Nothing seems so desirable in our medal collectors world than those pilots badges - those Imperial German flight badges. Aren't they symbols of WWI knightly hood, those brave pilots in their propeller planes fighting over Europe's blue sky. Those heroes were certainly the early celebrities during those years. Very visible against the sky, very visible among those looking for examples of heroism. Always in the limelight of the war theater, almost all decorated with the Pour le Mérite. Having most desired positions and decorations of the 1st World War. 

No wonder, that these insignias find their way into the collections of all serious and enthusiastic medal collectors. These badges with all their symbolism are indeed beautiful, yet falsified in large numbers. Compared to those simply poured fakes, using multiple low melting metals, the real piece is quite ornate and made of the highest quality. There are nevertheless quite tricky to spot pieces using quite refined techniques like electroplating and electroforming. Having lived in Wuppertal, Germany, for some time of my life I had the "honor" of meeting the master in this field. Besides plaques for spike helmets he also was quite talented in generating those desired Imperial German flight badges.

At this point two questions have to be raised:

a) what to consider a real piece in terms of the timeframe it was made ?

b) how to determine if a piece belongs to that defined time period ?

For once, I decided for myself to collect everything but the German WWII or WWI badges and am very much convinced, that there much better experts then I am to be able to judge over these badges.

I still would like to comment on this topic very briefly.

a) I believe, that badges have naturally been made before 1918. I also believe, that due to the high profile of those brave men, badges could still be bought after 1918 all the way into the 2nd World War. A lot of those pilot badges must have been made during the time of the III.Reich. The question remains: What to consider a real piece in terms of the timeframe it was made ?

Question b) is therefore even harder to answer. Some facts are nevertheless certain. Poured piece are very likely fake. Electroformed pieces are definitely fakes. As I mentioned earlier, I once met one of those making electroformed badges. The key here is, that he used a cooper salt to form them. After silver plating and aging them, it is quite hard to determine them to be fake. Scratching the badge will work, but also the direct comparison of a piece in question with a "known" to be real piece. An electroplated piece is only as good as its form it was made from.

I my opinion it still is best to buy those badges from a real expert, or directly as a whole group from the family of one of those heroes. Like this one:

or this one, attributed to Ernst Kempfer:

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or this one without name, despite being bought from the original family :

click for reverse images

© A. Schulze Ising, V/03