German-Helmets.com  - The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Fakes and Reproductions:  How to Identify a Fake Helmet

Identifying a Fake

Due to an increasing fascination with collecting World War II German helmets it is not surprising that unscrupulous sellers will often attempt to "fake" the look of an original helmet in order to defraud inexperienced collectors and hobbyists.  Often times these fakes are easy to identify because they lack the uniformity, construction, and authentic materials of the originals.   However, experienced "fakers" are often capable of aging a newly refurbished helmet in order to make it appear as though it were original.  This only complicates the buyer's ability to identify the helmet as a fake.  By and large the majority of fake helmets on the market today are designed to appear like one of the rarer types.  These are made to purposely fool the buyer and to make large sums of money for the seller.  The most frequently reproduced of all German helmets are those of the Waffen-SS, although almost any type of German helmet worn during World War II can be found in a fake to include even the most common of originals. 

In any given market, fakers tend to produce replicas that feed the demand of collector interest and helmet values.  Fake helmets tend to be produced in small numbers (or in waves) and slowly released to the collecting market through a variety of military collector shows and independent dealers.  Online web auctions are frequently targeted as main stream release points for fake helmets.  Once a fake helmet has been purchased it is eventually discovered, but this may take a very long time.  The fact is most fake helmets continue to be passed along several times to new buyers as each of the previous owners attempts to recover some or all of their money on the bad purchase.  Because helmets that have decals on them are becoming more desirable, many helmets sold as authentic are in fact original helmets with reproduction decals applied.   This is the most common type of fakery and perhaps the quickest and least expensive for someone to do.

The following list of questions serve as a helpful guide for beginning collectors who are attempting to identify the authenticy of a given helmet.  Of course nothing is more helpful than repeated experience in handling and examining genuine helmets.  In the event that a person does not have access to the real thing, a collector should ask themselves the following questions before making a helmet purchase:

1. Does the paint smell like it was recently applied?
  Newly painted helmets give off an odor that is easy to detect.  As paint ages, this odor fades away.  Most fakers quickly introduce their newly painted helmets into the marketplace in an effort to make a quick buck.   Original helmets have no paint odor.
2. Is the paint the proper color and texture of the originals?
  The paint color of a helmet is often the first thing that distinguishes an original from a fake.  Fake helmets almost always display smooth finishes in color shades that are either too green, battleship gray, bright blue, or black.  Original wartime paint is no longer available and modern paint stores cannot manufacture paint that is exactly like the real thing.  In addition, original M1940 and M1942 helmets almost always possess a textured external surface to dull reflective properties of the paint. This textured finish is difficult to replicate, and most fakers will never go to the lengths necessary to attempt reproducing an original paint finish.
3.

Are the decals the correct type, size, and color of the originals?  Are they in the right position?

  Many fake helmets display decals that lack the true color and quality of the originals.  Most fake decals are "peel-and-stick" types or "water-slides" that are easy to remove.  More expensive fakes will use higher quality reproduction decals that have similar properties compared to the originals.  Fakers will often unknowingly apply the decals in the wrong position or in combinations that never existed.
4. Is the liner band authentic and the correct type for the model of helmet?
  Most reproduction helmets lack authentic metal liner bands.  While good reproductions are now available, all lack the proper construction of the originals.  Remember that M935 double decal helmets should generally have a first pattern aluminum liner band that is maker marked, dated, and size stamped.  The M1940 and M1942 helmets almost ALWAYS have a second model, zinc plated steel liner band that is also maker marked, dated, and size stamped.  Some variations to this "rule of thumb" do exist to know your helmet history well.  Modern liner bands generally rust as they are not zinc galvanized.  Reproduction aluminum liner bands are difficult and expensive to produce because thin sheet aluminum is not easily obtainable and the construction for this type of liner band is rather complex.  Even so, there do exist good quality reproductions of these liner bands manufactured in Eastern Europe.
5. Is the leather liner an eight finger liner?  Does it have sweat holes in the forehead area?
  Other than liners sized 60 or 61 cm, all original combat style leather liners generally had eight fingers with five sweat holes in each.  In some cases liners also had nine fingers, but mainly on the larger size examples.  Original liners were made of sheep, goat, and pigskin (not cow hide).  Original leather liners in combat helmets never had sweat holes in the forehead like the former West German Border Guard helmet liners.  In addition, original leather liners were made of tan (cream colored) leather that often turned brown with age.  Original liners were not dyed red-brown or dark brown like those found in postwar Norwegian Home Guard helmets.
6. Are the three split rivets holding the liner band to the helmet brass or steel?
  Original helmets will have zinc or steel split rivets.   Solid brass rivets with no exterior coating of zinc or steel are typically associated with postwar Norwegian re-works.   Inexpensive and cheap looking brass rivets are typically cut down binding clips from office supply stores.  Be careful however, as the early original rivets manufactured by the Germans in the mid-1930's were often brass with a zinc or nickel type finish.
7. Is the chinstrap authentic and original to the helmet or added at a later time?
 

High-end reproduction chinstraps are now selling as original in most helmet collecting circles.  This much needed element is often missing or damaged on original helmets.  To command higher prices for their helmets many sellers add a high end reproduction chinstrap to fool the buyer.  If the leather of your chinstrap smells new there is reason for suspicion.  Leather that is 60 years old tends not to have a "new leather" smell.  Many reproduction chinstraps are now dipped in pre-aging chemical solutions.  As a result they too will smell as though a heavy concentration of chemical agent has been applied to the leather and the buckle.

Overview

Each section of German-Helmets.com is divided into separate Information Tracks that outline important details, facts, and historical notes pertaining to steel helmets used by the German Armed Forces during World War II.  

Information Tracks are organized by subject matter and their content is directly related to the service arm or organization to which each topic is related.  Topic areas that bridge one subject matter to another are cross linked within each Information Track.

This Information Track provides collector facts pertaining to modern helmet fakes and reproductions.  Individual links related to this subject are outlined below.

Reproduction Topics

Fakes and Reproductions Main

Basic Tips for Collectors

Reproduction Buckles

Reproduction Chinstraps

Reproduction Decals

Reproduction Dome Stamps

Reproduction Helmet Labels

Reproduction Liners

How to Identify a Fake

    Collector Topics

Chinstraps

Camouflage

Decals

Dome Stamps

Factory Production

Foreign Use

Helmet History

Liner Systems

Paint

Fakes and Reproductions

Rare and Unusual

Appraisals

 

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