One of the most common problems for new collectors is not knowing what to collect or trying to collect everything.  As a result, collectors often become disenchanted with the exciting world of phaleristics. Some of the best advice a new collector can be given is to find one area of interest and focus on it. Don’t try to collect everything! You will get much more enjoyment finding a niche while exploring and developing it over the years.

Secondly, a new collector should read about their area of interest. Educating yourself before diving into the world of collecting Orders and Medals is going to save a lot of time, money, and heartache.

The following list of books on Orders and Medals are recommended and have been submitted by OMSA On-line members. Do yourself a favor and check them out.

Books listed here are not officially endorsed or recommended by OMSA, they are listed as a courtesy to users only.


Robert Werlich, Orders and Decorations of All Nations: Ancient and Modern, Civil and Military, 2nd ed. ([Washington: The Quaker Press, 1974); no ISBN)

Another aging book, but one that has not yet been supplanted. Werlich attempted, as his title suggests, a survey of everybody’s orders and decorations and, in a fashion unusual for the age in which he was writing, he did a decent job of accomplishing his goal. While the information is often sketchy (and sometimes wrong) and the illustrations are not up to modern standards, this remains an important book. It will, if you can find it, cost you a good part of what a good medal will cost, but Werlich’s niche has not been filled.

H. Taprell Dorling, Ribbons and Medals, 10th (?) ed., ed. and rev. Alec A. Purves (Ontario: Fortress Publications, [1983]; ISBN 0-85045-516-2)

While focused on British awards, “Taffrail” Dorling attempted to provide a globally based general book and, for many nations, his work (in its most recent updating by Purves) remains the only source available.

Guido Rosignoli, Ribbons of Orders, Decoratiosn and Medals (New York: Arco Publishing Company, Inc., [1977]; ISBN 0-668-04253-2 in paperback)

A simple little book, but a valuable little book of just 165 pages. Dated, but a book that I use frequently, both for the color plates of ribbons and the text (too often overlooked in books like these, but in this case quite valuable). Hard to find, but worth seeking out.

Vernon, Sydney B. Vernon’s Collector’s Guide To Medals & Decorations (With Valuations)
ISBN 0-9623575-4-5
Fourth Revised Edition 2000, Published by Sydney B. Vernon PO Box 890280 Temecula, CA 92589-0280
528 pages.

A very handy work that should be in every collector’s library. Although some of the more popular medals (US, UK, Third Reich etc.) prices are dated (as discussed here before) this is still a wonderful resource for value and great for information on a number of lesser known awards.
This would be a great first book for any collector as it gives a solid overview of the awards of many nations.
C.P. Mulder and A.A. Purves. Bibliography of Orders and Decorations. Ordenshistorik Selskab, Copenhagen, 1999 [ISBN: 87-7838-455-9].

The most recent and by far the most comprehensive bibliographic source in the field, listing over 3300 entries (including multiple editions). Also included are published statutes, rolls of recipients, catalogs of public collections and exhibitions, periodicals and some dealers’ price lists.

John Hayward, Diana Birch and Richard Bishop. British Battles and Medals. 7th Edition. London, Spink, 2006.  ISBN 1-902040-77-5.


This is the premier book on British medals and provides the best starting point.  It provides a brief description of each medal, naming styles and information on who was eligible for the award.  Not without its faults, it remains the best book on the subject.