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  • Brian Wolfe

    An Apology - of sorts

    By Brian Wolfe

    I often describe myself as slightly paranoid, which then seems to make others think I have some sort of philological issues.  I don’t believe I am being “watched” for example.  That would, in my opinion, suggest that I hold some degree of celebrity in my mind; this would also, if it were the case, indicate that I think that I am somehow a fellow of above average interest to others.  I must admit that if I were any less interesting people would fall asleep during a hand shake with me. Perhaps what I should say is that I strive to be more careful than average when it comes to making purchases and in believing everything I am told.  Purchases such as left-handed baseball bats and non-flammable candles may be easy enough to avoid.  However I have lost count of all of the collectables I have purchased and then a few days later wondered how I could have made such unwise choices. A few examples of what I allude to are, prices being far too high or items that really didn’t fit into my collecting themes.    The problem of knowing when you are being told something other than the truth can at times be difficult.  There are some physical signs which must not be taken on individual basis, such as someone rubbing their nose or excessive blinking of the eyes.  These so-called signs, on their own, can be explained away as having nothing to do with attempted deceit. Collectively such signs, along with other indications may be used, in law enforcement as an example, to accept the statement or doubt what you are being told.   The most difficult “stories” to determine their truthfulness is when the person telling the story actually believes it to be the truth.  This and the manner in which the story is delivered and the interpretation of what has been said may end in one doubting the story as being the truth.  Two examples come to mind.  If you hear someone say that smoking can be bad for you and you need to take measures to avoid smoking, you may think of someone inhaling smoke from a cigarette, which fits the caution; or something else.  If you are standing too close to your BBQ and your clothing is starting to smoke then surely you need to take measures (stepping back) to avoid bursting into flames.  My second, and last example, comes from the television comedy, Saturday Night Live (SNL) that first appeared in 1975 which is famous for their rather juvenile humour appealing to the adolescent mind.  I became rather old and stuffy about 40 years ago and therefore stopped watching SNL.  One of the sketches involved a group of people telling an individual on a beach that “You can’t look at the sun too long”.  Most of us would take this as a warning and realize staring at the sun could be detrimental to your vision and not misinterpret this as you can’t get over the majesty of the sun, for example.  Of course the poor fellow being advised took the first interpretation with disastrous results. No, my retelling of this story is not very funny however, as has been said, “You had to be there to see it”.   One of the stories  that has floated around guns shows and places where people interested in military history gather, at least here in Canada, is the topic of this blog.  Yes, I know it has taken me a long time to get to the point...as usual.  Why say something in a couple of dozen words when a plethora of paragraphs can achieve the same results? That’s a rhetorical question of course.   The story is that one can turn an FN FAL C1,or C1A1, rifle from a semi-automatic to a full automatic weapon by inserting a piece of match book in the correct place in the internal workings.  This I have always held as being complete garbage. Any of those reading this who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces in the past and used the FN FAL C1 and the FN C2 please hold off on your hate mail until the end of this blog.    The Canadians used the FN FAL C1, a semi-automatic battle rife with the 7.62X51mm NATO round from 1953, being the first to officially adopt the FN FAL, until 1984 when it was replaced by the 5.56x45mm NATO C7 rifle and the C8 carbine both based on the American US AR-15.  The British and Commonwealth Nations used the same rifle as Canada but called it the L1A1. I have read that the rifle was commonly known as the FAL however in my area of Ontario at least, we refer to it as simply the “FN”.    Here’s where the claim of using the FN C1, inserting a piece of match book to turn it into an automatic weapon, becomes argument.  In each case where this has come up in the past I have tried to delve more deeply into this claim by asking if the service person is saying that with the insertion of a matchbook into the FN C1 they have changed it from a battle rifle (semi-automatic) into an assault rifle (full auto).  Without exception the answer is “yes”.  The problem in my mind, I have just recently discovered, is not whether you can modify an FN C1 with a foreign object to malfunction and discharge the weapon in rapid succession but have you actually “changed” this battle rifle into an assault rifle.  A basic definition of an assault rifle is that it is a carbine sized firearm using a large capacity magazine capable of sustained full automatic fire.  The FN FAL, even fitted with a large capacity magazine, falls short of being an assault rifle on two of the most important requirements that I have stated, even with the matchbook modification.   To all of the servicemen in my past who have engaged me in this argument, and there have been quite a few, I apologize.  You are correct in that you can make an FN FAL C1 malfunction to fire several rounds in rapid, automatic-like, succession.  On the other hand I would offer the suggestion that this could be done with almost any semi-automatic rifle.    On the other hand (you knew there would be an “on the other hand”) to all servicemen in my past who have engaged me in argument you failed miserably in qualifying your claim fully.  You did not, I must repeat, did not, change this battle rifle into an assault rifle, and especially to one fellow who claimed to have changed the FN FAL C1 into the C2A1, the squad automatic weapon (SAW),  as the C2 has a much more robust barrel to withstand the heat generated by sustained rapid fire.  Some of our members might note that they have seen an FN FAL C1 with a selective fire option and you would be correct.  There were some FN FAL C1 rifles fitted with the selective fire option and used only by the Royal Canadian Navy to give boarding parties the option of a full automatic weapon without the weight of the C2A1.     In past blogs I have managed to attempt to prove and at times disprove some claims.  I’ve disproved some claims about the Battle of Crecy and the crossbow. We then proved the capabilities of the crossbow in experiments that were undertaken with minor casualties. These experiments also brought to light that during an apology for a range mishap the suggestion that, “It is only a cat”, is best left unsaid. I think we successively supported claims regarding the possibility of an accidental discharge of the STEN gun.  Now we have supported the claim that the FN FAL C1 can be made to fire with the insertion of a foreign object; yet without actually fully admitting that I was wrong.  It’s a win, win situation!    I will continue with my version of paranoia and look for myths that I can prove or disprove, while being on guard against my own poor purchase decisions.    The post has just arrived and I need to close now and open the shipment of prefabricated postholes I purchased on eBay.   Ever vigilant   Regards Brian      

After a long Hibernation....

The WW1 Iron Cross Book is finally moving forward. I nitially I thought there was no more need for an EK book and wanted to do a pure Document book, but then decided WW1 EK1 and 2 exclusively was a gap not filled.

I welcome any help anyone is willing to offer!


Chris Boonzaier

Chris Boonzaier


This message may save your life.

Option A or Option B
What you are about to read you may find disturbing or even offensive. If you do then you need to grow up. The permanency of life is an illusion and you cannot afford to delude yourself to thinking you are immortal. Therefore, if you have elected to read on, you have been duly warned and I will make no apologies if you find your delicate feelings have been hurt.

Jim [not his real name] was 6 foot 2 inches tall, a big guy but not such as you would say was overweight at all. Age had left him, as it does most of us, a little soft in the midsection. This was just about all that was soft about Jim. He had the weathered look of someone who had worked hard out in the elements; a grizzled beard peppered with gray and a gruff personality pretty well summed up what Jim looked like. To most of the office staff he was a scary fellow best avoided and this had not changed since he became Zone Officer and was now stationed in head office. Others, like me, who have been seasoned by years of working in the field recognized a kindred spirit and fully appreciated his dark sense of humour.

Jim had been with the Authority for 31 years and had become part of the corporate landscape. Late in 2011, after feeling unwell for a period of time, he made a rare appointment with his doctor. At 59 years of age he was told, after a battery of tests that he had prostate cancer, and worse it had spread to his bones and was now throughout his body.
Jim knew his chances were extremely slim to none, with “none” being the odds on favour. He also knew what lay ahead of him with the proposed radiation and chemotherapy followed by what would most likely be a long agonizing death filled with unimaginable pain and suffering, held at bay for a while with massive amounts of drugs. In the end he knew he would be in a vegetative state out of touched with the world and loved ones only to finally die in a haze of confusion and pain. He was aware that his family and friends would be put through their own form of suffering as he slowly wasted away. It was time for Jim to weight his options. Option A: To go through the torture and suffering ahead knowing full well that death awaited him in the end, or Option B.
Early this week Jim made his choice and took his own life.

I cannot judge Jim’s choice of Option B, even though I have fought and won two battles against cancer, as I have never stood at the threshold of the great unknown and had to make that fateful decision. I only wish he had chosen to have had a simple prostate examination a few years ago. If he had I would not likely be writing this missive today.

Rest in Peace old buddy.

Now, my friend, it is your time to make a decision. If you have not already done so, make an appointment with your doctor and set up a prostate exam. Otherwise you may have to make the choice of, Option A or....Option B.

Brian Wolfe

Brian Wolfe


Membership Levels & Images

Membership Levels

I am currently in the process of reviewing all of the membership levels at GMIC and what each level will offer. This includes subscribing membership as well as the incremental membership based on participation in the community. This will include: Changes in image uploads (detailed below) Offering more incentives to subscribing members including an enamel membership badge, and the ability to use images in signatures. Icons to support membership level

Image Uploads

This has been a difficult area to resolve and has caused much angst over the years. Following a recent discussion amongst the moderators over lost images in older topics, where the image has been hosted elsewhere, I have reviewed how we manage uploads.

The simple fact is that images, if not handled correctly can unecessarily take up a lot of server space. Modern digital camera and phones can create image files that are HUGE and if not edited or compressed prior to uploading, a single image can unecessarily take up lots of expensive server space.

I have tried over time to increase the allowance for all membership levels, to make posting images a lot easier to manage. A good image quality on screen can easily be managed well under 200kb. However this method of restriction has always put the onus on the member to edit the image prior to posting. This has ensured that the image fits the criteria for membership and can be uploaded to the GMIC server. I am more than aware of the problems this can cause some members, both in terms of time and lack of IT skills and as an alternative some members find it easier to host their images on their own websites or servers. This is fine in the short term, but over time I have found that links to images are lost and that topics can become almost irrelevant without the image to support it.

I have therefore been looking at other ways to upload images to give incentive to posting on the GMIC server. What I would like to achieve is similar to ebay where a member can upload (within reason) any size file and the software automatically reduces and compresses the image to a more manageable size. This in turn will hopefully induce more members to post images here at GMIC than host them elsewhere.

But this is not as straightforward as it sounds as there are limitations to the software, which I am still working on getting around. After several weeks of trial and error I am nearly there and you may have seen over the last week that images that are uploaded now display at a max of 300 X 300 px thumbnail, click on the image in a post and it will open to its full size. Hopefully this will be resolved by the time I announce the new membership levels next week.




Event & Show Calendar

I have upgraded and developed the Members Calendar to allow members to post any forthcoming events which may be of interest to collectors and members. This is to be used for promoting Events such as Collectors Fairs, Shows and Exhibitions. Anything is allowed as long as it is related to Militaria. Can members put as much detail in the event and start the entry with the Country holding the event:

i.e. UK: War & Peace Show




The Perfect Sick Day

The Perfect “Sick Day”
Don’t you really dislike those dedicated types who will come to work sick? After all, who needs to pick up whatever “bug” they have just because they lack the common decency to stay home. Well, I am one of those miserable sods. In all fairness, this time of the year, I have almost no human contact as my days are spent outside “in the field” (as we say). So unless I pass this cold on to a raccoon or deer no one suffers but me.

Friday morning rolled around and I take the afternoon off on that day in lieu of payment for being on call 24/7, 365 days a year. So a cold was not about to keep me home for the morning, the night before we had experienced an ice storm and the roads were a sheet of ice. Still this didn’t deter my intentions to go to work. My wife hates riding in a vehicle when I am driving on weekends, when I am not at work of course. She says that I am not as good a driver as I think I am. I always agree with her but come back with my theory that I may not be the most skilful driver on the road but I have a great deal of luck, I follow this up with a quote from Star Wars, “Trust in the Force, Luke”. She is never impressed, as we careen our way down the highway. Here’s my reasoning. I’d rather be a lucky driver than a skilful one. Why? You never say, “Lucky bastard, he was killed on the highway”. You might say, ‘I can’t believe old Fred was killed in an accident, he was such a good driver”. I rest my case.

It was at this time the radio announced that there were several severe accidents on the highways between here and the office. While I think I am Lady Luck’s favourite child there are times when you get the feeling she may have gone to the shopping mall leaving you on your own. Even though this was the first time in five years that I didn’t go to work I was not particularly disappointed as I had a whole day to play in the shop (Truncheon Competition project) and surfing the net, especially here on GMIC. I had intended to contact one of our members on Skype but this cold causes me to go into coughing fits whenever I try to talk for any length of time. It’s Sunday morning and my dear wife says she is still enjoying the peace and quiet. Women can be so cruel.
After half a dozen coffees and with the new abilities to be able to thread a sewing machine while it is running, thanks to the infusion of copious amounts of caffeine, I headed to the work shop and the truncheon project and the start of the perfect sick day.
Please include cash in any “get well” cards. Ha ha



Brian Wolfe

Brian Wolfe




I'm sorry but having pressed our man at work as to whether the real names could be published, his Granny (the Widow of the Author), has changed her mind and would rather that nothing be published. I've therefore honoured her new wishes and have deleted everything.

Really sorry guys but that's that

Best and all





My scanner just fried...

I could just sh*t... Right in the middle of a research project...

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz -Screen goes weird- CLICK * SNAP -whisp of smoke- -burning smell- -scanner goes bye bye-...

Guess this is as good enough of an excuse as I'll ever have to see if those "Epsonites" were truthful!

More to follow...




Classified Section & German Language Forum

A couple of updates for the forum over the last few weeks:

The first is a New Classified for Sale Section. The old Sale Section is now closed and the new classified section is being tested. The main advertisements have to be listed in GBP Stirling Pounds but there is a section within the advert which allows sellers to advertise the sale in other currencies and specify what currency they prefer for payment. The reason for this is mainly due to software limitations and as this essentially is a British run forum then advertisements are going to be in British Pounds. However this main change in the future as the software is developed.

Secondly, again as a trial run, I will be hosting a German Language section within the German section. This will be for topics relating to Germany (any period) and is to encourage German speaking collectors to the forum. I hope that as a consequence of this there will be some cross over in that forum between English and German collectors and that with encouragement, German speakers who have a lot to offer, but may have some language problems posting in English, may feel more comfortable initially testing the water there.

Wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous 2012




As 2011 Wound Down and So Did I

2011 Wound Down and So Did I
It seemed that as the year wound down I did as well and I am more than a little happy that a brand new year will start in less than a week. One might ask why the turning of a page on a calendar would make any difference. Good question and the answer is that most of the things that ate up my time are on a cycle concerning my “day job”. The other reasons varied from health to having more ambition than energy.

My duties at the Conservation Authority are concentrated around looking after the rental properties which range from farm land to rental dwellings and cottage lots surrounding two lakes. This sets the number of tenants at around the 1,000 mark. Looking after the problems of the tenants and issues connected with these tenancies takes up a great deal of time and I am the only one out “in the field” to carry out what must be done. The Director of our section, a young fellow and all around great guy, was blindsided just after he accepted his position. In typical government fashion they have decided to cut back on costs by not replacing those who leave and he inherited two extra divisions. Of course this downloaded more work on the little people (of which I am a member). The stress on him was too great and now he has accepted a position with another government body.

The new “victim” will be hired in the early months of 2012.
In preparation for retirement, in two to three years, I decided to start running my cabinet shop as I did years ago with profitable intentions. A rare thing happened. Usually my good intentions end up producing little. This time the workload kept me going steady until the week before Christmas. Needless to say I am going to cut back on the work I take in. I like the extra cash and my collection likes it even more. To be completely honest, with a full-time position and a sideline business, that took on a life of its own, I managed to add a good deal of material to the collection but most items were unpacked when they arrived, and after an inspection, were simply filed away in drawers.

Also, in preparation for retirement, I decided that I wanted a larger room for my collection that was something more than simply a warehouse so I started the renovation of three rooms. This involved renovating one for a study, one a storage room and the other a work room. The study is for my collection and a place to go and read what the family refers to as my boring manuscripts. I wanted all of the furniture to match so I built all new cabinets to store the collection. I’ll feature the new study on the main section of the forum early in 2012. The storage room, as well as serving as a pantry, holds my geological collection which is in several steel cabinets comprising of rows of drawers. The work room is to carry on with such activities as stained glass, finishing small cabinets and a photographic area with proper lighting. I am still putting the finishing touches on the storage and work rooms.

One of the events of 2011 that didn’t take as much time as energy was my victory in the second battle with cancer. I hold no unrealistic expectations of actually winning the war against my old foe as it has stalked the members of my family for generations. It certainly gives me more respect for a massive heart attack in a few years. I would consider that to be golden bullet compared with the loss of the war to the big “C”. One must always look to the bright side and hope for the best. He he.

So that was my 2011 in a “nut shell”. I doubt that 2012 will bring any more spare time but with cutting back in the shop it should leave me with time to spend on the GMIC, which is my home away from home. One should always remember that, like money, time is something that you will seldom find, if you need more you have to make it.

Thanks to all who have suffered through this and other blogs I’ve penned, I will do my best to bore you throughout next year. I apologize if now I’ve made you hesitant to turn that next page on the calendar. HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Brian Wolfe

Brian Wolfe


I must've been a very very good boy this year!?!

XMas shopping is easy between the wife and I... We set a budget then she buys what she wants for herself and I buy what I want for myself, we thank each other and are never dissapointed with our gifts! Works like a charm!

This year, (like previous years ), I decided to blow my entire budget on more Russian medals, especially on a few high end bravery and valour awards. My Moscow contact acquired them and I sent him the money via Western Union, am now anxiously awaiting their arrival! Then, 2 evenings ago... Browsing the web, I came accross an incredible deal. A French 5th republic "Commander of the Legion of Honour" at an incredibly reasonable price!! Less than 1/2 of the lowest price I had ever before seen. I could barely believe my eyes so I asked a buddy in France to have a look at it (in person). His reply, filled with curses for not having found it before me confirmed its impeccable state. But... My XMas budget is already gone and this puppy is still $300...

My wife saw the preplexed and pained look on my face staring at this beauty on my computer screen... She said, "WTH, go for it"... "But buy me something nice!".

So it's also on its way from Europe, but now I have to go XMas shopping... YUCK!

Waddya all think? Good trade off? And yes, my wife does have a sister but she's short, fat, married and quite the penny pincher so .




17 December 2011

Well, Father Frost's visit is on the horizon and the daily stampede at the local Wally World is now in full swing. The one good thing about the winter stampede versus the summer stampede is that people tend to wear more clothing during the winter stampede, thus saving the ocular nerves from the shock of 230+ pounds squeezed into "Daisy Dukes" and tube tops, as is the usual fair during the warmer weather here. Whew! I either need to quit going there altogether or move closer to the nearest college town (in my case, Charlottesville, Virginia) where the sights are bound to be easier on the eyes.

Edited a couple entries in my USSR gallery a few minutes ago due to recently acquired documents. If you get the chance, check out the "Defense of the Caucasus" entry. Nice document and I.D. for a female nurse with the 7th Independent Division. A Georgian document was added to the "Veteran of Labour" as well. Also, within the next couple of days, will have a new item and edit in my PMR gallery- check that out; the new item is fairly interesting.

Getting ready to establish a new gallery for Soviet (and bloc) Veterans badges... it's a new interest of mine that is largely spurred on by Paul Schmitt's most recent book, "Soviet Second World War Veteran Badges". Looking forward to that; should begin in a couple of days.

That's about all... other that working and collecting, I continue playing music here in the "sticks". Put down the 12 string acoustic and got out the old Tele just yesterday. Been on this jazz and old '50's kick lately.

Until My Next Entry,
Take It Light,

Greg Collins

Greg Collins


Shipping costs... Highway robbery!

I found this great dealer of Belgian Orders and medals... He has some items I really want but charges a fortune to ship overseas stating the Belgian postal system is untrustworthy for such international parcels...


He wants 125 EURO to send me 80 EURO's worth of medals and refuses to use the normal post even if insured and registered. People like this drive me cuckoo!!




9 December 2011

Been awhile since I posted to this blog; haven't had alot to say, really. With the end of autumn and the coming of winter we're often plagued with grey days- lots of cold rain and mud. A sort of yearly depression sets in which evaporates around April. The only feeling I remember that approximates this is the feeling we got when we were at sea for long periods; up early to work at least 8-10 hours, in the sack for a couple hours, up for 4 hours of watch, back in the sack for a couple of hours, then do it all over. On the frigate (my first ship) the machinery got the fresh water, so it was weeks without a shower and your skin turned graphite grey from the grease that was used on virtually everything. All you saw was black sea that you sailed with 45 degree rolls and 10 degree pitches and you became a sort of zombie, doing everything from memory and with a blank, unemotional stare. It became difficult to sleep at times, so everyone carried these incredibly long, boring pocket novels that could knock you out by the fifth page. Of course, then you would hit a port like Olongapo, in the Philippines (!!!), the ship would hook up shore water, you'd take that "hollywood" shower and hit the beach, find comfort for the evening and all would be set right. Alive again! So, come on April!

I have been able to add a couple of items to the collections, which I've already posted in the appropriate galleries (have a look- they are recent). Also have a lead on at least 4 new medals from the PMR (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic- also called Transnistria, an unrecognized, breakaway country (from Moldova) which kept most of it's former Soviet emblems... even the flag). I hope to get them by the new year. My PMR gallery is probably the most complete, with one possible exception, collection of PMR items anywhere so feel free to visit and leave a comment or two.

Well, that's all for now,

Greg Collins

Greg Collins



There have been some delays in finishing this Blog. The extension to our Photographic Competition took longer then we had expected. However - here are the final two parts to this section of my life - the younger part !

THE END BEGINS...............

I covered in earlier chapters the damage to life and property created by the German V1 and V2 rockets - looking at the map
which shows detonations I am amazed that any of us survived. However, after the D-Day landings in 1944 the German schedule was interupted and gradually the Rockets became less frequent.

Shortages were something that we had learned to live with - which was just as well since they continued to get worse - not better. School and the usual activities of an active group of schoolboys did not allow for introspection - we just got on with life.

With the Allied and US advances continuing the press seemed to give out more details and we all followed events closely on large maps. I remember at school that in the main Hall we had a particularly large map and everyday map pins - in different colours - were used to show advances and set-backs. I don't think I ever saw it without a crowd around and we certainly knew our European Countries.


Even with clear memories of the period I still find it difficult to describe a total absence of any lights at night - of public
transport being fragmentary and really only used in daytime - at least by us younger ones. My Uncle - who was a wealthy stockbroker , used to take me to his home in Somerset for a few weeks each summer. We had to travel on a steam train - which would be packed to capacity with servicemen. He and his City friends were - of course - First Class and we had seats. I always thought this was wrong and even at 8 years old used to say we should let people into the carriage.

The other thing we learnt to live with was the terrible bomb damage - wherever you looked buildings had gone - streets
were in tatters. Paint was very scarce - so, buildings all looked dirty and decayed. Even during the War , my parents would take me once a year to central London to get school uniforms and look for presents. My favourite shop at that age was Gamages - who had a lovely pet section. I think it was for Christmas 1944 we made the expedition - only to find it had been bombed totally flat - just gone !


Victory in Europe Day had been building for quite a while - the newspapers and the radio were reporting our succeses
and the atmosphere was 'not if' - but 'when'. This still didn't really mean a lot to us - we just had no idea of what 'normal' life was. For example - I had never seen or, eaten a banana. I had never seen a coconut - just so many things.

May 8th 1945 the War was declared over in Europe - that evening lights were switched-on. That was a shock to a small boy who had never seen street or, car lights. My Father had a small petrol allowance for the business and he had saved some coupons. A few days after, we joined heavy traffic to drive to the West End of London and see Piccadilly Circus - and with all of the old pre-war neon signs on. WOW ! We were easily pleased.

The crowds outside of Buckinham Palace and Downing Street are still something used for comparisons. I will show a number of pictures from this time. The story will continue for one further chapter to 1949 when we emigrated to Australia.

A V2 rocket on display in Trafalgar Square in 1945. St. Martin's in the Field and South Africa House in background

Mervyn Mitton

Mervyn Mitton


Ghost of Collecting Past - A Christmas Carol?

Ghost of Collecting Past – A Christmas Carol?
In case you were expecting a story based on a Dickensian Novel I fear that I must disappoint you straight away. This becomes self-evident within the first sentence, yet somehow I was not dissuaded.

The alarm clock/radio went off well before dawn as usual but today my ears were assaulted by a Christmas carol butchered by one of the new generation of so-called talented artists. Silent Night was never meant to be converted and offered up in Rap format. Silent Night, as someone should point out to this Neanderthal, is about the birth of the Messiah and has nothing to do with the crucifixion, by the way the song was presented this morning could only lead one to surmise this was the intent. There are few today capable of offering up the great Christmas songs of the past in the manner of Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and numerous others. The only group to successfully make it in the Christmas song market since the King was also the only group to best the British Invasion group known as the Beatles leaving them as a distant second best. This group (I know you have guessed it) was the Chipmunks. Like so many super stars their “candle burned out long before the legend ever did”, I’ll bet you never knew that Sir Elton John actually wrote the song about the passing of the Chipmunks. My research into this point may be a sketchy, my kingdom for a citation! As a short history, Theodore was the first to pass away due to heart failure brought on, it is speculated, by morbid obesity. Theodore was next and it is rumoured he took his own life after a long battle with mental illness and neurosis. Alvin lived to the ripe old age of four then went to join his fellow performers in whatever place is reserved for musicians. Lucky for the public that chipmunks are easy to train, much like the actors portraying James Bond over the years, (where, oh where have ye gone Sean, we need you so badly), and several new crops of rodents have been raised to star in movies and television specials over the past number of years. So now that the Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) is firmly planted in your subconscious I’ll get to the point of this submission.

While pondering Christmas past I thought about something that comes up from time to time on the forum and often when fellow collectors congregate. Was it better to collect in the past than it is today?

Not having all of the data at my fingertips I decided to take an example from two different categories, one, a collectable and the other, a week’s grocery bill. In 1962 you could purchase a Japanese NCO sword (WWII) for $34.00. A week’s groceries during the same time period, for a family of four, would set you back around $18.00. Considering the shipping cost of the sword we’ll say the sword cost the equivalent of two weeks groceries. Today it would run you about $120.00 for a week’s groceries and the sword would take a slice out of your bank account to the tune of $450.00 to $500.00. If the same today held true as it did in 1962 the sword should be priced at $240.00. In my opinion a WWII Japanese NCO sword is only worth $240.00, however, you can bet your great aunt’s moustache that if and when I sell my Japanese sword collection it will be at or near market value and who could blame me.

Collecting needs to be financed out of one’s disposable cash and not, of course, from the household account. This being the case and if you figure in all that we “just have to have” in today’s world and all that our children just “can’t live without” then true disposable cash becomes as rare as a duck that can walk backwards (no they really can’t).

Before I started writing I had already made up my mind that this little exercise would produce results that would encourage today’s young collectors. Instead it has resulted in me wondering why I continue to collect.

True it is a supply and demand equation as the demand for collectables is growing and the supply is finite. Please, let’s not bring the Chinese counterfeiting of the Japanese NCO sword into this as I am speaking now of any and all real collectables. It is also easier for the older collectors who have their homes paid for and their families grown up and (booted) out on their own. We now have that disposable income but who wants to spend a great deal more than an item is worth just to possess it? Oh, wait, I think I’ve just stumbled onto the definition of “collector.”

Parenting tip: When your kids leave home fill their room with anything, a new office, television/entertainment room, a study, anything...just fill it! I even considered concrete for a while, but I decided on a new study instead, but that’s for another blog offering. Now I really must find that bottle of brandy and drink until I can no longer hear,...Alvin wants a hula hoop... ALVIN!!!! Get out of my head!


Brian Wolfe

Brian Wolfe


Because I Say So

Because I Say So.

We hear a lot about provenance here on the forum and more so on television in conjunction with antiques shows. Provenance, being the history of an object proving its authenticity, its pedigree so-to speak. So often we see photos alongside medals that we are told belonged to the subject in the photo but is “because I say so” really provenance? It would, of course, be impolite to suggest that a fellow member who was claiming, in this case the photo and medals belonged together, was taking a good deal of liberty in assuming that we should simply take his or her word as gospel.

Of course when a photo and a group of medals have been in that person’s family and handed down from generation to generation it would seem to imply authenticity. However, I have in my collection a couple of very clear photographs of military men to which I have added the corresponding group. If these were to be passed down for a couple of generations the authenticity of the photos and the medals would not change. That is to say, the passage of time is not necessarily an indication of provenance just because they had always remained within one family. Most certainly if the soldier in the photo were wearing those very medals and especially if there were some corresponding damage to the medals reflected in the photo we would assuredly be “sold”.

Speaking of being “sold”, the whole issue of provenance becomes rather critical if one were about to slap down a good deal of gold doubloons on the barrel head in order to procure a highly desirable group of medals. This makes “because I say so” provenance worth about half of what a share of Nortel presently brings. So, keep this in mind as I finally get around to the real story of this episode of News from the Home Office.

My wife and I were returning from a trip to Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada and a visit to the Billy Bishop Museum which is situated there in his home town. We had taken one of the many secondary roads south which winds through scenic farm lands and stunning vistas. We came upon a sign advertising a flea market ahead. The market was in what at first looked to be a farmer’s field and comprised of fifty of sixty vendors. When we pull into the grassed parking area we could see that this was in fact a rural municipality’s sports field with a picnic pavilion and refreshment stand which was open. In case you are not familiar with what a picnic pavilion is, think of a barn with no sides, just a roof and a concrete pad as a floor. The refreshment stand is self explanatory and I am sure we have all seen them and even purchased their questionable food that makes one both wonder where the health inspector was when they opened for business and if we do eat the food will be discover whether the old saying “that which does not kill us makes us stronger” with be proven true later in the day. After inhaling a couple of hot dogs, speaking of tempting the fates of intestinal disorder, and a half warm Pepsi we toured the vendors’ tables. There is not usually much to be had at these sorts of fairs, sometimes a few small badges or military buttons. Most of the dealers had no interest in such matters and probably wondered if the buttons marked “US” had a corresponding button worn by the enemy stamped “THEM”. Sorry, bad joke, consider it punishment for having read this far. One of the dealers was an elderly lady with an array of the usual two dozen salt and pepper shakers, most of which had suffered the loss of their soul mates and were now facing the world alone, as well as old glass ware that had seen better days and were probably salvaged from someone’s trash. However among the coffee cups sporting semi-humorous pictures and captions and chipped tea cups I spotted a framed document. The glass was grungy from years of neglect but the document was in good shape. It was for the 1937 Coronation of George VI and had been presented to The Reverend Canon W.M.H. Quartermaine and would have been awarded along with the Coronation Medal. What a great little find, and the only one of the day. The lady didn’t want a lot for it as she had no interest in it and informed me that she had purchased it along with several other framed pictures and dishware at an estate sale she had attended earlier that summer.

She then said that she had something else that she wanted me to have to go with the document. Upon producing a battered sugar bowl with lid I was sure this gray haired old sweetheart was about to con me into purchasing the very sugar bowl used to store disembodied spirits by Prime Minister Mackenzie King (look it up). She removed the lid and tipped the bowl and out slid the medal itself. It was still in very good condition along with the ribbon and a pin which was used to affix it to the good Reverend’s jacket. Apparently the medal had been packed in the sugar bowl in some news paper and she had discovered it when she had remover the paper. There was no sales pitch she simply wanted me to have the medal and to show me where it had been stored.

Now in my collection reside the document and the very medal worn by The Reverend Canon W.M.H. Quartermaine. As to the provenance, of course it is genuine. Upon what do I base this opinion concerning the provenance? Well...it’s...”because I say so”.


Brian Wolfe

Brian Wolfe


16 November 2011

Added a few more pieces to the collection today... three medals to the PMR collection which I've already posted and one more veteran's medal (80 Years VDV) which I have yet to post. Two of the three PMR entries are Black Sea Cossack awards, one of which is quite rare in it's configuration. Have a look...

Congratulations to all the Photo Contest winners. I really enjoyed all the submissions I saw, both winning and non-winning... nice work! Was somewhat disappointed that no Soviet or Soviet bloc items made the cut- maybe next time.

Unfortunately, it seems our recent earthquake has caused some plumbing issues in the house and has caused the bulk of my concentration to be channeled in that direction. I have a "bandaid" on it at present, but am considering a nearly complete redo for the next several days as winter is coming. Just what I need at this point. At least I have a block of time (6 days) off to do the work.

Until next entry...


Greg Collins

Greg Collins


Some Things You Just Don't Change.

I was born in a place in the Northern part of Ontario that no longer exists as a name place, Fort William. No, it was not razed to the ground during the French and Indian Wars, I'm not THAT old. Fort William was amalgamated with its sister city, Port Athur, to become the City of Thunder Bay.You will find this city on the map at the north western tip of Lake Superior. I grew up in a small town in south western Ontario and presently live in an even small in Central Ontario. I would not mind one more move in my life possibly closer to Ottawa as the terrain is more like that of my birth place, which I am told looks much like the Scottish Highlands, please do not imagine me in a kilt. However, I fear the next move I shall make will only put me six feet closer to sea level.

The small town I grew up in underwent an urban renewal movement a number of years ago spurred on, I believe, by the threat of a large shopping mall being proposed just beyond the outskirts (you're still thinking kilts aren't you) of the county line. We've seen downtown cores of both cities and towns become ghost towns in the past because of the allure of these mammoth shopping Mecca's so the threat was not unfounded.

The first building to fall under the blade of the bulldozer was the town's library. This demolition had been contested because, as the conservationists argued, this was a Carnegie Museum. The protest was withdrawn when it was pointed out that Carnegie was not an architectural style but had been a fund set up by the Carnegie Foundation for the construction of libraries throughout the United States and Canada. In fact the architecture of the whole town is what is known as Ontario Vernacular, a polite way to say, "hodge podge". The new library turned out to be a very nice modern facility that was well designed to serve the community now and well into the future.

The next building, and right across the street, that was slated for the wrecking ball was the town hall and its surrounding neighbourhoods in order to make way for a new downtown shopping mall with the municipal offices on the second floor. The old town hall was truly Ontario Vernacular in the strictest sense. A conglomeration of additions built on through the years, the quality of which depended upon the economy of the times. It sported the letters TH within a rectangle which were constructed of white bricks set into the red brick of the original building. TH, of course, stood for Town Hall; oh God, shoot me now, it all looked quite amateurish and...well..."vernacular".

In the front of the town hall sat the cenotaph, which is the focus of this report, and you thought I would NEVER get to the point. The cenotaph was not the spectacular structures seen in many cities. It was rather plain, a basic obelisk with the dates and names of the wars for which this monument represented as well as for those from the community who had served and those who had fallen in those wars. It lacked any such embellishments as seen in large cities. There were no statues of unimaginative inspiration such as those copying Michelangelo's Pietà (1498 - 1499) so common in these monuments, nor even polished marble. Just a plain pale gray obelisk.

The proposed plan was to remove the cenotaph and relocate it to a designated park well outside of the downtown core, there to be the focus of the Remembrance Day ceremonies and, no doubt, the hand of every vandal and half-witted would-be graffiti artist with a can of spray paint for miles around.

This is the gensis of the protest that started over the relocation of the cenotaph. It started with a petition bearing the names of a few WWI and WWII veterans then more people came forward, then more and more. Doctors, lawyers, grocers, labourers, men women and school children put their pens to paper in support. What had started as a modest effort engulfed the whole community and the outlying areas for miles around. The protest had begun. Unlike today, no one pitched their tents on municipal property, no cars were overturned or put to the torch. It was not necessary to call out the constabulary in their riot gear, which in those days amounted to a bull horn used to advise people to remain calm and orderly. The very thoughts of that, in those days, would have been...what can I say...unthinkable. No it was quiet and dignified and an attribute to the vetrans who fought so that we might petition government without feeling the need to resort to senseless violence.

The night of the council meeting held to discuss the fate of the cenotaph arrived and the council chambers had never seen such a turn out. Someone jokingly remarked that the last time there were so many people at a council meeting was the time they tried to pass a By-law to licence cats. However, the story of that horrendous protest is for another time. The gray haired old ladies (God bless them all) of the , now infamous, Cat Crusades were joined by citizens of all ages and from all walks of life. They filled the council chambers, the hallway and out onto the steps of the town hall and even into the street itself.

Two years later when the confusion that seems to rein supreme over large building projects and the dust of construction had settled, there in front of the new modern downtown mall stood a simple , unadorned, plain light gray obelisk. The same obelisk that had served to remind us of the scarifice our community's sons and daughters had made so that we might live in peace and have a say in how our government was run. I think those who gave their all would have been proud to have known that their sacrifice assured that the voice of the people can and will be heard without the neet to resort to violence.

So tomorrow, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, if you can't join me at a cenotaph please turn off your cell phones, minimize the computer screen and take two minutes to reflect in silence on what others have done and given up for you as will, I know, the people in that small town.

Respectfully submitted
Brian Wolfe

Brian Wolfe

Brian Wolfe


If at first you don't succeed..was it really worth the effort?

Hello Everyone,

This morning I attempted to launch my blog "News From the Home Office" and somehow after a good deal of work I hit the entry function and it was lost. This ticked me off to no end and I must say I took it out on a couple of my good friends and some bidders on eBay. I still have my friends and two new items for my collection, too bad I was angry as they really cost me, but so be it, let the low bidders hang their heads in shame.

The title I have chosen works on a couple of levels, I hope. First the blog is sent from my office at home and the Home Office in the UK deals with diplomacy, espionage and police matters, all of which interests me.

I will attempt to keep the entries topical but be warned that, unlike the regular posts, this area may see a lot of opinon and conjecture.

So, lets see if I have this figured out or will I have to beat someone else up on an interenet auction this evening?



Brian Wolfe

Brian Wolfe


2 November 2011

A reprieve from the cold for a few days... temps soared into the 60's and, as I am off, got alot of work done around the house today. More tomorrow prior to returning to the grind on Friday (yes, I am on shift this weekend). This evening I got a chance to scan some DDR documents for the MfS (Stasi) sports organization, Dynamo and will couple these scans with their badges and add to my DDR collection tomorrow at some point. Two of the documents contain actual signatures (not stamps) of Erich Mielke, the Minister of State Security.

Also, two more badges and a book arrived from a contact in Chisinau earlier today... the book is a 2010 coffee-table book of PMR awards and medals given by the government to visiting entities. I already have the 2004 edition, so these are a full set of available books on the subject. The badges are both for the MVD there and one is the PMR's version of the old KGB "egg" badge- very excited to have one of those. It appears in both books and is considered an important militia award. Hope to take images of both for the PMR gallery tomorrow. Also got the idea of adding images of the books I use in collecting to the galleries- this may be of interest to those seeking information on a particular branch of awards collecting. And, as I consider these books to be an integral part of the collections to which they're affiliated, why not? While I don't generally share my sources, I can at least share the sources of knowledge. May help someone.

The judging of the photo competition must be in full swing by now and I do not envy the job of the judges. I saw so many really good images submitted. The good thing about being behind the commercial photography camera is that, other than your own impression of whether or not you've answered the customer's visual challenge, the customer's check say's you won. Pretty simple. So, in the spirit of that, I leave you with an image I shot back in the late '90's. As you can see, it was made into a poster. I shot it on 4" x 5", asa 50 Ektachrome with a Sinar view camera, 2400 watt-second Speedotron Black Line lighting system, set the type on an IBM pc and delivered it to a printer in Richmond who could handle the sheet size (one measure was 26" as I recall) and supervised the printing- 4 colour process with a varnish coat over the image of the girl to make it "pop". It was aimed at the Virginia Military Institute during the decision making process of whether of not to go co-ed. I understand Dabney Coleman (actor- you may remember him as the boss in "9 to 5") took 125 of them back to Hollywood with him. Apparently he attended VMI and was there on Alumni Day when the posters hit.


Greg Collins

Greg Collins