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Where have all the medals gone?

Was on vacation last week and spent the time touring the antique malls of Northern Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota which got me to thinking.  What follows are some rambling thoughts and observations.

As some of you may know I have been a collector of military medals since the

 mid 1960’s. I started out by buying medals at coin shows and from ads in coin

 publications. From there I got on dealer lists and started going to gun shows and

flea markets. Then in the 1970’s antique malls started springing up like

mushrooms and became my happy hunting grounds. Over the same time period it

seems that the number of military medals collectors has increased faster than the

rabbit population. Anyhow over the last few years I have noticed a steady

decline of available material in the malls and that what I am finding in the malls is

common, misattributed and or grossly over priced. Best example of this was in

an antique mall on highway 29 in Wisconsin where some very nice merchant

 trying to be helpful offered me a 9th infantry distinctive insignia as a fireman’s

 badge for the bargain price of only $50!! At another mall I saw a large framed

photo of an Austrian soldier from the early 1900’s with a tag listing the man’s

 name and calling him an Australian soldier for only $750. The frame was fancy

and the photo was nice but I still think the price was excessively optimistic. Then

there are the full crocks of BS out there. We as coin collectors have all seen

 the large cast copies of coins from Indian cents on up being sold for $2-3. Well

I saw a Standing Liberty quarter version in a Minnesota antique mall labeled as a

“Political Token” and priced at only $225. The fact that the dealer had several of

these RARE items didn’t seem to cause any doubt as to their value. Well at least

 he had his items clearly priced which often is not the case in many display cases

that I see in antique malls. I don’t know how these mall venders think they can

 sell anything that doesn’t have the price clearly visable to prospective buyers

 through the locked glass case. In large antique malls like the big ones in

Stillwater, Minn. I will not bother to get the staff to open a case for me simply for

a price check unless the item in question has the potential to be really rare.

 Speaking of Stillwater, Minn, this was one of my favorite antiquing destinations.

 There used to be so many malls and shops there it would take 2-3days to go

through them all but things are changing there too. Over the last few years there

 has been a condo building boom in Stillwater which destroyed many of the

 smaller antique shops on Main street. Many of these condos have yet to be sold

due to the down turn in the real estate market. Of the remaining stores many are

vacant now and for sale due to the skyrocketing real estate taxes which have

 increased yearly I am told. One antique book dealer told me he decided to sell

 this year when his taxes jumped 160%. I asked him when the last tax hike was,

 thinking this one may have been long over due, “last year” he said and that was

 60% if my memory is correct. If the economy doesn’t get you the government

 will! I hate to think that in the not too distant future the only place for collectors

 to buy and sell will be the internet. Well I have rambled long enough, if you have

any thoughts to share please do so.

About Fred Borgmann

Retired from KP after nearly 31 years as new issues editor and the Standard Catalogs.
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