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Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

Article about: Hi fellow conservators/collectors. The other day I was reviewing several threads where myself and others have identified cast wings supposedly from WWI as being fake. I realized that in stat

  1. #1

    Default Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    Hi fellow conservators/collectors. The other day I was reviewing several threads where myself and others have identified cast wings supposedly from WWI as being fake. I realized that in stating such, this could leave the incorrect impression that EVERY cast wing that we see is bad - this is not correct. I would like to say however that the chances of encountering a legitimate WWI cast wing is slim because of the extreme rarity - but not impossible.

    Over the past several days, I have been in contact with two long-time historians/collector friends for which I have the utmost respect for. Major Terry Morris and Cliff Presley are two of the most knowledgeable and kind individuals that I know. In fact, between the two, they probably have forgotten more than I will ever know about WWI aviation. I mention this so that you might keep in mind the sources of the information and photos to be used here as they actually spoke with/obtained many items directly from the aviators or families themselves in years past. Cliff has provided me with several photos of legitimate cast WWI Wings and Major Morris has granted permission for the use of information and photos from his very fine book "United States Air Service Wing Badges-Uniforms And Insignia 1913-1918".

    ** On a related note of interest/importance, most fake cast wings exhibit an attempt to produce a very clean, smooth reverse to attempt to duplicate a surface which has been die-struck for the deliberate purpose of deception. In discussion with the above gentlemen, I have found that on legitimate examples which have been cast, the backside is often rough, showing hand filing and other irregularities. This makes sense in my mind as the maker of the period could cut cost and save time by leaving the reverse in the "rough". After all, the makers were not counting on the scrutiny of discerning collector eyes 100 years down the road, and the back is never seen, so it really didn't matter. However, this is not ALWAYS the case. Take for example the Dreher wing again. The backside is beautifully finished. In any case, a great amount of knowledge and experience is needed to make such a determination, so always be very careful.

    As an added point of assistance in determination of originality, I have yet to see a silver wing of the period that did not use real gold for the "US". I do not believe that any original wings of the period either die struck or cast, featured brass, copper or other material for the letters other than real gold (Please correct me if I am wrong on this point). Gold was very affordable then and we shouldn't apply the prices observed in the present day as a comparison to that period.

    I hope that the photos posted below will serve as a visual for the lucky person who may actually stumble across one of these and be able to acquire a rare piece instead of automatically dismissing them as fakes. Please feel free to add any photos of wings that you might have which are original cast examples.




    First up is a beautiful cast original wing by E. A. Dreher & Son badge. This wing is much like the one that I posted recently, which sold on eBay for $1800 (Photo courtesy of Cliff P).
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Steven M; 09-05-2010 at 02:40 AM.
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  2. #2

    Default Re: Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    Next is a beautiful cast wing by an unknown maker (Photo courtesy of Cliff P).
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Steven M; 09-19-2010 at 09:16 PM.
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  3. #3

    Default Re: Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    The following wing "...is the only known example of a wing produced by Dibb Jewelers." (Courtesy of Maj. Terry Morris, page 27 of publication). In my discussion with the Major about this wing, I learned that the back on this one is very rough as we discussed above. The photographic evidence in a case like this is priceless and firms the foundation of the topic at hand.

    By the way, my wife and daughter told me that Lt. Chapman and I are identical in appearance except that my face is thinner...sorry, I had to add that - the resemblance is hauntingly exact.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  4. #4

    Default Re: Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	138809Steve,
    I am in agreement with you on the gold US on the shield. The average price for a sterling WW1 wing badge with real gold US was around $3.50. No officer would buy a wing badge with a brass or plated US in my opinion. Gold was just to inexpensive at that time. Attached are a couple current pic of the Dibb wing. Dibb was a jeweler in San Diego and the few wings they produced were hand made for the pilots stationed near by. There were several jewelers that made wings during the war and when the war ended went back to making jewelery. The workmanship on these wings was usually exceptional and far above the quality of the fakes showing up these days. A couple companies that come to mind that made cast wings during the war were Dibb, Linz Bros, and Eisenstadt.
    Terry

  5. #5

    Default Re: Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    Major,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to remove these from display and share pics of an incredible wing - much appreciated. It is nice to see these in full color after seeing them countless times in b/w in your book. I have never seen, and probably never will see another with such a unique shield outline and sparse use of vertical bars. The the divided star field is also a first - never seen that incorporated in a design...ever. I bet this monster of a wing is very heavy in hand as well.

    It is amazing to see the level of cast quality in a period example compared to the modern crudely cast pieces today. To my eye, they are worlds apart in appearance and quality. Magnificent and incredibly rare piece...wow!
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  6. #6

    Default Re: Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    Steve,

    Thanks. Actually these are very delicate wings even tho they look massive at over 3 1/2" they don't weigh any more than a Haltom or Shreve.
    Terry

  7. #7

    Default Re: Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    Hey guys. Look what I found in my collection! This is an image of whom I believe to be Lt. Jim Liles, 93rd Aero Squadron in France. That wing he's wearing reminds me of the one you've been talking about in the last two posts. It exhibits the same star field above with vertical stripes in the lower field of the shield. There is an elongated feather on either side of the shield that meet at the center base/point. Sorry the image could not be clearer....Despite the lack of any great detail, I can barely make out something below his wings. Is that a ribbon bar or are my eyes playing tricks on me?

    -Chuck

    Update: On second thought, it does not appear to be the same wing after all. Look at the top edge of the shield in my portrait. It rises above the wing edge, whereas the one the Major posted is flush. Is this yet another wing variation?
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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  8. #8

    Default Re: Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    Chuck,
    I believe the wing he is wearing is a Robbins mfg wing badge. See pic. thanks for posting.
    Terry
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  9. #9

    Default Re: Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    Chucky, I agree with the Major on this one. Nice photo!
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  10. #10

    Default Re: Cast WWI Wings Are NOT Always Bad...What?

    I agree with you both- it does look like Robbins wing.

    Terry,
    Thank you for taking the time to post that wing & helping me identify the one in my image.

    Steve, my pleasure!

    Hope all is well with you both.

    -Chuck

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