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

    Questions & Answers:  Decals

Answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding decals are described in this section.  Additional topics can be explored by linking to one of the subject areas listed below.

 

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How can I be certain my decal is original?

 

The only way to be fully certain is to compare your decal with known originals.  The look of an original decal including almost all of the known variations has been thoroughly established by the majority of collectors.  Examining reference books that highlight photographs of known originals are a good place to start.  Knowing what to look for is as important as having a good idea about how decals were applied and manufactured.  Reproduction decals are thoroughly discussed in the Fakes & Reproductions section of German-Helmets.com.

I am receiving mixed feedback on my decal.  Some collectors say its real and others fake.  Is it original?

 

Mixed feedback on decals is common.  So common in fact that it has become a great source of controversy and debate among collectors who all claim they are correct or advanced enough in their knowledge to have a "zero miss" record when it comes to knowing fake from original.  In any given assessment or discussion forum, you are bound to find more people discrediting a given decal than claiming that it is original.  This is due, in part, to the simple fact that it is nearly impossible to be 100% certain that a decal is original by merely inspecting a photo sent by email or uploaded for others to see.  In addition, some collectors simply take joy in the fact that they can "arm chair" an opinion on line and get an audience.  Your best bet is to have someone who is truly knowledgeable about helmets give the helmet a "hands on" inspection.  Even then, the diagnosis may get some debate.  Decals of the Waffen-SS are the most controversial and virtually every helmet newly found is declared a fraud or fake because of the debate over decals.  If you purchase an SS helmet, expect someone to claim it is a fake even if it is an original.

I have heard that original decals have specific size dimensions.  What are they?

 

While original decals all have specific size dimensions, this is in no way a sure fire method to determining authenticy.  Fraud artists have long since been able to reproduce the accurate dimensions of known originals.  Even so, many reproduction decals fall short in this area.  This is particularly true of those produced in the 1960's and 1970's.  The correct dimensions of wartime produced shield decals range from 41mm in height to 33mm in width.  Some decals are only 40mm in height.  Decals smaller than this should be thoroughly evaluated to determine authenticy.  Additional information on original decals can be found in the Decals Information Track of German-Helmets.com.

Must all Police and Waffen-SS Party Shield decals have an off center circle to be authentic?

 

The majority of original National Socialist Party shield decals have an off-set white circle.  This means that the circle is not centered squarely in the red portion of the shield.  However, there are minute variations of this phenomenon where the off-set nature can be left or right depending on the decal.  This is also true of the location of the circle from top to bottom in the shield as a whole.  However, not all original decals have this off-set feature.  Many collectors have propagated a wide-spread "collector's myth" that any decal without this feature is certain to be fake.  This is not entirely true.  It is certain that reproduction decals generally have the circle located too far towards the top of the shield.  This factor has long since been corrected by fraud artists so when a decal of this kind is detected, the decal itself is an older reproduction.

I was told that original decals must always be 3mm under the vent hole.  Is this correct?

 

Official German regulations called for the decal to be placed 3mm under the vent hole of the helmet.  However, not every decal was applied this precisely.  Individual skill of those applying the decal often meant that it slide on incorrectly, tilted or far below the vent hole.

I have heard that there is no such thing as a double decal M1940 or M1942 helmet.  Is that correct?
  It depends on the branch of service.  There are original double decal M1940 Army (Heer) and Air Force (Luftwaffe) helmets, and also possibly Navy (Kriegsmarine) helmets.  However, the majority of authentic M1940 Wehrmacht double decal helmets is very slim and most are Luftwaffe.  This is based on the fact that the Luftwaffe High Command did not immediately implement the order to discontinue the use of the National tricolored decal until a few months after the issue was adopted by the Army and the Navy.  As a result, some originals do exist.  However, the same is not true of the typical Wehrmacht M1942 helmet.  Most of these helmets are postwar modifications that were done years ago.  The modification is generally the addition of a reproduction National decal on the right side of the helmet.  An exception to these rules (for both M1940 and M1942 helmets) relates to the many foreign volunteer helmets used by both the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS.  One side of a helmet may have a decal representing the service branch (Army, Air Force, Navy, or SS) and on the other side a decal (or painted insignia) depicting the national colors (or symbol) of the volunteer unit.  Likewise, helmets of this kind are rare in both M1940 and M1942 patterns.  Double decal M1940 and double runic Waffen-SS M1942 helmets also exist but in very small numbers.

How can I tell if my decal is an original that has been recently applied?

 

Some fraud artists (and even collectors) have taken to the notion that original wartime decals should be applied to original helmets that have no decals.  This practice is unacceptable in the collecting circles, but common when people are attempting to upgrade a helmet for the sake of resale.  While the majority of original helmets with decals have not been altered in this way, there are some things you can do to detect whether an original decal has been applied to an original, no decal helmet.  The first thing is to inspect the age of the decal opposite the entire age of the helmet.  Using a magnifying lens you can inspect to see if fine patina rests on the decal as well as the helmet and the paint surface.  Newly applied decals generally show little age when compared to the rest of the helmet.  In addition, many original decals will crack and split into many fragments when applied nearly 60 years after their manufacture.  As a result, an original decal that has been newly applied will have very large, wide-spread cracks that are clearly abnormal.  Cracks of this kind should not be confused with the kind of "spider web" cracks associated with original decals that have cracked over many years of exposure to heat and the drying of the old protective lacquer finish.

Is it true that if a decal is applied on top of a camouflaged finish it is a certain sign of a fake?

 

Some collectors have come to believe that helmets configured in this way are reproductions.  Their theory is based on the fact that many camouflaged helmets with decals exposed show signs of masking or having been carefully painted around.  In addition, these collectors insist that counterfeit artists are simply too dumb to know the difference and make this mistake without knowing it.  While this is true in some cases, there are original camouflaged helmets that have decals applied after the helmet had been camouflaged.  One must understand that this was a rare practice and the number of original helmets configured in this way few in number.  While rare, there are enough original examples to defy the notion that all helmets configured in this way are counterfeits.  Even so, collectors should approach helmets configured in this manner with extreme caution.

I have heard that an SS helmet can be positively identified as real or fake by comparing the type of decal used on the helmet to the maker's mark found under the rim.  Is this true?

 

Some collectors believe that all SS helmets can be readily identified as real or fake based on the maker of the steel shell and the type (or pattern) of SS runic shield used on the helmet.  These collectors contend that examination, observation, and matching of maker marks (ET, Q, EF, SE, etc.) to runic shield (first pattern, second pattern, variant first pattern, etc.) can prove one helmet original and another fake.  This evidence is based purely on observation and not on any written or documented evidence from records pertaining to the Third Reich.  Their theory contends that various factories contracted for and were supplied with certain decals from specific printers.  They suggest that these factories never deviated from these standards and adhered to exclusive decal supply contracts from 1937 through 1945 (eight years).  The suggestion has also been proposed that all field modified or depot repainted helmets received one type of decal over another, and that this was uniform throughout the entire Waffen-SS supply system.  Whether this is actually true or not has yet to be proven beyond a doubt.  Original helmets do exist that defy this notion, although they themselves have been dismissed as reproductions by those who believe in this theory.  Although some observational evidence would indicate that there is some truth to this concept, collectors should be cautioned not to take this theory so literally that good, original helmets be immediately "dismissed" as out-and-out fakes.  Large scale assumptions based on the observation of even 50 original Waffen-SS helmets completely excludes the fact the the sample size used to verify this theory is essentially too small.  Making assumptions of this kind does not factor in the many situations where decals that do not fit these circumstances might have been used on a given helmet.  In a similar way, a concept once thought to be true was one that suggested that all SS helmets were manufactured by only one or two helmet factories.  Any helmet not manufactured by the correct makers was instantly dismissed as "fake."  However, this was eventually shown to be a false assumption based on inaccurate conclusions.

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