Victory, or Victoria, on one side. Her outstretched arm is holding a palm branch.
  • Flip side has the following inscription: THE GREAT / WAR FOR / CIVILISATION / 1914-1919.
  • Double rainbow ribbon design.
  • Oak leaf is attached to the ribbon if the soldier was “Mentioned in Dispatches” between 4 August 1914 and 10 August 1920.
  • Awarded with the British War medal, and either of the 1914 and 1914-15 Stars but never alone.
  • Upwards of 6,334,522 awarded.
  • Same award given out by other Allied Forces.

Apart from the main four medals, two other lesser-known medals were handed out.

The following table looks at those and explains how and why they were awarded.

Medal

Eligibility

Characteristics

Mercantile Marine War Medal

If a soldier received the British War Medal and could then prove they took a voyage by sea that passed through a danger zone they received one of these.

  • Circular bronze medal.
  • First awarded in 1919 and given out by the Board of Trade of the UK.
  • King George V’s head on one side with the legend GEORGIVS V BRITT. OMN. REX ET IND. IMP. on the edge.
  • Other side features a merchant ship in stormy seas, a submarine, and a sailing boat. There is a wreath around its edge.
  • On the base of the reverse it reads: FOR * WAR * SERVICE / MERCANTILE MARINE / * 1914 - 1918 *.
  • Half red, half green ribbon with a thin middle stripe

Territorial Force War Medal

Any member of the British Territorial Force and Force Nursing Services that served overseas.

  • Circular bronze medal with straight bar suspender.
  • Granted approval in April 1920.
  • King George V’s head features on one side with the legend GEORGIVS V BRITT. OMN. REX ET IND. IMP. circling it.
  • Other side comprises a wreath with the following motto across the middle: FOR / VOLUNTARY / SERVICE / OVERSEAS / 1914-19
  • Reverse side has the following around the edge: TERRITORIAL WAR MEDAL.
  • Ribbon is yellow with two smaller green stripes an equal distance apart.
  • No one that holds the 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star qualifies for the award.
  • Only 33,944 handed out and thus it’s the rarest.

Condition of World War I Medals

  • Such is the age of war memorabilia, it’s important to check the condition of the item being bought before finalising a purchase.
  • Buyers must make sure of the exact condition of the medal and confirm its authenticity by asking for close up photos of it.
  • It’s also critical to make sure any inscriptions or clasps are authentic and haven’t been added later.

How to Buy a World War I Medal from eBay

  • eBay is awash with thousands of items of World War I memorabilia and it means there being a large number of extremely knowledgeable sellers available to help you through the buying process. Medals are the most popular type of World War I memorabilia that can be bought and the advice that is imparted on medals is the best.
  • To locate World War I Medals on eBay go to the category titled Collectables. From there scroll down to the Militaria sub-category and from the options following it click More. That brings up an expanded level of options and World War I (1914-1918) will be one of them.
  • By clicking on that, it will take the buyer onto a list of items. Focus on the options on the left hand side and under Type click on the box next to Medals & Ribbons and it will bring up all the World War I medals on eBay.
  • Searching for World War I medals on eBay can be made easier using the search option that exists. To look by using this simply type in the search terms into the box at the top of any eBay page.
  • If at any time buyers are unsure about the item in front them, the Ask the Seller is there to help clarify even the smallest of details. Further help is available by clicking on the Buying Tips section of eBay.
  • When the buyer is ready to complete a transaction either Bid, click the Buy it Now button or place your Best Offer.

Safety Considerations When Buying

  • World War I Memorabilia being purchased on eBay should be subject to a lot more scrutiny than many other items due to its nature and the history attached to it.
  • The item description must be checked thoroughly and anything the buyer is unsure about must be clarified with the seller before making a bid.
  • The seller’s transaction history will help the buyer to learn more about sellers as it gives them a timeline of the seller’s entire history on the site. It’s here that buyers can flag up any transactions in the past that have been troublesome and use the Ask the Seller feature to find out more.

Conclusion

World War I medals are the most popular pieces of memorabilia that can be bought to remember those that fought in the conflict. Before buying one using eBay, there are a few pertinent questions that need to be answered, which are:

  • Which class of medal are you looking to buy?
  • Have you carried out the necessary checks to ensure authenticity?
  • Is the condition acceptable?

These questions should in no way limit you and the final decision is always down to you, the buyer.

Once the all-important decision has been made, remember to utilise PayPal to ensure the transaction goes through smoothly.

 
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