Medals and militaria market - 2014 auction review

2014 was an important year for militaria collectors, being the 100th anniversary of the first world war. As the world marked the landmark event, big bids were seen from collectors keen to commemorate the Great War.

This trend looks set to continue, with four more years of first world war anniversaries bringing new collectors to the field.

The medal market, particularly British medals, prospered in 2014, with a new UK auction record set by a unique example of the Victoria Cross in July.

Meanwhile, the market for United States militaria remains buoyant, with many strong sales for historical items from the revolutionary war and civil war.

Top medals and militaria sale of 2014

The hat had not been brought to auction for more than 40 years until 2014's sale

Perhaps the most potent symbol of history's most iconic military leader crossed the block in 2014, selling for an impressive $2.2m.

Napoleon's famous bicorne hat, worn by the general during the Battle of Marengo in 1800, came to auction from the collection of Prince Louis II of Monaco, great-grandfather to the current monarch Prince Albert.

It was expected to sell for between $360,000 and $480,000, but was snapped up with eager bids from a South Korean collector.

There are 19 of Napoleon's iconic bicornes known to exist, though he is thought to have worn over 120 during his lifetime.

2014's most important medals and militaria sales

A UK auction record for a Victoria Cross medal was set by a unique example awarded for the British campaign in Tibet in 1903. Presented to Colonel John Duncan Grant, who stormed a Tibetan fortress accompanied by a single Gurkha, it sold for £408,000 ($699,744) to the Ashcroft Trust gallery at London's Imperial War Museum. The world record for a VC is £410,000 ($703,175) for that of Captain Alfred Shout.

The world's largest private fleet of military vehicles, the Littlefield Collection, made an impressive $10.2m at Auctions America in July.

The medals of Spitfire ace Ronald Berry, who fought during the second world war, sold for $202,000, while Dambusters commander Guy Gibson's brooch and final letter saw a 2,100% increase on estimate to sell for $17,445.

General George S Patton's Third Army guidon sold ahead of the D-Day 70th anniversary in June for $50,000. Shortly after the event, an inscribed photograph from Winston Churchill to Joseph Stalin made $105,000.

A Knight's Cross presented to a Luftwaffe commander saw top bids as the highest honour of Nazi Germany, selling 175% above estimate at $110,000 to surprise collectors in a September sale.

A stunning US Colt Gatling gun from 1877, preserved in magnificent condition, sold for $395,000 in December at Heritage Auctions.

It was a breakout year for…

Military vehicles. With the Littlefield Collection inspiring enthusiasts following $10m in bids, many fine military vehicles crossed the block in 2014, including a collection of British military vehicles in the UK. Heinrich Himmler's Wanderer W11/1, used on his death camp inspections, was offered in August, while a Cadillac used in the first world war was placed on the Historic Vehicle Association's National Register.

It was a year to forget for…

The Forster Flag, the oldest surviving US flag, which was used during the revolutionary war. Estimated at $3m, the flag was the talk of the collecting community prior to the sale, but failed to find a buyer.

One you may have missed…

A Harrier Jump Jet used by the British Royal Air Force crossed the block without reserve at Silverstone, UK in July, and was bought up for just $180,000 by one lucky bidder.

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