It cannot yet be said for the Monster of Loch Ness:
the Yeti of the Himalayas:
or here in the forests of British Columbia, the Sasquatch:
But the mythical un-numbered Monte Cassino cross does exist after all!!
A recent auction purchase, based on the photos provided this appeared to be the first genuine un-numbered cross that I’ve yet encountered. But as with many internet auction purchases, it remained a gamble until having undergone a hands-on examination. I was first going to post this recent acquisition onto an existing MCC thread, but reasoned that a separate thread for this study may prove helpful as a general authentication reference for this commonly faked decoration.
First off, there has been debate as to whether these actually exist. One story supporting their existence suggests that some time after WW2 an order was placed to have crosses struck for awarding to the women who served in the 316th Transport Company as they had been excluded from the initial awards. Aside from being unsubstantiated it’s also somewhat doubtful as the government in exile was holding about 1500 unissued crosses in its vaults. Why would these surplus crosses not have been utilized rather than having new ones struck?
A more plausible scenario is the brief mention in the Stolarski / Wroński reference that there were“ . . . produced, probably on clear order of the Poles, a certain quantity of crosses without a stamped issue number” - presumably to act as replacements for those lost.
Let's start with a side by side comparison to a genuine cross. In this case cross #49998, an unissued surplus cross from the tail-end of the production run. (I’ve yet to determine if the final cross produced was 49999, or 50000). The un-numbered cross displays more surface wear than the unissued cross, but otherwise all obverse and reverse face details match up well:
Next, the all-important examination of edge details. Original crosses are designed with a chamfered edge. The die stamping process creates a unique edge profile. All of the copies I have seen to date are produced from a soft alloy cast in molds, and as such the edge details differ markedly:
This step alone lends solid support for the crosses authenticity, but let’s press on.
Genuine crosses have an elliptical intermediate ring that holds the ribbon ring. All the copies I’m familiar with overlook this small detail and instead have a circular ring:
Genuine crosses have a scribe line for placement of the serial numbers. Crosses numbered up to an including 999 have a single scribe line, whereas those 1000 and higher have two scribe lines. Interestingly, this un-numbered cross has a single scribe line, suggesting that it was intended for a three digit serial number under 1000:
Width and Height: falls within acceptable tolerances.
Crosses were subject to manual edge finishing where necessary to remove burrs and other imperfections. Some edge finishing is visible on the upper arm of cross 49999, although this would not have affected the height:
Thickness: genuine crosses are stamped in a hard bronze alloy and have a thinner profile than most, but not all, of their cast copy counterparts:
Ribbon ring gauge: genuine crosses are known to have ribbon rings of different diameter, yet the wire gauge used remains consistent:
Weight – well within acceptable tolerances at 8/100ths of a gram difference:
For comparison here are the weights of three commonly seen cast copies. One of them is an “honest” collector’s copy marked “R”. This example poorly replicates the surface finish /patina found on original crosses. While worn or cleaned MC crosses lose their dark patina, the articially applied oxidation is another characteritic that gives some of the copies away:
This is a fake produced with the intention of deceiving (reverse has manually stamped numbers using the wrong font – see inset). Thick and heavy, even without the ribbon ring it weighs well in excess of a genuine cross. The dark patina is replicated well with these:
And an un-numbered copy with broken arms attesting to being cast from brittle alloy. This will not happen with a real cross. Surface patina is also weak. However, its weight is surprisingly close to genuine crosses:
Test time! Here’s an un-numbered cross that was up for auction over the past week. It was described by the seller as genuine. Armed with only the basic knowledge discussed above you should be able to quickly assess the likelihood of authenticity based on the auction photographs alone: