To etch or not to etch, that is the question

I have three or four “unremarkable” live rounds; 9 mm; 5.56; .50 ball rounds….with typical common US Mil/LE headstamps.

These in question have significant history and providence to them (their story; where they originated; what “event” they were “at”; who carried and/or provided them).

If they fell into pile of like mixed rounds…they are “gone forever”…just another 9 or 5.56…and it would be a very sad day

My question is should I permanently mark them; i, e; engrave/etch them?

We all know “Sharpie” can wear/erase off; stickers will eventually dry out and the fact is their “story” adds the only value to them as they otherwise have no distinguishable collector value.

Looking for ideas and opinions (not April fools)

The question may be like about taste or colors but i for myself are no friend of scuh alterings.
How about a small nice tag with a string attached to the extractor groove?
Or if so a sticker with a neutral glue that will not oxidize or alter the case material? (maybe removable ones)

What about clear plastic tubes with screw on or push on caps? I have access to 50ml centrifuge tubes, which is what I use to store my thread taps in. You can also buy lengths of clear plastic tube that you can cut to length and buy push on end caps. Saves from damaging the round and the sticker can be placed on the outside of the tube.


I use both. I have use extensive tubes. I could use thin brass wire tailed ID tags.

For these cartridge the value is in the historical connection, not the cartridge as being in pristine condition for a representative example.
A neatly done etching/engraving of the bare minimum of information to positively ID it and the event/person certainly seems appropriate.

As I recall some time ago someone posted a common inert 37mm Hotchkiss round which had been inscribed with a name and a date. The name and date were that of a shipwreck survivor who was involved in truly heroic efforts to get help for his stranded shipmates. Do the markings on this ruin a $50 cartridge or elevate it to another level entirely. I vote for permanently attaching the history by etching/engraving, accompanied by suitable paperwork. I would even consider having it embedded in a clear block of lucite or similar.

Anyone who does not like the history is free to go get an “undamaged” round which is free of any history.


Trophy shops have been adding “value” to otherwise mediocre pieces of brass for a very long time.

A walnut board with a blank piece of brass on it is . . . well, a walnut board with a piece of brass on it.

A walnut board with a piece of brass on it that says “Presented to John C. Garand with grateful appreciation” is worth considerable more.

Just think of it this way - and you don’t even need a walnut board.

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If the objects have no inherent value, other than the associations they have, once those associations are lost, the items is valueless … the objects are incidental, the associations all.

Etch away.

(Or you could make up a framed cartridge board with the details of the items engraved on escutcheon labels under each … less radical and a pleasing decoration)


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Here is an example with a period inscription, generously shared with from “.30 Army” who describes it as “An otherwise common .30-40 Krag which I cherish mightily…”



Yup. I’m “feeling” you…good chat. One day…if over a beer…I’ll share a story or two…you might then concurr…trophy shop might be way to go 😉

ClearTecPackaging sell these tubes and caps. Bought many from them. Tom

I use Durphy Packaging (since mid 1980’s)

cases of 1000
(many folks @ SLICS have been recipients)

5/8 x 4 (round and square (30-06)(square are nice…display nicely standing or on side)
3/4 x 6 (round .50 and can be cut to length)
1 x 6 (round 12 ga. etc cut to length)

PS…will have a local trophy shop take a stab at an engraving a trial round or two)

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In previous years, “Trench Art” was common, although less common now, why not create some?

I find it humorous that average, common pieces can be given so much protection from collectors. Of course, that is what we wish someone had said 150 yrs ago to some pieces. But personally, I would etch away.

Many folks think that its okay to cut cartridges in half as a teaching tool. So, etching doesn’t seem so drastic ;)


Use a tiny permanent inkmarker to write in small letters, and put it in a small plastic tube,no damage at all and still cleaur.

Pepper, thanks for the link!
I have been using some old Kleen Bore and Hoppes bore brush tubes to hold some of my ‘cannot bear to loose’ items, and have run out.
Much appreciated!

I use labels made with a Dymo labelmaker. They have many models. Most of them use 1/2" tape. My model D1 can use 1/4", 3/8", 1/2" and 3/4". That way I can use a size appropriate to the size of the cartridge. It will also print up to five lines (from top of label to bottom) on each label. I see ones on auction sites with the labels along the axis of the cartridge. Myself, I use them around the base of the cartridge. If they aren’t long enough to go all the way around, I use 1/2" clear tape to finish wrapping around. I’ve found they don’t stay on for a long time. If my label is longer than the cartridge’s circumference, I start the label on the back side and then stick the ends of the label together and then finish sticking the label together all the way down to the cartridge. This ends up with as much information as you want on a label with a tab of any length sticking out to the side. Works great! I use white plastic tape but the also have clear, white paper and several colors. It’s a wonderful system. It’s not fast, but I works very well. To see an example, go to Gunbroker and look up "4 Gauge"s offerings and you’ll see that he uses clear plastic ones.

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I have Dymo at work too, and it gives great results but… is the label paper acidic? is it going to destroy metal long term?

To me the “Metallic” Dymo labels seem not only stronger but also less prone to miscoloring the thing it’s put onto. I prefer the “Metallic” ones over plastic over paper. The paper ones tear very fast and the glue seems to leave ugly yellow/green discoloration.

Just my $0,02


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Glue (acid or the stuff in it) on a label/ sticker will permanently destroy the patina on the case where the label is or was.
Easiest is a plastic tube, they are available in different sizes


For my 0,01 €

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OK, who is Frank Sholes?

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I use the plastic tape.