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Opening a can of worms...


fukuoka
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THE FOLLOWING IS OFFERED IN THE SPIRIT OF SCHOLARSHIP

As some may know, I am currently writing a series of ebooks about Japanese medals. As I research, I realize how many untapped resources there are if one can read Japanese. I am currently reading the various government publications as well as the books on medals published in Japan. Since there is so much to read, progress on my main book about the orders is not very speedy.

So what is beginning to puzzle me is the different ideas about dating the orders. Specifically, a few ideas have really caught hold and have become authoritative. Namely, the dating of the Sacred Treasure by the rivets and shape of the mirrors, the dating of the cases by the color and style of the inscriptions, the 7th Class Rising Sun unenameled reverse either being late-war or post-war, and even the dating of the Golden Kite by the design elements (described in such wonderful detail by Paul Murphy). However, in all my reading in Japanese sources, I have yet to find any reference to any of these things. Although it is instructive to offer theories, without some sort of evidence, it is difficult for one to accept them as true.

Describing the differences and noting them is very important, but arbitrarily assigning a date or period to the differences without any documentation is troubling. All of the above ideas may be true--but the scientist in me needs some sort of proof.

Just by examining a large number of examples one can easily spot differences. And it is true that holding a medal from a primary source can reveal a standard of sorts. So many documents and medals are incorrectly mated, though, that one can feel certain only when he see one from the original recipient or his/her family. But what difference goes in what time period? How does one find that out? The Japanese sources (both primary and secondary) do not trouble with these 'minor' matters, so most likely (a theory of mine, no proof yet!) the variations were made by the different companies. So company logs and memos must be examined to find out when, for example, the case inscription changed from two rows to one, or from gold to silver, or when the latch disappeared, or when the kite's wings drooped, etc. Getting access to these logs might be troublesome. Even if access were to be gained, one wonders whether anything could be found. I mean, I can see many differences in the kanji inscription writing styles as well. Were these noted? I doubt it--but again I don't know.

So I'd like to begin a discussion about how to find out the answers. Concrete information would be great--for example, since the Phillip's head screw was invented in the 1930s, Sacred Treasure medals with those screws on the reverse cannot be earlier than the '30s. Ideas such as 'Well, the silver inscription was used during wartime because they had to conserve money' just don't carry enough weight. The former is a good idea, but one cannot stop there. Once the theory has been imagined, we need some sort of evidence to confirm it.

Dating the orders is a major task, but once the evidence is presented, we can rest easy.

Cheers,

Rich

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I think this is a commendable and extremely worthy undertaking. Rich, you are light-years ahead of me on anything like this so the only thing I can offer is only the tiniest bits of information that I'm sure you have already pondered yourself!

As you have already pointed out, the mismatching of medals and documents presents a serious issue. The only thing one can rely on, and this of course takes huge amounts of time, is to observe those items that are sold as "matched" sets and look for similarities in the components of the medal, rosette, case, and how they relate to the document's date - and compare to other sets. If a significant number of medals with specific design components consistently show up with similarly dated documents, one could with reasonable confidence state that a certain design component was utilized over a certain span of time. But since these come up less often than simply medals or documents, thanks largely to sellers breaking up groups, this is can be VERY hard, and like I said, take an extreme amount of time. I do try to collect photos of sales groups like this when I can for this very purpose but the collection is not large.

Another small clue might also be the design changes in the medal's representation on the document itself. I have not dived into this to much - but for the example of the Sacred Treasure, do you see a change in the shape of the mirrors over time? (particularly in the 6th class and higher) So - I've been led to believe that earlier pieces had more pronounced points on the mirror and that they smoothed down with time. Is this reflected in the document representations of the medals as well?

Photographs - examining these if dated, and many are, more evidence might be had - of course a photo could show a recipient with an award that he or she had received waaaaay before the photo was even taken, but you might be able to at least rule out certain design aspects occurring before or after a certain date. But again, how often to photos like this show up? Still, something to consider.

You are dead-on with regards to company records, mint records too if available - these must, if they survived the war, have design data, drawings, etc., I mean SOMEBODY had to make calls on these things, and it would have been documented as these details would be necessary for the production tooling.

Here is my brief take on a few things:

It may be best to start with modern awards and go backwards. Example, the order of the gold and silvers rays incorporates Philips screws as a design element. I believe it is safe to say that sacred treasures with these screws directly preceded the modern order. But just how far back do they go? Of the few examples I have observed that have been sold with documents, none of these go back as far as the war - however, some that I have seen that lack screws or rivets do seem to coincide with the later war years according to the accompanying documents, 1944-45. I have not seen enough examples though to make any definitive statements though. I would also pay close attention to other design elements like the hooks and catches, etc., - and how do these compare to either commemorative or campaign medals made during apparent similar time frames for the orders? Can comparisons be made? I mean, do orders from the WWI era share any design elements with say a 1914-15 or 1914-20 war medal for example?

Could other clues be found in the say metals used in the case hinges or latches? Was it a specific period in which all brass hinges were used? Textured or smooth latches, brass or some other metal? Essentially, are there any historical or cultural trends for use of one type of material over another, and not necessarily limited to orders and medals - can clues be had from areas of design and manufacture elsewhere?

The same thing goes for 7th and 8th class Rising Suns and Sacred Treasures - when the cases lost their latches - some of my observations (medals with documents) point to the late war years and post-war, which makes sense from a materials stand-point - yeah, it doesn't sounds like a lot of metal being saved by scrapping the latch, but you see this kind of action in late-war guns - sacrificing of parts on rifles, or simplifying a part to save just a tiny amount of metal from being used or design changes to otherwise simplify the manufacture since this was under such pressure. Seeing that the 7th and 8th classes would have been awarded in the greatest number, it would make sense to make the cuts here but still keep the higher classes to a higher degree of manufacture and finish. No enamel on the 7th reverse?? - Save time, save money?? Just don't know, it's all speculation at this point, and without documented proof of that, it should remain speculation in publications.

Was there not a period of time in which the government was essentially not awarding orders, into the late 50s or early 60s?? (I could be mistaken here.) It would seem likely that design element changes would happen at this point, when production resumed.

Clue to silver writing time frames at least may be found in merit medals of color - since these are dated on the bars, one could examine these examples for when changes from gold to silver and back to gold occurred. But can one parallel this to the Orders? Don't know, just a thought. And to say the silver was to conserve resources - bit of a stretch, but interesting that it does seem to occur within a limited span of time.

Sorry, I think I've simply asked more questions and added to the confusion than anything else!!! :blush:

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Hi guys!

Paul, you are starting to get to the heart of the matter here. I too have given up taking some of the old information as gospel as I see just too many variations coming up and sometimes the groups look original and legit to each other, yet the styles don't match what we have come to believe.

The mirrors on the Sacred Treasure are certainly a good case in point and I think a good starting point might be looking at period photographs of people wearing their awards. Of course, the photos would have to be clear and large enough to see the details, but you could get an idea on the mirror styles seen and then if the person was someone who could be researched, you could see when they were awarded the medal and perhaps when the photograph was taken. Enough of those should lead to a general consensus IMO.

As I mentioned to you before in a different thread, we also see a lot of variation when it comes to actually wearing the awards on medal bars and the issues of "order of precedence". Again, I see a lot of medal/ribbon bars that look legit, but some say the order is completely wrong. Yet, we see no solid reference or material that backs up those claims. So...?

The problem I have seen in collecting German awards is the references that have been out for many years. Much of the information was based solely on the author's theories and speculation at the time and much of that information has now been debunked as more information comes to light. In some cases, misinformation was put out in order to help sell fake items the author was taking part in. Luckily, I don't think we have those issues with Japanese ODM's yet! However, like in any learning phase, once the idea is in someone's head it's hard to change that mentality and disinformation continues to flow as more read those now dated references.

Like Dieter, I commend your efforts and would be happy to assist in anyway, though I cannot read Japanese. Feel free to bounce ideas off us here and I'm sure we can make at least some progress in several areas.

Tim :beer:

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A lot of the changes will simply be due to a die change since the old die will have worn out and been replaced by a new one. It will not be a conscious decision to change the shape of the mirror or the angle of the wings etc, but rather differences in the way the die was cut. Hence, if the Osaka Mint keep records of when they replaced the relevant dies that would be a good starting point to identify how many different die variations could be out there for each order. Then the problem of identifying them in their correct time period will start, but knowing the number of dies would be an excellent place to begin.

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hi all i agree with paul murphy best place to start would be mint records or die manufacture records these may have been outsourced to different die companys.the mint may have upgraded their machinery giving slightly different results to their pressings over a long period of medal production,also just because the machines are the same it does not mean the the finished result is the same, this may be true of dies too .i work in the high quality print trade and have seen 6 printing machines of the same manufacture give 6 different print results this was very noticable in the old letterpress days which worked very much like die presses eg pressure and lead type much like a die.As for rivets etc this may still be a fairly reliable way of dating medals it seems to be a natural industrial progression start with rivets progress to screws then do away with the lot,its all a question of cheaper production and lower cost.phew, good luck richard

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Unfortunately, as Paul has stated in the past, many of the official records were probably destroyed during the bombing and what little remains may be lost or buried in some location that no one is aware of it.

Tim

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A lot of the changes will simply be due to a die change since the old die will have worn out and been replaced by a new one. It will not be a conscious decision to change the shape of the mirror or the angle of the wings etc, but rather differences in the way the die was cut. Hence, if the Osaka Mint keep records of when they replaced the relevant dies that would be a good starting point to identify how many different die variations could be out there for each order. Then the problem of identifying them in their correct time period will start, but knowing the number of dies would be an excellent place to begin.

Certainly worth pursuing. It might help to look for subtle changes versus the obvious or deliberate ones. I mean, I think we could safely say that a reduction of mirror size in lower class Sacred Treasures was deliberate, no?

One other thing that has me thinking too is why the heck the variation in ribbon colors with sacred treasures? Bluish, gray, white, yellow stripes, pink stripes....what's up with that??? :speechless:

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Excellent points, everyone! I'd write a more detailed response, but I am leaving on vacation tomorrow. I'll write more when I get back. But at least we can agree upon the general principle that we really cannot say much definitively about dating the medals. Time to do some research! I'm planning on traveling to the Japan Mint this summer and at least get any info regarding the number of war/commemorative medals minted. I have a feeling that those records exist (but the named rolls do not).

Thanks for your participation.

Rich

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Rich, have a great vacation! And when you do go to the mint next summer, be sure to get lots of pics. to share here, would love to see those!! Look forward to the further evolution of this thread.....

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