Iron Crosses are a fascinating part of WW1, WW2 and general German military history if you go back to the earlier Prussian versions. They are also an interesting and elite artefact to collect. They represent military gallantry, albeit from the other side of those major conflicts.
There are experts out there who can take just one good look at a Cross and tell you whether it's real or fake, and possibly even who made it.
They do this from years of handling them and also analysing the small idiosyncrasies of the design, placement of the numbers etc. If you have the time, joining some online expert chat rooms and social media groups can be useful to tap friendly experts and build some knowledge. Watch out for the condescending 'rivet counters' though who may not be as welcoming as they should be to new collectors.
For most militaria collectors, we are in the hands of dealers to be honest with what it is they are selling.
A few tips for buying an Iron Cross (by no means is this advice exhaustive by the way):
Does the dealer have money back assurance?
This is always a good sign, and a good thing to have up your sleeve should it subsequently prove to be a cleverly faked item. Sadly they are out there.
Is it magnetic?
Not all genuine Iron Crosses are magnetic. Non magnetic versions were often made for the Kriegsmarine, and as cheaper private purchases for field wear. A simple fridge magnet showing you that a cross is magnetic can be a big indicator that you have an original. Having said that, at least one maker of high quality reproductions has made magnetic reproductions, but these don't show up too frequently thankfully. Being non-magnetic doesn't always mean its fake, but being magnetic means it does have a higher chance of being legit for a new collector who is not across the finer points of identifying Iron Crosses.
Is it of three sectioned / three piece construction?
The Iron Core had the silver frame soldered together over the iron core in two pieces from either side. So some telltale signs to look for here are:
- When you look at the silver frame side on can you see a join / line? This indicates two sections have been joined.
- Can you slide a piece of paper between the core and the frame? If the frame is tight you can't always do this by the way.
- Does the silver frame have any black paint on it? Genuine manufacture has the black painted iron core in the centre, then the silver frame mounted from either side. Single piece moulded fakes can therefore have paint on the lower inside portions of the silver coloured frames that adjoin the supposed black painted iron core from being painted after moulding.
Patina and general look of the Cross
This is somewhat subjective, and based on experience, but experts look for a texture of the metal and the paint of the iron core as veins and aged imperfections in the iron can bubble up or show rust, lines and imperfections with age. Be aware though that pristine examples can actually have that 'brand new' look and feel as well.
Not all genuine Iron Crosses are marked. There are many fine and sought after Crosses that are not marked. Early War crosses are usually not marked. After 1941 there were certain requirements for makers to mark the Crosses. These markings can appear in a variety of places and numbers, or combinations of letters and numbers that indicate which supplier made the Cross. There are internet lists of maker numbers. Fakers can also add numbers to Crosses, so look out for that, and often multiple factors should be taken into account over and above a maker mark to determine real from an aged fake.
Have a look at the images here of genuine Crosses from our collection to see some of the characteristics referenced here.