Differentiating orders, medals and decorations between their different classes and types is mostly easy. Different grades are distinguished by different sizes, more or less valuable materials or completely different designs.

The following two crosses may be one of the few exceptions. Follow along and see for yourself:

Prussian Military Merit Crosses

Fig 1: Prussian Military Merit Crosses

Can you see the differences? No? Well, that’s correct. Both crosses seem to be almost identical. Even the die flaw on the “T” in “VERDIENST” (merit) is the same on both specimens:

Military Merit Cross die flaw in T

Fig 2: Military Merit Cross showing the die flaw in the “T” of Verdienst

Military Merit Medal 1st Class die flaw in T

Fig 3: Military Merit Medal 1st Class showing the die flaw in the “T” of Verdienst

 

So, what’s the point here?

Well, if you look at the bottom rims of those two crosses you will see that one is marked “W 938”, while the other rim is not.

Proper Markings on a silver gilt Military Merit Cross, "938 W"

Fig 6: Proper Markings on a silver gilt Military Merit Cross, “938 W”

Prussian law stated that silver gilt order decorations and medals had to be marked in order to distinguish them from those made from real gold. A trained metallurgist or medal collector could certainly tell the difference without that mark, just by weight (golden items were normally constructed hollow, in order to safe expensive material, and are therefor lighter in weight), but the Prussian state probably liked a more sophisticated methodology in general to be able to tell.

In case of the Wagner made Prussian Militaerverdienstkreuz (Military Merit Cross) this law gives us the only tool today to verify the difference between the actual Militaerverdienstkreuz (Pour le Merite for NCOs) and the Militaerehrenzeichen 1st Class. (read more here: Militaerverdienstkreuz and the  Militaerehrenzeichen 1st Class) The gilding process was rather poor and leaves us with mostly silver crosses or crosses with a poor remnant of gilding.

Both grades of the highest bravery award in Prussia until 1918 were made on the exact same die and tooling. The following pictures show another detail and proof:

Military Merit Cross detail and die flaw as indicated by the red arrow

Fig 5: Military Merit Cross detail and die flaw as indicated by the red arrow

Military Merit Medal 1st Class detail and die flaw as indicated by the red arrow

Fig 6: Military Merit Medal 1st Class detail and die flaw as indicated by the red arrow

 

 

1 Comment
  1. Speaking of the military merit cross. This is how research was done in the 1980th

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