Monday, February 19, 2007

United States bans collecting of military medals

The United States banned collecting of military medals on December 20, 2006. It's illegal to purchase, sell, mail, ship, import, or export any service medal, badge, ribbon, or imitation.

A long article by David Hewett in the March issue of Maine Antique Digest covers the law and the response in the medal collecting community.

The anti-collecting law was part of the Stolen Valor Act, an attempt to ban the practice of fraudulently wearing unearned medals. The anti-collecting provisions were the result of over-zealous bill-writing. The article says the Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA) had its members contact their representatives, which was almost successful -- there were promises of changing the wording of the bill to allow collectors and museums to continue acquiring the pieces. Unfortunately the law passed with the original anti-collector anti-museum wording.

The OMSA website carries further details.

I am surprised that this law was proposed, debated, and passed without my knowledge. I first learned of it this morning!

I do not support con men wearing imitation Purple Hearts but it should be legal for a soldier or heir to donate medals to the local history museum and send them the medal to the museum through the US mail. It should be legal to make and sell replica medals to Hollywood directors making war movies. Schools where they train engravers to make future medals should be able to obtain representative styles of medals. Why not just keep capitalism legal, and ban merely the practice of wearing a medal with intent to deceive?


Anonymous said...

Good grief! Talk about going off the deep end. Imitations??? And what about the WWII medals I have in a cigar box somewhere that I got from an antique shop when I was ten years old? (Should I expect a knock on the door from the FBI?)

Ed Snible said...

I found out by searching the web that an influential book, Stolen Valor, revealed that a lot of folks claim underserved medals. According to the Home of Heroes website, even a judge was claiming this kind of nonsense. I even found a page revealing that the founder of an important California religion claimed unearned medals.

Not all medals are for extreme acts of bravery in combat. For example, there is a "WWII Victory Medal" that every American soldier got. The law doesn't distinguish between major medals and the lessor ones.

Luckily the police and Attorneys General aren't prosecuting medal collectors. The goal seems to be to make it difficult to passively commit fraud by buying medals and putting them up as plaques in the hopes of fooling people.