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Arran Sinclair

How to tell if a Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class is Real or Fake?

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I'm sure this gets asked a lot but i was wondering what you look for when looking to see if an Iron Cross is fake. This applies to both wars and 1st and 2nd classes.




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Hi Arran, there is no easy answer to that as each Iron cross maker has slight differences. From a very basic point of view the Iron Cross should be made of three separate pieces a silver frame with an Iron core, a maker mark is also a good sign. However the fakes are now made in three pieces, also with maker marks so that way of telling is quite out dated now. If you have an Iron Cross you are not sure of, best bet is to bring it into the shop next time you are in and I can check it for you.      

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Most WW1 Iron Cross 2nd class have a real silver frame, but not always. Another inidication is a magnet test, the iron core should respond, although not all cores were of iron, especially on some of the 1st Class pieces, both WW1 and WW2.  WW2 Iron Crosses were usually never pure silver, and the 1st Class pieces could have a core of iron, brass, zinc or other metals, an iron core being the most desirable from the collector's point of view. An iron core may also have traces of rust after over one hundred years - or less, in the case of WW2 examples. Normally, the pin and reverse are almost a sure indication of originality, the pins can of course vary in shape. A maker's mark is also more desireable, there are originals with and without maker's marks.  Before buying, it is best to make sure and get a good book or two on the subject, and to view as many (original) iron crosses as possible, before being sure as to whether a piece is original or not.
In the 1960s and 1970s excellent copies were produced, but were usually honestly declared as copies, and much cheaper than an original, a good 1st Class copy would cost about one pound. Usually the black finish would give it away, copies never had the quality black finish of originals, also the form of the swastika, especially on 1st Class examples was different to originals, the copy swastikas  being too thick , too "rigid" and too sharp, and the black finish being too matt.

On the other hand, especially in the WW1 period as with 1st Class examples, there are two main categories, being,
examples which were awarded (Verliehenes Exemplar) or
examples purchased extra by the recipient, (Extra-, Privatstück or Zweitfertigung)  or those produced after WW1 as an extra or replacement for a lost decoration, WW1 Iron Crosses were even produced in some numbers during WW2, when the recipient needed a replacement or an extra piece.

It is also known that there are many 1870 1st Class examples on the market (even in real silver), with an inscription on the reverse as: Wagner, 14-Loth, these are usually copies, said to originate from Hungary.  Up till a few years ago, Knight's Crosses in real silver were being produced in the USA, these cost a bit more, but at a fraction of the original. Since then, some of these may have since  been passed on as originals, that is always the danger.

In Austria many good copies were produced during the postwar years by the original makers in Austria, now illegal. Production of these items has long been illegal in the European Union, in the past, most copies originated from non EU countries, and today also from Eastern Europe, but the quality is usually miserable. Japan and the Far East are known to make copies. Some other high grade items have been produced in Thailand for many years now.

Some examples:


Iron Cross 2nd Class 1939, averse and reverse. In both cases the ribbon ring is stamped with the maker's number (not always present)
The example on the left has much of the original (silvered) finish remaining, to the right, most of the finish is gone. Note the form of the swastika.


An example of the 1st Class in case of issue, much of the blackening of the centre has worn off, revealing the underlying iron, a much worn example.image.png.9340aaaad5e9479cec32957d641fb3d0.png

Reverse of same decoration. This had been individually engraved with the initials of the recipient plus date awarded, 4.I.1941
The pin hook is a period repair, and was originally of white metal as per the rest, a thick piece of copper wire has neatly been brazed on as a replacement. Note form of broad pin and hinge.


The 1939 bar to the Iron Cross 1914 2nd Class, which was worn on the 1914 ribbon, and in the second buttonhole on the front of the tunic. The Iron Cross in the same class cound not be awarded a second time, so the 1939 bar was introduced. Same applied to the First Class, bar was then worn above the decoration. As worn by a veteran of both wars. This example as removed from a tunic. To the right an original case for the Iron Cross 1st Class.



An example of a 1914 First Class decoration. This would be a "second" or private purchase piece,
and not the actual example as awarded. The core is of iron, the 2-piece frame is of a silver alloy.
There is no maker's mark, and this particular example can be described as "convex" (curved, not flat),
 but in the form favoured by many wearers.


The reverse, showing remains of the fine original finish over the silver alloy.
The broad pin is unusal, being rather chunky and with traces of filing, and differs slighly from the often encounted "coke-bottle"
or tapered shape, as known to collectors. Decoration shows much wear, and some
tarnishing to the finish.


A further EK2 1939, mounted and worn by a soldier of the Luftwaffe.

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