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With the passage of the Stolen Valor Act on December 21, 2006, it became illegal to buy or sell any US military decoration or medal. Previously, only the Congressional Medal of Honor was afforded such protection.

The act found its namesake in the book Stolen Valor by B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley, in which the authors exposed fraudsters who posed as military heroes after purchasing and wearing unearned military decorations. However, while there is little argument about the need for regulation, militaria enthusiasts believe the law has been rushed through and as a consequence is vague and ill-conceived.

Not wanting to risk prison or a fine, forthcoming auctions have been cancelled and leading dealers and collectors have ceased trading medals and decorations, at least until the reading of the law becomes clearer.

In a statement on the group’s website, Nick McDowell, a former president of The Orders and Medals Society of America, said the government needs a policy to “vigorously prosecute imposters, protect personal property that has been lawfully obtained, and that will clarify the roles and responsibilities of who can buy and sell what items”.