Treasure: WWII memorabilia perennially popular

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

A recent 668-lot Milestone’s Auction in suburban Cleveland saw high prices set for military artifacts, including the $12,000 sale of a World War II uniform that once belonged to U.S. Army Air Force P-39 pilot Joseph Scherer of Cleveland.

Included were his painted A-2 jacket, white silk scarf with embroidered 97th Fighter Squadron patch, mission logbook, dress uniform jacket and two additional jackets, shirts, officer’s cap and other military memorabilia. It was “a visual time capsule of a distinguished pilot’s career,” according to Antique Trader, which wrote about the sale.

Military items have long been a popular area of collecting, a fact that prompted Rosalie Best to write to the column recently. “I’ve had my father’s dress Army jacket since the passing of my mother in 1995,” she wrote in an email. “A couple years ago, I took it out and looked at it. It is in pristine condition from what I can tell. I do not know what the patches or other decorations mean that are on it. That day, I really inspected that jacket and upon putting my hand into one of the inside lapel pockets, I found the most charming menu.”

The menu dates to Christmas dinner on Dec. 20, 1945, and reads in part “The Captain of the Tristram Dalton and his chef take the opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas.” The menu consisted of turkey noodle soup, roast turkey with sage dressing, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green peas, mince pie with rum, and more. The back cover reads “This dinner was originally planned for Christmas Day. However, as we are scheduled to arrive in the United States before that time, the steward has prepared an early Christmas dinner for us. We hope that you will enjoy it as much as your dinner at home.”

She brought the jacket, menu and some military papers to a recent appraisal session at DuMouchelles, where expert Jerry Anderson took a look. “My father was all over the Europe and Pacific,” she told him.

Unfortunately, her military memorabilia isn’t in the same category as the items that brought the high prices in January in Cleveland. Anderson identified the jacket as an Eisenhower U.S. Army jacket in a winter wool weight, and told her that the patches indicate her father was a staff sergeant in the Army Corps of Engineers. Another patch indicates that he was honorably discharged, he said, while stripes indicate time spent oversees.

While there is an avid group of World War II collectors, Anderson said that her jacket wouldn’t bring any large amounts of money, maybe $125. “If you had Eisenhower’s real jacket, that would be different,” he joked.

He took a look at the menu and papers she brought as well, adding that he’d value the entire lot at $150-$250 if she were to sell. She said that she’ll probably keep the lot in the family and pass it down. Anderson recommended making a copy of the original papers and perhaps putting the rest in a shadow box with UV protection as a family heirloom.

He added that while World War II collectibles are perennially popular, there are limitations on what you are allowed to sell. “You can’t sell Medals of Honor and other things. ... You have to be careful.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : World War II jacket and papers

Owned by : Rosalie Best

Appraised by: Jerry Anderson, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $150-$250