Collector Glossary


Not sure what a word or phrase means in the hobby? This is the place to find out.

Black Light Test: A basic test to check for authenticity of an item made before 1945. Usually this test is to identify items that used whiteners that cause white fabrics to glow under black light. This is not an iron clad test however, as the technology used to whiten fabrics was created well before the war and was most likely being incorporated into textile mills at the time. However, it was surely not a common industry practice. Also, many colored dies that were made during the period will have florescence under black light and are period correct. Firemans shoulder boards are an example. So the test should be used with these known facts in mind. If something doesn’t look right AND it glows it is usually bad.

Bring Back (Vet bring back): Can be any item a veteran brought home or mailed home during or after the war. At one point, everything was a bring back. As time goes on, usually only items recently found or those with provenance have this term attached to them.

Cross Grain : Specific grain pattern found on many daggers cause by the final fine grit sanding wheel. Highly polished and plated blades will not have this. Often used as a way to grade the condition of the blade.

Early Period: Generally, the beginning of a known and finite production time frame. These production periods are noted by changes in production technique, quality or materials and not usually equal in length.

EM: Enlisted Man (not an officer).

Last Ditch: A term used to note the very end of a production time frame, usually on the losing side. As in “Last Ditch Effort”. Quality, materials and finish all suffered due to war shortages on last ditch items.

Late Period: Generally, the end of a known and finite production time frame. These production periods are noted by changes in production technique, quality or materials and not usually equal in length. At the very end of this period it will be some times called “Last Ditch” due to the drastic reduction of quality and/or cosmetic appeal.

Mid Period: Generally, the middle of a known and finite production time frame. These production periods are noted by changes in production technique, quality or materials and not are usually equal in length.

NCO: Non-Commissioned officer. An officer who earned their rank through promotion through the enlisted ranks.

Out of the wood work: A term used to describe an item that has recently come to market that was never in a collection before. A helmet in a barn, a bag of insignia in an attic, etc. It is over used by many people to create excitement and increase value. Usually, there is no way to prove someone did or did not get an item “out of the wood work”, so you should not assume an item with this description is worth more or even genuine, especially if you are not buying from a reputable source.

Provenance: Generally, a word used in the hobby to insure authenticity. Basically, where did it come from or who brought it back. A letter from a vet describing the item, a bring back certificate from an officer signing off that the item is allowed to be on the person brining it back, or a picture of the item at the time of acquisition are all examples of provenance. Most items have no provenance and are perfectly fine. Common items with provenance are usually more valuable. Provenance can be particularly important when helping to legitimize a particularly rare item or a one of a kind item that has never been seen before.

Re-Tipped: The act of fixing a blade that has had the tip broken off of it. The blade is then shorter than the original and considered less valuable.

Ricasso: Usually refers to the un sharpened portion of a blade on a dagger, sword or bayonet. Some people incorrectly describe any area where a maker mark is as the ricasso, when in fact there is no ricasso at all on the item.

Tinnies: This has become a catch all name for any badge that is not a military, political or state award. Also, a description for a badge that someone cannot describe. Originally, the term was likely used for tin stamped pins or badges but has grown to include just about every material including other metals, glass, ceramic, leather and plastic. Tinnies were made for almost anything including: rallies, sports events, fundraisers, event winners, participation recognition, national holidays etc….

Tombak or Tombac :  A brass alloy comprised of a high copper content and Zinc content up to 35%. Generally, a fancier way to say brass and it is used for other brass alloys that are not true Tombak. If it is a brass color in any shade, in the German militaria hobby, it is usually called Tombak.

Transitional: The term given to an item that has attributes from two known production times. Manufactures often needed time to use up old parts or regulations were not made clear. For instance: items with and RZM code and a maker mark are considered transitional because early production items had maker marks and later production would have the RZM code. Transitional daggers may have some of the parts of the older style models as they used up parts and moved over to a 100% newer style dagger.

Troddel: Basically a portepee for bayonets and some times swords. The difference was that Troddels were usually marked and colored for a specific unit, so it was a form of insignia. Portepees were usually an officer rank designation and were only one design for that particular branch of service.  Many people still call them portepees or to avoid confusion simply a “knot”

Verdigris: The result of a metal with a high copper content oxidizing and forming a blue-green waxy substance. This substance is copper carbonate. The presence of this is usually an indication of age and unmolested items. In high quality alloys like German silver it usually does not leave any pitting and some collectors find it desirable. On lesser quality brass alloys it often results in pitting of the metal and removal may be warranted.

Zinc Pest: This is the term used for the oxidation of zinc based alloys. The oxidation process causes a white chalky or powdery substance (zinc oxide). It is commonly found on inexpensive day badges (tinnies) but as the war progressed, zinc was used in many higher end items such as daggers and combat badges. Zinc pest, I have found, can vary drastically depending on storage conditions and quality of the zinc alloy. Good quality alloys will show almost no oxidation. Zinc pest will eat into the base metal and create deep scaring if left un treated. It can be removed with a brass brush and the process can be slowed by adding a protectant like a wax or petroleum product.

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