by David Burrows
Military collectors are always on a search for new military finds and often find them in the most unlikely places. My main collecting interest is confined to military medals with an emphasis on WWI town, city, and county medals, but usually, any medal has an appeal if it is one not in my collection.
Several years ago I was attending a general antique show held in Cheat Lake,West Virginia. The previous year, I found a dealer with a nice early Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, so I immediately approached her asking if she had any new items. Most items were ordinary, but a bystander heard me making the inquiry.
He approached me and told me he had something in his truck he was trying to sell. I told him I would be at the show for the next hour and would be more than willing to look at his item. Most dealers at the show had high end general antiques, so I suspect he was glad to hear of my military interest in order to sell his item. Shortly thereafter, he returned holding a brown case with a damaged top. It made me wonder what was lurking inside.
Upon opening the case, I saw a WWI Victory Medal with four battle bars: Champagne Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Defensive Sector. It was in good condition, so I felt this may be a buying situation.
What I didn’t immediately realize, though, underneath the WWI Victory Medal there was a WWI Army Distinguished Service Cross with a wrap brooch! On close examination, I realized it was number 373—among the first thousand ever issued.
At this point, the adrenaline began to flow. After some negotiations, we came to a price we both could live with. I was super-excited, and the seller walked away with more cash than he probably expected.
Being one of the first 1,000 medals awarded, research was relatively easy. Soon, I knew the following:
*Number 373 was awarded to Private Nick Costianes (246618) 168th Inf. Co. M, 42 Inf. Div. Northeast of Chateau-Thierry, France July 28, 1918.G.O. No. 99 W.D.
*1918 Residence was Greenville, PA.
*Born in Greece
His citation read:
“He distinguished himself northeast of Chateau-Thierry, France on July 28, 1918, when with four other men, he raided an enemy machine gun nest held by 12 Germans. As a result of daring and presence of mind, one of the enemy was killed, the other 11 captured, and their four machine guns turned upon the retreating foe.”
The medal is now one of my favorites for its attribution and rarity. It shows, you never know where a find will show up. As a collector, you have to be actively looking—whatever the occasion!