The Prussian Military Merit Cross,
the „Pour le Mérite“ for NCOs and enlisted men, was
awarded until the first World War in form of a golden
cross. With the beginning of the first World War the
cross was made only from gilt silver – nevertheless
the remaining 16 pieces from the better times have
been awarded in the wars first days.
The popularity among collectors,
especially as being a counterpart to the real Pour le
Mérite, lead to a lot of fakes, that are flooding
today’s markets. Besides poorly made caused pieces and
easy coined examples made from cheap metals, there is
one falsification that isn’t easy to be pointed out.
Looking at the Prussian military
medal hierarchy a lower grade, the Military Honor Medal
1st class seams to be identical. No wonder. Since the
are both coined from the same coining tools, they have
to be identical. This seams to be a good invitation to
gilt a Military Honor Medal and enhance its value, so
the Military Merit Cross is higher valued.
Well, looking at the number of
awarded Military Honor Medals 1st class in conjunction
with the number of awarded Military Merit Crosses this
doesn’t make sense.
Since institution of the Military
Merit Cross in February 27, 1864 the following award
numbers could be proofed:
to Russian NCOs during the
Russian-Turkish War 1877/78
to Russians in China
during the Colonial Wars
Therefore the Military Honor Medal
1st class (917 awarded pieces) is at least twice as rare
then the Military Merit Cross, its silver gilt “twin
brother”. There is still a number of gilt Military Honor
Medals 1st class on the market.
But how is it possible to figure
the difference between this identical pieces out?
Luckily the Prussian
“Punzierungsgesetz” (punch mark law) regulated, that all
silver gilt pieces had to be marked with a silver
content mark. This is the “938” mark, mostly combined
with a makers mark (“W” or “FR”), you can’t find on a
Military Honor Medal 1st class.
Below the decoration made by J.
Wagner has the "W" and "938" marks punched into the
lower cross arm:
I also like to point out that the
tooling for the
Military Merit Cross broke during
the course of the 1st World War. Therefore all crosses
show a flawed "T" in Verdienst. The damage
worsens also gradually over time.
Here an example
awarded February 15, 1918, to Johannes Gewald. One of
the very few ever awarded to somebody serving the war
on a submarine:
© A. Schulze Ising,