Medals are small and valuable and are frequently stolen.
We buy vintage or used medals under certain circumstances for the collector market or for repurposing but are wary as from time to time we unknowingly purchased medals which were later found to have been stolen. We have a large collection of our own and also from an estate to sell. Obviously we would not intentionally purchase any item which is known to be stolen and when we have become the owner of a medal later found to be stolen we have handed it over to the NZ Police. To date ALL but one of the medals which we have purchased which have later found to have been stolen have been purchased from the major online auction sites - trade me and ebay. Those sites are of little benefit to us in recovering our money (usually maintaining that the transaction is nothing to do with them and that they are not auction houses and merely introduced the two parties - despite the clear fact that the items are being sold by auction and trade me/ebay take a commission for both the listing and the eventual sale) and invariably we are stuck with a significant out of pocket loss.
In fact due to the losses suffered Aubrey no longer collects medals (he actually collects signed pro skateboards now)
We therefore are very careful when purchasing vintage medals. We will however gladly discuss selling your medals on behalf. We are Licensed Second Hand Dealers. If you are not interested in the worth of the medals we can suggest a number of Museums or a medals trust - all of which would be very happy to receive your medals and will safeguard them in perpetuity. In particular the United Services Medals Collection Trust does very good work in securing the Nation's medals for future generations and for display and enjoyment by all, as does the National Army Museum at Waiouru.
Here is one such project we worked with and which we suggested be donated to the Trust by our long term client the Russell RSA. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11157103
The handover this year on Remembrance Day was very moving. We did not charge for our services, which included the restoration and display framing of this key group of medals.
Another trend we have noticed is that when veterans sell their medals and then their service colleagues see them for sale and tell the veteran the veteran sometimes says they were stolen - thus causing a chain of events which is both unfortunate and potentially criminal on the part of the veteran trying to safe face about selling their medals. For this reason dealers generally don't state the name of the recipient of modern medals they are selling so as to avoid the recipient potential embarrassment. This is common place in the industry.
Here are some genuine examples of losses we have been involved with:
1. We purchased medals from a person selling them on trade me. Several years later we were shown a list of medals stolen from the Te Awamutu Museum. They included medals we had purchased in good faith. We advised the Police of the medals we had and our evidence was sufficient to identify the offender. He was a former curator of that museum. He was convicted and we were awarded reparations which were not even close to the loss we suffered. To date he has not paid us the money ordered by the court.
2. We bought some medals from a dealer via trade me. As it happened we returned the medals as they were defective. The recipient of the medals later alleged they were stolen and trade me records suggested that we had purchased them. Police were able to recover the medals.
3. We purchased medals in good faith for Aubreys private collection (which was the largest collection of medals for the NZ Wars) and many years later loaned them to a major museum as part of a display they had. Members of the family of the recipient contacted the museum and maintained the medals must have been stolen and they demanded them "back". We were able to show that we had purchased them from the lawful owner and the family were strongly advised to not make any such false and potentially fraudulent allegation the medals were stolen as in fact they had cost us a significant sum.
4. We purchased medals on ebay to a member of the Parachute Regiment. They were won at auction and paid for by paypal. A year later we had a call from the Police in the UK demanding to know whose medals they were. We declined to provide that information as one can imagine given that it is the only identifying detail of a medal. We advised them to tell us whose medals they were missing and we would confirm if we had them. Various Interpol interviews were had in NZ and Australia and we maintained that all we needed was the name of the recipient. Our enquiries had suggested that he and some other NCOs had sold their medals after returning from Afghanistan. We had even been told this by one of the medal recipient's friends. The official line was that they had been stolen by another soldier. UK MOD Police charged a soldier with the alleged theft. Eventually we were provided with a correct recipient name and the medals were returned. Reparations of over 1000 pounds (which was still less than our cost) were awarded to us. We have never been paid and doubt we will. Paypal and ebay refused to assist . Frankly had we not dug our toes in we have no doubt that the matter would have been handled in house like the MOD Police did when a RIR soldier was found to have stolen medals from colleagues. He was demoted for a period and collectors lost thousands of pounds in medals they were bullied into returning.
5. We purchased a damaged Boer War Medal on ebay and had it repaired. It was to a NZer killed in the Boer War. Having had the enjoyment of it in Aubreys collection he offered it for sale on trade me. A dishonest collector maintained it had been stolen in the mail having been sent to him from an Auckland dealer while he was based overseas some 20 or more years earlier. We spoke to the Auckland dealer who assured us it was not that same medal. We advised the Police of the allegation of this other collector so as to assert our ownership of the medal. Sadly the collector felt the need to place very damaging comments on our auction listing and we eventually sold the medal outside NZ - a loss to all NZ collectors.
6. A more happy story - we purchased on trade me a Gallipoli Medallion in late 2012. The medallion was to an Auckland recipient who had later joined the NZ Cyclists Corps and who was later a prisoner of war in Germany during WW1. We were called by the NZ Police who advised us a year later that it had been stolen from a family in 2009. The medallion was listed on the loss schedule and we had no hesitation to return it to them. The description was poor but the naming details were correct. We hope to recover our costs from the seller as he is a licensed second hand dealer and like us would not knowingly handle stolen items. This family handled the matter almost perfectly. The police officer in Thames was very fair and well informed and the family had correctly reported the loss when their home had been burgled in 2009. In cases such as this we are very happy to concede that we had inadvertently purchased stolen property and the medal was returned literally that day to a very happy family.
A database of stolen and missing medals would have prevented almost all of the above incidents.
IF you are missing medals and would like us to keep an eye out for them please send us details. We will place the details here. You will need to provide a Police reference number and either your or the Police contact details. We cannot and will not become intermediaries for the return of stolen property. You will need to be specific as to whom the medals were awarded to. If the medals are not named then you will not have any chance of recovery however most non WW2 medals are named.
1. DFC. dated 1944. Missing from Auckland. Stolen from a vehicle in St Lukes / New Lynn area 2013. Please contact NZ Medals - email@example.com The medal is not identifiable and we have replaced it for the widow concerned however if she is able to recover her late husbands medal she would appreciate it.
2. WW1 trio to TPR A G WHITEFIELD NZEF
3.. This medal group of 8 to 13526 ABS G C Wright. Contact us or Gerry Wright on 09 624 3969. Or, the Police - File no. 130824/0404.
4. un-named mounted set of 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, Defence and War Medals.
5. NZ OSM un-named, NZGSM Afghan Secondary, NZGSM SINAI and MFO Medal to a member of the RNZN (surname WILTSHIRE)
6. Military Medal and WW1 trio of service medals to 12/2252 SJT F COULAM NZEF (Auckland Bn on the MM). These medals were stolen in the process of the owners open home in Auckland.
7. Air Force Cross, NZ OSM, Vietnam Medal, GSM Vietnam, NZ Armed Forces Award, NZ Defence Service Medal to Gordon RAGG RNZAF.