The American Medal Collector
I have been collecting decorations, medals and awards from the United States for over 55 years. I have found the hobby to be one of most interesting educational that can be pursued. It has taught me a great deal about American History, especially Military History. I have also learned a lot about the men and women that have made up our armed forces and their many sacrifices that they have made for his country. When I started as a teenager there was very little information about American Medals of all types. Some of the best sources were the photos in the National Geographic issues of December 1919, October 1943 and the December 1944 reprint with updates. These contained great pictures of American Medals. This lack of information has significantly improved over the years and I have put in a link to a bibliography of American Medals that will tell you what is available on the subject in print. Also I have told serious collectors that before they invest in their first medal that they should have a good library of reference works and be familiar with them. This will prevent a number of potential costly mistakes as well as disappointment. Do not be intimidated by the length of the bibliography as it covers all aspects of American Medal Collecting
Most collectors start out as numismatic collectors, by collecting one of each of the basic campaign medals and decorations. There are a lot specialties that can be followed. These include all manufacture's varieties of individual medals such as the Purple Heart. Collecting a specific Military or Naval branch of service (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Corps/Air Force, or Coast Guard) that the collector or a close relative was associated with. Pursuit of gallantry decorations such as the Distinguished Service Cross or the Silver Star. A Collection of traceable medal groups associated with an individual, family, locality, or campaign. Medals associated with the Uniformed Services are federal and state (National Guard) medals for campaigns, service, commemorative of events, bravery, meritorious service, civilian service, and or public service. Presidential, Congressional, Government awards at the national, state, and local level. Another collecting area are state, county, city and town medals for military service. Veteran and or hereditary society medals. Life Saving awards for bravery and service. Marksmanship medals and proficiency badges. Awards associated with protective services such as Homeland Security, down to state and local fire and police services. Or just collect what you like.
Medals, especially those awarded by congress during the first 100 years of the republic, were not intended for wear and presented in a case. Many of these table medals, such as Indian Peace medals, were given a suspension or holed and worn by the individual recipient anyway. Gradually this has changed to the system that we have today.
Most medals associated with uniformed services are suspended from a ribbon. All of the services now have a developed a large number of individual and unit awards represented only by a ribbon. All medals may be represented by their ribbons, there are also miniature, as well as, full size medals intended for dress wear that are part of the award. Rosettes, and now lapel pins are distributed along with medals for use in button holes to represent the individuals highest award. Concurrent with the development of American medals has been the use of award documents and later citations as part of the award package. These started with the Certificate of Merit, Brevet Commissions for Gallantry and Meritorious Service. Lewis and Clark on their expedition carried with them papers of friendship from the American government that were distributed along with medals of three sizes: the smallest for significant braves, the middle size for lesser Chiefs, and the largest for great Chiefs This pattern is still followed today with the different grades of the Legion of Merit awarded to foreign Military friends of the United States.
In addition there are the recent use of Challenge Coins used by unit commanders and senior Non Commissioned Officers. These started as unit awards and now have evolved into a general purpose individual award for those in a senior positions ( Battalion Commander, Command Sergeant Major as well as higher command positions above). If purchased with government funds these must be distinctly different for use for American military, civilian, and foreign awardees.
The purpose of this web site will be to educate the American Medal Collector as well as encouraging potential collectors to participate in this hobby. To do this there will be several parts to this site:
1. Introduction above on the home page.
2. A Bibliography of American Medals. I have merged two bibliography lists developed by Jeff Floyd into a combined list that will inform the collector of what is out there that will support his or her interests.
3. A Collectors guide to American Medals. This will be made up of discussions of individual American medals based on past displays, made by me, at annual Convention of the Orders and Medals Society of America.
4. Links to major web sites that have information on American Medals. These include organizations that have information in their Journals and publications.
5. My missing medal wants to complete broken groups that I have major parts of.
6. Medal sales store for books and medals.