Where to Look – Seeking Militaria in all the Right Places

Metal Insignia

Looking for a metal insignia device to fill a missing gap in your shadow box or a hole in your collection? This table had a decent array of insignia to choose from.

When one makes a decision to write about a particular subject, shedding light on what (for many people) is entirely foreign, the door is flung wide open for that person to be the recipient of all manner of questions and comments. Writing about militaria certainly does not provide any immunity from an inquisitive public. I know that there are some writers who feel bothered or even put-off by unsolicited questions or simply do not have the time to respond to them on an individual basis. In my situation, I encourage folks to ask questions or even challenge me with contradicting questions. It is how we all learn.

Cap and Leggings.

“Only” $40 for this M41 HBT cap with the vintage EGA device. Both the leggings and the cap are well worn and would look great on a Pacific Theater USMC display.

One of the most common questions I get asked on this blog and my previous one (on CollectorsQuest) is about how to source militaria. When I began my venture into collecting military artifacts, my interest was born out of a desire to research my ancestral military history. I had recently inherited a rather large archive of items from one of my grand uncles who served in three wars. As I was already known for my interest in military history, I was the obvious choice to receive the bounty. In my pursuit of understanding what the different elements were and how they pertained to my uncle’s service, I embarked on a quest that involved research work that included trips to the library and several requests to the National Archives. In addition, I sought input from militaria collectors. Through that effort, I found that the collection of items had many holes (missing artifacts) that I wanted to obtain in order to assemble a more complete display.


This Riker case was filled with USMC shoulder sleeve insignia. Though most were fairly common, the prices seemed reasonable for a new collector just getting started with WWII Marines patches.

Trying to locate unit patches, insignia and other items from units that were decommissioned 80-90 years ago is a daunting task, to say the least. For many of the folks who contact me for input in finding pieces for their own display, they are in the dark when it comes to searching for the most common pieces. Not knowing where to begin their search is seemingly the most difficult aspect. I suppose that there are fears of being duped by unscrupulous sellers weighs on their minds. Being concerned about the veracity of the authenticity of a piece is well-placed, however if one is not educated on what to look for, being taken is a reality.

Pursuing pieces to fill the empty spaces of your collection doesn’t mean that you have to rely solely upon online auctions. One of my favorite militaria buying options is at a collectors show. In my region, military antiques shows are infrequent events so I have to make sure my calendar is clear to allow for my attendance. If I am empty-handed after spending a few hours viewing the vendors’ tables, I can take the time to network in order to establish contacts who might be willing to help me locate what I am seeking. Just viewing the display cases and getting my hands on military antiques is worth the trip. Try doing that in a museum! One of the benefits of attending a show is that one is surrounded by collectors who are moving around throughout the show. It might be easy to dupe a novice in a one-on-one situation (such as in an antiques shop) but it is difficult for an unscrupulous dealer to pull the wool over the eyes of several people standing at the table.

Chester Nimitz Autograph

Being an autograph collector, I’d love the idea of owning one from Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. This personalized photo of the mastermind of the Pacific was listed for $150.00 (negotiable).

A few weeks ago, I attended a show (at the Olympic Flight Museum in Olympia, WA) in hopes that I could find a few pieces for a shadow box that I am assembling for a family member. I went into the show with a small shopping list and a few bucks in my pocket and managed to find one item that I needed (and a few pieces that I couldn’t live without). A partial success is better than none at all.

WWII Gunner's Mate 3/c

The item I was seeking: a Gunner’s Mate 3/c rating badge from WWII for a man who served aboard the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) and was a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack. The eagle’s beak faces the left shoulder as this was worn on the right sleeve (along with all of the Seaman Branch ratings).

Posted on March 21, 2014, in General Militaria Collecting, Headwear | Helmets, Rates and Ranks, Shoulder Sleeve Insignia and Patches, Uniforms, US Navy, World War II and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Some good advice, sir. Yes, I’ve always had doubt in the back of my mind when buying something related to WWII. luckily, the several items I purchased were legit…although I am unsure of the price.

  1. Pingback: Are the Best Sources of Militaria are Online? | The Veteran's Collection

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