On another thread I discussed the rebuilding of a 37mm Hotchkiss cartridge. Toward the end, John Moss raised a very important point, one that needs to be discussed. Here’s John’s comment and my response.
I hope that these beautiful restorations will somehow be marked as such. When that gorgeous cartridge develops a patina over the years, it will become “real” otherwise. We are all just temporary caretakers for our collections, and someday they will pass out of our hands, at which time the knowledge of rounds being restorations will likely not pass with them. That is the on-going problem with heavy restoration and putting bullets in cases that they were not in originally.
Your concerns have certainly crossed my mind and I debate with myself about the ethics of restoring things such as artillery shells. A discussion of these things certainly belongs as a thread of its own because, being tacked on page 3, it’s not likely to get much notice.
I don’t think there is an easy answer. I believe that the large majority of artillery cartridges, cases, and projectiles have been restored, rebuilt, or renovated to some extent. Its a part of their very nature because its seldom that a collector can acquire an untouched specimen, especially as the calibers get larger. But without some restoration they are not much more than pieces of metal and it’s my own personal opinion that they deserve better.
A collector would not hesitate to reconstruct a 200 year old building, restore an 80 year old airplane, or rebuild a 50 year old automobile. But it seems that some things, such as firearms and cartridges, should not be touched, not even to stop rust or decay.
I doubt if anyone at an antique car show thinks that those 1955 Chevys are original or that the ENOLA GAY sits in the Smithsonian looking exactly as it did the day it was scrapped. I think that most knowing artillery collectors are aware of the same thing when they see that pristine 3"/23 WW I Shrapnel shell.
Don’t get me wrong. Restoration or rebuilding with larceny in mind is unethical and should not be tolerated by any of us. How to detect such shenanigans once the object changes hands is the question. I certainly do not want to take that 37mm Hotchkiss and engrave a warning label into the case or projectile. Any written warning can be easily discarded and provenance can work both ways.
So, what to do?? I certainly don’t have the answer. Maybe someone else does??