An Average American's Guide To Display Cases - Show Your Best

Basic Guide to Creating Military Medal and Award Display Cases

For veterans and their families, military award display cases are among their most prized possessions. Enter their homes, and you find shadowbox display cases occupying a place of honor. It is what gets the immediate attention of guests, what they are most likely to comment upon.

Display cases are a testament to a veteran's personal achievements and career. They are an important place in a family heritage. A family s military awards are an important document in American history. They have real historical significance. Have you watched the antique road shows on cable? If so, you can imagine the enormous value of such cases.

Shadowbox display cases not only become an heirloom, they physically protect the medals and awards.

The basis of military display cases are the medals. There are two categories of military medals: Decorations and Service Medals. Decorations recognize individual valor or meritorious service. They can be recognized by a distinctive shape, such as star, cross or hexagon.

Service medals are awarded for service in a particular campaign, expedition or mission. Campaigns, battles, assaults and similar are indicated by attachments to the ribbon of the medal. Attachments come in stars, oak leave clusters and numerals.

The general protocol for displaying medals is to place highest honors to the top left in order of precedence. To see the desired hierarchy, click on U.S. Military Medals By Order of Precedence.

Some experts advise assembling medals of the same category together. For instance, put all the stars together, with the highest ranking to the top left and then continue the display with patches, pins and ribbons. This will give the display a uniform look.

Others encourage more creative license. Arranging medals using rank, date or shape can help make the display more visually engaging.

Added to the medals, military medal display cases can incorporate skill badges, patches and company insignia. They can be further enhanced by special mementos, like photos, dog tags, signed letters of commendation, and of course the flag.

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How Large Should Display Case Be?

The military display cases below can give you an idea how large a display case you may want to buy to accommodate the number of awards and patches to display.

As a starting point, you may want to refer to the two diagrams below that show the number of medals that can fit comfortably within two popular sizes of shadowbox display cases. The layout is based on an average size for a medal. The Purple Heart is a standard at 3.5 in. long x 1.5 in. wide.

The left display shows standard medals arrayed in a 16 x 20 x 1.75 in. shadowbox. This is the size of our AG20 shadowbox.

The right display presents medals arrayed in an 18 x 20 x 3 in. shadowbox that incorporates a flag triangle. This is the size of our models AG45 and the five specific service variants of AG42-.

Below is an approach to layout your military medal award case. By first laying out your medals, patches and other items to include, you will have a more exact idea of the size of display case to buy.


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How to Layout & Mount Military Medal Shadowbox Display Case

Layout Military Medals

Start by laying our medals and items to display on a table or backboard and position them into a format that pleases you within the approved order of precedence. Play with different layouts before settling on one arrangement. Make sure to arrange items allowing for one inch margin on the perimeter.

Order of Placement: Medals ||> Ribbons ||> Badges ||> Patch

Once you have hit upon a design you prefer, you can measure the area on the table around the arrangement. Be sure to leave at least one inch around the entire perimeter. A rule of thumb is to plan for a little more space than you have in your table arrangement. This helps ensure you have enough space among the items in the display case.

Mount Military Medals

After cleaning medals, secure them to the background using the pins on the medals. Court-mounting medals, where the medals are tied or sewn to restrict swinging, is the preferred method. You just put a few stitches in the medal with a small needle. Same with other elements like badges and patches. Never use glue or staples because they discolor and can "cheapen" the presentation.

Velcro is an optional method for mounting military awards. Velcro comes in strips, squares and dots that provide adhesion to the back of your awards. To ensure no Velcro shows, purchase colors that match your background just in case!

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How to Fold & Display a Memorial Flag

Please watch the video below to see the approved method of folding a memorial flag for presentation. Flag display cases are designed to hold flags folded in this manner.

You need Flash player 8+ and Javascript enabled to view this video.

If you prefer an illustrated step by step guide, click on the image below.

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A Military Medal Display Case Created for General Colin Powell!

It's not a problem a lot of people face, even the millions who have served the military. When a distinguished career has been recognized with a good number of military models and decorations, what do you do with them?

The opportunity for wearing medals on formal occasions diminishes over time. Storing in drawers is a waste and deprives others of enjoying your accomplishments.

Colin Powell in front of Middle East map The folks at Legacy Display Cases wondered what kind of military medal display case General Colin Powell should have? Here we have an internationally admired military leader, much decorated, very articulate, an accomplished hero. A general with lots of medals, lots of history.

Legacy Display Cases is a source of military shadow boxes and display cases to showcase medals and decorations awarded in the course of a military, law enforcement or other distinguished career.

We wanted to promote how medal display cases meet the desire to showcase medals and how fulfilling award display cases can be. So we created the Colin Powell Challenge: the goal was to create a shadow box display to present General Powell's military decorations.

We asked one of the leading layout designers of military shadow box displays to create a display case presenting General Colin Powell's decorations. Her name is Terry Vandever in southern California. Her 30 year career at Camp Pendleton included manager of The Main Uniform Shop and Officer and Military Memorabilia Buyer. These roles showed her the real need for skillfully arranged medal display cases.

Since retiring, she has devoted her life to military medals shadowboxes. Her work is proudly displayed by veterans, or by their surviving loved ones. Her artistry and passion is combined with insight into the specific protocols from different services.

Colin Powell Medal Award Display Case "I was really delighted when Terry showed me her completed medal display case," admitted Michael Knab, president of Legacy Display Cases. "You get a feeling she has managed to visualize a career. You can just feel the rich experiences that are behind each medal or ribbon!"

There are 29 medals and pins that appear in the military medal display case. Included are his four stars, Joint Chief of Staff's badge, Vietnam Service Medal and badges for Combat Infantry, Air Assault and Parachutist. The medals prove that it was an accomplished soldier who was to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State.

Click on Display Case Key to identify General Powell's medals in the display.

Of course it is a thrill to create a military award display for a highly decorated four star general, former chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and almost a household name. But Terry points out you don't need to be a four star general to deserve and enjoy a military award display case.

"It's something I hear far too often," says Terry. "Veterans sometimes feel they don't have enough medals to fill a box or make it worth having. Or maybe there are too many medals. But with the right size and type of display case, and a little inspiration and taste, you can put something together that will be a remarkable family treasure."

Our hope is that anyone wondering how to showcase their decorations will be inspired by Terry's response to the Colin Powell Challenge. Those who want to create a military display case for themselves or loved ones or as a police retirement gift can see the potential shadowbox display cases offer to celebrate a career.

The display case Terry chose to mount the General's decorations is a 22 in. x 16 in. shadowbox made of mahogany with a compartment for the US flag. The case is *made in America* and is available from Legacy Motors as product code: AG45.

You can purchase a beautifully crafted display case from Legacy Display Cases and arrange medals and pins as you deem fit. In our Guide, we offer direction. If you would like to purchase a display case to exhibit medals and distinctions and gain the benefit of professional design services at the caliber of Terry Vandever, email

Legacy Display Cases is an online store specializing in display cases for medals, sports memorabilia and collectibles like scale model cars and trucks. The website is

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