The Selling of Military Awards and Medals

The selling of military awards and medals.

Should the selling of military awards and medals be legal? Is it currently legal? These are great questions with a multitude of answers and opinions.

I get the opportunity to write this article from a unique perspective. First off, I am a veteran. Secondly, I am a picker, someone who buys and sells antiques online and offline. I buy and sell many different types of collectible things to include vintage clothing, jewelry, military items, books, postcards, and more. I hope to provide a fresh perspective to this interesting topic.

Soldiers LOVE Their Medals

Soldiers take pride in the awards and medals they earned and received. They are prized possessions for most soldiers. I personally have never met ANY current or former soldier who would depart with their military awards. There might be a few out there who would; I’ve just never met any of these folks.

Talk to any elderly veteran in their 80’s or 90’s, and they still cherish EVERY military award they’ve received, no matter how small.


Where things get complicated is when people die. Unfortunately, not all family members are passionate about keeping family keepsakes. What might have been vitally important to Uncle Joe might be absolutely meaningless to the grandchildren who inherit his estate when he dies.

If he’s lucky, his grandchildren are sentimental and will keep his awards and display them, but it’s not normally the case. In many cases, when someone inherits an estate they actually THROW OUT many of these things, sell them at a yard sale, or donate them to a Goodwill or charity. Sad, but true.

Selling of Military Awards and Medals

The Selling of Military Awards and Medals: Legality

After doing some research online, this is what I found concerning the legality of selling military awards.

It is illegal to buy, sell, barter, or manufacture any decorations or medals authorized by Congress for the United States armed forces.
In General.— Whoever knowingly purchases, attempts to purchase, solicits for purchase, mails, ships, imports, exports, produces blank certificates of receipt for, manufactures, sells, attempts to sell, advertises for sale, trades, barters, or exchanges for anything of value any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, or the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof, except when authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both. ~ Title 18 U.S. Code § 704 (Public Law 113-296).
To me, this law is a little bit confusing, because if you visit eBay, any auction, military surplus store, thrift store, or yard sale, you will normally find some type of military awards for sale.

Selling Military Medals on eBay

When I visited eBay just now, and typed in military medals, I came up with 10,772 military medals listed for sale. When I went to completed listings, I noticed that 4,060 military medals have been sold during the past 90-days. This information is as of June 14, 2019 at 3:30 pm EST.

Out of curiosity, I Googled eBay’s policies on selling military items, and this is what I found.

The medals you can’t sell on eBay are specifically spelled out in the Government IDs and Licenses Policy:

Here’s eBay’s statement in that policy on military medals:

Not Allowed:

Government-issued medals and certificates for medals, including the Air Force Cross, Congressional Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Purple Heart, or Silver Star. This also applies to a medal’s associated buttons, ribbons, or rosettes.

Source: eBay

From the sounds of it, you can sell any other military medal, as long as it is not listed above as a prohibited item.

My Two Cents

I personally believe someone should have the right to sell military awards and medals online, especially if they earned them or if the recipient of that award is deceased, or if the medal is no longer wanted. If I received a medal from the government for something I did, I would consider the medal MY PROPERTY.

I also don’t see a problem with letting COLLECTORS purchase these military medals. As long as the person is not WEARING the medals, and claiming they earned them, I think it should be allowed.

After all, why not let the military medal or award go to a good home, where it is wanted and be can preserved and enjoyed? I think that’s a lot better option than throwing the medal away like a piece of trash. The only exception, in my opinion, should be if the items were stolen.

More than 3,450 men have been awarded the Medal of Honor

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, these are my thoughts, plus what I could find online about selling military awards and medals. What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with me? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

Suggested Reading
  1. The Meritorious Service Medal
  2. The Army Achievement Medal
  3. The Defense Distinguished Service Medal
  4. My KFOR 8 Deployment
  5. The 64th Forward Support Battalion

If you’d like to learn more about military medals, I recommend you check out this book on Amazon.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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18 thoughts on “The Selling of Military Awards and Medals”

  1. What if the medals are unawarded?
    Im in australia and i have an unawarded silver star in a congressional case with a ribbon and button also.
    Cant remember how i got it to begin with but its been sitting in my safe ever since.
    Is it still illegal to sell an unawarded medal from that list?

  2. My father in law was a 20 year old drafted in WWII. He chose to into battle with a medic’s kit trying to save lives instead of taking them. Against the pleas of his platoon he went into Nazi fire and pulled a wounded soldier to safety. He caught a bullet that laid open his left arm and left him with a permanent disability, although you would never notice it. He was awarded a Silver Star. Charlie’s gone, my wife’s gone, and there are no grandchildren. I am pushing 80. If I suddenly drop dead the medal would probably go in a landfill. Being on fixed income for 20 years and having my wife’s illness destroy our savings funds are short. Charlie would be happy if I could raise a little money by selling the medal.
    I will try to find a museum, maybe in the Chicago neighborhood where he was raised. Or maybe American Legion.

    1. Have you considered framing them in a nice display and keeping them? I bet they would look great. If you are set on selling them, try to find a local antique dealer specializing in military items or consider selling them online.

  3. Good story Chuck, good subject. Years ago I served in Afghanistan and worked my ass off, went above and beyond what was asked of me. Rightfully so I was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. I cherished it …. for a few days. I found out others got BSMs for doing less work and being buddy-buddy with the commander, to the point where BSMs were handed out like popcorn. It was a disgrace; I stepped up when others didn’t and got the same honor as them. I never want to be associated with that pathetic unit and lame leaders. Id gladly sell this award, use the money for something worthwhile.

  4. My father was a retired Air Force Colonel he passed away years ago. I inherited a dozen metals from Destinguish Flying Crosses and Silver Stars. They are in a box.i also have a cloth flying helmet complete with headset and goggles along with Geneva Convention documents. What should you do with this stuff?

    1. One option would be to keep it and display it proudly in your home. That sounds like an awesome legacy from your father. There are fairly easily available shadowboxes you can find online or in stores like Hobby Lobby that would allow you to set up a nice little display honoring him.
      You could also contact an appropriate museum and see if they would be interested in it. The Commemorative Air Force pops to mind, since your dad was in the Air Force. If there’s a Wing near you they may have a small museum at their hangar and be interested in caring for your fathers items. I’d strongly encourage you to get in touch with a museum rather than just shipping your items to one. Many museums have a bunch of “stuff” that just shows up in the mail or outside their door, and they often don’t have room to take it on.
      Another option would be to sell or give the items to a collector. If you’d like someone to tell you exactly what you have and how much it may be worth, there are plenty of knowledgeable folks at (an online forum for collectors) that would be happy to help out. I’m sure a number of them would also be interested in your father’s items if you’re looking to pass them along.
      I’m also happy to help out in any way I can, perhaps you can get in touch through the moderator of the site.
      Cheers to you for looking for a good way to pass on your father’s items rather than just throwing them away like so many do!

  5. Not knowing about any prohibitions about medals, I bought a WWI victory medal at a yard sale. I don’t know anything about the medal’s pedigree, but clearly the recipient is deceased as the war ended over 100 years ago. What should I do with it? Maybe donate it to a museum?

    1. Those medals are fairly common, so most museums probably already have one. If you like it, make a little display for it or something of that nature and display it in your house. You could also check with the local VFW or American Legion to see if they might want it for a display.
      It’s perfectly legal (and ethical) to own, so long as you’re treating it correctly and honoring the men who served.

  6. I am a volunteer at at Florida non-profit thrift store and have been listing products on Ebay for them. Recently a donation box contained several items from a decorated Career Army veteran. Along with medals there are several certificates, a Jump log that spans from 1951 to 1973, hats (including an aged Green Beret) and several other items. A copy of his 2015 obituary was also in the box. It appears that he left no family.

    If you contact me I’ll send a link to obituary that gives details of his career. Would you send a link to your resale site. I’d be interested in how to list without being irreverent.

  7. I inherited a purple heart from a person I cared for is there a place to legally sell with paperwork from purple heart recever just wondering she had no family to pass along

    1. Patricia E Freukes

      You should not attempt to sell a Purple Heart. It lessens the honor of the person you love or valued in your life
      I would like to suggest you draft a letter of the life as you know of the person who earned his Purple Heart, include his picture if you have one & please donate it all to the Soldier’s Memorial in your City or the National Soldier’s Memorial. They will catalog this gift, take pictures for their website for ALL to view and read your letter of the wonderful man behind this Purple Heart & it will be protected & kept safe forever generations 💖

      1. Johndel Callora

        I agree with Patricia, you would give them a great honor if you will donate it to the Soldier’s Memorial in your City or the National Soldier’s Memorial. It would help the people remember the good things he/she did to earn the purple heart.

    1. I am almost certain that if you provide a copy of your great grandfather’s Silver Star certificate to them, they would be honored to sell you one for your shadow box. I used them to purchase a few medals awarded to my grandfather for his service in WW2 with the United States Marine Corps in multiple campaigns in the Asian Pacific… including Iwo Jima.

      Best of luck my friend.

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