Friday, June 24, 2011

British Cap Badges – Additional Guidance in Identifying Restrikes and Counterfeits

The following compilation of additional information is presented with acknowledgment to the membership of the British and Commonwealth Military Badge Forum. Membership in the forum is strongly recommended for advanced collector to neophyte alike. Here is an example of the detailed forensic guidance that can be found on their web site. The forum has an extensive file of high resolution photographs of a wide range of both cap badges and cloth insignia. Another outstanding forum with the same scope and depth of British and Commonwealth subject matter (particularly elite forces insignia) is surprisingly, Wehrmacht - (See British and Commonwealth Militaria Section). Both are listed in this blog’s links.

Although lacking in clarity the badges shown in the following photograph should be sufficiently clear to allow the collector to at least identify the regiment. Every badge shown is a restrike. If the badge you are trying to evaluate is amongst those shown, extra caution is certainly advised. As previously discussed on other pages of this blog, and as can be seen in this photograph (first six badges), the Highland Regiments of the British Army are a very popular subject for reproduction. (Click on image to enlarge.)

A display of the range of identified restrikes of
British Regimental Cap Badges

The following discussion is attributed to a member of the British & Commonwealth Badge Forum, who is both acknowledged and thanked.

'There are a number of things that the back of a badge reveals. The fasteners are one major indicator. The type of lug, slider, tangs, (blades in UK terms), etc are important. Flat lugs vs wire lugs tell a story. Maker marked vs plain sliders tell something, length and shape of the sliders, material the slider is made from, etc. Many of these characteristics are specific to a time period, a production method, or a particular maker. The reverse reveals other information. The back may reveal if the badge was cast or stamped, the type of material used may be visible (brass, white metal, precious metals, etc.), the position or location the fasteners were attached at, or details of the stamping / casting not visible on the face.

The first thing that I look for on the reverse of a badge is the definition of the strike; many fake badges have poor reverse definition.

As for lugs, I have seen and there are many variations in size, shape and material to be considered. I have noted that prior to pictorial evidence being uncovered that footed lugs were in the main shunned, however the modern mass produced footed lugs are pretty easy to spot.

That said I have original issued naval badges with such lugs.

Also new copper tends to be a lot brighter/pinker than that of any age, although in my opinion caution has to be exercised if a badge has been chemically dipped as new residues can be apparent.

On plated badges I would usually expect either lugs or slider to show signs of the plating as well.

I have badges in my collection that I know to have been re-lugged and on one or two the workmanship is iffy, on others that I have you would be very hard pushed to tell that they had been repaired. It suffices to say that a re-lugged/repaired genuine original cap badge is far superior to a reproduction.

Sliders are another minefield with many variations, for WW1 period badges I look for an authentic crimp mark as some indication of an original badge and also the degree of taper evident as well as the shape of the end, I look for some degree of uniformity here.

Sliders that have a wide top often arouse doubt if they are not maker marked and I also look at the gauge of metal used and have noted that on many new or fake metal badges although the gauge seems correct the metal used is very soft and pliable.

There are badges such as the Tower Hamlets Rifles where a long slider is expected in general terms but attention must be paid to the position of the fixing as often all is not what it seems.

Obviously the above statement is far from exhaustive but I hope it explains to some degree why the back of the badge is important.

To be honest I have in the past been so excited to have my hands on a particular badge that I have handed over my hard earned without so much as a glance at the back, luckily for me I have had the good fortune to have been stood at the table of one of the good guys on the occasion though he may have despaired at my lack of thoroughness and my un-questioning trust.'

Let's look now at two specific examples of British cap badges that have been widely copied.

In World War I one of the specialized units of the Royal Navy was the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) Armoured Car Squadron. Although frequently miss-identified (and collected) as a cap badge, the personnel wore distinctive collar dogs. The rarity of genuine surviving examples of these badges immediately makes them a prime target for reproduction. Short of holding a copy in one hand, and the genuine badge in the other, the following are reasonably high resolution photographs of the front and back of each for close comparison. Unfortunately there are better reproductions than this, so extreme care should be exercised with this badge. 

Front of an identified copy of a WWI RNAS
Armoured Car Squadron badge 

Back of the same copy; Note both the lack of
definition in the die strike and the spacing of the lugs

Front of an identified original of a WWI RNAS
Armoured Car badge; Note the fuller font and the
spacing of the periods between letters
Back of the same original badge; Note the
clarity of the die strike and the difference in
the spacing of the lugs indicative of a collar dog

Genuine examples of the second badge are at least as rare. It is the distinctive badge wore by commanding officers and ‘officers of the day’ of 21 SAS Artist Rifles on the black leather cross (‘cartridge’) pouch belt of the No.1 Dress Uniform. As such it was at least sterling silver (probably hallmarked) and had two screw posts in N-S orientation. As would be expected there are not that many photographs available of personnel in this uniform. The badge is classified by collectors as unobtainable. Apparently for a period of time a white metal die struck version (Queen’s Crown) with lugs, not screw posts, in a E-W orientation was available for sale to serving personnel in the PRI (regimental kit shop). This badge is as close as you can come to an original. Suffices to say that even these 'semi-official' replicas have been counterfeited, as can be seen below. One assessment of the differences is as follows:

Semi-Official badge characteristics:
• Rear side is smooth throughout, i.e. no ‘orange peel’ or matt type surfaces.
• Front side matt surface between wording & ‘gods’, is even thro’ out.
• Rear side of badge to, ‘21 over SAS’: no horizontal lines/striations, i.e. smooth surface.
• 2 copper lugs are brazed with a fillet of solder. Copy shown has no fillet.
• The wording on the badge, i.e. ARTISTS CVM MARTE MINERVA has crisper definition.
• The position of the lugs is different, i.e. further down on the badge.
• Bottom stems of laurel wreath are both present and well defined.
• Overall appearance of white metal different from 'sheen' evident in copy.

Front of 'Semi-official' 21 SAS Artist Rifles
cross belt badge; Note consistency of
pebbling on surface of oval area
Back of same badge; Note absence of striations
around the lettering '21SAS'
Front of copy of 21 SAS Artists Rifles cross
belt badge; Note almost anodized appearance
of the badge
Back of same copy badge; Note striations
around the lettering '21SAS'


Mary Bradshaw said...

Here is a blog my husband wrote a long time ago. It is the criteria he used for acquiring military cap badges.Collectors and dealers may not agree with him but it is the method he stuck to. The detail on the reverse of the badge had to be as good as the detail on the obverse.Loops had to look as if they were growing out of the back of the badge. If the loops had feet ( Only applies to English badges.) he left it alone. Brass is a very soft alloy but over time gets very brittle with age. If a slider was anywhere near soft he left it alone.Any other characteristics he used his experience and military dealers who were honest and knew their stuff.He also believed that Glengarry badges of 1874 to 1881 had to have brass or steel lugs. Any with copper lugs he considered copies. He never deviated from this criteria.

Arnhemjim said...

Hello Mary,
My sincere thanks to you for taking both the time and effort to reiterate your husband's guidance. It is very sound and accurate advice, and most appreciated.
Best regards,
Arnhem Jim

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