Reference Material, Tools and Guidelines for Collectors




The most important thing for any collector to do is research and study….this cannot be stressed enough.  The hobby is wrought with new collectors who rush out and buy a piece of militaria without having any idea what they are doing, only to quickly find out they paid a lot of money for a reproduction.  With the average price of a Third Reich collectible being in the thousands of dollars these days, it becomes a quick lesson learned.  Complicating matters is the fact that many of the reference books themselves are a costly investment, with many of the newer published pieces retailing for over $100 U.S., and the highly desirable out of print books fetching $200 - $300 or more.  Faced with investing this kind of money into books, or spending it on a piece of insignia, medal or uniform, is what creates the urge to buy first.  Unfortunately, buying a fraudulent piece of militaria in your first try also discourages many collectors, as well as causing them to quickly exit the hobby.  But, books are a necessity!  You have to build a reference library of good books as part of your overall arsenal for educating yourself in this hobby.

Books, however, are not the only source of information, merely the beginning.  There are many other avenues of knowledge that can be pursued, and the purpose of this webpage is to explore what some of them are and offer recommendations and suggestions to the new or casual collector.  Most of what is written here is one man’s opinion (and as you’ll learn, opinion is what most of this hobby is about), it is not the rule or the exception.  The purpose is merely to share one’s experience and pass on thoughts and advice that might help provide direction to somebody new or less involved in the hobby.  Over time this page will be constantly updated with more relevant information and additional suggestions of books, websites, shows, etc. that might help in the quest for overall knowledge.  As always, feel free to contact me if you have questions or would like to suggest some reference that would be worth including.



Suggested Reference Tools and Reading material

* Books

* Other collectors

* Militaria Shows

* Online Forums

* Internet Reference Sites




The first tool to in your arsenal of knowledge needs to be reference books….the importance of these cannot be stressed enough.  The best books will provide you with all of the regulations and descriptions for you to get a good base of knowledge.  The worst books end up being just coffee table books with pictures of other people’s collections to admire, which serve their own purpose, but are best left to buy after you have purchased the basic reference books that you really need.  As a guide, I like to break the books down into several categories;


I.                   General Reference and Foundation

II.                Historical

III.             Niche/Intensive Study

IV.              Period Photographs


The books I recommend below are only a few of the numerous books available, and if a book is not listed below, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good one.  The books I do list, I believe are excellent reference and are ‘desert island’ books that every collector should have in their library, if you are going to be serious about the hobby.  Over time, I plan to continually update this page and add other worthy books to the list, and perhaps even add some commentary or a review of specific books to give collectors some direction as to whether they are of value to them or not.   For now, it is a start, and hopefully a help to collectors in need of building a good reference library. For now the focal point of recommended books is on the Third Reich, but this will be expanded over time to feature books on other nations as well.



I. General Reference

There are many great general reference militaria books out there, and some of them have been around for many years.  Some of my recommendations for the various areas of collecting are;


Uniforms & Headgear-

John Angolia has created an entire series of books on each of the armed forces of the Wehrmacht.  These are, without doubt, the bibles of collecting Third Reich militaria. Angolia very carefully covers in depth all of the uniforms, headgear, field gear, weapons and accessories of the various branches of the German armed services.  Each branch of service is covered in its entirety by a three volume set and is a comprehensive study of anything you could ever want to know about the uniforms of each branch of service.  All of these are now out of print, and have thus appreciated in value, making them a pricey investment and hard to find.  To locate them you’ll have to scour eBay, Amazon, online booksellers, militaria shows, etc.  Beyond the Angolia books, I have listed other recommendations by a few authors whose books are good foundation in the area of SS uniforms, Political uniforms and cloth headgear (visor and field caps, etc.)  Angolia has also covered many other areas of Third Reich collecting, (political, civil, awards, etc.) and any book by him is highly recommended as excellent, basic reference material.




Uniforms and Traditions of the German Army, Volumes I, II and III by John Angolia and Adolf Schlicht


Comprehensive study of the evolution of the German Army uniform and all of the associated accoutrements, including headgear, field gear, personal effects, weapons, command flags.  Everything you need to know is here.

Uniforms of the Waffen SS (three volume set), by Michael Beaver


The first serious study on the Waffen SS uniforms to use actual examples as reference.  This book basically focuses only on the uniforms, and does an excellent job showing many original, rare pieces.  It does not, however, cover insignia, personal effects, etc. to any depth.

Uniforms and Traditions of the Luftwaffe, Volumes I, II and III by John Angolia and Adolf Schlicht


Comprehensive study of Luftwaffe uniforms done in the same tradition as the Army book.  A must have for Luftwaffe collectors.

The Collectors Guide to Cloth Headgear of the Allegemeine and Waffen SS, by Michael Beaver and Bill Shea


An excellent accompaniment to the series on SS uniforms by Beaver, explores SS headgear in depth using photos of original examples.

Uniforms and Traditions of the Kriegsmarine, Volumes I, II and III by John Angolia and Adolf Schlicht


The last in the Angolia series of the armed branches of the Wehrmacht (excepting the SS) explores all facets of the German Navy uniforms and associated regalia.

Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, by Stan Cook and R. James Bender


Excellent all around reference book on Waffen SS uniforms and insignia, which is structured around the format Angolia used in the Uniforms and Traditions series.  While this book does focus on the LAH, it is a great, basic reference book on the SS.


Uniforms and Insignia of the Luftwaffe, (2 volumes) by Brian Davis


Similar to the Angolia Luftwaffe series, with a bit of a different approach.  More line drawings are used in this book, but there are bits of different information not found in the Angolia series, so it is worth the investment.


The Collectors Guide to Cloth Third Reich Military Headgear, by Gary Wilkins


Hands down the best book to date on German headgear, Wilkins thorough research provides collectors with in depth analysis of construction and manufacturing details, along with a large list detailing many of the original manufacturers.  Must have for headgear enthusiasts.


Available soon through this website: “Exotische”, a new book on High Ranking and Exotic Headgear. 

Contact for details.





II. Historical Reference

Books on the history of the war are other ‘must have’ items for any reference library, as they provide us with evidence of what actually happened during the war, how it was structured and how it was fought.  Learning about the various events of the war, including the time frame things happened, as well as what units fought where is vital.  You’ll learn, for example, that hoofed animals were the primary mode of transportation of German military forces right up until the end of the war.  This will explain why you’ll find a veterinary specialty patch on a transport piped uniform, for example.  Transport personnel were not all truck drivers as some might think, as wheeled vehicles were a rarity…yet without reading the actual war history, many collectors would not understand or know this.  The image we have via motion pictures and popular culture of the mighty German Wehrmacht travelling in Panzers on a blitzkrieg is not a correct one when it comes to the common soldier and moving entire armies.  Detail like this, are why history books are an important element in building your knowledge base as a collector, and why they belong in your reference library.



Military History-


Handbook on German Military Forces, by the U.S. War Department


This book was released by the war department towards the end of WWII and details all US intelligence obtained on the structure and composition of the Wehrmacht.  I cannot recommend this book strongly enough, as it has organizational details not to be found in many contemporary books.

The Armed Forces of World War Two, by Andrew Mollo


An excellent overview of all the various military forces from all of the countries involved in fighting WWII.  Included are uniform and rank descriptions for all the various nations, by year and theater of war.

The Order of the Death’s Head, by Heinz Hohne


Basically, this book is the very thorough and detailed story of the development and history of the SS.  It is vital to understanding exactly what the SS was, and the fractions that existed within the organization.

The Last Battle, by Cornelius Ryan


This is one of the classic war books on WWII and is basically the story of the battle for Berlin as seen by the occupants of the city and the combatants.  It’s a horrifying account of what happens when a city is invaded by a revenge laden enemy, and the resulting collapse of order and government.




Individual Biographies-

Biographies by former soldiers are great reading as they not only give us the human prospective, direct from the front, but provide us as collectors with an insight into the daily lives and how they used and lived with the artifacts that we now collect.  The hell some of these men went through is just incredible, but we discover that they also had many other non-military adventures and add a very nice, personal human touch to war and militaria.



Panzer Commander, by Hans von Luck


The story of Oberst Hans von Luck, commander of Rommel’s 7th and 21st panzer divisions, takes the reader through Luck’s days from the Afrika Korps to the Normandy front, and then captivity.

Iron Coffins, by Herbert Werner


Terrifying account of life on a U-Boat.  If you’ve seen Das Boot and liked it, you’ll love this book.

Soldat, by Siegfriend Knappe


Fascinating account of a German officer’s war years from his initial officer training right up to the final days in Berlin as a General Staff officer.  Great detail about the life of an officer in WWII Germany.

With Rommel In The Desert, by H.W. Schmidt


Interesting account of daily life in the Afrika Korps by one of Rommel’s aides.  Very gritty account that makes you feel like you are right there.

Trail of the Fox, by David Irving


David Irving wrote several biographies of Third Reich personalities, all of which are very riveting and based on first hand interviews and research.  This book is no exception and gives great insight into Rommel’s personality in a no hold barred sense.

 Goring, by David Irving


Hermann Goring was one of the most interesting and charismatic figures of the Third Reich, and this book does not disappoint in exploring his rather unique traits and personality.  This is the best book on Goring that I’ve ever read.

The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, by David Irving


Well done biographical sketch of Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch, done with Milch’s cooperation while he was still alive.  Milch was the master administrator of the Luftwaffe, and responsible for much of the organization and early success of the Luftwaffe.

Inside the Third Reich, by Albert Speer


One of my favorite accounts of life inside the inner circle of Hitler and his entourage.  Speer was also one of the more intriguing and accessible characters in the upper echelons of Nazi Germany, and his contemplative style of writing gives you great insight into his struggles within the party.



III. Niche & Intensive Study Reference

In the last 10 years we have reached an era in collecting that is unparalleled, and that is in the emergence of very detailed, niche reference books that focus entirely on a single collectible area.  This is particularly true in the area of medals and awards, an area that has suffered greatly from copies and fraudulent pieces since the days of the war.


The Knights Cross of The Iron Cross, by Dietrich Maerz


With this book, Dietrich Maerz has established a standard of scientific research and logical conclusion that the hobby has long needed.  A stellar effort that is a must have for anyone even considering the purchase of a Knights Cross.

The German Cross, by Dietrich Maerz


Produced in the same manner and style of his first book, “The Knights Cross of the Iron Cross”, Maerz once again uses his unique approach to explore every known and accepted original German Cross as well as variations.

Cloth Insignia of the SS, by John Angolia


The bible on SS insignia….enough said!

German Police, (currently at 2 volumes) by John Angolia and Hugh Page Taylor


A very intense, well researched effort on the German Police that is reflective of earlier Angolia efforts.

Mythos Marschallstab, by Andre Stirenberg and Andre Husken


This is THE book to have if your interest is in German Field Marshal batons.  It covers every baton issued from 1852 though 1945 with detailed photographs of many of the examples.

Prussian Blue, by Steven Previtera


The only comprehensive book on the Pour le Merite (the Blue Max) in which the history of the award and the details of the individual pieces is explored in great depth.  Previtera set the standard for reference books in layout and design in his debut of “The Iron Times”, and continues the level of quality with this book.

Uniforms of the NSDAP, by Jeff Clark


Comprehensive photographic overview of political uniforms of the Third Reich showing original examples of all uniforms and insignia used by the NSDAP.

Heinrich Himmler’s Camelot, by Stephen Cook and Stuart Russell


A very detailed study of Wewelsburg Castle by Stephen Cook, who is one of the most thorough contemporary researchers on SS history.

German Cross in Silver Holders of the SS and Police, by Mark C. Yerger


Full biographical data and unpublished photos dealing with all of the SS and Police recipients of the German Cross in Silver, one of the rarest of Germany’s highest awards.

German Cross in Gold Holders of the SS and Police, by Mark C. Yerger


This four volume set (soon to be five) is an intensive biographical study of all SS and Police recipients of the German Cross in Gold, one of Germany’s highest awards.



IV. Period Photography Reference

One of the most important pieces of evidence as to what was worn or done at the time is the period photograph.  These are documents as to what actually existed during the war…there is no more speculation, when we have period photographs that show a piece existed.  At the moment there are quite a few books coming out of Germany that feature color photos and nice, clear studio portraits of many of the high ranking German officers.  These photos show variants never before seen, and also show us just how much personalization these high ranking officers took upon themselves and their uniforms.  The same can be said, to an even greater extent, with the front line soldiers, as they often strayed far from regulation with the inability to obtain supplies at the far stretched front lines. While I will recommend a few books below (which will focus primarily on high ranks), really any book will suffice for study of period photography.  The goal is to always be studying the photos, as there are compelling photos in nearly every book.



Luftwaffe Generals, Knights Cross Holders, by Jeremy Dixon


Great biographies of individual Luftwaffe Generals along with many excellent period photographs showing variations and anomalies in both uniforms and insignia of these high ranking officers.

Die deutschen Generalfeldmarschall und Grossadmirale, by Peter Stockert


Period color photos, both studio portraits and field images show all of the high ranking officers’ uniforms and great detail.

Wolfschanze 1940 - 1945, by Arndt


Series of color photographs taken at Hitler’s field HQ, the “Wolfschanze”, showing great details of all the senior ranking officers while visiting Hitler.  Provides excellent study for uniform and insignia variations.

Hitler’s Berghof 1928 - 1945, by Arndt


Another excellent Arndt book of period color photos all taken at Hitler’s mountain retreat, the Berghof.

Waffen SS Commanders, by Mark C. Yerger


This is a two in depth examination of the senior commanders of the Waffen SS divisional fighting units.  Each commander is profiled with numerous frontline and candid photos, as well as a comprehensive biographical sketch on each officer.  Great source of frontline SS photos!

Allgemeine SS, by Mark C. Yerger


The Allgemeine SS is covered in great detail, explaining the structure of the organization as well as profiling many of the SS leaders.  Another excellent source of rare photographs of SS leaders, but also just a great all around reference on the Allgemeine SS.





Other Collectors:

What still remains the best way to learn about militaria is to physically examine original pieces by spending time with seasoned collectors who have been around for a long time and seen the changes and evolution of the hobby.  They are better versed in the many variations of original items and have also seen the fakes evolve over the decades.  If you can find a specialist (for instance, a collector who focuses on belt buckles) it is even better as they most often know more than generalist collectors or dealers.  The problem is, and has been, how to find and engage these people and earn an invitation to examine their collection and learn.  Many of them are not regular participants on the internet, so you often have to search them out through other means. 


So what is the best way to meet other collectors and gain an entrée into viewing their collections and sharing knowledge?  In my opinion the best way is by attending militaria shows, but you may also find that there are groups of collectors in your area that regularly meet.  Also use your network of other collectors and dealers to ask them who is in your area.  Be aware that not all serious collectors are open to blind solicitation, as they possess very valuable collections and are often suspicious of bringing individuals that they don’t know into their homes.  You may need an introduction, via another collector, to gain access.  There are also quite a few dealers who will welcome new collectors to come in and view their merchandise, as well as their personal collections.  And of course there are always the internet forums, which are great places to meet fellow collectors and forge new friendships…the only drawback being that they may not be anywhere near where you live.



Militaria Shows:

Attending militaria shows should be mandatory if you collect.  It is by far the best way to see large volumes of artifacts in person and be able to handle and examine them, as well as meet fellow collectors and exchange information.  There is no way to ever assemble the experience and knowledge necessary by strictly being an internet collector and sitting in front of a computer and looking at pictures.  Yes, you can learn that way, but participating in physical examinations is a must and there is no better place than at a show.  There are literally thousands of pieces of militaria at a show, depending on the size of the show of course.  The biggest one, the Show of Shows has over 1700 eight foot long tables of merchandise available for sale.  You can quite literally walk the show every day for four days and never see everything!  Present at these shows will be everything from Hermann Goring’s Grand Cross jewel encrusted cassette, to that pair of wool socks you were looking for to complete a uniform.  It is just a great opportunity to examine all of these items close-up and even handle some of them (just make sure you ask first!).  There are also many of the replica dealers there, which also gives you the chance to check out the latest reproductions and see how they stack up against originals.


One of the other benefits is that it allows you to personally meet some of the dealers in the business, and form your own opinions of whom you would and would not like to do business with.  And, the big secret is; many of them do not have a web presence.  In fact, one of the things online collectors don’t realize is that the majority of militaria dealers do not have websites or online sales, so a show is a good place to pick up items you would otherwise not find solely by surfing websites.  What you see on the internet is only a tiny fraction of what is out there and available.  You are not going to find some of these things if you don’t go to the shows. The show sizes range from smaller, regional shows of 100 – 300 eight foot tables of merchandise, to the super shows, like the aforementioned Show of Shows in Louisville, Kentucky, which has 1700 tables of merchandise and thousands of dealers and visitors from all over the world.  The larger shows are also a great place to pick up militaria at good prices, as many of the smaller dealers have priced items much lower than what you will find on the internet, and are more willing to bargain.  In the U.S. there is also the Max Show, which is around 1000 tables and routinely has a lot of exotic pieces that you won’t see elsewhere.


Links to Militaria Shows;




(Attn: Show promoters!  If you have a link to your militaria show, please contact me and I will add it to this list)




Internet Forums:


Thanks to the internet, one of the newer developments is the evolution of the militaria forums, which offer collectors an opportunity to access and share a world of information that was never before available.  The best of those forums seem to be the History Forums, which concentrate on studying individual battles, units, regiments, development of weapons and vehicles, as well as the study of the individual soldiers and personalities, amongst other related topics. Those that participate in these historical forums seem to relish sharing information and are extremely proficient at research.  Reading these forums is a great online starting point, as it will expand your knowledge of the historical aspect of the war.  Be forewarned, however, that some of the sections of these history sites explore the minutia of subjects that may have no interest to you personally, as these people really drill down deep into their subject matter.  If you are looking for great detail, you will find it here.  It can be quite fascinating or quite boring, depending on your interest and perspective in their subject.  However, these sites are so massive and the subject matter so diverse, that there is something of interest for any visitor and you can literally spend hours of time upon an initial visit.  It is hard to come away without learning something.  Studying the history is vital to understanding the artifacts, something you will understand over time if you collect long enough.  Oddly enough, the majority of the history buffs are not collectors, and sometimes look down at collectors for their penchant to focus too much on the collectibles and not enough on the history.


In contrast, are the Collector Forums, which specialize in the minute examination and understanding of military collectible artifacts.  These forums can be a bit like the Wild West at times, where the rules are fluid and the quest for truth can be lost in the battle for power and ego of the individual participants, each trying to “out expert” each other.  It’s the inevitable testosterone overflow of a male dominated hobby, with its occasional ugly side on display for all to see, and the resulting gossip and innuendo threatening to become more popular than the quest for knowledge. Complicating matters is the fact that most artifacts, unlike written history, have no provenance or trail of ownership and are subject to opinion or hand me down knowledge to validate them.  It is reminiscent of political discussion, where opinion is debated, tempers flare and common sense and reasoning often get lost in the battle to “be right”. If you can wade through all of that, you can find some excellent nuggets of information on these forums, and increasingly they have become a “go to” spot for collectors to quickly identify a piece by using the search function and then reading through relevant threads.  It is also a good place to interact with other collectors, thus expanding your own network and knowledge base.  Realize, however, that forum participation reflects a minority of those in the hobby….part of this relates to the fact that so many collectors are older and do not fully embrace the internet, while others just choose not to participate.  As a result, many long time, advanced collectors are absent from the discussions and some questions never get answered.


(Note; most militaria forums rely on paid advertising for promotion, so no links to recommended sites will be provided)




Internet Reference Sites:

At present time, this is an area of collecting that is just getting started and there are more and more reference sites starting to pop up out there, though many of them are still in their developmental stages.  Some may progress into excellent sources of research, while others have appeared to flounder, likely due to the tremendous amount of time required to develop and maintain such sites.  While surfing the reference sites these days the range between the good and bad is quite wide, as many are still devoid of substance when it comes to content.  Others have a lot of content yet are still sorting it out to a meaningful structure.  There is also the problem of giving away all this information for free, when collector reference books are such a popular item these days.  With good reference books now selling for $100 or more, there is little incentive for anyone to spend months of their personal time to develop a free online reference book with no financial return, so most do it solely for the love of the hobby.  The other issue with internet reference right now is finding the sites.  Since few, if any, are commercial sites, they don’t easily turn up in the search engines unless they’ve been out there for a long time.  One way to find them is to look through the military history forums, as often times there are sections of the forum that will direct visitors to new websites.  Currently there are a few links to reference sites posted on my links page, but as time progresses and I am made aware of other quality sites they will be listed on this page for easy reference.