I have complained elsewhere about sellers on EBay who intentionally misrepresent the products that they are selling in order to get the uneducated or uninformed to pay artificially inflated prices for what is, in essence, junk. In my experience, this trend is the most pronounced among disreputable antiques vendors and in individuals who are selling single pieces and who are hoping to hit the lottery by getting some sucker to pay a bundle for a worthless item.
I have seen the most of this when shopping for fountain pens, but, given my passion for compasses, it was bound to show up there also. And, lo and behold, here it is: OLD! Compass LENSATIC Liquid Filled MILITARY. You will notice in the title that they use the terms "old" and "military". Old is a completely relative term. To my daughter, old can be something dating from early last week. This particular compass is currently sold at Wal Mart, but it may still be several years old, so it is hard to argue about that. It is, in fact, a military style compass rather than a military compass, and that is truly misleading in my view. The term "military" should refer to a tool that was actually used by the military or was manufactured under contract for military use, not something that superficially looks like a military tool. This compass is a particularly cheesy replica of a World War II style lensatic compass. Despite its gold color, it is not brass, but rather is pot metal painted gold.
This compass is marked on the lid, "Lensatic Compass Liquid Filled." The genuine article is labeled, "Corps of Engineers U.S. Army" above the sighting wire, and below it would have the manufacturer information. This one is marked "Japan" on the back – the U.S. Military has never used a compass of Japanese manufacture, and particularly not in the course of the Second World War.
This compass is sold by places like Wal Mart to be a cheap, essentially a toy, compass. It is a great tool for kids to learn how to take azimuth readings and to learn to navigate the landscape, compass in hand. It is not something that you would want to be lost with, and, most certainly, it is not an old military compass.
To avoid being duped there are a few things that you should do:
- Do your homework – Know as much as you can about what you are shopping for before buying antiques off of EBay
- Deal with reputable vendors – Make use of the ratings system on EBay to leave an honest evaluation of the vendor and to research your vendor's reputation before dealing with them
- If something seems too good to be true. . . – You know the rest. Do shop for bargains, but if you stumble across a mint condition M-1938 Prismatic Compass selling for $4.99. . . well, you know.