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The Combined Pilot's and Observer's Badge in Gold with Diamonds attributed to Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Sperrle is to be auctioned by Hermann Historica in early May. Estimated at Euro 65,000!

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An examination of the Sperrle piece (see photo above), seems to suggest that it is an everyday for wearing example in silver gilt with white sapphires (instead of solid gold with real diamonds of the award piece). These as I understand it were usually presented simultaneously to the recipient.

A quick comparison with the magnificent Skorzeny awarded badge shown above, seems to provide fairly conclusive evidence of this. (Note the silver showing through the gold plate in places and the lack of sparkle in the sapphires when compared to diamonds).

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Side-by-side comparison of the badges spanning the 1935 - 1943 timeline. As Rick (Stogieman) points out, there appear to be some major differences. These badges were made by jewellers but the main components were cast and ought to resemble each other in terms of surface detailing, differences due to hand-chasing and finishing around the edges apart. The same goes for the gold awards as well as the wearing copies said to have been given to recipients at the award ceremonies. I am also quite suspicious of the Skorzeny ensemble and would want verifiable provenance, especially if spending that kind of money with an institution noted for selling Hitler cigarette boxes and onyx-centred 1939 Grand Crosses.

PK

Edited by PKeating

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Here is a photocopy of a document from Otto Skorzeny's personnel file. It is the second page of a report to the Reichsf?hrer-SS regarding the confirmation of Skorzeny's DKiG for Unternehmen Panzerfaust in October 1944. You can see the date of his EK1 and Ritterkreuz for the Gran Sasso mission: 12.9.43. Note the date given for the award of the "Flg.Abz.in Gold": 1.12.44. Yet the award document accompanying the above badge is dated 16.9.1943.

In Charles Foley's book Commando Extraordinary, based on Foley's interviews with Skorzeny in Spain a year or so after the latter's escape from British custody, reference is made to G?ring presenting Skorzeny with the "Gold Medal of the Airforce" at Rastenburg when Skorzeny visted Hitler there shortly after the Gran Sasso rescue mission. However, Dr Kurt Klietmann's essay on the badge, in his seminal reference work on Third Reich awards, gives the time of the award to Skorzeny of the Gemeinsames Flugzeugf?hrer und Beobachterabzeichen in Gold mit Brillanten as autumn 1944. This ties in with the date given in the report to Himmler from a Brigadef?hrer on the Reichsf?hrer's personal staff. I always thought Skorzeny was awarded the badge by G?ring after Panzerfaust, the Nazi-sponsored coup d'?tat led by Skorzeny in Hungary in October 1944. I tend to place more faith in the facts as recorded by the SS-F?hrungs-Hauptamt and the office of the Reichsf?hrer-SS.

While this might seem a bit of a red herring, it is worth pointing out that in his book on German medals and badges, Christopher Ailsby quotes a letter to a militaria magazine from Andrew Mollo back in 1981. Mollo expressed his belief that there were three grades of the Combined Pilot-Observer Badge: the basic award, the Diamonds award and a solid gold type which, according to Mollo, was awarded by G?ring to King Boris of Bulgaria and Benito Mussolini. Mollo also contended that Himmler received this solid gold class and suggested that it was subsequently upgraded with diamonds. Himmler received the Diamonds PO Badge in July 1942 and the award was instituted in 1935, the first two being given to Wever and Milch. No solid gold PO Badge without Diamonds from the 1935-1945 period has ever been observed. The confusion might have arisen because of contemporary references like Skorzeny's recollection of "gold airforce medals" and file entries like the one I have shown here. There again, perhaps someone intended to introduce a solid gold badge into the marketplace back in 1981...

Regarding the award document, I would expect to see an embossed seal on a document related to an award conceived by and in the personal gift of Hermann G?ring, in the manner of similar documents for awards like the Ehrenpokal. But, hey, what do I know? I'm just a document collector and amateur historian with a cold-eyed, investigative journalistic approach to establishing facts.

PK

Edited by PKeating

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Here is Skorzeny's CV, from his personnel file, written in his own hand. The 1938 CV accompanying the badge and its document could be genuine but I thought I might as well post this. I find it quite interesting that the engraving on the reverse of the Skorzeny badge resembles Skorzeny's handwriting. Maybe Skorzeny, taking it to be engraved himself afterwards as Hermann G?ring probably didn't have the time, what with the mad rush to get the train out for the trip to Eastern Prussia, wrote down his name and rank on the order form and the engraver presumed that he should copy the style.

PK

Edited by PKeating

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G?ring commissioned these badges from Rudolf St?biger, a Viennese jeweller. According to Christopher Ailsby's book A Collector's Guide to World War 2 German Medals and Political Awards, St?biger's son stated that the firm produced seventy badges in total. As with certain other firms in Germany and Austria, one must presume that the St?biger firm was approached after the war by people asking them to reproduce these badges. They certainly responded to enquiries about the badges. St?biger fils apparently said that the early badges had the "shop number" scratched under the hinge, much as a watchmaker marks a watch upon which he has worked. After Austria was united with Germany in 1938, the firm stamped their logo "R.St." on the reverse of the eagle. St?biger reportedly described the eagles as made of platinum and the wreaths of 22 ct gold, which is the purest form of gold one can use for jewellery as 24 ct gold bends as easily as lead. 22 ct gold is still quite soft but stable enough for the purpose. The Skorzeny badge bears a 14 ct gold hallmark under the hinge and no mark of any kind is visible on the reverse of the eagle. St?biger Jr recalled that the silver-gilt dress copies were made in the same way as the award badges and bore hallmarks relating to the silver grade, manufacturer and place of manufacture, plus the letters "IMIT" stamped into the wreath. If the younger St?biger's recollections are reliable, the Milch badge pictured would appear to be a post-1938 example, which is interesting, given the award date engraved on the reverse.

PK

Edited by PKeating

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Herr St?biger's recollections might not be reliable. However, before we get into the question of hallmarks, let's compare the Hartmann and Skorzeny pieces side-by-side. It would be better without your name obscuring key details. I understand your reasons and I have also started putting watermarks and copyright notices on my images but you could perhaps use thinner letters. The image would remain protected but more visible. However, the fact is that these two badges came from different moulds. They are simply not the same.

PK

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They are all different, period. As for badges shown here that appear to be silver-gilt, they look nothing like the original B-St?ck badges, which bore hallmarks and the letters "IMIT" on the reverse. The Skorzeny ensemble was listed on Manion's with a reserve of $54,000.00 US. I know that a couple of people were recently involved in producing high end fakes of the PO Badge with Diamonds, using gold and platinum, but I haven't seen one of these fakes or, rather, am not aware of having seen one. Perhaps there is one shown in this topic...

PK

Edited by PKeating

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They are all different, period.

True, of course.

But I know for a fact that the Hartmann is 100% genuine. Can we say that about the other ones with the same certainty? Furthermore, we do not know whether we need to account for manufacturers deviations.

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Just as a matter of interest, how do you know the Hartmann badge is genuine? If it really can be established as a genuine period example by Rudolf St?biger, that suggests that the three badges attributed here to Erhard Milch, Otto Skorzeny and Hugo Sperrle are all fakes. However, the young St?biger was apparently quite adamant that these badges were hallmarked. I believe that it would have been illegal not to do so but perhaps I am wrong.

PK

Edited by PKeating

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I know the owner and the circumstances.

Here's another one Detlev Niemann just sold not to long ago for (I think ) 60,000.- Euros.

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The Hartmann badge certainly embodies the features and finesse I recall from handling a couple of originals many years ago.

PK

Edited by PKeating

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Just as I was trying to qoute you it disappeared.

The badge did not come from the Hartmann family but from Hartmann directly, cased - with all the other awards and documents he got, including the Oakleaves with Swords and Diamonds. I know it is sometimes hard to believe that something might be real and genuine (especially such an award) but just try to do it this time. If you are looking for a genuine example, this is one!

Another question worthwile asking is why Goering would sub-contract the manufacture of an award to a foreign country - at least before the Anschluss? Maybe Stuebiger was not the supplier?

No maker marks other than the gold content on the reverse - and no cut-outs on the outer wing frame.

Edited by Dietrich

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