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

    Fakes and Reproductions: Reproduction Decals

Reproduction Decals

Reproduction decals first appeared in the 1950's as water-slide transfers for use on play helmets sold in toy stores.  The first decals to hit the market were made in Japan and they were designed to be applied just like the decals found in plastic model kits.  Some were also designed as "peel and stick" transfers that were quick and easy to apply.  Gradually the quality of the decals improved as did their application technique.  Veterans and collectors looking to repair a helmet that was worn and damaged would often purchase a replacement decal for 50 cents or less and apply it to their original helmets.  As demand increased more and more toy and model companies began to manufacture decals that depicted those used during World War II.  In some cases these companies also fabricated "fantasy" decals that were never used by the Third Reich.

In the 1950's and 1960's an original German helmet was worth less than $50.  As the interest and demand for artifacts increased over the years, companies began to produce decals that were more historically accurate in their design.  Better quality decals began to emerge and their application technique could be enhanced by the addition of a coat of clear lacquer for increased durability.  In the 1970's and 1980's it became obvious to many people that the number of original helmets in excellent condition were few in number.  To fill the gap in collector demand, both surplus and original German helmets were given a set of "new decals" and sold openly in the market as both "original" and "reproduction" helmets.  During the 1990's, high quality replacement decals designed to fool the average collector appeared in the marketplace.  Unlike the decals produced in the 1960's, these high-end reproduction decals were designed to purposely fool collectors into thinking that they were "original."  Sellers of these helmets had the full intent of gaining fraudulent profit from the sale of their postwar altered helmets.

Today the trend continues as an ever increasing number of "near perfect" reproduction decals can be seen on original wartime helmets.  The very high quality nature of these decals combined with their ability to fool a majority of collectors into thinking that they are original has lead to an "underground" market where decals and helmets are manufactured, altered, and modified into $1500 to $4000 forgeries.

Despite what appears to be a gloomy future for German helmet collecting, the good news is that most reproduction decals fall substantially short of the originals in both design, color, and material.  The majority of fake decals can be spotted if a person knows what to look for.  Once applied to an original helmet, many forgery artists will attempt to "pre-age" their new decals to give the illusion of being authentic.  Others will let the decal stay "near mint" in the hopes of attracting a buyer who wants to own an expensive and rare relic.

Keep in mind that there are a wide variety of reproduction decals on the market.  Some of these decals are near impossible to distinguish from originals, while others are quite easy. Just because a helmet seems old does not mean that it is original.  Many older helmets that appear to be authentic have 1950's or 1960's reproduction decals on them.  These decals seem "authentic" only because they exhibit more than 30 years of natural aging. 

Identifying original decals and exposing the reproductions that are being passed off as "authentic" is much like playing the part of a detective.  In fact, the challenge is often one of the most rewarding aspects of helmet collecting and can be quite challenging to even the most sophisticated collector.

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 Decal Topics

Detective Techniques

Repro Photo Gallery

Things to Remember

Tools to Have on Hand

    Reproduction Topics

Fakes & 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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