Nothing seems so
desirable in our medal collectors world than those pilots
badges - those Imperial German flight badges. Aren't they
symbols of WWI knightly hood, those brave pilots in their
propeller planes fighting over Europe's blue sky. Those heroes
were certainly the early celebrities during those years. Very
visible against the sky, very visible among those looking for
examples of heroism. Always in the limelight of the war
theater, almost all decorated with the
Pour le Mérite. Having
most desired positions and decorations of the 1st World War.
No wonder, that
these insignias find their way into the collections of all
serious and enthusiastic medal collectors. These badges with
all their symbolism are indeed beautiful, yet falsified in
large numbers. Compared to those simply poured fakes, using
multiple low melting metals, the real piece is quite ornate
and made of the highest quality. There are nevertheless quite
tricky to spot pieces using quite refined techniques like
electroforming. Having lived in Wuppertal, Germany, for
some time of my life I had the "honor" of meeting the master
in this field. Besides plaques for spike helmets he also was
quite talented in generating those desired Imperial German
At this point two
questions have to be raised:
a) what to
consider a real piece in terms of the timeframe it was made ?
b) how to
determine if a piece belongs to that defined time period ?
For once, I
decided for myself to collect everything but the German WWII
or WWI badges and am very much convinced, that there much
better experts then I am to be able to judge over these
I still would like
to comment on this topic very briefly.
a) I believe, that
badges have naturally been made before 1918. I also believe,
that due to the high profile of those brave men, badges could
still be bought after 1918 all the way into the 2nd World War.
A lot of those pilot badges must have been made during the
time of the III.Reich. The question remains: What to consider
a real piece in terms of the timeframe it was made ?
Question b) is
therefore even harder to answer. Some facts are nevertheless
certain. Poured piece are very likely fake. Electroformed
pieces are definitely fakes. As I mentioned earlier, I once
met one of those making electroformed badges. The key here is,
that he used a cooper salt to form them. After silver plating
and aging them, it is quite hard to determine them to be fake.
Scratching the badge will work, but also the direct comparison
of a piece in question with a "known" to be real piece. An
electroplated piece is only as good as its form it was made
I my opinion it
still is best to buy those badges from a real expert, or
directly as a whole group from the family of one of those
heroes. Like this one:
or this one, attributed to Ernst Kempfer:
or this one without name, despite being
bought from the original family :
I like to hand
over this topic to Robert Pandis, who devoted several years of
his collecting career to this interesting topic.
of Imperial German Flight Badges
© A. Schulze