"Privately Engraved" Medals

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Webmaster's Note: Effective January 2007, eBay has begun to prohibit the sale of Purple Hearts and certain other US valor medals. This prohibition was instituted due to the passage of the Stolen Valor Act by the US Congress in December 2006. This Act was written into law to prevent and penalize impostors who falsely claim to have received certain awards, and who often receive some type of financial gain or false recognition by doing so. 

The Stolen Valor Act does not affect the buying and selling of medals among legitimate dealers and collectors. While eBay's prohibition was based on the erroneous belief that such transaction might be illegal, they are, after all, a privately held corporation, and may ban anything they wish.

So until eBay realizes the error of their decision, I will leave this page intact as an archive of some of the spurious medals which were sold there, in hope that interested parties may view a few examples of "private engraving" which were passed off as official government engraving.

private engraving

Below are some examples of what I generically call "privately engraved" medals. Exactly what is private engraving and how does it differ from official engraving, you ask?

Official engraved medals are just that: medals engraved by an official government agency. In the case of posthumous awards, medals were officially engraved and mailed to the serviceman's next of kin. Veterans and their families can also request replacement medals, or return them to be engraved.  These medals will also be officially engraved.

Privately engraved medals were sometimes engraved by the veterans or their families themselves.  A quick trip to the hometown jeweler after the war insures that the medal is engraved for posterity. 

The important question is: when were medals privately engraved and, more importantly, why were they engraved? Did a vet do it on his return home, or were the medals engraved last week to defraud someone on eBay? Unfortunately, as people begin to realize the value of named medals, and as these medals begin to appreciate in value, the fakers and scam artists soon appear.

So, here are some "privately engraved" medals, all appearing on eBay since December 2003. I'll keep adding to the list as more items come to light. Were they meant to defraud an unknowledgeable collector, are they legitimate vet engraved medals, or did the seller just not know what they had?

A lot has to do with the seller's intent.  There are basically four types of eBay engraved medal sellers out there: the person who has no idea what they have, the person who thinks they know what they have, the person who knows what they have, and the outright fraud who faked up a set of medals to make them traceable or to match the name to other items in the lot.

Last updated: December 2005

Examples of Questionable Medal Groups

December 2005: A Purple Heart grouping to a Francis L. Hutchinson. This lot came with what appeared to be an original Memorial Certificate and Presidential Accolade. The medal itself is privately engraved, however. The key to the private engraving is the two different sized fonts, as well as the fact that officially engraved posthumous Purple Hearts were never engraved with the middle initial taking up its own line.  The seller was a general militaria dealer, so he probably doesn't know what to look for in engraving styles.  This lot closed at $250.00


November 2005: Here's an interesting lot named to a Leonard J. McGee, a Captain in the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment, who was killed in action March 24, 1945.  While the paperwork, cap, and patch look genuine, the Purple Heart is obviously privately engraved. Officially engraved Purple Hearts as issued to a serviceman's next of kin were never engraved with date or theatre of operations, as this one is. This lot closed for $610.00.


July 2005: Here's a Purple Heart that appeared for auction from a well known patch dealer. Philip M. Clow was a fighter pilot with the 51st Fighter Group, and the auction lot was sold with some original paperwork. Sadly, the medal itself is privately engraved. Since this is the first privately engraved medal that this particular seller has auctioned on eBay, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he just doesn't recognize WWII engraving styles, This lot closed at $911.


Here's a very famous fake medal group that originally surfaced in a well known medal dealer's catalog in the late 1980's. He received it on consignment and published it in his catalog.  The lot was immediately withdrawn when the seller was contacted by the Toms family, who still had possession of the original medals, and the medals were returned to the consignor. This lot resurfaced in January 2005, being sold on eBay by a seller from Germany. The lot closed at $2864.00.


November 2004: Here's another "privately engraved" Navy DFC, Air Medal, Purple Heart lot that sold on eBay for $1900. The seller is the brother of the original consignor of the group immediately above. Note the identical engraving on both DFC's. February 2005 update: This group reappeared on eBay this month, now being sold by a seller from Germany. It closed at $1125.

November 2005: One more privately engraved Marine DFC this time, from the same seller as the group immediate above. Notice it's the same engraving hand as the two DFC's immediately above? This lot closed for $760.00.


This lot sold on eBay in January 2005 for $987.00. The seller was  newly registered, with 0 feedback, although I suspect it's just a new eBay ID of one of the sellers below. Besides the fact that the Air Medal is "privately engraved", the wings have also been made-up with fake English hallmarks and a nurse's collar badge riveted to a set of wings.


Here's a new item that sold on eBay in October 2004 for $455. The name traces out to a WWII KIA, and the certificate and accolade look legit, but the medal is privately engraved. To be fair to the seller, they do not claim that their medal is officially engraved, so just another example of caveat emptor.


This seller has been coming up with a number of "privately engraved" medals lately. Here's a named Silver Star and Purple Heart.  Both are slot brooch medals.  The engraving on both is very crude-- definitely not any type of official engraving. Also, a Silver Star would be numbered on a lower arm in very fine impressing, not on an upper arm. Also, a 502 numbered Silver Star would be a Bailey, Banks, & Biddle manufactured award, not a later contract WWII slot brooch piece. Thankfully his lot closed at $142, reserve not met. JULY 2004 update: the lot was relisted, and reached a final selling price of $202.50. 

Here's and example of a very questionable Purple Heart.  The engraving looks like it is very crudely machine engraved on a Robbins Co. contract WWII Army numbered planchet. The real odd thing is, the name traces out to a Marine Medal of Honor recipient!!  It's definitely not any style of official Navy/Marine hand engraving I've ever seen for WWII. This medal actually appeared twice on eBay.  Once with a buy-it-now for $499.  It was immediately snapped up.  The high bidder then contacted me about it, and I sadly informed him it was privately engraved.  He apparently was able to get out of the deal, as the listing appeared again with a buy-it-now price of $299. The listing lasted less than three hours before it was won by another unsuspecting bidder.

Here's another lot from the same seller. This medal supposedly belonged to a WWI Air Corps pilot. According to the seller the name is covered up to "protect the family's privacy." The medal itself appears to be a Navy Type II full wrap brooch medal (or perhaps a  medal reribboned with a full wrap brooch). It's obviously privately engraved (unit and branch of service were never engraved on officially engraved medals), and looks to me like it was done yesterday. Also, a quick check of the 148th Squadron roster shows there was no JACK I. P*** in the squadron. This medal reached a high bid of $255, reserve not met.

June 2004: Now for an interesting example of obvious fakery from the same seller.

This medal showed up on eBay, listed by one seller, and was delisted within a couple of days. Pictures showed a Navy type wrap brooch medal, but the seller said the planchet was numbered, which would indicate an Army planchet.

June 2004: A few days later this lot showed up.  Obviously the same medal and same engraving, but now the lettering is blackened. My guess is that the blackening was done with a fine point Sharpie. Also, the new listing makes no mention of numbering, which was a selling point on the first lot. This lot closed at $75.00.

June 2004: Another lot from the same seller. This is supposedly a Vietnam KIA group to a an Army Captain who was KIA in 1964. While the paperwork and HBT might be original, the engraving on the medals are certainly "privately engraved." Name engraving was never done in three lines, with the middle initial taking up it's own line. This was listed as a "private auction," so no one could be warned off before it closed. This lot closed at $1500.00
June 2004: Another privately engraved from the same seller, supposedly belonging to a pilot who was KIA in Vietnam. This lot originally hit $255, reserve not met. The seller then relisted the medals individually. The DFC didn't get one bid, while the Air Medal sold for $150.00.
 

Here's an example of a privately machine engraved Purple Heart, that sold twice on eBay, each time for over $300.  The seller told me the "family had two medals," but in truth the medal was bought and returned the first time (with a 25% restocking fee), then relisted and sold again. All his auctions are private, and he pulls the images immediately after the auction closes.

Hard to see, but the same engraving style as the medal immediately above.  Note the large initial caps, followed by small centered caps, with enlarged branch of service.  This medal even has a current issue crimp brooch, and someone has sewn the edges closed.

Here's another lot from the same seller. Another private auction. The seller is also bidding on engraving bits and engraving templates, so he must be ramping up production.  Bronze Stars were sometimes engraved on an angle to fit longer names on a small planchet, but they were not engraved this way.  You can see some examples of properly engraved Bronze Stars in my collection shown elsewhere on this site. Amazingly, this lot closed at $510.

Here's a new piece that appeared in June 2004 from the same seller.  He's actually getting better at his fake engraving. The problem is, the engraving is in the same hand as his other pieces. Again, a private auction with private seller's feedback. This auction ended with a buy-it-now price of $325.

 

Here's a June 2004 lot from the same seller. This is supposedly a medal and pitcher group to a WWI 42nd Division soldier. The engraving on the pitcher looks like it was done yesterday (note the entire pitcher is tarnished except for the engraving!). The engraving on the medal doesn't look like any official engraving I've ever seen. This lot closed at $256.00.

Now, in July 2004, the same seller comes up with this lot.  Army medals, engraved to a Navy officer. He still can't figure out what he's doing wrong!!  Of course, this lot closed for $612.00, so I guess he really doesn't have to worry too much about getting it right. I always shake my head when I see people bidding on a private auction, where the seller has private feedback.


Probably the finest example of caveat emptor I've ever seen! All of this stuff appeared on eBay at once, listed at $9.99 opening bid with no reserve.  The seller claims he's listing it for a client.  If he is, his client is doing him no favors by giving him a bad reputation in the militaria collecting community.

Frank A. Kemp: Yes, there was a Marine named Frank A. Kemp who was awarded a Soldier's Medal during WWII, One of less than 30 who did, as a matter of fact. But considering the medals are all engraved identically to the sellers other lots, the buyer was only burned for $312. Henry P. Crowe: Army DSC, Navy PH, Army Silver Star.  All the same engraving as the other lots.  This lot closed at $510
Gordon L. Allen: nice WWII Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross, both privately engraved. Allen closed at $151 Joseph E. Mix: supposedly a medal group to a guy in the 546th Bomb Squadron, as engraved on the DFC. All the medals are privately engraved. The Mix group closed for $760
Lawrence H. Flynn: Nice Navy Type 1 Purple Heart, reribboned Silver Star, again privately engraved in the same hand as the seller's other lots. Flynn closed at $331 Anthony Jones: Again, all the same engraving style, with enlarged branch of service. The Anthony Jones piece closed at $162.
 Donald M. Parker: The seller stated that the medals are all numbered (Silver Star #2056, Purple Heart # 60225, and DSC #184) and that these medals were awarded to a WWI Marine vet who got his medals in the 1940's. This lot closed at $960, and was promptly returned by the buyer upon receipt.

 

Purple Heart number 60225 should be a bent slot brooch Medal Arts contract, not a split wrap brooch piece. The engraving is identical to the seller's other stuff. Also, considering this is a lot to a supposed WWI Marine, the medal should be an unnumbered Navy contract piece.

 

 

Silver Star #2056 should be an early Bailey Banks and Biddle split wrap brooch medal, with a BB&B hallmark.  Or if it a Navy/Marine Purple Heart (as it should be for a Marine award), it would be unnumbered. May 2004 Update: The seller relisted the Purple Heart and Silver Star together with some WWII campaign medals.  With no lengthy description this time, the lot closed for $169.00

Three more from the same seller.  Thankfully, the auctions ended at $45 each.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's an interesting lot of medals named to a Fred W. Dyer.  Yes, there was a Fred W. Dyer who received a DSC in WWII with the 489th Bomb Group. So this could indeed be a legitimate privately engraved grouping, if it wasn't for the fact that the same seller is selling this stuff, and the engraving looks identical to some of the other bogus groups he's passed off in the past. This group closed at $500.

 

A May 2004 lot from the same seller.  All the medals are privately engraved. This lot closed at $152.50.

Here's an interesting pair from the same seller: a pair of privately engraved medals. Yes, there was a George M. Lamb with the 9th Air Force, a 7.5 victory Ace, as a matter of fact. Amazing, though, how the engraving on this pair looks so much similar to the seller's other stuff.  This pair closed for $244.00 in July 2004

Here's another expensive group from the same guy.  This lot closed at a whopping $845.20!!! The Silver Star list shows an award to a Raymond F. Smith in the 8th Air Force, but I guarantee these aren't his officially named medals. 

Another set of privately engraved medals from eBay.  The seller claims:

This is a nice set of three medals all identified to a figher pilot who was shot down while strafing a german convoy in Dec. 1944. There are a number of items in this lot, including three medals, the Dist. Flying Cross, The Air Medal with oakleaf cluster, and Purple Hart, each medal is named to this pilot, and marked A.C. Each medal comes in its own black and gold case, with ribbon bar, and lapel button, Along with this are copies of his certification for the Dist. Flying Cross, Air Medal. also a letter to his family giving in great detail the facts of this pilot getting shot down. and a shorter one, that was the first letter home from his C.O. some of these are marked copy,, others are not,,, There is also a 1944 christmas card from france with a a photo of the pilot and friend, with a figher in the background, glued to the back,, this is a super and nice well documented grouping,,all are in nice condition,,,,,. fine addition to any collection

Yes, there is a William E. Boyden on the WWII KIA list, but I'll guarantee these aren't his officially engraved medals. This auction closed at $731.


A new lot from this seller in July 2005.  Supposedly this is a Purple Heart to a 28th Division KIA.  Unfortunately, it's the same engraving as many of the other seller's pieces below.  This one closed at $210.00

Here' another pair that recently sold on eBay.  The example on the left first began appearing a couple of years ago on eBay.  The seller would come up with some original paperwork, and post an eBay lot with the paper and a Purple Heart engraved with last name first, first name last. This was NEVER done on officially engraved medals. The example on the right is just a severely damaged privately engraved piece.

The same seller then turns up this spurious group.  The ID card appears to be real, but the Air Medal is an Army type (non-soldered hanger), with what appears to be impressed numbering in the wrap brooch.  While early WWII Air Medals were numbered on the brooch, this piece appears to be extremely heavily stamped, unlike the numbering seen on attributed WWII Air Medals.  The engraving is also "privately done": machine engraved with serifed letters. This lot closed at $272.

Here's another grouping from the our boy again. Supposedly a named Vietnam era Air Medal group.  Again, another privately engraved medal in a modern case, with what appears to be original paperwork.

Here's one more from the same seller.  The engraving on the Bronze Star is not official WWII engraving, nor is it 1947 CIB conversion engraving. Just another "privately engraved" piece to go with a newspaper clipping. This lot did not make its opening bid of $100.

Another grouping from the same seller.  The paperwork appears to be genuine.  The Silver Star is a WW2 Army medal, with a slot brooch. Again, "privately engraved." The Kabar is nicely engraved, but appears to have been done recently.  There's no oxidation that you'd expect to see on 60 year old engraving. This lot closed at $280!!

A new lot from the same guy.  Again, a set of privately engraved medals with original paperwork to a Vietnam era 1st Infantry Division guy. I'd expect to see non-engraved field awarded medals. By the 1960's the Army was using machine engraving for all their officially named awards, so this set is definitely privately engraved. This lot closed at $212.50.

Another lot from the same seller.  This one came with a 1958 Purple Heart Certificate, along with an Army Type III medal with the same engraving style as some of his earlier pieces. This lot closed at $129.50.

Beginning to see a pattern here with this seller? Another privately engraved Purple Heart, again with an original clipping about the soldier. The problem with this one is not only the privately engraved medal, but the fact that there is a Purple Heart here at all! The clipping shows that the soldier was killed as a result of an accident, and the official WWII Casualty files show him as a DNB (died, non-battle). So unfortunately Kertis wasn't eligible for a posthumous Purple Heart award at all. I suppose the family could have engraved an earlier award issued to the soldier, but considering the pattern shown in the seller's other auctions, I have my doubts.  This lot closed at $111.50.

It just never stops, does it? Same seller, same apparently good paperwork, same "privately engraved" medals. This lot is supposedly to a Vietnam Air Force navigator.  I'd expect to see machine engraving with name only for Vietnam period awards. Does the engraving look similar to other pieces this guy has sold?  You be the judge. This lot closed at $423.87.

Apparently the first auction didn't take, as the group was relisted in July 2005, this time closing at $300.00.  Oh well......

The same seller then auctions this lot in June of 2004. Again, a real newspaper clipping with spurious engraved medals. Compare the engraving here to some of his other listings. This lot closed at $203.85

Here's a September 2004 auction from the same seller.  Does the engraving look familiar? Supposedly this medal is to a Pearl Harbor Wheeler Field KIA. The auction closed at $455.00. July 2005 update:  this lot reappeared on eBay from a new seller, this time closing at $635!!

In November 2005, this group shows up. A typical listing from this guy, with what look like original photos, with a "privately engraved" Purple Heart. This lot closed at $250.00.

 

April 2004: Here's a new lot that appeared on eBay.  The lot comes with a lot of original paperwork, including the Purple Heart Certificate and Presidential Accolade, telegrams, as well as a photo. Unfortunately, the Purple Heart is privately engraved, so it wouldn't be the one that was sent to his next of kin . This lot closed at $315.

April 2005 update: This lot sold again on eBay, buy-it-now for $350.  I don't remember if it was the same seller, but the same photos from a year ago were used in the listing!!


Here's an interesting lot that recently closed on eBay.  I really wasn't sure what category to put this group in.  Obviously the medals are privately engraved with the same machine engraved style. I searched for any information on a Thomas Chambers, and came up with nothing-- he's not a KIA or POW, not listed in Al Gleim's Silver Star List, not in Mingos, etc.

So if anyone has a clue who Thomas A Chambers is, please let me know and I'll post the information here.

The seller broke up this group into individual lots, so one guy had to chase all the auctions in an attempt to win the group.  The lots closed for a total of $480.

Oh yea... everything was won by one bidder, except for the Legion of Merit which found a new home elsewhere!

December 2005: This group reappeared again on eBay, this time closing at $464.00.

August 2006: One more round on eBay, this time closing at $482.  Like a bad penny, this group just won't go away!!

 

June 2004 update: I just got an email with the attached pictures shown on the left.  A fellow collector with a great memory recognized the Chambers medals from a lot which sold in November 2001 for $3835.00. Luckily he saved the pics from what he thought was a questionable group. Obviously in the past three years the group has been broken up.  It's interesting to see a POW ribbon on the tunics.  The POW medal wasn't instituted until 1985, so at least the ribbon bars were put together after that date.  I suspect the entire group is a complete fake.


 
 

 

Examples of Privately Engraved Medals


Here's privately engraved Purple Heart from eBay.  Soldiers' serial numbers were never engraved on officially engraved medals.

 

 


Another example of a privately engraved medal.


One more example of a privately engraved piece. Rather crudely done, as well.

This one appears to be the same engraving style as the medal shown immediately above. Again, privately engraved, as officially engraved pieces have large and small capital letters.

Another pair virtually identical to the two medals shown immediately above.


Another privately engraved Air Medal.  Even if you didn't know the font was wrong, the key to this piece is that official engraving would have AC, not USAAC.


Another privately engraved Purple Heart. The serifs on the letters are a dead give away. 


Privately engraved Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross. 

 


Here's a privately engraved Air Medal.  The name has been stamped, rather than engraved.


A very pretty privately engraved Air Medal/DFC pair