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Why are the artifacts and relics of the losing side worth more?


MattS
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Not trying to ruffle any feathers, but it's something I've been pondering for years.

 

Are they scarcer (although visits to major military shows leads me to believe a large percentage of the Wehrmacht's uniforms, hats, medals, badges, and helmets made their way to the US)? According to Wiki, during WW2 there were 900,000 members of the Waffen-SS and 485,000 US Marines (at their peak), yet a W-SS M40 cap might cost $4,500 whereas I bought a WW2 USMC garrison cap last week for $14. Compare a WSS helmet at $12k with a USMC M1 at $600. I even saw a SS helmet on a reputable dealer's site that was named to a concentration camp guard priced at $23K. No thank you. I understand not as many German caps/helmets survived the war (because the Allies bombed and killed them relentlessly until they surrendered). Is it simple supply and demand? More collectors want the 'bad guy' stuff and that drives up prices?

 

Don't get me wrong, I have WW2 German items in my collection, but they are outnumbered by US items about 100 to 1. It's the price/value disparity that boggles my mind. I don't know, thought I'd ask.

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I think it's mostly supply and demand, and the demand for German militaria has increased as a result of movies, books, etc. During the early post-war decades while the hobby was in its infancy, you could buy German militaria for next to nothing. It's also worth pointing out it's not just German militaria that has seen a hike as original WW2 Allied para items for example have skyrocketed to German levels of pricing.

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I agree, some facets of US militaria benefited from SPR and BoB. And I can see where scarcity plays a part in those values because untouched unbroken M2 paratrooper helmets bring a pretty penny ($1,500-2,500). They've got a long way to go to catch up to fallschirmjager helmets, one dealer has 6 listed on his site for $7,500 to $12,000.

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A couple of random thoughts are that the supply of original "loser" stuff is always smaller and more limited so the supply side of supply and demand are certainly a part of it. No more original W-SS helmets were made after the war while the USMC continued to make/wear uniforms since they were the "winners" in that war. Another thought is that people are always interested in the losing side as the villains so again the demand side of the equation kicks in.

 

Another thing about price is that rarity does not always translate to perceived value. And, asking and getting are two different parts of the scale when talking about price points. Good stuff at low prices will almost always sell where pie-in-the-sky prices don't. At least this has been my experience over the years. Lastly, some military items seem cyclical. Years ago a few East Coast sword collectors drove up the price of presentation US Civil War swords and when they got theirs and quit competing against each other to buy the price of these swords plummeted. Same thing with Japanese pickers buying militaria as the favorable yen v. dollar no longer exists. Now we see not as many Russians at major shows so lower condition items that once sold briskly to cash buyers now languish on show tables. There do seem to be trends to collecting.

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I agree that prices and trends are cyclical.

 

"A couple of random thoughts are that the supply of original "loser" stuff is always smaller and more limited so the supply side of supply and demand are certainly a part of it. No more original W-SS helmets were made after the war while the USMC continued to make/wear uniforms since they were the "winners" in that war."

 

I understand that, but I'm not talking about post-WW2 items. I'm comparing apples to apples, an original untouched WW2 W-SS combat helmet compared to an original untouched WW2 USMC combat helmet, or a Luftwaffe lieutenant's tunic versus an American AAF lieutenant's uniform, or a Heer infantry officer's visor versus an American Army infantry officer's visor. Prices/values are not even close, sometimes by a factor of 10-20x. And it's almost always the side that lost that brings higher prices, going back to Union versus Confederate.

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Matt . . . very good question! I've often wondered this myself. Discounting paratrooper stuff (which is rare, as there were not many to begin with!), I have noticed the same thing. In many cases, a lot of US guys came home and wore there stuff out to rags or got rid of it, so it isn't like a lot of nice WWII stuff came home and got put in displays. Souvenirs wouldn't have been "worn" like that. Our Great-Uncle had a basement filled with TR flags (everything from car pennents to the super large multi-story building flag), knives, half-a-dozen pristine guns, some pistols, etc. While he had nothing left of his own stuff. And he isn't the only one like that. So, that would start evening out the ratio or US to Axis items.

 

Also, I think that SARGE mentioned something poignant (and sad). Villains demand prices. Sadly, (and I have my own theory of the one thing that started this fad) villains and anti-heroes are now "heroes". That will be one of the biggest demises in our generation and the following ones. When bad becomes "good" . . . bad things will follow

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I think you're right, it has a lot to do with the 'bad guys' stuff being deemed cool and therefore desirable. And it seems that the worse the villain, the higher the price. Heer helmet $1500, SS helmet $7500, SS Concentration Camp guard helmet $19,000.

US army helmet $350.

It's a strange phenomenon. Prices taken from https://therupturedduck.com/collections/steel-helmets on 10/29/19.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree with a lot of the above...

 

Bad guy stuff is always worth more. Be it Nazi, Japanese, or even the US's own Confederacy...and I also agree it's a supply thing. The bad guys stopped churning the stuff out when they lost, whereas the winners often churned it out for decades after as little, if any, changes were made to patterns in those eras

 

Of course, changes these days are far too often...I refer you to the Army's new uniforms every few years, or that fact that I've never worn the same model FLAK in any of my combat tours...so one could argue the supply or modern stuff will be much lower in 50 years and prices will be up. However, you also see a lot more guys collecting surplus now as collectibles, whereas in the past surplus was used for camping and beaten and worn...so I think that will balance itself.

 

I also think TR is the anomaly in that it is disproportionate in regards to supply and demand. I think it's the story of the German side itself that captivates and fascinates people...when you think about it, WWII wasn't that long ago...many of us have known veterans, who still walk among us. I think people often find themselves in disbelief that in such recent history, a civilized society was able to conduct such awful atrocities for so long a period.

 

A very long-term and dedicated Third Reich collector once put it in the best perspective I've ever had on the TR side..."there were over 10,000 Knight's Crosses struck/awarded during the war, they're hardly rare, and thus there's no way I'm paying $10,000 dollars for one".

 

Some of it is also us looking at it as the victors and Americans. TR has had international appeal so long, and we brought back so many trophies, that we have availability in our own backyard. The Germans occupied much of Europe, so when they were defeated, their stuff was all over the place, and people have availability in their backyards outside of Germany. This isn't the case with US stuff. It's easy for us to obtain, but much harder in Europe...nobody were as notorious trophy hunters as us, and we didn't leave our stuff behind...and we didn't wear medals in combat...our stuff is much harder to find overseas, and European buyers are often willing to pay much more for it than we are...then tack on the overseas shipping costs they are also willing to pay. There's a discussion over at USMF currently about how some European collectors are seeing US blowup in demand over there...so much so that they rank it second most sought after after Third Reich. We see the US market through the luxury of living at its source.

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Bad guy stuff is always worth more. Be it Nazi, Japanese, or even the US's own Confederacy...and I also agree it's a supply thing. The bad guys stopped churning the stuff out when they lost, whereas the winners often churned it out for decades after as little, if any, changes were made to patterns in those eras

 

 

We keep circling back to "the US reused their stuff for years" statement. Yes, it may apply to web belts, first aid pouches, and canteens, but even when eliminating the 'post-war' factor (see post #5) and only comparing untouched, original, as-used-in-WW2 uniforms from opposite sides, the prices/values are vastly disproportionate. For example, the US stopped making M41 field jackets, M1937 4-pocket coats, M1942 paratrooper uniforms, and fixed bail M1 helmets by 1945. In the months following the war, a lot of those WW2-specific US items were hung up by their owners in a closet and not touched again while a lot of German uniforms were discarded and burnt, so the supply of those would be lower. I think it is more accurate to say that more WW2 original US items survived the war rather than they were being 'churned out' after the war.

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