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
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
Reproductions section of German-Helmets.com.
receiving mixed feedback on my decal. Some collectors say its
real and others fake. Is it original?
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
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
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?
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
I have heard that there is no such
thing as a double decal M1940 or M1942 helmet. Is that
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?
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?
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?
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