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This Berlin plate, right, which appeared at Cheffins (15% buyer’s premium) sale in Cambridge on February 13, was originally presented during the First World War to German soldiers who had won their country’s highest award for bravery, the Iron Cross. This at least was the explanation given to the auctioneers by the London vendor.

The plate was numbered 17/30, suggesting that it was an edition limited to 30 recipients of the medal. If so, then what of the thousands of other German soldiers (including a corporal called Adolf Hitler) who won the Iron Cross? A call to the KPM factory museum in Berlin did not provide any answers. The wreath of oak leaves around the plate could indicate that it was a higher award, but the date 1914, the Prussian crown and the initial W (for Kaiser Wilhelm II) all match Iron Crosses awarded in the First World War.

Perhaps it was a special commission for the first 30 men to win one. Measuring 91/2in (24cm) diameter and with the KPM marks in red and the sceptre mark in blue, the plate sold at £310.