Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blade Markings

A variety of markings can be found stamped, or etched onto suitable portions of a dagger, sword, or bayonet, and most collectors are aware of the more commonly encountered patterns.

Waffen-Amt: This mark was applied to government issued weaponry, and it indicates that the item concerned has been tested and accepted by the Ordnance Dept., as a suitable stock item for issue. The mark normally comprises a stamped version of a stylised Eagle, or Eagle and Swastika often accompanied with an inspector’s reference number (as WaA 813). The mark is most commonly applied on firearms, but has been noted on service issue equipment as widely diversified as leather belts through to swords. It's most common application on bladed weapons is, however, to be noted on the Service Mauser bayonet. Foreign produced bayonets, such as Czechoslovak Mauser bayonets which were extensively used by German
and Czech troops throughout Reich Protectorate areas were similarly marked with the Waffen-Amt.

Proofmark: The proofmark appears exclusively on blades, and not on the fittings. (Nazi-issue firearms bore a different form of proofmark}. Not every blade was subjected to the tests of full proof, only a representative selection of blades from each production batch. Proof entailed a blade being subjected to various and rigorous stresses, and a blade which suitably met all requirements was taken to denote that the rest of the adjacent production batch was similarly suitable. The blade which had been tested was stamped on the face surface (as opposed to the tang) with the proofmark.

Above: Stamped issue mark on a Police bayonet.

Issue Marks: Generally speaking these marks fulfil a similar purpose to the Waffen-Amt, differing in that they are not normally encountered on non-service issue items, and that their application is not made by a national agency. but by an organisational ordnance department. The most commonly encountered type is the issue code and numbering found on the Police Dientseitengewehr or Service Dress Bayonet. The marking was stamped onto the reverse of the crossguard, and reverse scabbard locket, and it was applied by the Police Ordnance Dept. at the same time of issuance of the bayonet. It was not applied to the small size Extraseitengewehr (Extra-Dress Bayonet) as this was a purely walking out pattern, and not mandatory for Service
personnel. The mark was not applied to Service-Dress Bayonets that were privately purchased from the manufacturer. Other versions of the Issue Mark were applied to Naval swords and daggers — if purchased through the Service Retail channel, but not if acquired privately.

The Postschutz dagger was normally marked with the DRP letters plus issuance number on the underside of the quillons, and on the bayonet on the ricasso. These marks were applied, most likely, by the SS Ordnance Dept. responsible for the Postschutz requirements. Issuance numbers had at one time been applied to the RAD hewer early pattern (on the scabbard throat lip) but the practice appears to have been short lived.

Above: Proof mark on a blade manufactured by SMF. Crude copy of the Eickhorn trademark. RZM mark on an Army dagger blade — quite incorrect!

The TeNo issue marks are interesting in that their application commenced at the factory, where the TeNo Organisational crest was etched onto the blades at the same time as application of the firms trademark, but the numbering of the blade and scabbard was attended to at the same time of actual issuance when a requisition releasing a dagger, or hewer,was received by the TeNo Ordnance Department.

Issuance numbers were also stamped into the crossguards of SA and SS daggers, and sometimes on the cross-guards of the NPEA daggers. In the case of the SA and SS daggers the practice appears to have been an early measure (although not practised on a national scale) and it was abandoned after a short while.

NSKK chains were all invariably marked on the reverse of the chain links with the manufacturers RZM code and the NSKK authority designation: Musterschutz NSKK-Korpsfuhrung, the marking was stamped into the reverse of the links. Some of the reproduction links — distinctive in that they have no markings, have been noted in recent years to have been modified by being engraved with the official markings. A
second attempt at marking up the links has been attempted with a stamping, although this has been recognisable in that the lettering is oversized and is too large to be fully accommodated on the available space.

Above: Precise etching of an original trademark, on SA dagger by August Bickel.

Trade Marks: The most commonly encountered mark of all is the manufacturer’s trade mark, which is normally etched onto the blade on the ricasso, although in some cases stamped examples have been noted (the firm of Clemens and Jung particularly adopted
this method in preference to acid etching). One of the characteristics of companies making a prolific use of trademark styles, is that they facilitate the possibility of applying a dating system to the marks, thus the discovery of spurious Rohm inscriptions on SA daggers was highlighted by the ability torecognise a trademark dating later than the supposed Rohm period.

RZM Marks: The Reichszeugmeisterei (RZM) marking was applied to political blades only, and it was issued in common usage from about 1936 onwards. The department responsible for this had in fact been created in about 1929, at which time it had been known only as the Zeugmeisterei. The RZM mark is commonly copied on spurious blades, and it has been noted as being erroneously applied to such blade patterns as the Army style.

Frederick J. Stephens, "Blade Markings", "Reproduction? Recognition!" 1976

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Luftwaffe Daggers $5.95 Each

The advertisement on this page was run widely in the mid-1950s in American magazines like Popular Science and American Rifleman, and a great many daggers were sold. I know, because I bought one for $5.95. During the same period, Robert Abels in New York was selling a nearly complete line of Nazi daggers with the correct sheaths at a price of from $10.00 to $20.00. Abels had no trouble getting all the German militaria that he could sell.

Major Jim Atwood was apparently the first of the present group of “collectors/authorities” to visit Solingen in search of World War II "warehouse finds" and he didn’t even get there untill
1960! ln fact he was a late arrival, and a good deal of the best merchandise was long gone at very low prices.

It is still possible to have any quantity of grips, blades or entire daggers made to order in Solingen. The difference is that it is no longer practical. when Atwood was there in the 1960s one US dollar would buy something over four Deutsche Marks. As this is being written (1993) a dollar will only buy slightly more than one Deutsche Mark! ln other words, it is extremely expensive at the moment to have daggers made in Solingen. It is far cheaper to have them made in Spain, India, Pakistan or some other "emerging" nation.

At the bottom of this page and on the two following pages we have reproduced a small portion of a 175-page Robert Abels catalog from 1949. As you can plainly see, he was very much in the Nazi relics business less than five years after the war ended. Sellers like Abels would not consider stocking and cataloging material that they couldn't double their money on. Therefore, it is perfectly safe to assume that he was paying less than $9.00 to have a SA dagger made for him in Solingen, and delivered to him in New York, freight and duty paid.

From this Robert Abels catalog I purchased a quantity of the #1509 NSKK metal hat badge, shown below, at a price of two for a dollar. At the time I bought them I had no reason to question their vintage. With knowledge I gained since I bought these badges from Abels, I have concluded that it is most likely that this material was made after World War II specifically to fill orders for the American and British markets.

Ray R. Crodery, "Luftwaffe Daggers $5.95 each", NAZI MILITARIA - REAL OR FAKE, 1993

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fakes & Frauds - Committee Report

Attention all MCA members and friends!

Below is reproduced in full the chapter on Fake Nazi Daggers from Major Thomas M. Johnson's forth coming book. This is the firstin a long series of fakes and frauds reports to the MCA membershipfrom the FAKES and FRAUDS COMMITTEE of the MCA. This article is of such importance and so well written that it has not been edited. Any member who has even the slightest interest in Nazi daggers is greatly encouraged to buy Major Johnson's book as soon as possible. It may save you a great deal of money and grief in the long run. MCA wishes to thank Major Johnson for his kind permission in sending us this chapter from his book for publication in the JOURNAL prior to public dissemination. His support of the efforts of the Fakes and Frauds Committee is most gratifying.



"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all ofthe people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the peopleall the time." — Abraham Lincoln

The response to an early request for suggested subject matter for this reference has been gratifying. Siphoning through the plethora of requests and comments, one subject stands out-reproduction Nazi edged weapons and how to spot them! Any collector who has undergone the unfortunate experience of spending hard-earned dollars for a 'super rare' Third Reich edged weapon which subsequently turned out to be a phony is understandably anxious to preclude making the same mistake again. Unfortunately, unscrupulous dealers and collectors abound and very few sizeable collections are completely void of any phony pieces.

This chapter will not delve into specific reproduction mistakes made for each particular model Third Reich edged weapon. This subject area is vast and warrants a separate reference book in itself. Two preliminary efforts dealing specifically with reproduction Nazie dged weapon models are a paperback pamphlet published in England by R. McFarlane in July, 1969, entitled, Bluebook of Identification of Reproduction Nazi Edged Weapons, and a section devoted to the subject in Major Jack Angolia s latest book on edged weapons entitled, Edged Weaponry of the Third Reich.

Page 16 Vol.1,No.4

The theme of this chapter will be to provide the researcher/collector with some general guidelines which will serve him well in attempting to identify counterfeit pieces. Albeit, there is absolutely no substitute for experience in examining edged weapons,there do exist several reproduction indicators that will serve even the beginner well. Usually the individual with the inherent facility to never be 'taken' by a reproduction edged weapon is the same individual who has been an ardent collector and researcher for many years. The correlation between years of experience and probability of being duped is obviously not due to chance alone. The reproduction indicators discussed below will be referred to as 'red flags' because, hopefully, each will serve to mentally raise a red flag in the collector's mind prior to engaging in a bad purchase. Once one or more red flags listed below have been identified, it is recommended that the particular piece in question not be purchased. Although not necessarily a certainty, the item is more than likely a reproduction. In this field of collecting, it is much better to be too cautious than not cautious enough!

1. New Appearance. The vast majority of edged weapon reproductions. on the market today appear to have been manufactured within the past few weeks (and might well have been!). Quite frankly, thirty years of age will tend to leave some telltale signs, regardless of the care and storage means utilized. When examining a piece, look at the screw heads. Are they bright, shiny, and completely free of any dirt or corrosion? Inspect the small leather washer under the crossguard (if one is available). If it appears as new as the leather on a belt that you just purchased, proceed with caution. Take a flashlight and have a close look at the inside of the scabbard throat. If all the internal parts appear to have been made earlier in the month, they probably were! Unfortunately, this new appearance indicator will not stand alone, as some unscrupulous individuals have discovered such devious means as burying, soaking in urine, etc., to purposely "age"reproduction pieces. Keep in mind that old appearance alone is no guarantee of authenticity.

2. Misfitting Parts. To state that German quality control is usually superior would probably be the understatement of the year. The meticulous quality control exercised by the Germans in the manufacture of automobiles, cameras, etc., is held in esteem the world over. The fact that Third Reich weapon quality control was superior is evidenced by the recent reproductions manufactured in the United States, Spain,England, etc., being no match for the originals. Thus, be wary of any misfitting parts. For example, if an SA dagger wooden grip bears large gaps between the handle and the crossguard, rest assured that it never would have left the factory. Likewise, an SA eagle and swastika grip insignia that rests in an indentation much too large to accommodate it should definitely raise a red flag. In general, be on the lookout for crudeness in manufacture and/or fit of component parts. Also take the time to include exact dagger dimensions in your edged weapons reference library. Numerous reproductions have grossly inaccurate dimensions. A previously unpublished blueprint of the original SA dagger dimensions was furnished to the author by well known edged weapon collector/author John Ormsby and is reproduced in this chapter. The credit for the talented art work goes to Mr. Frank Quinn of Chicago, Illinois.

3. Unmarked Interior Parts. If the edged weapon that you are examining lends itself for disassembly, carefully take it apart and scrutinize the interior component parts. Take the time to learn what markings, if any, should be evident. For example, did you realize that the inside of both TENO EM grips should be marked with the familiar Eickhorn squirrel trademark? The tangs of several different model dagger blades were carefully marked with the manufacture's initials and/or mark. Often each component part was stamped with a corresponding serial number vis-a-vis the Diplomatic and Government Official's daggers. Take the time to learn what to look for when you disassemble a particular model sidearm.

4. Unusual Variations. With the ever-increasing escalation of Third Reich prices, a multitude of 'one-of-a-kind prototypes' are finding their way into the market. While some of these pieces are indeed authenic prototypes, a 'non-documented' prototype should be approached with a great deal of caution. The vast majority of "prototype" Nazi daggers being offered for sale today are reproductions, and since the prototype pieces demand top dollar, insist upon comlete documentation prior to the purchase of one. Suggested procedures for edged weapon documentation is the subject of another chapter. Fortunately, the majority of the various Solingen Waffenfabriken sales catalogs survived the war and represent a collector's primary reference source. A tedious search of all reference sources available should be made prior to the outlay of huge sums of money for unusual variations or prototype pieces.

5. Faulty Engraving. Like the previous indicator, the premium prices sought for Third Reich edged weapons bearing engraved blades have opened the flood gates for reproduction engraved bayonets, daggers, and swords. Not only are complete blades currently being manufactured, but unscrupulous dealers and collectors are resorting to having the local jeweler engrave crossguards, scabbard fittings, etc., with fictitious (and sometimes actual) German names and units. Advice on the engraving issue would be two-fold; first, study the engraving style, depth, etc., of known original pieces. More times than not, the local jeweler's version is completely 'foreign' to the characteristic German patterns utilized during the war years. Second, resort to the original Waffen-fabrik sales catalogs to ascertain if a particular standard engraved blade pattern was in fact a product of the manufacturing firm in question.

6. Incorrect Proofmarks. The size of the edged weapons factories during WWII ranged from mammoth corporations to small 'cottage-craft' shops operated in the rear of Solingen homes. Obviously, each individual firm did not manufacture the entire plethoric gamut of Third Reich sidearms. In some cases, a single firm designed a particular model dagger and application for a patent was made. The blade was then stamped GES.GESCH. (Patent Pending). Prime examples of patented model designs are the TENO Officer and Enlisted daggers by the Carl Eickhorn firm. Even the more common models were often restricted to several selected manufacturers. Armed with extensive knowledge of which firms produced which sidearms, the wise collector can rapidly eliminate a number of phony pieces bearing incorrect proofmarks. For example, how many of the readers of this chapter could accurately consolidate a list of the only Solingen factories to produce Naval daggers for the Reich? The completed list should look like this -Alcoso, Clemen und Jung, Eickhorn, Holler, Horster, Krebs, Lauterjung, Luneschloss, Pack, Plumacher, Puma, Max Weyersburg, Paul Weyersburg, Winger, and WKC.

7. Incorrect Accouterments. An excellent red flag source is the accompanying accouterments to a particular sidearm. Although it is obvious that hangers, frogs, and knots are interchangeable and are often switched on authentic pieces, the reverse is usually true with reproductions. Most 'repros' are manufactured complete to include the accompanying leather or fabric accouterments. Thus, the wary collector is provided with yet another invaluable red flag source. When examining accouterments, make a careful inspection of the inside of leather items. Does the natural leather and thread stitching exhibit thirty years of aging? If all of the known original standard bayonet frogs that you have observed were constructed of smooth leather, and you are offered the 'opportunity' to purchase one constructedof pebbled leather - BEWARE! Check the condition and wear of the portepee/knot. Does it appear to be recently manufactured? One final word of caution, some unscrupulous dealers will add authentic trappings to a reproduction sidearm in order to avoid this particularred flag. Thus, one should not attempt to let this indicator stand alone, but utilize it in conjunction with the previously mentioned indicators.

8. Incorrect Factory Markins. Should you be fortunate enough to acquire a factory new (unissued) piece, compare the manufacturer name listed on the cardboard issue tag and/or paper shipping bag with theRZM code or proofmark engraved on the blade. Obviously, if the piece is unaltered, the manufacturer name listed on the tag and shipping bag should be the same company whoose RZM number or proofmark appearson the blade. SA daggers have been observed recently having WMW (Waffenfabrik Max Weyersberg) paper issue tags affixed to the upper scabbard fitting ring and RZM numbers of manufacturers other than WMW on the blades.

9. Non-existent Models. Unscrululous dealers have gone as far as to promote a demand for “original" Third Reich blades which never even existed under the Reich! The best example of this fraudulent effort is the brass Eickhorn Schutzstaffell (SS) pocket knife which has recently made its entry into the marketplace. These spurious SS knives are presently being manufactured in England and are 100% reproductions. Interesting enough, this particular fake has been manufactured with built-in aging and appears to be original in all respects. However,as mentioned in the discussion of the first indicator above, 'aging’ can be accomplished by artificial means. The wholesale price of these knives from the manufacture is only a few dollars each. However, since research indicates that this piece never existed and is a complete reproduction, its true value is much less than even the wholesale price. As a matter of fact, strictly from a collector's standpoint, this item is worthless and only tends to mar an authentic collection of Third Reich edged weapons.

In conclusion, the adoption of three general "rules of thumb" for collecting Third Reich edged weapons is recommended. First and foremost, become a student of the subject. Do not rely on gun show talk and the opinions of other collectors to educate yourself. Learn the facts for yourself. The best way to begin is to build yourself a large reference lebrary on the subject. The limited amount of published works in this field will preclude the price of a fine library from becoming prohibitive. Many collectors have made the unwise Statement, "I would much prefer to allocate the $15 pricetag of a current reference book toward the purchase of a good dagger." The truth of the matter is that the $15 expended for a good reference book might repeatedly preclude throwing away sizeable sums of money on bad daggers. The quote at the beginning of Chapter 2 by Benjamin Franklin is indeed apropos, e.g., "If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." Attempt to augment your current reference books with as many original Solingen sales catalogs as you can obtain. These catalogs have the distinct advantage of depicting only original materials, whereas a few reproduction pieces, unfortunately, grace the pages of most of the current reference books. Copies of the original catalogs and reprints of several catalogs are available from various dealers.

The second rule of thumb pertains to the subject of dealers (or sources). Find one whom you can trust explicitly and direct your total business his way. The integrity of Third Reich edged weapons dealers (and collectors) in this country and abroad runs the gamut from beyond reproach to totally unscrupulous. Fortunately, the hobby is small enough that a few fast inquiries to other collectors will usually distinguish the dealers and collectors to avoid. Those dealers or collectors who have sold reproductions for genuine pieces will be rapidly identfied!

A third general rule of thumb which will serve you well is if you have any reservations about the authenticity of a particular edged weapon, leave it alone. Psychologists refer to this uncertainty discomfort as "cognitive dissonance". Obviously, the dissonance may occur before or after the actual purchase, but much better for the purchaser if the dissonance is initiated early by one or more 'redflags', thus negating the purchase. An honest collector will readily admit that the vast majority of his 'maybes' turned out to be repros. Conversely, if you should see an item for sale at a show, in a shop, or on a dealer’s list, that appears to be original and would fill a soughtafter hole in your collection, do not procrastinate. A common sign to be found in antique shops is, "The best time to buy an antique is NOW. If you wait, it will be gone!" The same rationale is certainly true of WWII edged weapons. Every attempt, humanly possible, has been made to preclude a single reproduction piece from appearing in this reference, except for photographs appearing in this chapter on reproductions.

William J. Ringler, JOURNAL, Military Collectors Association, C.1975

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Friday, May 29, 2009

The Arthur Eickhorn Presentation Dagger

Located on the southern edge of the Ruhr Valley of Germany is the small town of Solingen whose nickname has long been the "City of Swords." One of Europe’s oldest centers for the manufacture of cutlery and renowned the world over, it ranks in importance with Sheffield, England; Thiers, France; Toledo, Spain; and Nara, Japan. Chartered in 1374, Solingen cutlery has been famous since medieval times and is supposed to have been introduced by crusaders from Damascus. For the past several centuries, Solingen has remained the center of the German edged weapon industry. Even today the "City of Swords" remains one of the world’s key manufacturers of military and civic swords, knives and cutlery. Indeed, the current PUMA firm’s sales catalog states, "Just as Paris is associated with fashion and wines, Detroit with automobiles, Dublin with linens and lace. Amsterdam with tulip bulbs, so Solingen deservedly relates to cutlery.

The early Solingen smiths utilized the small family "cottage industry" approach to the manufacture of edged weapons where items were made by artisans in their own homes. Quality was definitely the name of the game as often the early masters toiled for several days on a single blade. The bulk of the finished products was produced either in the smith’s home or in small makeshift workshops usually located behind the homes. Needless to say, it was inevitable that the demand for Solingen-caliber blades would force a collective pooling of resources into a number of large factories (Waffenfabriken). One of the first large firms to emerge (and one which is still manufacturing quality cutlery today) was the Carl Eickhorn Waffenfabrik in 1865.

Arthur Eickhorn, son of founder Carl ,decided to take advantage of the unique skills possessed by a number of mastercraftsman employed by his father. Over a period of several years, Arthur Eickhorn was instrumental in personally designing a large variety of ornate edged weapons for many differentc ountries and special presentations. A 1967 letter from the Eickhorn firm substantiates that Arthur Eickhorn was involved in the special manufacturing of deluxe items for govemment heads and high-ranking military officers.

One magnificent creation of the eldest Eickhorn son has come into the possession of advanced collector Thomas W. Pooler of San Rafael, California, whose wife Susan graciously assisted in the writing of this article. Without a doubt, the Arthur Eickhorn Presentation Dagger described below represents one of the finest crafted products of "The City of Swords."

The handle, or hilt, of the dagger measures 5" from the gold-platedcrossguard to the crown. Two very beautiful pieces of mother-of-pearl form the grip. On both sides of the pearl grips are solid gold front and backstraps. These straps were probably made from a mold for another dagger, as they have been cut at the top to match the length of the grip. The underside of both straps is artfully inscribed.

The top of the dagger bears an eagle's head. The head itself measures 1.5" high by 2" wide. Extremely delicate oak leaves, instead of penciled feathers, have been etched to form the back of the eagle’s head. Lines of the eagle`s mouth are accurately drawn and extended to form the lower portion of the beak. The upper beak slopes down and ends in the classic hook. The craftsman has even etched in the chin feathers of the eagle. Measuring 1/8"in diameter, ruby gem stones have been placed in the head for eyes and they take on a sparkle with every movement of the dagger. The designer has gone to great lengths in detailing this head as there are tiny tear ducts and eyebrows on the eagle. The turn bolt or spannernut, on the dagger is actually a crown for the eagle, and it is divided into eight panels, bearing alternating patterns of crosses and miniature eagles. The very tip of the crown gives the appearance of eagle talons as the prongs are delicately arched, and appear to hold the crown in place.

The Damascus steel blade was the result of a tedious, skillful and time-consuming effort of an artist. One side of the blade bears the signature."Arthur Eickhorn - Solingen". There are few, if any, blades bearing the entire Eickhorn presentation signature and one on a Damascus blade is even more unusual. On the reverse of the blade, in lieu of the popular Eickhorn logo of a squirrel holding an acorn, is the Eickhorn family crest done in gold (rarely seen). The crest measures just .75" and is completely surrounded by avery delicate filigree design. Thes quirrel is sitting on a helmet which rests on the top of a shield divided into two segments. The upper portion contains oakleaves and acorns while the lower portion depicts a hunting horn, complete with a lanyard (see accompanying art work by Ronald Lang of San Francisco).

The seven-inch blade comes sheathed in a scabbard of grooved black leather with hammered gold-plated fittings. Delicately etched into the fittings are three bands of oak leaves and acorns, two bands on the lower fitting and one band on the upper fitting between the hanger loops. These particular goldplated stirrups are anchored to the scabbard so as to provide no movement either in the rings or stirrups. This is one of the reasons the dagger is thought to be a sample as it would not permit freedom of movement when worn with a uniform. The blade opening at the top of the scabbard has been hand-done. Irregular lines and uneven cuts indicate this was a one-of-a-kind piece and not machine-made.

Unfortunately, the Eickhorn firm has no existing records on this particular piece, as the majority of all Waffenfabriken records were destroyed during the latter stages of World War II when Solingen was heavily bombed by the Allies. Nevertheless. this ornate dagger is truly a work of art and can honestly be rated as a choice collector's piece in anyone's militaria collection!

Thomas M. Johnson and Susan Pooler, "The Arthur Eickhorn Presentation Dagger", WARRIORS, Issue No. 2, c.1970

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Monday, February 23, 2009

German Fireman Siderams

From the days of Imperial Germany to the Third Reich, the German Feuerwehr (Fireman) have had an edged weapons to wear. The German Fire Department was a para-military organization which had ranks of officers and enlisted personnal.

For the most part, the design of the edged weapons of the Fireman remained unchanged throughout the period of the Imperial and Third Reich eras. Until the early 1930's the enlisted man would wear a sidearm which was designed as Model No. 64 by the WKC Waffenfabrik works, and Models No. 916 and 743 by the Eickhorn Firm.

These sidearms were made with a saw-edged blade and were considered as a functional tool for the fireman. Manufacturere other than WKC and Eickhorn probably made this type of sidearm, however, with the exception of the manufacturer's number, they would be of the same design.

The enlisted fireman had a new design of sidearm in the Third Reich period. This pattern was more like the bayonet design and was available in two blade lengths, with or without the saw-edged blade. These sidearms were more of a dress bayonet than a tool for the Fireman. Many manufacturers made this pattern of sidearm, and they are listed in almost every German edged weapons catalog of this period.

Unlike the enlisted sidearm, the Fire Officer's dagger made little if any change through the span form Imperial to Nazi days. The manufacturers of these daggers did not vary their patterns and even the blade engraving was unually standard. These daggers were available in two types of finishes, gilt and silver.

In the early Eickhorn catalogs, and the later Eickhorn Kundendienst catalog, the model number of the dagger (Eickhorn Model No. 42) did not change on the Fire Officer's dagger.

One of the unique sidearms of the Fire Department was the darss ax (Beile). These edged weapons appeared late in the Imperial period and did not become popular until the twenty's and later in the Nazi era. In the 1927 Eickhorn catalog there are ten dress axes listed for the fireman. They range from an extremely elaborate engraved in silver or gold (Models No. 339, 195 and 932) to the plain nickle-plated versions such as No. 709 and 925. The 1927 wholesale prices of the axes varied from $1.59 for the plain models to $6.69 for the deluxe engraved patterns.

On many of the dress fire axes, there was a plate which could be used for a name or even a dedication. Most of the axes found today by the collector do not have anything engraved on these plates. On rare occasion, however, one is found with a dedication.

Some of these dress axes were carried through to the Third Reich period. The 1938 Eickhorn Kundendienst catalog lists some of the models as available in their 1927 catalog. These were numbers 728, 915, 926 and 924. The other models were apparently dropped from production in the Nazi years.

The Eickhorn Company seems to have been one of the few firms to have produced the Firman's ax, as catalogs of other manufactureres studied by the author did not list them.

The fireman's saber made only slight changes between the Imperial and Nazi era. Early Imperial sabers were of the basic army pattern with a "D" type guard and fishskin-wrapped grip. The blades were occasionally engraved with the traditional fire ax and helmet or the fire ladder, with scrollwork around the edges of the etched panel. In most cases, this engraving was an enlarged version of the pattern on the Fire Officer's dagger. Deluxe pattern sabers were of the lion-head style with the fire department crosse-axes and helmet cast into the longet. The hilts were usually silver plating, as were the leather scabbard fittings.

When the Nazis came to power, the Fire Department, previously under local and individual state control fell under the jurisdiction of the National Fire Service, which eventually came under the power of the SS.

Until 1936 the Fire Department saber made little if any changes in design, with the exception of a plastic or celluloid wrapped girp instead of the earlier fishskin pattern. After 1936, the Fire Officer's and NCO's could wear the standard police sword with the police eagle and swastika mounted in the grip. However, this was not mandatory and the Fire Department personnel purchased their own pattern sabers for a dress sidearm.

The Carl Eickhorn Company listed the standard Army saber, with a gilt hilt for both Fire and Police Officers (Model No. 40 in the Eickhorn Kundendienst catalog). Other manufacturers also made the German Army saber in either a solid brass hilt, silver plated, or with a gilt plating for Police and Fire officers. In most cases the Fire Department sabers were offered with a leather scabbard rather than the army pattern metal versions.

Ron G. Hickox, "Daggers and Sidearms of the German Fire Department", Military Collector's News, 1974

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fake or Real


It has been said that the ingredient that is supposed to be most difficult for countedeiters of money to get is the paper. On the other hand, the people who counterfeit money say it's easy -they bleach the ink off $1.00 bills and print $100.00 bills on that paper. The same is true of the blade fakers: an abused original blade can easily be re-worked into an undetectable fine fraud worth many, many times its cost.

Fakers usually don't think small so let's say you wish to create a dagger which will be worth $1500.00 to $2000.00. Naturally, it will need to be a rare type, perhaps the only known example extant. The faker's rule number 1 is: don't start with an obvious Pakistani or Slavish copy of a dagger. Start with the real thing or with some "warehouse-find" parts from Solingen which can be intermingled with a few genuine dagger parts to create the illusion of authenticity.

If a faker is going to create a dagger intended to sell in the $1500.00 to $2000.00 range he (or she!) is perfectly happy to pay $500.00 for a dagger to start with. At the time this book is written one can still buy a good SS dagger in the $500.00 range, so why not start there?

After purchase of a subject dagger to be altered, a decision is made as to whether the new creation will be marketed as a pristine original in very fine to mint condition, or if it will be sold in good to excellent used condition. The original dagger is then stripped down and the parts are simply added to bins of similar parts from other broken down daggers (unless of course, the original parts are marked in some special way).

The blade to be used must be 1) used as it is, 2) fixed up slightly, or 3) refinished entirely. To add the greatest value to the end product, the faker will usually select option 3 and refinish the entire blade. Commercial metal finishers (see your Yellow Pages) or people working inside the metal finishing business can duplicate the original Third Reich finish on a dagger blade quickly and cheaply and at the same time remove the original etching on the blade. This is not a job to be done at home, as any unevenness is easily detectable. A factory finish is perfect, and removes very little metal from the blade. Fakers almost always remove the original etching from the blades of daggers they are working on because it is so easy to replace. The process is known industrially as "photo-engraving" or "photo resist etching'" and it is used every day to make things like printed circuit boards. It is easy to do at home.

A photo resists is a liquid lacquer-type substance to which photo sensitive material like ammonium bichromate has been added. It is applied to the blade of a dagger by dipping the blade in it or pouring the resist directly on the blade. The blade is then suspended or stood on end in a dark place so the excess resist can flow off and the remainder can dry. When dry, the blade looks like it has been varnished.

A film positive of the inscription to be etched on the blade is then positioned where it belongs on the blade, and is taped in place with transparent tape. The blade is placed in a plastic bag with a vacuum hose attached. When the vacuum is turned on the film negative is sucked tightly against the blade. The side of the blade with the film on it is then positioned in front of a carbon arc lamp (plain sunlight will also do the trick) for about one minute while light hardens the photo resist where it shows through clear film. Naturally, no light reaches the photo resist under the black pad of the film, so those photo resist spots remain soft and can be removed with a chemical developer. When the soft photo resist is removed it erases bare steel.

After baking the hardened photo resist to make it durable the blade is washed or sprayed with a solution like ferric chloride which removes exposed steel very quickly. To duplicate logo etching on a steel blade may require 2 or 3 minutes. To get a very deep etch as seen on the motto on some blades, or to replicate damascene work may require 5 to 10 minutes of etching depending on the temperature of the ferric chloride.

When the etch is correct the blade is removed, rinsed in clear water and then the hardened resist is removed with lacquer thinner. If it is desired, the etched spots can be chemically blackened prior to removal of the resist.

This type of etching is capable of reproducing extremely fine detail which has critically sharp edges and corners, even when examine dunder a powerful glass. A cheaper method which is capable of reproducing good, but not fine detail, is to silk screen a resist (likepaint) on the blade leaving some areas of exposed steel. When silk screened resists and their resulting etchings are viewed under a useful glass, the checkered edges (usually 220 checks per inch, or 9 per mm) left by the silk screen are perfectly evident.

The least expensive method, but one often used by the fakers is to hand paint the resist on the blade leaving open areas to be etched. An excellent example of a blade etched with hand painted resist is shown on page 216 of volume I of T. M. Johnson's book "Collectingthe Edged Weapons of the Third Reich".

There is absolutely no way to tell a good etched blade made in 1940 from a good etched blade made yesterday. Anyone who says he can is vastly over estimating his ability. The best experts in the field are fooled by new blades everyday. The processes can be identical to those originally used and the technicians of today are at least as good as those of 50 years ago. All facilities and equipment are better.

Interestingly, there are now people promoting the service of making"undetectable" repairs to Nazi edged weapons. These repairs including painting, covering with leather, the replacement of missing parts,etc., etc. Such repairs do not increase the historical value of the piece at all (if they did the Venus di Milo would have been restored years ago). All they really do is increase the value of the weapon for resale to someone who is unaware of the repairs made.

The salvation of the blade fakers are those collectors who seek a rare and unique piece - a one-of-a-kind knock-out of a blade, to exhibit for the even more gullible to look at. The best advice I can give is to BE VERY SUSPICIOUS OF ANY NON-STANDARD EDGED weapon. NEVER buy any edged weapons impulsively.

Ray R. Cowdery, "Nazi Militaria, Fake or Real", Author Published, 1993

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Third Reich Edged Weapon Accouterments

"It is proverbial that well dressed soldiers are usually well be haved soldiers."

- John A. Lejeune, Reminiscences of a Marine

If one segment of the field of collecting the edged weapons of the Third Reich has been grossly ignored, it is the minute amount of research devoted to the subject of accouterments. A dictionary definition of the term "accouterment" is "equipage; trappings; the equipment, excluding arms and clothing of a soldier." The word has an alternate American spelling of "accouterment" and a primary British spelling of "accoutrement." In the edged weapon collector/researcher vernacular, the term usually connotes the hangers (straps), frogs, portepees (knots) and belt loops associated with the various edged weapon sidearms.

With the exception of a paperback reference published by the author in 1978, the sum total of what has been compiled and printed to date on Third Reich edged weapon accouterments would hardly fill a shot pamphlet. Thus, a few years ago the author began an extensive research effort to overcome this deficiency. Due to the nature of the subject, i.e. accouterments were considered to be mere inexpensive trappings for the basic sidearm, information proved to be extremely sketchy, even in the original source documents. This noticeable lack of source information obviously played a major influence on the subsequent abbreviated effort devoted to the subject. Given the inclination and time, the serious collector/researcher can uncover countless sales catalogs, advertisements, magazine articles (appearing in various trade publications)which cover in detail the myriad of edged weapon designs, but, alas, much of this tome of literature is sans any mention of the accompanying accouterments. In fact, the corresponding data on the type, dimensions, and colors of the numerous organizational accouterments are practically nonexistent. However, where there is a will, there is a way. Many serious collectors/researchers recognizing the major void on this subject in the available reference works, began an accumulation of their own, consisting of copious notes and detailed sketches, which were subsequently utilized to identify an unknown accouterment. This chapter draws heavily upon these private studies, as well as upon the the few original source documents on the subject.

The purpose of an edged weapon hanger is basic - a means is required to attach the sidearm to the body of the wearer. However, the use of the (now) decorative portepee or knot bears an interesting history which dates back to the days of horse-mounted combat, when the portepee served an import and utilitarian purpose. When the sword was the primary combat weapon of the mounted cavalryman, the sword knot was wrapped around the rider's wrist with the acorn (ball) grasped tightly in the hand. If the "jostler" had the sword knocked from his hand, all was not lost. The rider could rapidly regain control of the sword and continue his attack. When the requiem was finally sounded for the horse-mounted cavalry as a viable means of combat, the role of the sidearm portepee evolved into a strictly decorative one, to wit, one modern dictionary definition of the term ''knot'' is "a piece of ribbon or similar material tied or folded upon itself and used or worn as an ornament."

One exception to the lack of detailed source material on accouterments surrounds the detailed descriptions of some of the presentation type accouterments. For example, an ample description of the hangers designed to accompany the famed Hermann Goring Reichsmarshal dagger can be found on page 7 of the Publishing House "Die Ordenssammlung" Pamphlet Number 16. A complete English translation of this description follows:

At the end of October 1940 the special manufacture of the dagger hanger for the Reichs Marshal has completed. It consists of, as is customary, two slightly angled hanging white cloth straps - with 2mm thick edging - which are covered with 20mm wide stripes. These stripes are interwoven with two 5mm wide gold stripes. The straps are attached above, next to one another on the gold plated snap attachment. The individual straps are identical, except that the front one is somewhat shorter to accomplish the angular position of the dagger. The straps are about 20mm wide and have gold plated spring-hooks at the lower end attached in the middle of a simple rectangle. A gold-plated buckle to adjust the length, and a gold plated slide which presses the straps together in the area of the spring hook are similarly ornamented. In the middle of the front side the rectangular surfaces are decorated with two oak leaves which emerge to the left and to the right to form a bead. The slide has only one such surface, however, the buckle has two which are connected by two lateral, grooved straps which form a kind of frame.

The edged weapon accouterments were generally manufactured by specialty firms and not by the major Waffenfabriken (arms factories). Even in the cases where the Waffenfabriken sales catalogs reflect various hangers and portepees offered for sale, these items were normally purchased from a subcontractor. As with everything else associated with this business, a few exceptions did exist. When (then) Major James P. Atwood inspected the Solingen weapon factories in the early 1960's (the subject of Chapter 2, COLLECTING THE EDGED WEAPONS OF THE THIRD REICH VOLUMEN II), the Carl Eickhorn firm's remaining wartime stock included several boxes of hardware and rolls of cloth material for the assembly of Second Model Luftwaffe dagger hangers.

Today, many a collector has realized, and often to his chagrin, that the accompanying accouterments for a particular edged weapon may be just as difficult (and in some cases, more difficult) to aquire than the sidearm itself. For example, compare the availability of the Government Official/Diplomatic daggers to the availability of their respective accouterments (ditto the HitlerYouth Leader and the Water Protection Police dagger). Since each dress sidearm required a set of a hangers for wear, the reader may wonder why this is the case. The most probable answer is that during World War II, and immediately thereafter, very little monetary value was assigned to the edged weapons themselves much less the accouterments. Original leather and fabric dress hangers that sell today for premium prices were considered to be"worthless straps" and '"extra baggage" and were promptly discarded. Thus, with a very limited number of accouterments being "liberated" and saved from eventual destruction after the war, the law of supply and demand has produced a major escalation of accouterment values to the collector.

Thomas M. Johnson, "Collecting the Edged Weapons of the Third Reich, Vol. III", Author published, 1978.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008


The Solingen Weapon Industry in the National-Socialistic State

By Engineer Heinz Auelmann, Solingen "Die Klinge" June 1936

"Solingen made me." thus our old masters used to perpetuate themselves on the blades of the swords they created. As early as a thousand years ago, but mainly in the 16th century, thanks to the artistic and technical skills of the inhabitants of our "Blade City" at that time, the foundation was laid for what was to become the German Armory of Solingen. With justified pride the City of Solingen may remember their ancient masters as the creators of their industry today, who without knowledge of modern techniques and on their own, created works of art that are still exemplary today.

The free man's defense, the sword, is like no other weapon intimately tied to the German people. The Teutons used to place a sword by the new-born's side in the cradle to provide him with courage and a warlike spirit in defense of his soil. By the ceremony of buckling on the sword, the adolescent became a consecrated warrior. Finally, a man was laid to rest in the grave with his sword to his right.

Sacred oaths were taken by placing hands on the sword blade. Saxons, Franconians, Danes and Normans thus gave the oath of peace and loyalty. With many a German tribe swords enjoyed godlike veneration, being considered a symbol of justice and jurisdiction, a sign of sovereign authority, of power and might. Until deep into the Middle Ages it was the preferred weapon which, for protection or defiance, the free man always carried at his side. We can only measure the high value of the sword when we consider how the wealand woe of each individual fighter depended upon the skilled command of the sword, the quality of its steel and its manufacture. It is a fact that before the invention of firearms, the sword was the principal weapon on which rested the decision of the battles, as has been the case even in more recent times during hand-to-hand combat. From ancient times the sword has maintained its use as the noblest honor gift. On its presentation a lasting relationship of loyalty and friendship was sealed.

Also edged weapon dedications and inscriptions have been kept alive until our time. Mostly applied to the blade, solemn epigrams are to remind the bearer and owner of his duties. The Germanic peoples called these inscriptions the "sword blessing". Characteristic of people and time are the pithy sayings of the 16th century which above all manifest deep piety and were carried by devout lansquenets, who before the beginning of the battle were on their knees in ardent prayer and then, a moment later, knew how to reconcile it with their conscience when emptying the farmer's purse and chicken-coop.

Full of genuine war-spirit are the admonitions on the swords during the Thirty Year War: "Victory or Death" - '"Under the Weapons the Law's areSilent." - "Neither Foolhardy Nor Fearful." A word of exhortation to the entire German people is the sword epigram of "Hermann" in the Teutoburg Forest: "German unity my strength, my strength Germany's might."

Si vis pacer, para bellum! (If you want peace, prepare for war)

Never had peace been more ominously threatened than at the time when mutineers and deserters knocked Germany's weapons out of her hands and placed her, defenseless, at the mercy of foreign powers. As far as Germany was concerned, disarmament, as stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles, was carried out scrupulously, as ascertained even by the Interallied Control Commission. However, the former enemy states disregarded their own treaty,which was to initiate an international general disarmament, and escalated armament according to most modern viewpoints.

Germany was near internal decay. Led by incompetent governments, the people were tearing themselves to pieces in class struggle and party disputes. High treason was elevated to an "affair of honored." Born from the spirit of our undefeated army, moulded and fought for by the Fuhrer, the idea of National Socialism arose, and a new belief in an eternal Germany with honor and freedom. In the auditorium of the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Adolf Hitler on February 24, 1920, proclaimed for the first time the program of the NSDAP. Point 22 of the program says" "We demand the abolition of the mercenary troops and the formation of a people's army"

Imperturbably the Fuhrer fought for the soul of the people. The NSDAP was ridiculed and jeered, then persecuted and prohibited and combated with all means of vileness. Through misery and self-denial and with enormous blood sacrifices one position after the other was conquered. The appointment of the Fuhrer to Chancellor of the German Reich on January 30, 1933, finally broke the spell. Germany received her honor back, and her freedom brought along the law for the reconstruction of the armed forces on March 16, 1935.Point 22 of the NSDAP program was thus accomplished.

As fighters for an ideology today's boys and men of the different organizations of the NSDAP carry the daggers bestowed on them by the Fuhrer. It isproudly worn as an outward sign of constant readiness to valiantly stand up forAdolf Hitler and his idea and, if need be, sacrifice one's life.

Displaced through modern war techniques, the sword, for army, navy and air force, is not to be primarily a weapon, but rather a symbol of the desire for military preparedness of its bearer who knows how to protect the borders of his country.

Thomas M. Johnson, "Collecting the Edged Weapons of the Third Reich - Vol. II", Author Published, 1976

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reproduction? Recognition!


During the three decades since the endof World War II there has been growing interest in the military technology of Hitler's Germany. This is especially true of the edged weaponry of the Third Reich.The unparalleled enthusiasm expressed by collectors for German WWII edged weapons continues to reach new heights. Scarcity and increased demand by collectors and investors have produced greater interest in this field of collecting than in any time in the past. Unfortunately,this increase in demand and subsequent increase in value has surfaced a real culprit to intimidate collectors- the reproduction Third Reich edged weapon.

As mentioned in my own text on Third Reich edged weapons, the one subject which collectors request information on more than any other is the subject of reproductions and how to accurately identify them. Indeed, finding a collector who has never purchased or traded for a reproduction or "parts" edged weapon is harder to find than a chained SA dagger! I know of no more disheartening experience in this hobby than to learn that oneself has squandered a sizeable sum of money on what later turns out to be a reproduction. It definitely behooves every collector to become an expert indistinguishing spurious pieces.

To date only the mere surface has been scratched on this vital subject. What is sorely needed, and has been needed for years, is a separate definitive study on reproductions.

Reproduction Nazi daggers first made their appearance immediately following World War II. Enterprising Solingen manufacturers recognised the souvenir demand for their edged weapons and hastily assembled the first "parts" daggers out of war-time surplus part sand, where needed, post-war parts. However, the major deluge of reproductions was not witnessed until the values of authentic pieces had escalated to a high enough plateau to make the manufacture of reproductions economical. Although the establishment of an exact date when the plateau was reached is an exercise in futility, the majority of collectors will place this date during the early sixties. During that time frame, the values of many authentic Third Reich edged weapons had reached the critical point making reproductions a very profitable venture. The floodgates were opened and bogus pieces were soon to be manufactured in England, Spain, and the United states, as well as in Germany. Several of the original WorldWar II Waffenfabriken (arms factories) resorted to assembling and manufacturing spurious edged weapons as a source of additional income.

Initially, the quality of these edged weapon reproductions was definitely substandard, and even the novice collector/researcher had little difficulty in segrigating the "wheat from the chaff". Unfortunately, the reproduction manufacturers refined their processes to where a highly experienced eye is now required to identify their wares.

Little has been done to turn the tide against the unscrupulous occupation of marketing spurious collectibles. It is doubtful that any future international legal restraints will hamper this operation, and reproductions will continue to be dumped into the market place in ever increasing numbers. Thus, the only rational course of action is to identify reproductions in their true relationship to the original pieces rather than ignore and, subsequently, mistake them for originals. The only defence against the reproduction onslaught is to arm oneself with full knowledge of reproduction manufacture, types, etc.

In sum, an erudite reference devoted solely to the subject of reproduction Third Reich edged weapons is long overdue, and, in my opinion, my good friend Fred Stephens is the most qualified individual on either side of the Atlantic to author such a text. This reference, which has been compiled over the past several years should more than fill the void in this all-important area.

Thomas M, Johnson,LTC, US Army.

Author's Forward

This book has been designed to serve as an identification handbook covering the basic range of reproductions of German Third Reich blades. It does not, of course, cover every reproduction - let alone every variation of reproduction -but I hope that it will equip the interested collector with enough facts and information to be able to approach the subject with some degree of confidence and competence, and that he can probe the far dark corners of this arcane subject without the unpleasant experience of getting his fingers burnt.

I have not undertaken this work in a crusading spirit - hell-bent upon destroying the market in reproduction daggers. Such an ideal would not only be impossible, but also impracticable. The moral and ethical considerations of the subject are beyond the scope of this books. The emotive in researching it has been to note that there are differences between original and reproduction daggers and because there are such differences it is worthy that they be identified and annotated.

The most important consideration that arose whilst researching this book (over a period of some ten years), was that there has never been a more propitious time at which to undertake such a study. The mass-production of reproductions has evolved through a period in which the originals have been becoming scarcer. Having had an opportunity to study the originals under conditions which held no doubts regarding authenticity, it has been an advantageous position to hold whilst sorting out reproductions to study for comparison. If this book had not been attempted now there would have been less likelihood in the future of having had the best opportunity to study with complete assuredness. In the more distant future, say 50 years hence, such a study would have been for the most part conjecture, and for the lesser part provable facts.

It is for the collectors and researchers of future years that I have really written this book - hopeful that I will give them a source of information upon which they can rely and a solid base from which to extend. It is the collectors of the present age, however, who have made the compilation of this book possible and I am indebted to a great many people for their time, effort, and sincere interest in helping me bring this work to fruition. It has been their interest, and genuinec oncern for the recording of true facts and worthwhile information that has maintained the stimulus to keep on at this work until it has emerged as a useful work of reference.

Apart from being a work of reference, this book is also something of a tribute to my dear friend, Andrew S. Walker. It was Andy who originally promoted the idea of the book to me, and whose superb photographs are to be noted in this work. Unfortunately, Andy will not see this completed book, having died in a tragic accident in June, 1975. His contributions, however, have remained valuable inclusions.

Gordon J. Whlte of Rugby, Warwickshire, has had the problem of coping with hundreds of my ham-fisted negatives, and producing the vast volume of prints from which the final selection was made.

My good colleague, and noted authority, Lt. Col. Thomas M. Johnson, US Army, responded immediately to my request for photos and information at a time when he was immersed in his own outstanding work. Tom has been an unending source of encouragement, and was kind enough to write the Preface for this work.

Andy Southern Jr., an outstanding photographer from California generously contributed his time and photographs, and they are superb.

Many other people have contributed generously to this work, and I would particularly like to single out for thanks : Thomas W. Pooler ; Joseph P. Curry; Herman A. Maeurer; Hugh Page Taylor; Andrew Mollo ; David J. Hemmings ;Mike Bassett; Peter G. Grane ; David Delich ; Leslie Cox; Lt. Col. John R. Angolia ; Carl Fermor; John Cash; Sgt. James G. Selcan USAF ; Eric Campion; Dr: Julien Milestone ; R. Moses ; Roy Butler and staff of Wallis and Wallis; Doug Nie and staff of Weller and Dufty; Wolfgang Herrman of Count Kleman Ltd. and John Lindop.

Apart from the above, a great many other people also contributed generously to this work, but elected to do so under the proviso of remaining anonymous. To all who have given me help and encouragement, I extend my warmest thanks and gratitude.

Frederick J. Stephens, 1976

Frederick J. Stephens, "Reproduction? Recogintion!", Published by the author, 1976

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Edged Weapons Maintenance and Storage

As we are all well aware, serious collectors of most items invest much time, effort and money in their area of interest. Often the pursuit of an item and the actual acquisition are considered the biggest challenges but this is just the beginning of a constant progression of problems that must be addressed in a timely manner in order to protect their investment.

With the investment of time and money, the collector must assume the responsibility to protect his investment as well as the preservation of the particular item for future collectors and historians. Nothing is more exasperating than to observe the deterioration of a higilly desirable piece or collection over a period of time due to lack of attention to preservation.

Rust or metal corrosion is the main culprit that me must overcome to insure the preservation of edged weapons. Rust forms on an iron containing metal surface under a common set of occurrences. The moisture content of the atmosphere, optimally at a percentage range above 65%, coupled with the presence of salts or acids on the metal surface leads to rust formation. Salts and acids are usually present due to touch contamination via the hand or are present in dust or dirt particles that are allowed to accumulate on the surface of the metal.

The best manner in which to retard rust formation is to eliminate the elements required by keeping the metal free of dust and salt contaminants and holding the humidity of the air below 60%. Attention to removing finger prints (a salt and acid containing contaminant) and storage in a closed display case to reduce dust and girt contamination should retard rust formation.

Attention to condition and the manner in which the item is stored is also necessary to preserve and edged weapons. A closed case can be both an advantage or a disadvantage unless certain steps are taken to insure optimal conditions. A silicon polish can be useful by forming a barrier to dust and dirt contaminates. However, the surface should be inspected periodically to insure that protection is maintained. The more often an item is examined, the more often it is necessary to re-coat (not repolish) the item with silicon polish. Humidity must be routinely checked in a closed area.

Storage in a closed area without some air exchange will allow humidity to reach an unacceptable level. Humidity should be monitored routinely and kept well within the acceptable limits. Any type of cloth material, especially a felt based will hold humidity, This is especially suspect if the natural unplated blade remains in direct contact for any long period of time.

Any closed and sealed area is not suitable for edged weapon storage. Sudden changes in temperature can lead to moisture accumulation by condensation. This cannot escape from a sealed area and will cause rust to form. Also paper or cardboard left in the storage area, a packing or wrapping material, will hold moisture at an unacceptable level. Newspaper is especially high in sulfur content and when coupled with moisture will form sulfuric acid which will attack the metal. This is why older newspapers yellow over a period of time. Coin dealers cite sulfur content as the reason coins darken when left in manila envelopes.

Location of the storage case also can be a problem, especially if the basement of a house or building is used. Humidity in these locations are usually higher than the acceptable level and monitoring is a must if this area is used. Also, a peg board can be used to allow full air exchange around the item with the most flexibility for display.

Items with leather present in the form of scabbards or hangers will require much more attention. The natural tanning salts in leather lead to problems over a period of time, so the removal of leather is optimal if at all possible. Storage of blades outside of the scabbard is very desirable in this situation.

If blades are displayed in the closed case to limit dirt and dust, storage of blades outside of the scabbard is advantageous, This allows for routine inspection, reduction of runner marks" and the preservation of leather contact where applicable.

Brass fittings are especially susceptible to leather problems, A green film forms with brass and nickel containing fittings when leather is in contact with the metal surface over a long period of time. This "green film", especially if remaining for several years, can actually attack the surface and leave a dull pitted area. I have noticed this periodically on M33 SS daggers with the vertical suspension device.

Blades can be routinely protected by silicon polish. Oil, even when lightly applied tends to hold moisture in contact with the surface causing rusting and darkening of the blade. Even Vaseline, often used as a protectant, under optimal condition is of some question for it's protective value. It is however, less of a darkening agent due to it's purity. Again; if this agent is used, routine inspection is required.

Blued or anodized scabbards can best be protected with a light coat of oil. These must be thoroughly cleaned prior to the application as a routine safeguard. Again, the removal of leather hangers is a must for long term storage, Often very light rust can be easily removed with triple ought steel wool prior to oil application without any damage to the scabbard. A light pressure is required and no buffing can be tolerated.

Leather scabbards can be best preserved by the application of polish after a good cleaning. Leather scabbards with a metal liner can also be polished and the seams can be re-sealed prior to polishing if required. Elmer's glue appears to be an excellent agent for sealing and any excess can be removed wi th a damp clean terry cloth prior to polishing. An excellent brand of polish that is available in various shades is Meltonian from Great Britian.

Silver anti-tarnish cloth makes an ideal container for daggers and the storage of daggers outside their scabbards in a bank's safe deposit box can be a very safe method, I have stored my Himmler SS presentation dagger in this type of bag for over four years with no noticeable change from the choice mint condition the dagger was in when obtained from the veteran. Also, I have monitored the humidity in the bank and have found it to be below 60% the year around, A humidity gauge left in the bank box and checked weekly for a few months should be your best guide.

Improper handling and storage can leave telltale marks on an edged weapon. One only has to observe an SA or SS dagger with darkened finger print stains to see what poor attention and storage can do to a prime collectible, Although these can be modified with polishing, they will never be remove totally unless the entire blade is repolished which is abhorrent to the true collector. The collector must preserve and maintain the items in his care.


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Friday, July 4, 2008

Collecting the Edged Weapons of the Third Reich

The Third Reich, as Adolf Hitler viewed it, was to be an Organic Society, that is, a society in which all parts were to be in harmony with the whole, subject to the supreme will of the Fuhrer. No part would be permitted to function independently outside the whole, with a life of its own. Thus all institutions the schools, churches, businesses, industries, the arts, the sciences and the military - were to be injected with heavy doses of National Socialist ideology and subject to firm Party control, with coercion being used wherever necessary. The purpose was not to oppress but to unify: all in harmony with one another. With a common goal and a Great National Purpose visualized for them by the Fuhrer, a better life for all Germans would be achieved. The Nazis had a word for this concept: EINHEIT, meaning one-ness or unity. For Adolf Hitler, Einheit was a mystical concept.

The visual realization of Einheit was in those colorful, spectacular ceremonials and mass-meetings that were endemic throughout the life of the Third Reich and were its most glamorous feature. Through the mass meeting the symbolic unity between the lone Fuhrer on the high tribunal and the vast anonymous masses before him was achieved; each in spiritual harmony with the other, the vertical lines of the standing men echoed in the vertical architectural effects surrounding them. People, Fuhrer, and architecture all formed a single harmonious unit in visual as well as symbolical form.

But ceremonials are not very exciting without all the paraphernalia that goes with them. Colorful banners in profusion, snappy uniforms a-glitter with decorations, insignia of rank, dress swords and daggers, and plenty of stirring music; these were the necessary ingredients for any successful Nazi ceremonial.

With his intuitive gift for the nature of crowd psychology, Adolf Hitler shrewdly exploited the potential power of the visual arts to make and sway opinion. Thus, under his direction, the political ceremonial was raised to a fine art conducted with a professional finesse seldom found in similar events in other countries.

The ceremonial was designed to give the ordinary citizen a chance to "dress up," to escape the mundane world of his personal problems. Through the ceremonial the citizen could solidify his sense of belonging to a group, which would present itself along with other groups before the Fuhrer and thereby join one another in the spirit of Einheit.

A uniformed group, with its standards and accouterments, formed an impressive visual unit when it was massed together. All parts of a standard were designed to fit harmoniously with one another and with the men who would carry them; Hitler's own design, the ubiquitous Swastika banner, was a masterpiece of visual harmony. Each insignia, each decoration, each sword and dagger was also designed to be part of the visual whole, to not only be harmonious within itself but also to "fit" with the uniform, which, when seen with other uniforms massed together in one group, would form a single impressive unit ready to join with others to form still larger units. From the smallest dagger to the large blocks of massed uniforms and standards, the psychological purpose was the same: to inspire the citizen (both as a participant and as spectator) with the power and glory of the Reich, to confirm his chauvanistic pride in all things German, and to give humble thanks to the Fuhrer who made it all possible.

Thus a dress sword or dagger was not a mere potentially useful object; like all other ceremonial objects which the Third Reich produced in such profusion, it had a symbolic significance which bordered on the mystic. Its design was conceived in the spirit of Einheit, with all its parts in harmony with the whole object.

There is something about swords and daggers that arouses deep primitive feelings in people, especially in men. They figure in song and story as ancient symbols of courage, honor, and authority; indeed, skill with one often meant the difference between life and death. Daggers in particular figure quite prominently in ancient Germanic mythology; even women of the Germanic tribes wore them and were adept at using them.

Design of Third Reich dress daggers was primarily ancient Germanic or medieval in flavor; some had classical overtones and others were quite baroque.Here the purpose was to form a visual link between the present and the past, to show that the Third Reich was a continuation of the hallowed old Germanic virtues and traditions into the present. The Art Deco style of the 1930's, so fashionable among the advant-garde in other countries, was nowhere to be seen in the design of Nazi edged weapons and only very rarely in other Third Reich artifacts. Since this style derived from French Cubism it was therefore condemned by the Fuhrer as "degenerate" and "un-German." Dagger designs ranged from the ugly chunkiness of the Labor Corps hewing-knife to the graceful stiletto of the Hitler Youth leader. All were adorned with the appropriate symbols of the various organizations for which they were issued.

Although Adolf Hitler himself designed all of the basic iconography of the Third Reich, he is not known to have ever designed a dagger. Nor did Frau Gerdy Troost, who designed so many of the silver objects of the Nazi Regime, ever design a dagger or sword. The majority of the artists who did design them were anonymous, and probably designed other types of regalia as well (the Third Reich, under the aegis of its art-minded Fuhrer, was a paradise for political designers who were both talented and ideologically reliable.)

History has shown that as a nation becomes an empire its designs develop from simple forms to more complex ones. This certainly happened during the Third Reich. A good example of this among the edged weapons is a comparison between the elegant medieval-style of the early Luftwaffe dagger and the later ornate baroque design which replaced it. Heavy, complex designs have always been symbols of power, wealth, and authority; but whether the Nazi designers were conscious of this is not known. Designs of major significance in daggers as well as the other regalia were usually shown to the Fuhrer for his approval; his suggestions were always religiously obeyed. In time, Hitler's own taste became more baroque as he succumbed to megalomania.

Daggers and swords were accorded the same status in the Third Reich as were the standards and decorations, no more, no less. They were all integral parts of the whole. There was no cult of the dagger in Germany as there was a cult of the sword in Japan.

The presentation of a dagger, especially of a dagger with an engraved inscription on its blade, like the presentation of a new standard or decoration, was an occasion for a solemn ritual which affirmed faith and loyalty between the giver and the receiver, and between both to Fuhrer and Reich. All parts of the dagger's design, at least in theory, were to be in harmony with the form and spirit of the whole object, which in turn was to be in harmony with the use and setting to which it was put. All parts of the ritual in which it was presented, and the ceremonials in which it was worn, were segments of the larger whole symbolized by the slogan "One Reich, One People, One Leader." The Nazis consciously and deliberately practiced a concept unique in the 20th Century and not seen in Europe since the 17th - Total Art. Thus each dress dagger that one sees out of context in a collector's drawer or on his wall was far more than just a useful object or a pretty adornment. It represented Einheit, the spirit of Adolf Hitler's Organic Society in a microcosm.

Major Johnson, for fifteen years a collector and internationally-recognized authority on the subject of German edged weapons, has produced a wellresearched book which should prove to be invaluable to the beginner as well as the advanced collector and/or researcher of Third Reich edged weapons. Though only a small part of the regime's vast array of accouterments, Nazi blades have proven to be among its most popular collector's items.

Karen Kuykendall (professional artist, author, and collector of Third Reich relics since 1947) Casa Grande, Arizona.

Thomas M. Johnson, "Collecting the Edged Weapons of the Third Reich Vol. 1", Author Published, 1975

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

German Bayonets

Bayonets of Adolf Hitler's "Thousand Year Reich"

It is impossible to estimate the number of words which have been written concerning the role of edged weapons throughout history. From Biblical days to the 20th century, warriors of all nations have carefully included edged weapons in their personal armament. In fact, edged weapons have long been recognized as symbols of courage, honor and authority. And since they often meant the difference between life and death, these weapons were usually treated with respect and even affection.

Although the larger edged weapons like the lance, the sword, and the dagger have generally been accepted as obsolete relics of bygone ages, every major military force in the world has stubbornly retained the bayonet as an item of standard issue for soldiers. But many would argue today that the time has come to also place the bayonet on museum shelves. For example, following his in-depth study of World War II, General S.L.A. Marshall had this to say concerning the true combat worth of the bayonet, ''That weapon (the bayonet) ceased to have any major tactical value at about the time the inaccurate and short-range musket was displaced by the rifle. But we have stubbornly clung to it-partly because of tradition which makes it inevitable that all military habits die a slow death, but chiefly because of the superstition that the bayonet makes troops fierce and audacious, and therefore, more likely to close with the enemy. I doubt that any officer of the last war below field grade would agree that this idea has any merit whatever."

Could the psychological benefit from bayonets proposed above be a reality or just a propagandized military myth? History would definitely favor the former hypothesis. In the late 1930's, Adolph Hitler very skillfully employed the use of elaborate military and political paraphernalia adorned with the now infamous Wehrmacht eagle and swastika to foster unequalled "esprit de corps" and morale among the members of his "Thousand Year" Reich. And of no small consequence were the elaborate, omnipresent edged weapons which were conspicuously worn with both the German dress and duty uniforms.

To paraphrase Napoleon's comment, the bayonet has many varied uses. One utilized by Hitler during the structuring of the Third Reich was to inundate his forces, both military and political, with ornate edged weapons. This served a twofold purpose- it rejuvenated an ailing Ruhr Valley steel industry and instituted unprecedented morale and sense of tradition among his people.

Like their dagger and sword counterparts, original WWII German bayonets have become highly coveted military collectibles; and although the demand for bayonets is presently auxiliary to the demand for dress daggers and swords, this field is rapidly growing with a large number of collectors specializing in this area. The auxiliary demand is easily explained by the fact that German bayonets were not as aesthetically appealing as the elaborately designed dress daggers and swords, and that fewer bayonet variations were manufactured. For example, all elements of the Wehrmacht and Party authorized to wear dress bayonets wore the standard issue models, with the exception of the Fire Departmemt, Customs Officials, Police, Hitler Youth, and the enlisted ranks of the Diplomatic Service. This compares to the scores of different authorized dress daggers and swords designed and adopted for some twenty different Third Reich organizations. This author contends that the current prices of Nazi bayonets are grossly deflated and fall into the realm of collectible "sleepers."

Third Reich bayonets can generally be separated into two categories, work and dress, depending upon their intended purpose. The optional dress bayonets were introduced for the military forces to be worn after duty hours. Since the hilts and the blades of the dress sidearms were nickel or chrome plated, these edged weapons are much more in demand than the work models.

Although the dress bayonet hilts were generally lackluster and of standard design, the same is not true for the bayonet blades. Elaborate etched blades were offered by the various Solingen Waffenfabriken (factories) to the individual bayonet purchaser for an additional fee. The majority of the etched designs were typical combat scenes of Infantry, Artillery, Air Force, or Cavalry forces in action. The most common inscription ordered was "ZUR ERINNERUNG AN MEIN DIENSTZEIT" (In remembrance of my period of service) along with the individual's unit designation. Very often the servicemember's name was also included in the engraving. The desired standard etched pattern was selected by number from a color print in the Waffenfabrik salesman's catalog. The widest variety of variations was most probably sold by Ernst Pack and Sohn Waffenfabrik which offered a total of fourteen different bayonet blade etchings. Engravings on the pommels of dress bayonets, as well as the blades, were usually of standard branch of service design and could also be purchased at additional cost. And the options did not terminate here. Grips were available in plastic, wood, and genuine or imitation stag-horn. Although the standard bayonet scabbard was constructed of steel, some models were available in black or brown leather with metal fittings. Finally, several different bayonet lengths were available at the purchaser's own discretion.

A common adjunct to the collecting of German bayonets is the addition of Third Reich close combat or trench knives (a name given to them during the fierce trench warfare fighting of World War I). While not bayonets, per se, these edged weapons usually fall into the realm of the bayonet blade collector. Just as Randall-made knives flourished in South Vietnam, many WWII German combat soldiers elected to carry personal fighting knives, in addition to their issued bayonets. In some units, fighting knives were a standard item of issue, while in other units the individual soldier purchased or constructed his own sidearm. Consequently, the quality of these pieces ranges from exceptional to extremely crude. Many fighting knives which were Solingen designed and manufactured for use in WWI were individually revamped and Nazified for use by members of the "Thousand Year" Reich.

The most common pocketknife issued to the German forces during WWII was the paratrooper utility knife. The unique method in which the blade extended into a locked position resulted in its common name, "gravity knife." The one hand operational design was considered essential for paratroopers, so the knife could be employed during airborne descent to cut fouled suspension lines, tree limbs, etc.


It appears highly unlikely that the bayonet, per se, will be relegated to the role of a museum relic for years to come. As this article is being written, our own Army is hard at work modifying the present standard rifle bayonet to a more practical combination bayonet/knife, incorporating the favorable aspects of both bayonets and fighting knives. Unfortunately, the classic engraved presentation bayonets, similar to those worn during the Nazi era, will probably have to continue to compete for museum shelf space with the Civil War musket and the Japanese Samurai sword.

Thomas M. Johnson: "Bayonets of Adolf Hitler's "Thousand Year Reich"", "The Classic Collector", 1974

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