How to Protect your War Medals & Militaria from Theft

Perhaps the most significant and shameful theft within the Militaria world – of all time has occurred in New Zealand. The Army Museum in Waiouru on the North Island has fallen victim to what can only be described as a “target specific” and “professional” operation which saw these unscrupulous thieves escape with 9 Victoria Crosses and other valuable War Medals which belonged to the people of New Zealand.

When a high profile collection such as this is stolen – the average “back yard” collector may well ask the question – “If a museum of this standard is not safe, what chance do I have of protecting my collection??”

The sad fact is, for every person who holds a valuable object in their possession, there is another person out there who is prepared to steal it. Insurance alone is no protection as money – in most cases – is insignificant to the value which a family would place on their own heritage.

Your medals DO NOT need to be ‘Victoria Crosses’ or ‘Military Crosses’ to be of any monetary value. Your average 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal are now becoming attractive enough to incur a small fortune.

So here are a few steps that you can follow to protect your War Medals, or at the very least – give the Police and other authorities a ‘fighting chance’ of recovering your stolen valuables. This not only relates to War Medals, but can be extended to other items of Militaria.

1. Extensively photograph your medals and militaria. Specifically – any stampings (recipent’s name and Serial Number, Unit markings etc).

2. You should also photograph any markings, such as scratches or damage. This should include any information that you may have – as to how that damage was caused. For example; if the Police were to recover ten sets of World War 2 war medals which are not stamped with a name and serial number, how can you tell which set is actually yours? If on one occasion, your grandfather ‘accidentally dropped’ his medals causing an indentation or a mark in the metal, then this information will go a long way to helping prove your “ownership”.

3. Verbally record the full details of your medals or militaria to corroborate your photographs.

4. Register your medals on a medal register. The website Medalsgonemissing is an international register which will record your medal details and keep them on record. YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS IS NOT ON DISPLAY, NOR IS THIS INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC. All you are doing is providing peace of mind for yourself – that the medals which you have in your possession, are actually recorded as belonging to you. This will prove ownership and the records could be subject of subpoena – if in the event “disputed ownership” is debated in a court of law. Information such as this will prove beyond any reasonable doubt – that the medals or militaria were subject of theft.

5. Regardless of how attractive or desirable to your collection a particular medal or piece of militaria may seem, do not purchase the object if you are in doubt as to it’s legitimacy. If there is no market for stolen militaria, then there would be little reason for it to be stolen in the first place.

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About gary

Gary Traynor is the volunteer Administrator of the Militaria based website MEDALSGONEMISSING. The aim of this "NOT FOR PROFIT" website is to reunite families, with lost War Medals and other items of militaria. Anything from medals to items of uniform. What Gary refers to as their "lost heritage". He has been actively involved in the Militaria world and researching of Military History for well over 30 years. As a result, Gary also conducts valuations and offers advice on all items of militaria. He has acted as advisor to a number of television and Foxtel productions; including Sir Tony Robinson's "Tour of Duty" series which featured on the History Channel. Gary is a field historian and conducts tours to Gallipoli, The Western Front, Kokoda and many other major battle sites around the world. He was a member of the Australian Army Reserve (UNSWR & 4/3 RNSWR) and served for 23 years with the New South Wales Police Force. He is perhaps the only person who has been employed at the Australian War Memorial in all three capacities .... as a volunteer, part time and full time employee .... starting as a qualified tour guide, working in the public galleries as an Information Assistant and finally Assistant Curator in Military Heraldry & Technology. Medalsgonemissing is a website that will assist you in locating your family's lost war medals and other awards. If you have an ancestor who served in any of the British Commonwealth Armed Services at any time - and whose medals are lost/stolen or simply missing....then so long as the medals are out there - this site will help you to locate them. However the site also contains articles of interest in relation to Military History, War Memorials & Uniforms / kit. Please explore our website as there is sure to be something of interest to you.
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One Response to How to Protect your War Medals & Militaria from Theft

  1. Margaret McQuillan says:

    Hi I am the Grand daughter of Harold Isaac Selby (Boar war & WW1)NSW Imperial Bushmen (6th) & great neice of Captain Major Ernest Frank Selby 1st Battalion(Otago Regiment) whose medals were stollen from an office in Wellington some time ago.They included a MID,Military Cross,GV + many others.
    I have since found that they were sold to a medal merchant in Wellington Jerry Bermel of Travis Antiques C1967 & on to M.H.Lampard (a collector) & when he died they were auctioned in Sydney on the 6th or 7th of April the office of Noble Numismatics Pty Ltd.
    These should never have been able to be sold for $7,700.+.
    What can I do about getting them returned ?
    To me they are stollen goods & returned to their rightfull owners.
    I have been persuing this for 4 years after first finding out while doing our family tree.
    My father (H. E.SELBY) died in Australia without being told about the theft from his brothers office.
    The family would very much like their return.
    Can you help?
    Margaret McQuillan (nee SELBY)

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