The term “militaria” is used for military collectables excluding weapons. Firearms and edged weapons are, of course, collectible in their own right. Types of collectible militaria include uniforms, headdress, badges and medals.
Relatively few uniforms from before the 20th century have survived; not only were they usually subject to extremely hard ware but they tend to be very susceptible to moths.
Headdress has generally survived little better than uniforms. Examples prior to the late 19th century are rare. The British officers’ spiked blue cloth helmet, the “pickelhaube”, worn between 1873 and 1914, is the earliest widely available example. The pickelhaube was replaced by peaked caps for the infantry and a variety of small, round pillbox caps for the cavalry. These were replaced, in turn, by the field service cap and the beret.
Badges are the most popular type of military collectible. The range is enormous and includes belt, cap, helmet ,collar and pouch badges from the many different regiments at different times in different armies. The idea of a common uniform for a country’s army was introduced in the 17th century and badges identifying different regiments were adopted early in the 18th century. Early badges were much larger than modern ones.
In the British army in the early 18th century, the sword was attached to a belt worn over the shoulder. This was secured by a large metal plate on the chest. At first these were simple ovals but they became progressively more decorative until 1855 when they were withdrawn.
Military medals, including both campaign medals, particularly those from the 19th century, and bravery medals are also popular collectables. In Britain, campaign medals have been issued since the Battle of Waterloo. Medals have occasionally been issued for bravery since Egyptian times but the practice became increasingly common from the 17th century. Since then medals have also been issued for long service, good conduct and so on. American medals are fewer in type than British medals but are keenly collected – especially early medals awarded for bravery.