Medals and militaria: 2017 in review

The second world war remains the focus of the vast majority of militaria around the world. This was the largest conflict in history, affecting communities all over the globe. It’s also the last major conflict in living memory, a sobering thought.

Top medal and militaria sale of 2017

VC Canadian

The Victoria Cross is the highest honour awarded by the British army

For medal collectors, the Victoria Cross is the ultimate prize. The honour is the highest available to members of the British armed forces.

In September, a VC medal group awarded to Canadian Lieutenant Colonel DV Currie made $738,000.

Currie received the medal for his extraordinary leadership at the Battle of Falaise Gap. He’s one of only 16 Canadians ever to receive the award.

2017’s most important medal and militaria sales

VC medal Somme

Corporal George Sanders received the VC for his actions in the Battle of the Somme 

Currie’s wasn’t the only Victoria Cross offered this year. Another, awarded to a British hero of the Somme, made £288,000 ($353,260) in March.

Little Bighorn is one of the most infamous battles in US history. In January, an 1874 Sharps rifle used by one of Custer’s soldiers hammered for $272,250 at Brian Lebel's High Noon Show and Auction.

The cracking of the Enigma code dramatically shortened the second world war. This rare M4 four-rotor machine was used by the German navy and sold for $435,000 when it crossed the block in December.

An album of photographs of Adolf Hitler taken by partner Eva Braun offered an extraordinary look into the dictator’s private life during the war years. It made £34,000 ($41,707) at C&T Auctions in March.

The British Dambuster raids were a triumph of engineering. This bomb release, used to unleash the bouncing bomb on fifth run on the Mohne dam, realised £39,500 ($51,178) in July.

The most unusual medal and militaria sale of 2017

Rat Bomb

The rat bomb is proof reality is sometimes stranger than fiction.

The rat bomb is such a strange idea it’s almost impossible to believe that it actually happened. But it’s true!

The British secret services really did plan to place explosive fake rat carcasses in the cellars of German buildings.

However, the first shipment of rats was intercepted in France. One specimen, recovered from a French police station, sold for $1,875 at Bonhams in December.

It was a breakout year for…

Pipe dagger

This hidden dagger was designed for assassinations 

Spy memorabilia proved a big hit this year. This pipe dagger, designed by the British for the French resistance, realised £1,800 ($2,340) over the summer.

It was a year to forget for…                               

Ryedale Auctioneers were forced to postpone an auction of first world war memorabilia when someone called in a bomb scare. The sale featured a large selection of ordnance (all of it deactivated and perfectly safe).

One you may have missed

White feather

The white feather was used as a symbol of cowardice 

You’ll likely have heard of the white feather movement, which sought to shame conscientious objectors and other holdouts into joining up during the first world war.

In March an extraordinarily well preserved feather and letter telling the recipient to defend his country made £78 ($96) at Bonnington’s Auctioneers.

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