Content - Richard Lundström
Layout - Sebastian Bianchi
Almost every uniformed German wore one. Indeed, German ribbon bars are almost as distinctive in the popular imagination as icons like the Iron Cross. Exaggerated by Hollywood, mass produced today by unscrupulous fakers, originals were issued in the anonymous millions - or custom made for unique recipients in many cases still identifiable today. These strips of ribbon and metal, now as then, reveal at a glance the story of a particular German's military and civilian career. Mirroring every other facet of Teutonic martial life, seemingly arcane regulations, although shifting with the various forms of German government, laid down rigid - if not always obeyed - rules of precedence at any given time which help place the recipients in their time and branch of service, as well as preventing informed collectors from falling for the siren call of exotic and utterly preposterous frauds. The ubiquitous German ribbon bar is a neglected field of militaria collecting.
This article is intended to provide the first comprehensive, but not all-inclusive, study of this subject. The identification of every single German ribbon that may ever be encountered is beyond its scope. For that, the best single affordable source is the pocket sized "Bänderkatalog" published in conjunction with Jörg Nimmergut's periodic "Deutschlandkatalog 1800-1945," price guide. This article catalogs all the various commercially produced types and styles of German ribbon bars from the outbreak of the First World War to the end of the Second, with some historical background, comments on rules and regulations, and extremely detailed front and back views. Originals will be shown, as well as some of the reproductions flooding the collectors' market today. A gallery of ribbon devices, enlarged to a uniform 500% for ease in viewing, is included and will, hopefully, be updated from time to time as additional material is located. Fake devices will also be shown. Another gallery of previously unpublished photographs of ribbon bars in wear reveals what contemporaries of these bars saw when the random relics we encounter were routine parts of everyday uniformed dress. Regulations placing specific awards in exact precedence at different times are listed. A bibliography of period and current references may help stimulate further research. Brief note is also taken of related full dress medal bars, lapel bows, and Austro-Hungarian WWI ribbons.
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