Introduction

As with all aspects of collecting in this field there are a wide number of opinions as to what is genuine and what is reproduction, however, it is believed that this article, which is based on personal experience and contact with established collectors, represents the current accepted view. It is not however, intended to provide a comprehensive answer to all questions and it is anticipated that it shall be modified from time to time as and when new information comes to light or current views change. Any comments or additional information is most welcomed for inclusion and can be forwarded to the author. 

The following notes are intended to act as a guide to provide a better understanding of what to look for when trying to determine the originality of any Schwerin naval badge. As always there are exceptions to the general rules and these have tried to be identified within the text. It is also proposed that this article shall be read in conjunction with and supported by more detailed individual articles on each of the particular war badges.


Contents

1.0 Badge Construction
2.0 Manufacturer Naming
3.0 Arrangement of Hinge and Catch Assemblies
4.0 Main Pins
5.0 Hinge Pins
6.0 Catches
7.0 Finishes
8.0 Copies


1.0 Badge Construction

Schwerin are considered by many to be the premier manufacturer of naval badges due to the good detail and high quality fire-gilt finish on their early badges. They were also the only manufacturer to make all of the naval award badges, which were instituted, manufactured (in large scale production) and awarded during the Second World War.

The badges were made from two basic materials:

“Tombak” badges (Early War Period 1939 – 1942). These badges are commonly referred to as being Tombak or Brass and are manufactured from a copper based alloy.

“Zinc” badges (Late War Period 1942 - 1945). These badges are commonly referred to as Zinc or Fine Zinc and are manufactured from a zinc based alloy. 

It is believed that the switch from tombak/brass to zinc occurred sometime towards the end of 1942 following the introduction of metal regulations(1). This is also supported by the fact that original 2nd Pattern E-boat badges, which were instituted in January 1943 are only to be found in zinc.

With the exception of the U-boat clasps, which can be found with two different reverses, Schwerin badges were produced in two basic forms, either dished (concave) or flat backs. 

 

Dished Reverse

Flat Reverse 
  • 1st Pattern E-boat
  • Destroyer (Very Slight)
  • High Seas Fleet
  •  2nd Type E-boat
  • Blockade Breaker 
  •  Coastal Artillery
  • Auxiliary Cruiser
  • Minesweeper 
  • U Boat 



The use of the concave reverse allowed the manufacturer to produce a “high” profiled obverse whilst maintaining economic use of metal and avoiding excessive badge weight. 

Occasionally vaulted badges are found, this was usually been done by the recipient in order to provide a better fit on the uniform and is a good indication of an actual worn piece. As these badges are not easily bent, vaulted pieces often exhibit tell tale marks where a vice or grips have been applied.

 

2.0 Manufacturer Naming

With the exception of the U-boat badge, which has stamped marking, there are two basic styles of raised lettering, used on Schwerin badges.

Type 1 – This style is similar to the font “Times New Roman” (e.g. – SCHWERIN) and is found on the following badges:

• 1st Pattern E-boat
• Destroyer
• Coastal Artillery 
• Auxiliary Cruiser
• U Boat Clasps

 



Type 2 – This style is similar to the font “Arial” (e.g. – SCHWERIN) and is found on the following badges:

• 2nd Type E-boat
• High Seas Fleet
• Blockade Breaker
• Minesweeper


An important point to note is the raised lettering on original badges when looked at closely is always uneven in that individual letters appear to be different sizes, inclined, or not level with each other. T his is attributed to a die manufacture process where the naming was formed by assembling individual letters rather than the use of pre-formed words. 

It is also interesting to note that the position of the naming on the back of the badges can vary up or down slightly. As the naming on each particular badge is exactly the same it is not believed that different dies were used in manufacture. The variation in position is attributed to slight differences in alignment of the front and back dies during a particular production run. In most cases it is believed that all of the relief of the badge was contained within the obverse die with the reverse die being relatively flat. The actual extent of naming also varies from badge to badge and is noted as follows:

 

U-boat – (stamped naming) 

SCHWERIN 
BERLIN 68

U-boat Clasp (1st Type) ENTW
PEEKHAUS
BERLIN
AUS.
BERLIN BERLIN 
SW68. 
U-boat Clasp (2nd Type)  ENTWURF
PEEKHAUS
AUSF.
SCHWERIN
BERLIN 68
Auxiliary Cruiser SCHWERIN . BERLIN
Coastal Artillery

SCHWERIN
BERLIN

Destroyer SCHWERIN 
BERLIN   68
1st Pattern E-boat SCHWERIN 
BERLIN   68
2nd Type E-boat

FEC.W.E.PEEKHAUS BERLIN
AUSF.SCHWERIN BERLIN 68

High Seas Fleet

FEC. ADOLF BOCK
AUSF. SCHWERIN . BERLIN

Blockade Breaker FEC. OTTO PLACZEK BERLIN 
AUSF. SCHWERIN BERLIN
Minesweeper

FEC. OTTO PLACZEK BERLIN 
AUSF. SCHWERIN BERLIN 


 3.0 Arrangement of Hinge and Catch Assemblies

With the exception of the U-boat badge and some of the U-boat clasps, there are two basic arrangements of hinge and catch assemblies, which are used on Schwerin Naval Badges. The use of these different arrangements is basically dependent on whether the badge is of Tombak (early war) or Zinc (late war) manufacture.

Tombak Badges – On these the catches are always attached directly to the back of the badge, the hinge block assembly being laid on its side with the actual hinge facing towards the centre of the badge. It is also common to find striations on the block end of the hinge parallel to the hinge axis.



Zinc Badges – Due to the need to change to a zinc-based alloy after the metal regulations were introduced, it became more difficult to attach the fittings to the back of the badges. To get over this problem the catches were always fixed to the badge with the addition of a small circular plate (which increased the surface area to aid attachment). For the same reason the hinges, although a slightly different type, were for all intents and purposes rotated through 90o becoming “upright” when compared to Tombak badges. It should be noted that in some instances the small circular catch plate may become obscured by the soldering process and is not always easily seen.

 

With the exceptions of the U-boat badges mentioned above all marked Schwerin badges should exhibit this characteristic and those that do not should be viewed with caution, either being a fake or have had the standard arrangement replaced for whatever reason.



4.0 Main Pins

Depending on the actual award, Schwerin badges were fitted with either vertical or horizontal main pins. Preference was made to the use of a vertical main pin, however horizontal main pins were used on badges where their design would not hide a vertical main pin when attached to the uniform by the award loops. Badges with horizontal main pins are also always fitted with a small hook located on the top of the reverse. This was done to ensure that the top of the badge was held neatly in place.

With the exception of some of the U-boat awards the main pins on both Tombak and Zinc badges are of the plain “coke bottle” type, die struck out of sheet metal. This process causes the appearance of shear marks on the side of the pin, which can be easily seen when viewed at closely. 

 




Another characteristic often seen is a small flat spot or dimple at the hinge end of the pin. Most pins also have the ends turned up where they extend beyond the catch and are usually non-magnetic although steel (magnetic) pins have been found on some late produced Zinc badges.




Although the pins are not easily bent with finger pressure, it is not uncommon to find badges where they have been re-shaped. As with vaulting this was usually done by the recipient in order to improve the fit to the uniform and is also a good indication of an actual worn piece. 



Needle pins were not used on any Schwerin badge and if found should be viewed with caution either being an indication of a fake or at the very least a replacement.


5.0 Hinge Pins

Tombak Badges - These are usually found with the hinge pin having a slightly domed head. With the exception of the U-boat badge (smooth domed) these pins generally have some small flaw or fault on the head in the form of raised imperfection/line or nipple. Now and again hinge pins with flat heads found, some of which exhibit a cross hatching effect. 



Zinc Badges - These are fitted with a hinge pin that does not have any domed head, being finished flush with the side of the hinge block.

 



There is however at least one known example of a Tombak badge, which was found to have been fitted with an original “zinc type” flush mounted hinge pin. It should be noted that this is not the norm and was perhaps one of a small number of badges, which were produced during the transition period from Tombak to Zinc.


6.0 Catches

Again with the exception of the U-boat awards there are two types of catches encountered on these badges both of which are manufactured from non-magnetic flat wire (rectangular in cross section). 

Type 1 – These are of a true “C” shape and have been noted on early manufactured Tombak badges where they are attached directly to the badge.



Type 2 – It is thought that these catches were a development of the Type-1 being well formed with a curved top and a flat bottom and were introduced to in order to aid attachment. They are found on both late manufactured Tombak badges where they are attached directly and on all Zinc badges where they are attached with the aid of a base plate.




Although there is no documentary proof that Type-1 catches were only used on early Tombak badges and the Type-2 on later Tombak badges this speculation is supported by a recent study of the Schwerin High Seas Fleet Badge (ref. Schwerin HSF article by Mike Kenny). This being the case any change over from the Type-1 catch to the Type-2 catch is likely to have been made sometime between late 1941 and mid 1942. This is supported by the fact that the 1st Pattern E-boat badge (manufactured mid 1941 to late 1942) can be found with both types of catches. It is also noted that this change over must also have occurred a reasonable time before the switch from Tombak to Zinc (late 1942) as the Type-2 catches are quite commonly found on Tombak badges. 



7.0 Finishes

The actual finish used varies depending on the individual award but they all generally comply with the following basic rules.

Tombak Badges – The finishes applied to these are extremely good and stand the test of time very well with any deterioration being caused by normal wear and tear / rubbing of the surface over the years. The order of the manufacturing process and application of finishes is believed to be as follows:

1. Production of the bare metal badge.
2. Hand finishing of small cutouts and edges, attachment of hinge, main pin and catch etc.
3. Application of a silver plate finish to areas where the “dark oxidised silver” is to be applied.
4. Application of dark “silver oxidised finish”.
5. Application of fire gilding direct to the obverse brass wreath. (It is common to see this finish spilling over onto the reverse side of the wreath also).
6. Burnishing of highlights on fire gilding e.g. swastikas, wreath highlights.

Zinc Badges – These badges generally do not hold their finish well and it is quite rare to see them without significant deterioration, the 2nd pattern E-boat being a classic example of this. It is also common to see small pimples or bubbles occurring underneath the finish. This is due to the breakdown of the base metal over time, resulting in the release of small particles of “gas” which cause this effect. Although a good indication of an original Zinc badge there are some copies around which try to mimic this. (Note that this effect should never be seen on a Tombak badge).


8.0 Copies

Due to the desirability of these badges, especially the Tombak pieces, they have become a main target for forgers in recent years and numerous copies can now be found in circulation ranging from awful to very good. However, as with most copies and fakes there are essentially two basic types, these are:

“Cast” Copies – These have been cast from an original badge and therefore exhibit the correct style of naming on the reverse. The copies can be quite convincing especially if of a Zinc badge where the finish is not expected to be good. Usually irregularities are found with the pins / catches and lack of sharpness in the detail on the front or in some of the naming on the reverse. Inevitably the metal used on the copy is of a better quality than the original zinc badge often weighing more with none of the tell tale bubbling. Obviously due to the casting process they are also usually slightly smaller in dimensions when compared to the original.

“Die” Copies – Due to the increase in value and demand of Third Reich medal and badges manufacturers are now able to invest more money into the production of purpose made dies. High quality metal copies of Tombak badges are the most common seen today and pose the major threat to the beginner. It should be noted that all Schwerin award badges have been copied this way.

It is proposed that these copies are to be dealt with individually in more detail but generally all of them tend to exhibit some common differences in one or more of the following areas:

1. Pins - On copies these tend to be the wrong shape and have excessive tapering on both ends. They are also relatively easy to bend with finger pressure. 

2. Hinge Blocks - When viewed from the side these appear to be made of thin metal wrapped around a small central core. 

3. Hinge Pins - The heads of these are smooth and more rounded when compared to an original. Some of these also have a slight flat spot to the top

4. Hinge & Catch Assemblies - These sometimes do not follow the correct arrangement.

5. Naming - The lettering is sometimes bigger than on the original and usually found to be relatively uniform in appearance. Copies are also sometimes named in the wrong style (font)

6. Metal - Copies are generally made of quality metal even those of late issue badges such as the 2nd E-boat and U-boat clasps. Due to the metal used they are sometimes quite significantly heavier than the originals. 

7. Finishes - The application and colour of finishes is also often found to be lacking but this is something that is difficult to describe and really only becomes obvious through experience of handling and viewing both copies and originals.

E-Boat 2nd COPY E-Boat 2nd ORIGINAL




The following photos of the 2nd Pattern E-boat illustrate some of these common differences:

1. Copy is made of quality metal not zinc alloy as original
2. Copy has wrong arrangement of hinge / catch for a zinc badge
3. Main Pin has excessive tapering
4. Naming too uniform although at first glance looks good.

2nd E-boat Copy 2nd E-boat Original


The following photo is a copy of a 1st Pattern E-boat and again shows the excessive tapering of the main pin, round head to hinge pin (with flat spot) and very faintly the hinge block, which is made of thin metal wrapped around a small central core. 

 



It should be noted however that copies tend to continuously evolve with particular deficiencies being modified and corrected once they become known and generally accepted by the collecting fraternity. In light of this the collector should not just rely or focus on one particular aspect in order to determine authenticity but should view the badge as a whole taking all characteristics into account.


References: 1) Detecting the Fakes – Robin Lumsden
Assistance and Contributions: Mike Kenny

Author: Rob Hudspith (robhudspith@yahoo.com)

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