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Jervis

Melting down war medals

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Jervis

Someone I met, told me their grandfather - when short of money - had sold his Great War medals; which were then melted down. I have since seen passing references to similar on this forum.

 

How common was it for war medals to be melted down and was there a particular time period when it was more common than other?

Edited by Jervis

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kenf48

Very common.  The British War Medal was struck in silver and therefore had a scrap value.  Over 6.5million were issued so they had little or no intrinsic value.  There was considerable bitterness at the lack of opportunity for returned soldiers and the depression of the 1920/30s therefore they were sold, or pawned for the price of a meal.  

 

The Victory Medal and the Star were cast in Bronze and therefore had limited scrap value.

 

On Remembrance Day in 1929 many veterans paraded with their pawn tickets on their chest to show their discontent.

 

Ken

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Jools mckenna

This was probably the fate of my Great Great Grandfathers medals. As they were probably sold during the depression. 

Edited by Jools mckenna

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derekb

I have a pawn ticket from 1926 “for one war medal” which due to other items with the ticket indicates is was a Military Medal”.

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Jervis
1 hour ago, kenf48 said:

Very common.  The British War Medal was struck in silver and therefore had a scrap value.  Over 6.5million were issued so they had little or no intrinsic value.  There was considerable bitterness at the lack of opportunity for returned soldiers and the depression of the 1920/30s therefore they were sold, or pawned for the price of a meal.  

 

The Victory Medal and the Star were cast in Bronze and therefore had limited scrap value.

 

On Remembrance Day in 1929 many veterans paraded with their pawn tickets on their chest to show their discontent.

 

Ken

 

Thanks Ken. 

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Terry_Reeves

The same happened in the early 1980's when silver prices went through roof due to manipulation of the market. Many groups were split up then.

 

TR

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chaz

you will find the disc only being sold as the suspender was removed to make the Silver medal clean for processing but some of the pawn shops or metal dealers had the foresight to save them for us. I do have three or four which are less suspender in my collection.

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RobertL

This answer is from someone who was involved as a dealer in both silver rushes, 1979-80 and 2011-12 in Canada.  First war pairs were worth 10 -15$  as medals in 1979 or BWM 20$ for scrap.  They got scrapped. Metal prices were so wild, you had to flip the material as fast as you bought it.  Margins were so tight,  you didn't have time to listen to someone whine and cry over the price.

The second time around I was involved as a collector / dealer in medals.  I was allowed to pick several gold buyers purchases.   I rescued Memorial crosses headed for the melting pot.  I managed to pick every 1st war medal, right up to  DCM's. Most of these guys had no clue what they were buying except that the stuff was silver.  Silver military ID bracelets, sweethearts, trophies, Georgian Sterling, nothing was sacred.  I picked it, or it would have been melted.  Canadian WWII medals were silver.  They were melted by the thousands in the 2011 rush. I couldn't even justify the price to buy them.  They had to flip the stuff, get back on the road and buy.  What went into the melting pot from all collecting fields was almost criminal.  The Medal market had to adjust to these prices, or the stuff just disappeared.

Bringing this back to a great war theme. 

One other memory, 1980's I was on a buying trip to the UK for inventory for my store. I ended up in a jewelers shop.  The owner knowing that the material I was buying was not going to be sold locally, came out of the back with a bag of over 200 allied victory medals for a Pound each.  No need to ask what happened to the BWM.

 

Yes, medals were scrapped.

 

RL.

 

 

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derekb

Some years ago I bought twelve single Victory Medals to the Liverpool Pals = what a shame/crime.

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MAW

I remember seeing large buckets and dustbins of ribbonless British War Medals at quite a few antique markets and militaria fairs in the early 1980s, so, perhaps some of these medals missed the melting pot and were re-circulated.

 

I don't remember seeing large hoards of Victory Medals however.

 

Mark

Edited by MAW

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Muerrisch

Slightly oblique to the thrust, I believe that in order to not arouse suspicion by buying vast quantities of copper, the USA melted down silver dollars.

 

Why? The atomic bomb programme, Manhattan, required vast electrical capacity and circuitry. The usual conductor was copper, but silver is copper's big brother and does just as well. [Gold would have coped but ..........]

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KIRKY

We supply, frame and mount medals and the BWM is so often missing. At least the good replicas look OK but avoid some of the ones sold on Ebay

 

Tony

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303man

When I started collecting Memorial Plaques I used to go into a big dealers in Liverpool and buy up to 20 plaques at a time, I asked do you have the medals for these and the answer was they are in there somewhere.   Below the shelf that had the plaques on there were buckets of Stars and Victory Medals the BWM's no where to be seen.  Plaques then were £2:50 each Victory medals 50p - £1.  I kept records and a few examples I purchased early 80's  R.E Trio and Plaque Mar 1983 £16.  R.E Trio and plaque May 1984 £15,  The BWMs were running at £5 - £7 then.  little wonder when the silver price went up they vanished.

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TEW

Found an interesting 'Historic Silver Price' site 1915 to 2018. Obviously shows a big spike 1978-1982 and 2010-2012.

 

Prices in US$ but interesting to see that when issued circa 1923-4 price was around $9.50 dropping to $4.60 late 1930.

 

Lots of small spikes showing up which would probably prompt selling, EG June 1935, Feb 1946, May 1968, Jan 1974 etc.

 

I guess someone reading a newspaper in May 1968 and seeing that the price had nearly doubled from Nov 1967 might find that tempting.

 

TEW

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Neil 2242

I remember reading somewhere that this issue was particularly common with Indian groups.

Many Indian troops came from very poor families, silver was valuable and so BWMs were readily melted down (understandably if regrettably).

 

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear All,

This profit-seeking at all costs is The Way of the World.

Nonetheless, the sheer numbers (ca. 6 1/2 million) of BWMs issued, ensures that it continues to be common and reasonably-priced.

Untold numbers of recipients and their families, managed to "keep everything together", as it were. Collector-wise, it is the "bits and pieces" around the (humble?) BWM, that make it desirable.

Kindest regards,

Kim.Dockrell_small.jpg.07ec8a00a179df34a5bbf2f86ec72436.jpg

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trajan

I have commented elsewhere on this thread how in the past 2-5 years I have seen probably as many as 10 single BWM's for sale here, but rarely anything else. I can only assume that somebody had stockpiled them for melting and has only recently started to let them come out. I did make a start on saving the ones I came across but the prices here are about 30-50% higher than in the UK... I have been able to identify one BWM in my possession that it is the missing one from a MM group sold by a medal dealer in the GB a couple of years back - but the dealer made no reply when I enquired about the possibility of connecting the BWM with the new owner of the rest.

 

I did once, incidentally, come across a chappie here selling a box full of WW2 War and Defence medals - must have been over 50 there, none with ribbons. I have often wondered if he bought them thinking they were pure silver...!

 

Julian

 

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Toby Brayley
Posted (edited)

A friend of mine had their relatives medals "melted down" in the late 1990s!   I could not believe it. Thought it was a joke to wind me up...it wasn't!  

Edited by Toby Brayley

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