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As people are still buying fakes of these badges in the belief that they are getting amazing bargains for half or two-thirds of the price they might pay for the genuine article, it seems logical to start a topic featuring authentic examples and the various fakes, some of which have been out there for more than thirty years. Sincere questions, comments and contributions are welcome but please, if you have a badge you have seen on eBay or some such site and wish to know more about it, start a separate topic as the aim of this topic is for serious students of the subject to be able to help less experienced people avoid the pitfalls. To begin with, let's look at the three basic types of genuine Army Parachutist Badges.

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On the left, we have the classic Type 1 badge, struck in aluminium by C E Juncker. This particular badge graces the cover of Eric Queen’s book Red Shines The Sun and is sometimes described as “the extended talons type”. Note the anodised gold finish, imparting a matt appearance to the wreath. The eagle was silver-frosted with polished nighlights and bore the firm’s hallmark on the reverse, as we shall see later. These badges were made in 1937 and awarded to members of the Fallschirm-Infanterie-Kompanie

In the middle is a classic Type 2 badge in aluminium. In fact, this is what we refer to as the Type 2b badge, because the wreath was made thicker, for greater strength, by adding a shim to the die. The edges of the wreath are chased to a far greater extent than on the Type 1, although the same dies were used. The diving eagle is the most noticeable difference. The reasons for the redesign will become apparent later. Note the lack of an attempt to remove the die-flashing under the beak of the national eagle, compared to the Type 1. There are other detail differences but these will be discussed later. Only a few of these Type 2 badges are known with the C E Juncker hallmark. These Type 2 badges were made in 1938 and awarded to members of the Fallschirm-Infanterie-Bataillon.

On the right is the Type 3 badge reinstituted in 1943 for members of the Brandenburg parachute units, namely 15. (Fallschirm) Kompanie and, later on, in 1944, Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon “Brandenburg”. A few members of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500 received these badges, as a handful of surviving paybooks and documents show but most went to the Brandenburgers, which gives some idea of the small production runs involved. The badge was struck in feinzink by C E Juncker on the same dies as the prewar Type 2 badges. These wartime examples have no hallmarks and tend to retain their finish surprisingly well for mid to late-war zinc items.

PK

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A more detailed view of the Type 1 badge on the left, which used to be in my collection and now resides with Eric Queen, who just joined GMIC and will, hopefully, be showing us some very nice stuff. Because of the patina or tarnishing on the reverse of the eagle, the hallmark is all but invisible but we will be discussing hallmarks later. This is the only known aluminium issue badge with the same kind of factory engraving encountered on all but one of the known, surviving .800 silver badges offered for private purchase by C E Juncker to men who could prove their entitlement to the badge, either with their award document or military parachutist licence. The catch is broken, as on many of these aluminium badges, because it was made of the same very fine but fragile high grade aluminium.

Note the blued pin, the flat-topped conical rivets, the finish, the overall quality of the strike and all the other details underscoring the overall quality and finesse of this badge. Study the surface details of the wreath. If the wreath of any Army Parachutist Badge you are are thinking of buying does not conform precisely to what you see here, the badge is a fake because C E Juncker was the only firm that supplied these badges and they used the same obverse die in 1937/38 and 1943/44. The back of the head of the national eagle has suffered a knock at some point. Note how the finisher has done his best to file away the die-flashing. With this in mind, look at the talons of the diving eagle and imagine not just how time-consuming the file-chasing process was but now many must have broken off during the finishing process. This led to the complete redesign of the eagle but not before the firm tried to modify the die, resulting in what we call the "Type 1 transitional badge".

Edited by PKeating

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A Type 1 Transitional badge, showing the ugly flaw on the talons as a result of the attempted revision of the die to beef up the talons. I have seen one of these 'transitional' badges with the 'beard' of die-flashing under the national eagle's beak, as seen on Type 2 badges.

Edited by PKeating

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A slightly clearer image showing the die flaw in question on the private purchase .800 silver badge owned by Georg Knacke. We shall also be discussing the silver badges in due course. While there has been no serious attempt so far to fake the Type 1 badges, I have heard of people rejecting perfectly genuine 'finds' because they did not resemble the Type 2 badges with which most collectors are far more familiar, because while they are very rare, the Type 1 badges are extremely rare and, paradoxically, these 'transitional' variants are the rarest of all. I have never understood how a posh firm like C E Juncker allowed these out of their workshops. I suppose it might be understandable in the case of a batch of issue aluminium badges with the flaw but in the case of fairly expensive solid silver 'bling' like this? But there we are. They did and, as a result, you are now looking at one of the rarest of Third Reich military badges.

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Here are the three basic types of aluminium badge, excluding the 'transitional' badge. Note how the Type 2a badge in the middle has the same type of hinge and pin assembly as that of the Type 1. The outer parts of the hinge, made of the same aluminium as the rest of the badge, are spaced wider apart than those of the Type 2b badge on the bottom. The blued steel Type 2a pin is also the same as the Type 1 pin, whereas the pin on the Type 2b badge is turned to a point. The wreaths are all struck on the same set of dies, the differences being that the edges of the wreaths of the Type 2 badges are hand-chased to a far greater extent with fine files to accentuate the silhouettes of the leaves and acorns. Note the 'beard' under the beak of the national eagle on Type 2 badges. Not visible here is the greater thickness of the Type 2b wreath, evidently achieved by adding a shim to the dies, which would have been a simple solution given that the outer edges were straight before the hand-finishing stage.

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Another view of the reverse of a Type 2a badge. This example has a period repair to the hook and a re-anodised wreath. The first form pin is more distinct here, its rounded, blunt end protruding below the bottom of the wreath like the pins on the Type 1 badges.

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Wrong image but, hey, it won't do you any harm to keep looking at genuine badges before we get to the various fakes out there.

Edited by PKeating

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Before moving away from the prewar aluminium badges, here is a large scan of the Type 2 obverse for study and reference purposes. If you have a Type 2 badge in aluminium, silver or a Type 3 badge in zink and its die-struck surface details do not correspond precisely to what you see here, it is a copy or a fake.

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In order to understand the rarity of the badge, you need to know a little about the units and personnel eligible for the Army Parachutists’ Badge because the more you know about the badge and its award criteria, the less vulnerable you will be to the smoke and mirrors pitches of the numerous con artists trying to part you from your hard-earned money.

The Fallschirmschützenabzeichen (Heer) was instituted on 1.9.1937 by order of Generaloberst Freiherr von Fritsch, Commander-in-Chief of the German Army, for trained paratroopers of the Heer’s Fallschirm-Infanterie-Kompanie, formed by the OKH on 1.4.1937 in Stendal. The first badges were awarded to approxomately 170 FIK men at the end of the autumn manoeuvres in Mecklenburg by Hauptmann und Kompaniechef Zahn. These would obviously have been Type 1 badges.

The FIK was expanded to battalion strength on 1.6.1938 as the Fallschirm-Infanterie-Bataillon and Zahn relinquished command to Major Richard Heidrich, a WW1 veteran who won the respect of his men by qualifying as a paratrooper at the age of 42. The FIB was placed under the operational command of the Luftwaffe’s 7. Fliegerdivision on 1.7.1938 and eventually became part of the Luftwaffe on 1.1.1939 as II./Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1. Although former FIK/FIB men continued to wear their Heer jump badges with pride throughout the war, the badge was abolished as of 1.1.1939 with the unit’s transfer from the Heer to the Luftwaffe. There were just over 850 awards of the FSA (Heer).

To summarise, therefore, there was perhaps one production run of the Type 1 badge in 1937 before the revisions to the design, followed by two or, at most, three production runs of the Type 2 badges before the abolition of the FSA (Heer) at the end of 1938. A typical minimum production run would have been 500 units. The Type 2 badge also underwent minor revisions, the main one being the thickening of the wreath by 0.5mm so the production statistics would probably have been broken down into one run of Type 2a and one or two runs of Type 2b badges. The FSA (H) was produced exclusively by C E Juncker of Berlin for the OKH. It is unlikely that any aluminium badges were produced after January 1939 because many of the original examples obtained from or examined in the possession of recipients and their families have several period repairs and show high degrees of wear, indicating that replacements for these relatively fragile badges were hard to find even at the time. FIB veteran Alfred Ludwig recalled finding one in a shop in 1942. This badge, which is in Eric Queen's collection, is one of the few Type 2s known with the maker’s hallmark found on all Type 1 aluminium badges, is very worn and has several period repairs.

The cases for the FSA (H) are extremely rare and good photographs can be found in Eric Queen's book Red Shines The Sun. There are two types known. Of the award certificates issued on 1.9.1937 and 18.12.1937, a mere seventeen are currently known to survive.

Edited by PKeating

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With the expansion of the Brandenburg Division’s parachute capability as the war ground on, the OKH decided to reinstitute the Army Parachutists’ Badge as of 1.6.1943. There was a slight alternation in nomenclature from Fallschirmschützenabzeichen (Heer) to Fallschirmschützenabzeichen des Heeres. The first recipients of the FSA des Heeres were parachutists of the 15 (Fallschirm) Kompanie of the 3rd Battalion of the Brandenburg Division’s 4th Light Infantry Regiment.

The FSA des Heeres was struck in feinzink by C E Juncker on the same dies used to produce the prewar Type 2 badges. Some surviving mint examples show us that the finish was of quite a high quality, with gold-washed wreaths and silver-washed diving eagles, complete with frosted highlights. Most of the surviving Type 3 badges have retained their finish surprising well by comparison with many mid to late-war zink combat and award badges. I have only seen a couple of grey examples out of the twenty or so originals I have handled. In general, the gold finish tends to have dulled a bit but the diving eagle is often still quite bright.

From a collector’s viewpoint, it is important to bear in mind that any German military personnel qualifying as parachutists between 1.1.1939 and 1.6.1943 received the Luftwaffe pattern Parachutists’ Badge. As a sidenote, parachute training was conducted exclusively by the Luftwaffe and there was no difference between the training for Heer and Luftwaffe candidates nor, for that matter, Waffen-SS parachutists. February 1944 saw the formation of Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon “Brandenburg” at Stendal under the command of Hauptmann Weithöner although 15 (Fallschirm) Kompanie remained on the Brandenburg Division’s OOB as an independent sub-unit under the command of Oblt Oschatz. For more information on Brandenburger paratroopers, follow this link - http://germanmilitaryhistory.devhub.com/blog/2009/10/09/brandenburg-paratroops - for an article by Eric Queen and myself.

In September 1943, following the successful rescue of Italian leader Benito Mussolini from his hotel prison on Gran Sasso by Lufwaffe Fallschirmjäger and a small number of Waffen-SS commandos under the command of Otto Skorzeny, who hijacked the operation in terms of personal public relations, Adolf Hitler ordered the formation of a Waffen-SS parachute battalion. SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 was formed in October 1943 and moved to the Serbian garrison town of Kraljevo the following months.

No photographs have yet surfaced of Waffen-SS paratroopers wearing the FSA des Heeres, although the retouched colour photo-portrait of SS-Ustuf Walter Scheu depicts the FSA des Heeres and his paybook shows the entry for the badge. Two of the A5 certificates for the badge survive to Waffen-SS men, one of them still living, as well as one other known paybook entry. The majority appear to have received the Luftwaffe badge. Suffice to say, with regard to the FSA des Heeres, that there were not enough badges for the entire complement of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500, suggesting that most of the stock of badges went to the Heer’s Brandenburg paratroopers, leaving only enough available for a comparitively small number of the Waffen-SS men passing through Fallschirmschule III in Mataruska Banja, near SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500’s garrison town of Kraljevo. In summary, therefore, there were perhaps two or three production runs of the Type 3 zinc badges but certainly no more because there were not enough available at the time for two battalions and a company.

In August 1944, as our article says, two companies of FJ-Btl "Brandenburg" participated in the Relief of Bucharest to rescue the German command there and their troops, who were surrounded by a force of Romanian turncoats who had thrown their lot in with the Soviets. A small assault group parachuted into Otopeni airport and secured it for the airlanding of the main relief force, which included two companies of the Brandenburg's 3rd Regiment, in Me323 gliders. Once the Brandenburgers had restored order, the Romanians agreed to allow German forces in and around Bucharest safe passage to the frontier. Many of the Romanians stated that they were still loyal to their German allies. However, no sooner had the German column quit the city, the Romanians betrayed them to the waiting Soviets. Few if any of the Brandenburgers survived Soviet captivity. The ORBAT of FJ-Btl Brandenburg was reduced by half as a result of the Bucharest mission, the point being that many Type 3 badges must have disappeared eastwards with them and that the Type 3 badge, far from being the poor cousin of the high quality prewar badges, is just as rare.

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Front and rear views of the 1943/44 FSA des Heeres. Note the hinge and hook assemblies characteristic of zink or monkey metal badges, the small domed rivets and the file work. C E Juncker's artisans put just as much work into the finishing of these badges as their prewar counterparts. They are of a very high quality, despite the debased materials. The pin is blued steel.

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The only detail variations encountered to date are the hooks. Most of the Type 3 badges have flat stock hooks but there are a few with hooks made of round stock.

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The FSA des Heeres in wear: taken aboard a KM vessel on the morning on 18.11.1943 after Unternehmen Taifun and the capture of the Greek island of Leros, this PK photograph shows, from left to right, a Brandenburger coastal raider, Dustin Hoffmann, a Brandenburger paratrooper from the 15. (Fallschirm) Kompanie and a Luftwaffe paratrooper from I./Fallschirmjäger-Rgt 2.

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A number of collectors have been fooled by fakes of the Army Parachutist Badge in .800 silver. There are different kinds of fakes but the easiest way of avoiding an expensive mistake is to remember that C E Juncker struck these badges on the same dies as the aluminium official issue badges and that there currently are only fourteen or fifteen silver badges known to have survived. These comprise the three types, including three 'transitional' badges to Eger, Knacke and Leutlein, and an unengraved Type 2 in a Japanese collection.

These silver badges were private purchase items but the factory and its approved outlets required proof of entitlement in the form of the award certificate or the parachute licence (Fallschirmschützenschein) before engraving a silver badge with a man's details. In most cases, the silver badge bore the man's certificate number but there are exceptions, like the badge to Büttner, which bore the FSS number instead. As we have seen, at least one man, Sell, had an aluminium badge engraved by Juncker but as it is a Type 1 badge but with the unit given as Fallschirm Inf, Btl., we know that he must have had this done after June 1938 when the FIK was expanded into the Fallschirm-Infanterie-Bataillon even though his number #151 indicates that he was one of the first FIK men to receive a badge in September 1937.

Below is the transitional badge to Otto Leutlein #113, which surfaced in England a couple of years ago and was sold through Bosley's auction house. It is missing its safety catch, which is not serious, but appears to have been subjected to some sort of chemical cleaning process that has not only removed the gilding and frosting but given it the matt grey look one sees on old firearms subjected to cleaning chemicals by a certain type of educationally subnormal antique dealer. Nevertheless, it is currently for sale on a well-known dealer's website for €25,000.00.

Edited by PKeating

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A better-preserved example to Ludwig Eger, which I wish I had bought when I had the chance. The ends of the little safety catch are missing. The engraving aside, these badges never had any hallmarks other than 800.

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The documents have been faked but not terribly well. Here is a genuine document. One increasingly hears that fakers and forgers are capable of producing perfect copies but this is simply untrue. The problem is more a mixture of improved forgery and fakery, the telling imperfections and inaccuracies of which pass unnoticed by lazy collectors who do not research their chosen areas of interest before handing their money over to crooks. There are probably more documents to be discovered but only a few FIK men received them and a mere seventeen are currently known to survive. If you think you see a genuine one, there are only two people to ask and the other one, Eric Queen, knows much more about them than me. :D You would expect to pay upwards of €15,000.00 for one of these documents so when you see one on fleabay or Bunion's for two grand, forget it.

Edited by PKeating

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A beautiful Type 2 silver badge with an unusual engraving format, suggesting that it might have been ordered as a gift by someone. To begin with, the personal and unit details are reversed and there is no record of such a rank as "Fallschirmfunker Unteroffizier". The "NZ" stands for Nachrichtenzug, which means Signals Platoon. The ball-ended safety catch remains intact. It has been suggested that this may have been a gift from Wittmann's comrades and that they might have offered his Wehrpaß as proof of entitlement.

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Before we move to fake badges, we should consider hallmarks. All of the known, original Type 1 and transitional aluminium badges bear the C E Juncker hallmark on the reverse of the diving eagle. There are a few Type 2 badges bearing the same hallmark, clearly applied with the same punch. Otherwise Type 2 aluminium badges were unmarked. So were the Type 3 badges in zink. Every one of the original silver badges bears the 800 hallmark on the reverse of the diving eagle.

Below, from left to right, are the hallmarks found on Type 1 badges, a few Type 2 badges and on the most common and, at one time, the most dangerous fake. The images are not as clear as they could be but should be sufficient to show you the differences. Note the proportions of the hallmarks and, especially, the rearwards-leaning 'L' in "Berlin" in the genuine hallmarks.

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Here we have one of the more common fakes as sold by a number of dealers in the past. Note the “ghostbusters” or “Caspar the Friendly Ghost” silhouette of the Wehrmacht eagle when viewed from the back. Other points to note include the Question Mark hook rather than the correct C form hook and the odd-looking gold finish applied over some kind of black primer, used presumably to full in the blowholes in the cast aluminium wreath, which is not even cast from an original. These fakes are usually but not always marked with a fake and incorrect mid-war C E Juncker hallmark when, in fact, only three Juncker-marked Type 2 badges are known to exist. They have caught out many collectors and continue to be offered as original by dealers. This fake has been around since the 1970s and perhaps even as long ago as the late 1960s, according to some pundits.

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The diving eagles used on these fakes are struck in aluminium, although not as high a grade as the originals, and are found on denazified 1957 pattern badges made for WW2 veterans. They look quite like the Army FSA eagle at a glance but once you put them side-by-side, they are not at all the same.

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Another look at a genuine Type 2 eagle for your convenience. See the differences? Close...but no banana. And why should they be identical? They were struck as components for 1957 replacements although naughty people seem to have laid their grubby hands on a few batches and attached them to those horrible wreaths. They fooled a lot of people, nonetheless.

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Another "Ghostbuster" badge, this example bearing the fake C E Juncker hallmark, modelled upon a wartime hallmark rather than that encountered on many prewar Juncker badges.

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