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I just got a call from an acquaintenance that said he might want to consign a potentially sensitive item to the historic first Brockelman and Luckey auction that is coming up on May 19th. I want to get some feedback on what ya'll think. The item is a German WWII helmet with a swastika on it. He says he has a letter of provenance from the guy who found it. I know how I feel but what are others' thoughts on this subject? He said he was offered $500 from a dealer but thinks it could be a 1k-2k item.....thoughts....
For starters, that's a really odd item to place in a sports-based auction. It woudln't be the right forum. Leave this sort of thing for Heritage or somesuch. Secondly, there are many Jewish people in this hobby. Personally, if such an item's presence bothered even one person, that would certainly be enough impetus for me not to run it. An item like this is a lot more "in your face" then, say, a document signed by Saddam Hussein or Hitler. Leave it be.
thanks for the feedback...For the record we will definitely have some non sports and memorabilia stuff in our auction. I am Jewish, as most know, and do have a slightly different view than you do but lets see what others say too....if they care to? best regards
Leon and Jodi - I take a slightly different view. Whenever items such as these are offered for sale, I often regard the item as being something of historical significance and not something meant to promote some sort of political idealism or motive. I would never condone the atrocities that happened during World War II, or in Kosovo, or in Iraq, or in the Sudan, or anywhere. But, as much as Iím sure we all would wish these events never happened, the fact remains they did, and it is part of history. Therefore, Iíve always tried to be open minded and realize that items relating to these historical events are part of history and are not intended to promote what they may have originally stood for. That being said, I also understand that items related to World War II seem to always be particularly more sensitive than others. For example, items related to segregation and slavery never seem to garner the same debate as WWII items.
I too look at items like that as historical artifacts, but I can see how someone could be offended. WW2 is not so far removed from history...I say pass on it because the possibility exists that someone may be offended and I'm not sure that's what you want for your very first auction.
Jon--And the funny part is that I have encountered more than a handful of Black people who actually collect items dealing with slavery. I don't know why they would want to be reminded of it, but hey, it's a free country. Keep in mind that I actually agree with your viewpoints on this subject, but others may be more sensitive and take issue. This world has become far too PC for my tastes, but in a matter like this, I would fully understand other viewpoints.
I honestly am suprised to hear that this is a potential consignment. I did not think this fit the profile of items that you were seeking. I think that the risk of selling something that may be potentially offensive to some and also outside of the core items you are looking to sell is not a wise move for your first auction.
Personally I think I would be more puzzled to see an item like this in your auction rather than offended.
I personally absolutely disagree that it should NOT be in the auction. I will listen to my audience and not put it in. It won't be in there......
I think that many folks that are collectors of sports, and non sports memorabilia, would have an interest. Again, I completely disagree personally. I think sticking our head in the sand and not talking about these kinds of things is far far worse than exposing them and debating them. Some folks still think there was NO holocaust.....This kind of non-allowance further exasperates the problem, imo.....thanks for the responses....I never said I always go with the flow ....I really do appreciate the feedback...best regards (Scott probably wouldn't have let me do it anyway )
I'm no big-name collector, nor am I an auctioneer, so for all it may be worth, I see little issue with the item per se. If it were a hunk of brick from a death camp or something really sick, then I'd certainly not touch it.
However, what I assume we're talking about here is a common soldier's helmet, some average German joe...not much different from collecting militaria from any other nation far as I'm concerned.
My main concern, to be honest, would be if you want to delve heavily into non-sports material, going too much outside your own fields of expertise.
This, I think, is one of the major problems with auction houses and authentication companies today...they simply try to do TOO MUCH, to be everything to everyone, and that's where mistakes start being made. That's why I'd think it would be better off at Manion's or some militaria house.
That is just the worthless opinion of insignificant hobby figure me...
Time is usually a factor, so although it's been ~63 years since the atrocities, it's still (and probably will be for a long time) a very sensitive subject for many. Offer a relic from Genghis Khanís conquests, and youíll probably get little pushback. In terms of tacky sports offerings, wreckage from Munsonís or Clementeís (I donít remember which) plane crash stands out as one of the worst in recent memory.
In sum, the degree of opposition against such an item is probably higher than the passion for it.
"Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame." -- Erica Jong
I am fairly new to the vintage baseball card hobby but have been collecting military items for approximately 12 years now. I collect Civil War, WWI and WWII items (both American and German). I believe most people who collect vintage cards can understand that the helmet you are interested in selling is a piece of history. All of history has not been pleasant and I don't believe it serves anyone for us to censor which parts are remembered (through collecting) and which parts are not. I understand that some people do not understand why anyone would buy such an item and that is their right. They can simply turn to the next page or click "next" on their screen. This helmet represents a part of history that most definitely should be remembered.
It is highly unlikely that a skinhead or anti-semite is going to spend 500-1500.00 on a helmet. Pieces like this go into collections because the collectors have an appreciation of history and preserving history.
Perhaps not a great comparison, but many people might find Ty Cobb and his actions/beliefs offensive but that doesn't mean card collectors shouldn't own his card. If you own one of Cobb's cards does that mean you share his feelings towards Black people? I think not.
Either way, good luck with your first auction!
P.S. Not that it should make a different but I am Jewish.
Leon- you can argue that the helmet is an historic artifact, and you would be correct. But why do you need the potential fallout from a lot that might put $150 or so in your pocket? There are still holocaust survivors, there are many Jewish Americans who lost family members during the war, and you will never know what people might be saying about you and Scott behind your back. You have little to gain and a lot to lose. It isn't as if having a Nazi helmet will add a little prestige to your sale. I wouldn't touch it.
This message has been edited by barrysloate on Apr 22, 2008 1:25 PM
I think you and Scott should do what you think is best in regards to your auctions. I appreciate the fact that you gather input from board members before making changes to this forum, but your auction company is yours and Scott's, and in the end you guys will benefit -- or not benefit -- from your decisions.
Such an item is truly a historical piece, and though I suppose the same could be said of a piece of wreckage from Munson's or Clemente's plane, I see a huge difference and don't think a comparison works.
And from a purely business standpoint, I think it's been proved time and time again that collectors might be offended by something for a short time, but in the end, most of them forget about that "outrage" when a seller offers a "gotta have it" item and continue to remain customers.
I am not Jewish, and the piece does not offend me, but then again little does. I do find it to be of questionable taste, but to each his own I guess. It would bother me, though, if any of my friends were offended, Jewish or non, and I would prefer that it not be included.
It does get to be a slippery slope with these historical pieces. As someone posted, this is probably just a helmet from your basic German soldier, who likely wanted to be doing anything other than fighting a war. Still, where do you draw the line? What if it was an SS artifact, or something more directly linked to the Holocaust? What if it was worth a fortune to those who are into these kinds of things?
I abhor political correctness, and find that alot of people have unnecessarily thin skin. Still, this particular chapter of World history remains painful for so many, and that should be given great weight, IMO, before offering its mementos for sale.
I would find it offensive. Let the people who like that stuff go to a Neo-Nazi auction house. If it were me, I would feel no need to be supportive in any way of something I find so offensive. If somebody else is not offended, let them sell it.
It is of course your right to find such material offensive. However, it is extremely ignorant for you to refer to collectors/dealers of this type of thing as "Neo-Nazis". Do you honestly think the vast majority of people who deal in WW2 German memorabilia are Neo-Nazis? Do you know anything about the people that collect this sort of thing?
As a Jewish person who collects military items (including WW2 German pieces) I was offended by that uneducated generalization.
I did not refer to all collectors and dealers of this stuff as Neo-Nazis. Obviously that is not the case. But please do not distort my words on that count . I suggested that the consignor sell it through a Neo-Nazi auction. Yes, I was being inflamatory. I said so half in jest because I figured that was the primary audience for Nazi memorabilia. I apologize for that. And you are right; I know nothing about the kind of people that collect this sort of thing. If I offended you, I apologize. I have no conception of why somebody would want items like this. Perhaps you can share what the appeal is.
This is exactly why an item like that should not be included in a sports auction house auction. Some people are going to have a strong reaction to it...it may be a legitimate item to some, but to others it's going to be highly offensive. Why take the risk of offending good customers? You have more to lose than to gain IMO. I don't even think it has anything to do about bending to political correctness either...it's just good business sense.
I apologize for distorting your words. Unfortunately, I've had many people jump to conclusions as to why I collect the stuff I do. Being one of the younger collectors in the military hobby (25 years old) I seem to be questioned even more than the other guys!
There are several reasons why Nazi items appeal to collectors. As a collector of World War Two items, one of the reasons I buy German items is simply because Germany was a very significant combatant in the war. I began by collecting American military items and acquiring German and Japanese items seemed like a natural progression. The atrocities committed under Hitler were of course reprehensible and I in no way agree with the politics, beliefs etc of the Nazi party. I choose to include a Nazi helmet or a Nazi flag in my collection because it represents people, ideas and events relating to WW2.
The other reason people (including myself) choose to collect Nazi items is because many of these pieces were extremely well made, and while they are doubtless offensive, the quality of the items still demands attention. For example, if you compare a German dress dagger to a Japanese or American one, the decorative nature and aesthetic appeal is much greater. It would be like putting a T3 next to a strip card...the eye will immediately go to the T3 because of its rich colors and quality printing compared to the strip card.
The other thing that bothers me (and this is not directed at you JimB...just a general observation) is how people constantly speak of how horrible the Germans were (and rightfully so) but usually neglect to mention the atrocities committed by the Russians and Japanese. Stalin killed many more people than Hitler did and the average American POW was treated much better by the Germans than by the Japanese.
I realize this thread has taken a direction other than what was initially intended but its an interesting conversation!
Dan - You are probably right about it being good business sense not to include it in the auction.
My 2 cents would be that it wouldnt offend me in the context that yes it is a collectable item but in terms of being a business man I feel the risk of the item doesnt outway the benefits. I think you would be better off just sticking to cards and good memorabilia items for your first few auctions. Better to establish a good following from the start then create a bad atmosphere with new possible customers. I think the item would be better served if it was in a military auction rather than a sports auction. Just my voice!!!!
I feel the need to reiterate the point that this will not be in an auction of Scott's and mine. I asked the question because I am a business person with respect to the auction. It certainly wouldn't make sense after further consideration....but I did want to get some points of view. Thanks for all of the feedback and feel free to continue....it's a pretty good debate too....regards
My brother collector's German WWII Nazi stuff and he was one of the few in PA. tonight to vote for Obama Seriously though, is a Nazi helmet any different than say....a Horrors of War Hitler card? As for Klan memorabilia (pictures only and pamphlets), I collect it. I have always been fascinated with the American Political Underground, their strange idealogies and the history associated with it. I abhor that idealogy, as my group is one of them that is persecuted.
My grandfather fought in World War II and helped in the liberation of one of the concentration camps. He's 86 and still cries every time he talks about it, and he's a gruff old man with a leather exterior who's not, shall we say, the most open-minded sort of guy. But he was obviously deeply affected by what he witnessed.
Anyway, he brought back a German dress sword from the war. I didn't ask him how he got it (he always intimidated me a little; and I can't stand to see him get emotional). I just assume he took it off the body of a dead German soldier. Ever since I was a little boy, I was always fascinated by that sword. It's a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, aside from the ugly symbols on it. I could see where a collector would desire such a piece.
As a matter of fact, I'm heading home to West Virginia this weekend. Pap gave my Mom the sword. I think I'll ask her to pull it out.
We have absolutely no desire to sell it; and I'm hoping to eventually inherit it -- not my younger brother.
But Ben, how much do Nazi swords sell for? Just curious. I'm guessing there are several different kinds, and it would depend on the markings and such.
Per Rob's story, a lot of WWII German stuff, like helmets, flags and swords, was brought home by the soldiers as symbols of the Allied victory, the Axis defeat and the war as event. The American soldier didn't bring home a German helmet to promote the Nazis, just as a solder didn't bring home a red sun flag because he had fond feelings for Tojo.
This message has been edited by dereb1 on Apr 23, 2008 12:33 AM This message has been edited by dereb1 on Apr 23, 2008 12:26 AM
I would not be offended by this helmet's inclusion in the auction. I assume the helmet was found by an Allied serviceman. As such it is a trophy of war and if I owned it I would regard it as a reminder of victory rather than an endorsment of my enemy's principles.
That being said, it is obvious by some of the reactions here that including it would cause more trouble than it is worth.
I think part of the problem with this kind of thing may be that there are some people that DO collect and display these items because they support what the items stand for - the racist and supremacy views underlying the Nazi reign. I couldn't even hazard a guess at what percentage fall into this category - probably very small.
So even though we find it intellectually acceptable from the standpoint of context, history, military interest, etc, there may be a queasyness lingering in the background from not quite knowing if any given buyer or transaction has a political motive rather than historical.
I understand buyers getting frustrated by the suspicion, but also understand why it is there. I imagine that in that collecting world, where people know each other much as we do here, it becomes clear that people aren't collecting Nazi items as a show of support because everyone can also see - via transactions and shows and such - that any individual also collects non-Nazi military items. Outsiders don't have the same insight to individuals, so there may often be that remote sense of not being quite positive about the outcome of a particular transaction.
So I wouldn't be offended, but I wouldn't put it in the auction either. There are no positive outcomes there - at least not for the auction. Good call Leon.
Being Jewish, of course, I've seen this issue come up on several occasions. It's a very controversial issue & I'm not sure anyone has a good solution.
Some collectors of Nazi items are Jewish people who want to show their children & grandchildren what happened to the Jewish people. I recall a rabbi saying he could understand wanting to collect the items to represent what the Jewish people had to overcome. But he said it's not something he would do. He said he wondered why people would want the negative energy of Nazi memorabilia in their home. I think we need to be careful about promoting these negative energies.
I think that the best place for Nazi items might be Holocaust museums, which gives the possibility for something positive to come out of it.
Wow.... those last few posts really demonstrate what a thoughtful, rational and intelligent forum this is. Being of Jewish heritage (father's side) I personally do not see much harm in the sale of these items. I feel that they are of great historical significance, and are a fascinating reminder of what might have been.... a Global "wrong turn" that came so close to happening a relatively short time ago.
What is more disturbing to me is the increasing number of educated people I hear trying to downplay the holocaust, or flat out deny it ever happened...
Nazi-related collectibles certainly aren't for everyone, but they are somewhat intriguing. Owning/displaying them does not endorse Naziism any more than owning a Darktown Battery Bank endorses racism. Does anyone truly think that collectors of Negro League memorabilia believe that black players should still be playing in a separate league? No... these collectibles are interesting remnants of a darker time, which serve to demonstrate how cultures evolve and people become more refined.
That said... I think most could see how a Darktown Battery Bank has a place in a Baseball Auction. How a Nazi Helmet would have fit into Leon/Scott's auction seems a much bigger stretch. I agree that this particular piece is better suited to a Military or Historic/Political event.
This message has been edited by perezfan on Apr 23, 2008 11:18 AM
The correct analogy would be between an article from the African slave trade and the nazi helmet. I would liken memorabilia from the Negro Leagues to the Diary of Anne Frank - both celebrate survival at a time of oppression.
This message has been edited by MSW1 on Apr 23, 2008 11:29 AM
As a Jew who had relatives killed by the Nazis, I am not offended by the existence of the helmet -- unless it resides in the hands of someone who celebrates it or the Nazis. I think the piece has historical significance. That being said, many people are offended by such a symbol of evil and for that reason alone I'd suggest not including it in your auction. As a Jew, additionally, I would never want to make a dime off of anything relating to the Nazis.
My point was that people collect for different reasons, and the Negro League example portrays that these collectors are not in favor of segregation (none that I know, anyway). They collect because it represents an historic and fascinating point in time... not because they want separate leagues again.
To Jeff's point, there are both good and bad intentions among collectors. As an example... I would assume that a Vintage Flag Collector would have better reasons for owning a Confederate Flag than someone who's immersed in The Dukes of Hazzard.
Hey, maybe if Coach's Corner finally goes belly-up, they can re-work their format to include Nazi gear, Confederate Flags and Steroid era game-used syringes. Then they could finally dump Chris Morales and STAT, and employ John Rocker and Jose Canseco as their head authenticators.
This message has been edited by perezfan on Apr 23, 2008 11:46 PM
I collect WWII related items, whether they are authentic or replicas(when I have any money which is pretty much never, lol). My opinion is sort of two fold I guess. I can definately see how someone would be offended, but I am of the opinion that there is rarely malicious intent when buying historical artifacts. If you were to accept the consignment, I would print and post, very clearly, that the sale of the item is intended for the historical value and purposes only and you are in no way sympathetic with any nazi related causes (obviously, lol). It is a sensitive issue, and in this day and age everyone has to complain about something, but I would hate to think that something of this historical significance couldn't (or wouldn't) be put up for auction because it offended someone. I'd imagine that there were many Jewish soldiers, among others, that swiped anything they could when stationed in Germany during that time.
Interesting discussion. I wouldn't be offended, but I can see why some people would find it repulsive. Confederate memorabilia(uniforms, hats, weapons, flags, etc.) sells very well and some of it brings bu-ku-bucks. J.E.B Stuart's personal battle flag sold for close to a million dollars recently and I doubt it was purchased by a Klan member or Neo-Nazi, though it could have been. More than likely it was purchased by a military collector for it's historical significance.
Controversial subject and we have an articulate, thought provoking discussion without any vulgarity or condescending attitudes. At times like this it's nice that a few of the malcontents over on the Vintage Baseball Card side of this forum don't collect memorabilia.
I wouldn't see a problem with the sale of such. In fact I sold a bunch of WWII items for a friends father who had collected them as souvenirs. It raised a few thousand for them and really helped them out.
I think it would be a bigger crime to destroy anything that someone can label as evil.
Leon, I see no problem selling that item but where do you draw the line? Will you consign a KKK hood if offered? How about a Satanic cross? What about an authentic signature of Jim Jones or Charles Manson? All these things can be considered to have historical value but do you really want you and Scott to open yourselves up to this? Leave it off, save the spot in your auction for something else. The profit you make on this will be small compared to the animosity you might generate. Listen to Barry. Don't do it.
PS I am Jewish and would never bid on that item but I am a full supporter of never forgetting so the past does not repeat.
I tend to agree with what has been said above regarding the item in question, and have little to add to the discussion as to whether the item should or should not be included in any given auction.
That being said, I was at an antique store a few months ago and came across a postcard that really got me thinking. A scan is included below, the postcard has a 1907 copyright date on front and the text at bottom of scan is on the back of the postcard.
The reason for posting this is after reading the back of the postcard I was honestly sad that a symbol that for thousands of years had meant something good and wonderful to so many could be tainted and ruined for time and all eternity by the misdeeds of a tyranical maniac and his followers. It just reiterates how powerful a symbol can be, both good and bad.
This certainly has been an interesting discussion/debate even though it has nothing to do with vintage baseball! Just thought I would add this interesting bit of history... These are regimental patches for the 45th Division of the American Army. The patch with Swastika was worn by members of that division for 15 years before its use was discontinued due to Hitler's rise to power. Just before the beginning of WW2 it was changed to the Eagle version. The swastika, and later the eagle were used on the patch because there were a significant number of Native Americans serving in the regiment. Both of these symbols have long and rich histories in Native American culture...as well as others as evidenced by Rhett's postcard!
Hitler adopted the swastika in, I believe, 1919 and the Nazi Swastika is going clockwise and at an angle (rotate the above symbols 45 degrees to somewhat resemble a cross). A Swastika in a different style is not Nazi and anything WWI and before isn't Nazi. Most historical non-Nazi swastikas are a different style, with many going counterclockwise and a majority not tilted (the above symbols are not tilted). Swastikas have been used by the American Indians, Vikings, ancient Greeks, Indians, etc.
So, looking at the above two pictures alone and how the each symbol is positioned, one can determine that while they are swastikas they are not Nazi swastikas.
This message has been edited by dereb1 on Apr 27, 2008 3:46 PM This message has been edited by dereb1 on Apr 27, 2008 3:36 PM This message has been edited by dereb1 on Apr 27, 2008 3:20 PM
I am not offended. But ask yourself whether you really want to (1) generate a "yuch" factor for some potential customers, (2) start out ranging far away from your avowed focus, and (3) begin life as an ebay-style flea market rather than a niche auction house. If yes, do it. If not, think long term business plan.
In response to an earlier post, the Swastika used by the Nazi party was not always tilted. It was not until the early 1930's or so that Hitler had the swastika rotated 45 degrees. Even after that point, there were certain Nazi organizations (the DAF or German Workers Front for example) that still used the earlier swastika. Also, the Nazi party was not using the Swastika in 1919. Hitler only joined the party in late 1919 (at that point it was the German Workers Party, later to become the National Socialist German Workers Party). It was used by the Nazis starting in 1920, however there were other German nationalist organizations that used it before the Nazis.
I am continually amazed at the amount of intelligent folks that continue to say not to auction the item when it's been reiterated that it is not going to be. As a matter of fact the helmet will most likely be sold in a private sale resulting from this thread.....But please....keep convincing me about not doing it. BTW, it really was a good debate otherwise....best regards
That postcard is interesting, but perhaps a little misleading. Swastika is a Sanskrit term and is found in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain literature. Since there is no "L" in Sanskrit, I don't see how its iconography could possible symbolize the love, life, etc. It is a nice sentiment, but was probably made by somebody with good intentions and half-knowledge.
I can't tell you how many times people have forwarded e-mails to me that are purportedly quoting the Dalai Lama when it is obvious to anybody that knows anything about the Dalai Lama or Tibetan Buddhism that they are not quotes from him. They are usually made up by well-meaning New Agers who probably think people will take their cool thoughts more seriously if they are attributed to the Dalai Lama.
Hitler seems to have been sort of obsessed with Sanskrit (though he could not read it) and the peoples who used it - the Aryans. His understanding was twisted and distorted. The Aryans were actually Persians from modern-day Iran who migrated and invaded the Indian sub-continent (actually the area bordering Pakistan and India) about 3500 years ago. They brought with them a group of sacred texts in Sanskrit known as the Vedas and a religious tradition that became the forerunner of Classical Hinduism. "Aryan" literally translates as "superior one" and there is evidence that the Aryans saw themselves as racially superior to the indigenous South Asians. In the Buddhist Sanskrit (beginning around 2100 years ago), the term "arya" took on a different meaning. An arya was still a superior one, but the meaning of "superior one" was a person who had cultivated direct experiential wisdom of the nature of reality. It connoted a spiritual attainment and that is still the sense of the term today in Buddhist cultures and literature.
All of this was lost on Hitler. I doubt he would have wanted to be racially aligned with Persians or religiously with Buddhists. But because Sanskrit and Latin are the two roots of the Indo-European language family, he seemed to think there was significance there for him.
edited one grammatical point.
This message has been edited by E93 on Apr 29, 2008 1:48 PM
Sometimes we can say things on the board that seem to get overlooked and folks keep at the subject. I did want feedback, got it with respect to having it in the auction, then made an easy decision not to do it. I then reiterated it as I think folks were still trying to convince me not to do it. After that you seemed to be trying to convince me not to do it too...which I had reiterated wasn't going to happen. HOWEVER I did say to continue the debate so it's my bad for not being more explanatory. It was my mistake for not saying something like "please continue the debate in general but my mind is made up."......so my apologies .....regards
I think it is an important piece of history I wouldn't mind having it myself as a reminder of a sad time in world history. However, from a public relations and business perspective I would not list it in the auction. The risk of potential fall out is not worth the reward.
just saw this thread, Leon, but gosh...I wouldn't bother including this.
potentially offensive, non-sport, sets a weird precedent & you may not want to go down whatever road it may take you...
just my penny...good luck with the auction...
oh-and I just took a peek at the preview - I love that you might consider doing mixed lots that include more recent years (1950s-70s baseball)...
I believe several times above I stated it won't be run in our auction. There was someone interested in this item and I am happy to say it has a new home with someone that collects this kind of stuff. I made nothing off of it but just put 2 people in touch......it was a happy ending....and our first auction should be pretty good without this controversial item..