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I would like another opinion to help me decide on the best coarse of action to take.  (A short version of what happened.  Naming no one. ) Browsing through the web I came across a letter about a 1 WW Navy Sailor who had travelled across dangerous territory in civvies to reach home after a mission at a British Embassy, who later, after re-joining his fleet, lost his life at the battle of Jutland.) This person who wrote the story was the grandson of this sailor and has various documents and papers and the condolence message from the King, and photos of him.

My Problem is, going through my small collection of medals I discover I had this sailors medals, 

1914/15 Star, War Medal , Victory Medal and Long Service Medal which has the name of the war ship on which he died.

I have had this group for over 50 years.

I feel in all conscious that they should be returned to the familly,  ( if I could find them) am I duty bound to return them free or offer them for sale and see if they are interested, at the present I have not known how to contact them, so they have no idea about them. Is there a law that say they belong to the family and should be returned.  After so long I would like to keep them but my head tells me am I being disrespectful.

Has anyone else been in this position, I would like to hear.

Edited by BJ.
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My nephew was in a similar position.  We contacted the relative, and he offered to sell them for a fair replacement price.  She declined and that was the end of it, but I know that both my nephew and I never felt right about it.  We tried to recontact her to return them at no cost, but couldn't reach her.  


I also was contacted by another relative (different soldier) and sold the medal at a fair replacement price.  I showed him a couple of comparable medals on offer and he chose one to send me.  I think we were both quite satisfied with the trade.  


It would be generous to return them at no cost, but remember, the veteran or next of kin may have sold these medals into the market in the first place.  A little hard to know what's fair.  



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IMHO.... most families have an idle interest and would not actively look for family medals.... and if you did give them back, they would be oooohed and aaahed over for a few hours... then land in a drawer.... and a year later little Jimmy will sell them on ebay....

Every single item in our collections had an owner.... all sold them at some stage... if ever a family contacted me they are welcome to buy it at what its worth to me... but usually it boils down to two things

1) A couple of hours of oooohs and aaaahs!

2) They think it must be worth something...

Keep them and enjoy them... and put them into loving collectors hands some day (for a price)

Just my 2c worth....


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I agree, You can post the name and such on forums like this. Google search will reveal the post and if, the family ever wanted to contact you, to possibly re-acquire the pieces, then they can contact you and you can proceed how you feel you should (return with nothing, or offer to sell back).  It is your choice. 

I haven't found all items but I have tracked down other members to see if I could acquire an award that was attributed to a particular soldier.  Many collectors are, happy to re-unite groupings. For the cost of a replacement piece, it is great to do.  I wish more members would specifically mention the sailor/soldier information as printed on the awards to see if there are other pieces or groupings that are in collections of others.  I love re-uniting groups back together.  

Enough of my ramblings.

It is up to you.  I agree with others though; you shouldn't feel guilty or pressured to do anything that you don't feel comfortable doing. 

Best Regards,


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Agree with the general trend: you have no legal need and not a lot of moral need to reach out, though if you choose to do so, good on ya!  Offering them at fair market value is also quite acceptable.  My tuppence worth.


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IV returned a set of medal that were stolen in the 20s from the family and the family bought them off me(actually the story is very very interesting and I can tell it if you guys want!) at the price I bought them for! 

I'd agree with the thinking that for the most part most families at one point have sold them and very few of them will take them out of the drawers after they get them versus even framing them. I don't think you owe it to the families to send them back free of charge!!

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I actually just returned a medal to the man's family last month.  I had the medal in my collection for over 13 years.  It was a very valued piece in my collection - even written about extensively here on GMIC.  And of course, as mentioned is possible, various members of the family while researching their ancestor, found the info on GMIC and contacted me through the forum.  The first time was over 10 years ago.  The first two family members shared info about the man and in closing always wrote, "If you ever choose to part with the medal..."  Ten years ago, I felt as many here have stated; at some point, someone in the family, parted with the medal - for whatever reason - and I felt no obligation to return the medal.  Especially after I found from the research of the man/medal, that it was a quite valuable collectible and worth considerably more than what I had paid.  I even at one point was contacted by an author who was including the man in a book he was writing - and later published - and he wanted to obtain the medal.  I declined.  For the next ten years or so, I had no contact from anyone regarding the medal.  Then in January, the man's great granddaughter contacted me via email.  She related how her father and other family members had visited the man's grave at Sanders Keep for the 100th anniversary of his death in 1918 and how it had been an emotional experience for her father (the man's grandson).  She wanted to know if I'd consider selling her the medal so she could give it to her father.  My first thought was as it had been in the past; I did not want to sell the medal.  But after pondering it a bit, I realized that it was just sitting in my drawer.  Yes, I prized it - it had even continued to increase in monetary value over the past 10 years - but was I really "enjoying" it being in my collection?  I truly enjoyed all the research I did on the man/medal/unit in the first years I owned the medal.  But my collecting focus and research (and even interest in the hobby) has moved on and in different directions.  The medal was just sitting in a drawer.  So, I decided to sell - I didn't feel right quoting a price - I asked the woman to offer what she thought was fair and if I thought it was fair, I'd sell it to her.  She made an almost spot on offer of what I thought was the fair market value of the medal.  So, I sold it to her.

The bottom line, you have no obligation; there are several factors to consider and you have to do what is right for yourself as a collector.  If you "value" the emotional satisfaction of gifting it to the family.  Then do it.  If you want to sell the item as a collectible with a negotiated price.  Then do it.  In the end for me, I decided that the medal was just sitting in a drawer; it no longer was a focus of research; it wasn't in my primary field of interest (that is it wasn't artillery).  I was offered a fair price.  I figure, I can turn that money into another "prized" piece - probably artillery related.  Even if I sold it to another collector, there is no guarantee it would not "just sit in a drawer."  So, if the family enjoys it for a short time and puts it in a drawer.  That's their business.  To me, it became a transaction like any other with just as if it were with another collector.  And just maybe, the family will treasure the medal - and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I at least sold it to someone who might treasure the medal as much as I did when I owned it...

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Nice story IrishGunner. This is a clean example why we preserve history. Sometimes we collectors as keepsakers of history do the right thing, because it's just that, the right thing.




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