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World War II collectibles have a special place in history, hearts

May. 26, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Many of us have observed the news media stories about the Honor Flights taking America's veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the memorials created in their honor. They give particular priority to the older veterans in the later stages of life. One estimate stated the figure that at least 800 World War II veterans die each day, so the Honor Flights are time sensitive for some.

The Honor Flight Network is not the only one taking note of past warriors and the memories they have stored away. Many collectors have emerged who seek memorabilia and personal accounts relating to past wars, particularly World War II.

World War II is a huge venue to consider because of the variety and depth of the collectibles. Perhaps the popularity of this area is due to the fact many of us can make a personal connection to someone who served in that war even though it happened more than 70 years ago.

We often can connect a bit of memorabilia personally to someone we know. That Luftwaffe officer's dagger your grandfather has in his trunk also has his story as to how it came into his possession. The provenance is personal and dramatic and maybe Grandpa has shared that information with you inspiring an interest in that era.

Another impetus to these collectibles was a PBS documentary "The War" that came out a few years ago. It highlighted the war experience of a small number of folks from four towns in America. From this many found an interest in collecting some part of what these veterans experienced.

From rationing stamps to helmets to aircraft, there is something for everyone's pocketbook. Prices for World War II goods have steadily increased over the years and having that personal provenance not only verifies the authenticity but also helps the item hold its value. Who would think that counterfeiters would enter into this fray but they have, so one should always check the background of a piece before purchase.

There are numerous sources to use in verifying a find but one that comes highly recommended is "Warman's World War II Collectibles: Identification and Price Guide" by John F. Graf. There are also militaria collector's clubs and websites to seek out that have information to share along with shows where goods are bought and sold. Finally, on this Memorial Day do your part and thank a Veteran for defending our country.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.