Close Combat Clasp, in Gold, by A.G.M.u.K.
Estimated market value:
The Close Combat Clasp was instituted by Adolf Hitler on November 25th, 1942 as a new award for frontline troops who participated in hand-to-hand combat. The decoration was intended for infantry units, but other units were also eligible to receive the award.
The decoration was conferred in three grades: bronze (Grade I), silver (Grade II), and gold (Grade III). The bronze grade was awarded for 15 days of close combat, silver for 30 days, and gold for 50 days. If an individual was severely wounded in combat, the number of days could be reduced to 10, 20, and 40. In addition, the clasps could be posthumously awarded to the recipient’s next of kin.
Days in combat were counted from December 1st, 1942, but eventually retrospective credit was given for service in Russia and Northern Africa. 5 combat day were credited for 8 months of service, 10 combat days for 12 months of service, and 15 combat days for 15 months of service.
Hitler considered the Clasp to be the highest infantry decoration and reserved the right to award the Gold grade himself (even though several ended up being awarded by Himmler and Heinz Guderian, respectively). The gilt awards were first awarded on August 27th, 1944. Eventually, it was decided that every soldier who received the Silver grade would also be reviewed for the awarding of the Iron Cross 1st Class, and every soldier receiving the Gold grade would also be awarded the German Cross in Gold.
The clasp was designed by Wilhelm Ernst Peekhaus from Berlin. The vast majority were made of zinc, but other materials can be found on rare occasions. Most companies maker marked their clasps, and some also credited Peekhaus for his design work. Apart from different hardware setups on the reverse, clasps can also be different in the way they received their colour finishes, ranging from high quality plating over lacquering to a low quality wash.
The exact numbers of Close Combat Clasps awarded are unknown. However, for the rarely awarded Gold Grade clasp the available records have confirmed 633 awardings.
The maker known as A.G.M.u.K. is the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Metall und Kunststoff (consortium for metal and synthetics), a union of different unknown companies from the city of Gablonz. Therefore, the Close Combat Clasps produced by these makers are based on several similarly designed yet different dies, and feature different hardware setups on the reverse. At least six different makers of the Close Combat Clasp within the consortium have been identified.
One way to differentiate are the different fonts used for the designer and maker mark, appearing in so-called “large font”, “small font”, and “thin font”. The “large font” maker often used a very conspicuous aqua blue backplate, although regular darker backplates have also been found. Clasps by this maker account for about half of all M.K. clasps. Their attractiveness comes not from being rare, but from being high quality, especially where the finish is concerned.
Only one of the M.K. makers chose to not mark some of their clasps. They also had some of the backplates receive the coloured finish, a trait unique to this particular maker. These clasps are extremely rare.
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