I’m sure like you, I have said "I will never forget where that came from". However, with age, and time, details have of way of being forgotten. It is with this understanding that I encourage, not only my collecting colleagues, but those individuals that may have one, or several historical items to fully document what they have. The following series of questions hopefully, will help you decide what to do with your historical item, whether to Sell, Keep, or Document.
How do I know if the item I have is worth spending time on documenting? Any item that you think will be of interest in years to come is worth spending a few minutes on documenting. Write it down; tell the story, tell who's it was, what it is, where it was used, and where you got it. The who, what, and where is so important, this gives the next owner the same knowledge as you have, nothing lost, nothing changed. In short, if it’s old and you think it has some historical importance, than spend a few minutes to write the story down! Remember the Who, What and When's of the story.
Is my item worth keeping or should I sell it? While some items are worth a lot, some items, even with a great story, are not. Find a trusted source specializing in the item you have, see what the value is. Then ask yourself, can I properly care for it, do I appreciate it that much, or would a collector/museum appreciate more?
Should I sell to a collector, dealer, or donate to a museum?
Museums generally do not purchase, they will want you to donate the item to them. If you donate to a museum you will need to get a written appraisal so your contribution will be tax deductible. One thing you have to keep in mind, most larger museums have a large inventory of items, most of which will never see the light of day, so if your wanting, or thinking, that the item you're giving the museum is going to be displayed, you may be disappointed. Talk to the curator of the museum; make sure you have an understanding of what will happen to your donated item. But don’t take it personal if the plan for your item never really happens. You may also choose to loan the item to a museum for a period of time. If you chose this, make sure that you get everything, from time of loan, to insurance information, in writing.
A dealer is just that, a dealer, he tends to buy low so he can make a profit. There is nothing wrong with selling to a reputable dealer, just know that he is going to sell your item.
Personally speaking, collectors tend to seek out those items that fit into their collecting intrrests; therefore they tend to take better care of the item and hold on to it longer. Often the collection will stay together long after the collector has either stopped collecting or died. Most private collectors already know where, or to whom, their collection will end up with.
If I am selling what should the documentation letter look like? This is the single most important part of any item I buy to place in my collection. I have attached a link showing the rough draft of my documentation letter.
Do you still actively purchase W.W.II General Officer material? I still actively purchase uniforms, flag, medal group, document, and letters of W.W.II General Officers. I am a collector and am very conscious of the important role these men played in World War II as is evident in the pages of this web-site.
What do you do with your collection? Over the years I have had the opportunity to display several of my uniforms in museums for special events. These museums include MacArthur Memorial, Patton Museum, and the National VFW working in conjunction with the National Leadership Foundation.
Can you give me advice on what I might have? I am always happy to give advice, and on occasion give written appraisals, on certain W.W.II material. Obviously I don’t have all the answers but I am always happy to help. Never hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org