If you invest regularly or even semi-regularly, you might know that “collectables” are a good way to hedge against inflation. When one thinks about these collectables, it is easy to thin about the more common things as the obvious place to invest money: antiques; stamps; coins; paintings; and so on. However, something that very few investors think of is militaria.
So, what is militaria? In general, the term refers to any form of military collectable. This would include weapons, clothing, medals, badges, insignia, field gear, etc. Effectively, militaria is anything of military provenance that people collect.
Whilst militaria can come from various nations and historical era, the most popular era is World War II, making militaria from countries such as the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Japan and France among the most popular.
Some clear aspects determine a military collectable's potential to increase in value. While the condition is vital, the conflict or war itself is also equally as important, as historians and collectors are more interested in certain wars than others.
For example, there are tens of thousands of WWII antiques for sale on the internet, but just a handful of Korean War relics. This is because WWII militaria has been and will likely remain in higher demand than Korean War militaria. Whilst the investor in you may think that higher supply = less demand, this is not the case for militaria. In fact, the value of WWII collectables is ever-growing. Even historically low-priced and ignored WWII antiques are suddenly commanding high prices, previously reserved for the finest guns and armour, that could only be purchased through top-tier auction houses.
This would suggest that now could be a perfect time to invest in militaria. Whilst no investment market is completely predictable, it would appear that if the right collectable is bought, a 5-10% return might not be unrealistic.
A group of militaria and medallions comprising a group of military cap badges and sweetheart brooches, a reproduction Victory of the Nile medallion, a hand-coloured atlas and a collection of flower society medallions. Sold at Dawsons for £220.
Unfortunately, due to the increased value of collectables, the quantity and quality of fakes and imitation products has also increased. Spending a lot of money on one of them as an investment could be devastating, so always be sure to take great care when investing in militaria. Here are some tips for an investor who may be unfamiliar with investing:
As mentioned above, like any investment, militaria investing involves risks - values can fall just as much as they rise. Understanding categories of militaria that will continue to be an investment needs expertise, understanding, and a dash of common sense. Some people collect primarily for investment purposes, while others collect for fun. It is important that you do both to balance the risk. If your investment does not pay off, you will still have the joy of owning a piece of history. That being said, here are some of our recommendations for militaria investments throughout 2022:
The rate at which M-1 helmet prices have climbed in the collecting market is astonishing. The modest M-1 helmet has become something of an icon, aided by Hollywood films and television serialisations. For years, the M-1 was put in the surplus bin at every militaria show, but today collectors have rediscovered it, and as a result, prices are rising. A basic M-1 with fixed chinstrap loops and a Hawley pattern lining, formerly considered pricey at £25, may now cost upwards of £250. However, be wary of forgery, as it is easy for people to add their own touches to basic helmets.
A group of militaria and medals comprising a group of WWI medals and WWII medals, a female MBE medal, a silver pocket watch and pocket compasses, and a silver cigarette box engraved from HMS Meynell 1941. Sold at Dawsons for £220.
Veterans from Vietnam are now in their 60s and 70s, and their children are in their 30s and 40s. The majority of militaria collectors are between the ages of 40 and 50 and have disposable income. These therefore make for ideal conditions for instilling a nostalgic desire to acquire Vietnam War memorabilia. Uniforms and insignia that were worn and/or made "in country" as opposed to "as issued in the United States" are the most sought after. However, because such non-regulation artefacts are very easy to forge, new collectors should exercise extreme caution before purchasing. Buying from a reputable auction house and doing your homework is essential for purchasing an original rather than a current replica. Always remember: buyer beware!
Groupings of uniforms, medals, and personal items such as pictures, letters, and dog tags, like many WWII antiques, had previously gone under the radar. However, with a strong sense of nostalgia surrounding WWII and the increasing value in the market in general, groupings of artefacts representing an individual's participation and military career are dramatically increasing in price. If the individual served in a combat unit or an elite regiment, the grouping is likely to fetch a premium price.
So, now that you've learned our top three suggested militaria investments for 2022, where should you go next? Explore previous militaria that went under the hammer at Dawsons auctions to see what treasures you might find, and what might be worth investing in.
The expert team of Valuers at Dawsons would be happy to help should you own any war medals.
Please do get in touch if you have any militaria that you would like to have valued with a view to selling at auction, especially war medals or other militaria.
We would love to hear from you.
Call us: 0207 431 9445 or get in touch via email: email@example.com
Call us: 0207 431 9445 or get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.