I wrote this because I wanted to express my discontent towards the current state of militaria auctions. I should firstly point out that the majority of this is my rant and my own personal opinion, it is not that of Jungvolk Militaria.
The reality is that auctions are a joke now. I’m around this stuff all the time, as a collector and as a dealer, so I live and breathe militaria, and I truly believe the state of auction standards have declined beyond all hope.
I won’t mention any specific auction houses by name in a negative manner, as I don’t wish to start a war, but it is increasingly hard to find reliable or honest ones. So, here’s my guide on why auctions suck, why you should save your money, and the alternatives.
Auction houses generally fall into two categories for militaria: specialist and general auctions. Specialist auctions tend to have an “expert” or two and will have specific militaria auctions. General auctions are varied in all kinds of collectables and often get the odd militaria items from consigners and house clearances.
The biggest offenders for fakes will be general auctions, most probably as the staff will often have little idea they are selling a high-quality fake. But. Specialist auctions are becoming bad at this too. One particular auction that is based in Germany, is a huge offender for this and peddles some terrible fakes, particularly of the Third Reich kind.
The days of auctions without a single fake are over. The “experts” just aren’t “expert” enough. God, I hate that word as you can probably tell. But one particular online auction site that begins with the English word for “chatte”, that recently banned Third Reich items, loves that term. I want to know how I can become a qualified “militaria expert”.
Don’t get me started on this one. What a scam. Buyers premiums are in my humble opinion absolutely evil and are a dated and shady practice. A buyers premium is in essence an additional fee that the winning buyer would pay on each of the lots they win. Auctions will spout the same rhetoric in response: “but it helps us attract sellers”. No, it doesn’t, it makes you larger profits. These auctions still charge seller premiums usually, so why charge the buyers too? I guarantee you would attract sellers still if you offered a fair sellers premium!
Let’s take an example. Say I win a used and abused Hitlerjugend Fahrtenmesser. I win the knife for £500. It is towards the high end of prices for such a knife, and I wasn’t prepared to pay a penny more. Let’s break down how these costs can impact your purchase.
Now some auctions may charge VAT on this. For this example, we are assuming the auction house charges VAT in the premium – thus you don’t have to pay any extra VAT. Not all do, so be very very wary of this little bastard.
Buyers Premiums can vary, but the average is around 18 to 25% of the final price. Assuming it is 22%, my HJ knife has just cost me £610.
Then come import fees. If the auction uses a courier that doesn’t take the import fee on shipment, you can almost definitely expect a hefty additional fee on the total value. My knife has now cost me £732 if going by the UK import rate of 20%.
It was only worth a max of £500.
How would everyone feel if I suddenly charged you an extra 22% to buy an item? You’d be extremely annoyed and you’d buy elsewhere. Yet, the collectors still flock to these auctions like sheep?! Maybe it makes sense if you are a millionaire and you shit money, but not all of us have this luxury in life.
I didn’t cover sellers fees, however, these can also be extortionate. One for another rant and article next time.
This will apply to general auctions more than the rest. But lots of auctions are useless at accurate descriptions and photos of the lots. Expect to get frustrated when you can only see a single useless page of a Soldbuch. The only redeeming factor here is you can usually always ask for better images, or just look for yourself if attending a physical auction.
Certificates of Authentcity?
Certificates of authenticity. These pieces of paper are mostly meaningless. Some auction houses and dealers offer these for an added fee. Do not fall for it. They are templates knocked up in a few minutes and signed by whoever thinks they are a world-renowned “expert”. Unless you are a published author or respected figure in the scene, with clear expertise in a subject, your seal of approval is worth nothing to me or the future custodians of these historical items. It is worth noting I have witnessed these being offered on fantasy items and fakes in an effort to convince an unsuspecting collector the item is real. Research the items, know what you are buying, and don’t fall for these. You’ll never look back. If it is free though, then there is no harm in having a CoA, just don’t use them as your definitive proof of authenticity when purchasing.
Well, sometimes there simply isn’t any alternative. If you find that holy grail item you have been after for 30 years, money can sometimes become irrelevant. Follow those dreams. However for more common items, save that cash. Buy from collectors or reputable militaria dealers, just like us. Show auctions that they are relics from history, just like a lot of their lots!
Support the militaria collecting community and buy from actual collectors and trusted dealers. Not greedy auctions.