22 Nov. 2007
We have all seen our share of questionable
items. But how can I be sure? This is a tough
one that all collectors sweat over. The guys who
collect medals have bunches of fakes they have
found. It makes my head hurt. It is a full time
job with one or two truly trusted dealers.
Pickelhaubes are starting to do the same. More
forgeries, fakes and attempts to alter helmets
to increase value. I was spurred to do so when I
saw a helmet (OR Brunswick) go for over $2200.
100% of the people who wrote me claimed it was
phony. It is necessary to get a black light.
The black light test is not fool proof but it is
a clue. The idea is that modern fabrics and
paint will glow under a black light. Something
to do with the chemicals used in production. So
I though I would ramble about things I have
found. Remember I only offer opinion so I might
be wrong. If you have anything to send please
do and I'll try to add it.
Clothing collectors have been
fighting inked markings for a while.
This on the left is a suspect depot
1. Seems too small
2. The ink is
3. As one
collector said "I don't like Times
New Roman Font on Pickelhaubes."
easy focus is on the #9. Look at the
suspect 9 and the one on the right
or at the example in Lacarde Vol. 1
page 154. What would a black light
show? We have a large article on
depot marks at:
the fakes in felt helmets are
getting pretty good. Be careful of
marks that look like this. The real
check is to see right off if the
helmet in question could have been
in IX Corps. This helmet and
one other with the faux markings
revered could not have been in IX
I know little of the metallurgy required in
pickelhaubes. We will see wappen later in
the article, but you often hear about galvano
copies. Well here is a comparison.
Not as easy as I thought to pick out from the
front. What is important is to remember how
plates were made in those days. A male and
female half stamped together. So the
detail on both front and back should be just as
crisp. These pictures from the Braziel collection
The 162nd and
other Hansiatic cockardes.
I have seen too many of these. Pop off the
Prussian and pop on the repro. Dig the repro
cockade in your garden for a week and claim the
helmet came from your grandfather in Hamburg.
Charge huge money and some soul will buy it.
They are after all very rare. The ONLY
difference between a Hamburg Officer and a
Prussian Officer is the cockade. If you see
anything close to such a cockade be
careful. For OR helmets the helmet must be depot
marked to the Hansiatic regiment or you are
buying a problem. It is instructive that even
Saunders in his wonderful collection only has an
OR 83rd. The landwehr cross for these regiments
is distinct. So finding a landwehr helmet
is a more sure bet. The cross has a different
motto on it. Instead of the standard 25 mm line
cross, the Hansiatic reserve cross only has the
motto 'mitt Gott Furs Vaterland” as they had
a Bürgermeister, not a royal prince or titular
head. Finding the correct reserve cross to add
to a helmet in this case would be much much
harder than finding a cockade. No I'm not stupid
enough to believe that all Hansiatic helmets
have the correct cross on them, but it is an
Catalog Frankonia and others sell repro helmets
complete as repros. Problem is folks turn around
and sell them as original. Most of these helmets
are very good but have mistakes. Recently I have
seen a 2nd Gd. Uhlan "Officer" complete from
Frankonia offered from Grandpa's closet. Flat
chin scales, OR Guard star, and wrong corps
markings, non-officer field badge (not OR
either) and OR brim. Still people bid on it.
Others I have seen include a Non-voided line
officer from Prussia, Hesse, Bavaria,
Wurttemberg, Baden, same as above with ball. A
pretty good Saxon OR arty and a series of
shakos. Full helmets are mostly officer with
very bright fixtures. Brass not gilt.
Militaria and I'm sure others do a service to the reenactor
community and sell a great deal of reproduced helmets.
They custom make helmets even officer ones. They are very
straight forward about what you are getting. Again
the trouble comes from others selling a reproduction as
real and duping a collector. Let us compare a few items.
Liners can be very easy. Something to alwasys look out for
is a very long machine bolt connecting the rear spine.Long
bolts are normally a bad sign.
A large space
between the helmet base and the vent device is another tell
tale. Here are some originals and the one in the middle
is a reproduction....too far away from the base. Originals from the Chen collection.
Look at the
dome studs. Originals were pretty flat. Reproductions often
have tall, big stud tops.The spike in the center top is
The easiest and most used item is the chinstrap
on OR helmets. Regularly easy to spot. This
leather, smooth looks and feels brand new. Sold
as repros but you see tons of eBay helmets with
repro straps sold as original. If the leather
straps were identical to the M16 steel helmet
straps it made sense that these were transferred
and the cockardes went missing. Many cockardes
are repros. I have not been able to always tell
which is which. Whole assembly's are now being
reproduced. Look at the spike and supports
below newly minted. The repro Arty spike for the
M15 is cool and comes with rust!
The problem here is putting brass parts on a
grey M15 helmet. The final tell tale sign is
the grommet holes for the helmet plate. Brass
on brass good. Grey on brass good. Brass on gray
bad in almost all cases.
Its a One Year Volunteer (OYV) Helmet.
Read the article on OYV's in this section. This
is the biggest area of doctor jobs in the
industry. Compare the article to dealer
Dealer write ups.
people have enemies. Most -- not all US based dealers I
have seen make bad mistakes. Some are honest mistakes.
Some are just trying to make a living by cheating folks.
Be careful. Rate the item not the write up or the dealer's
reputation. I have been looked in the eye by a MAX certified
dealer and one in England who clearly had doctor jobs. They
refused to admit it. The good news is since our articles
have started many many dealers and eBay sellers have changed
their write-ups and added pictures of depot marks and the
rear of plates. We flatter ourselves by believing that we
had an impact but in general the level of informed collectors
has risen through this and other sites as well as forums.
Double Holes and Doctor Jobs -- look at this
Hessian (next 2 photos from the
We all know of double holes. Sort
of. Many helmets have double holes
or Döppellocher as new plates are
added to old leather. So if I have
an old helmet and a more valuable
plate I marry them together and I
make money. As there were hundreds
of wappen makers the sizes varied
for the placement holes. The very
worst I have seen is the Hessian to
the right that has double holes
punched for a Prussian East-West
Now new plates
were added as helmets and went to Landwehr duty or switched
regiments. For OR helmets
ALWAYS make sure the markings match
up. For Officer's make sure the old
holes are professionally filled. Pickelhaube
dealers offered a refit service
based on the huge price of the haube.
Yes Dorothy there are phony plates.
Normally called galvano copies these
were molded using the galvano
method. Less detailed with bubbly
backs. A senior collector told me
that there were actually inexpensive
galvano plates made in period so
patina becomes something. Look at
the plate below and compare detail
and patina with other brass parts.
Looks funny don't you think?
next set of pictures shows a plate
post and back made in Poland (with
Permission) Look at the bubbles and
smooth transition on the post. A
couple of thoughts here.
Look for old gun metal colored
solder. The posts or loops were not
part of the plate and if you don't
see old solder something is wrong.
Old solder came in globs. Not clean
and easy to spot. Painted solder is
Old plates were stamped new ones
cast. So there is little detail on
the back of the new ones.
the finish of an officer's plate is
bright and polished wave off.
These pictures provided by an eBay seller.
below have all been properly
advertised as reproductions.
line is ALWAYS look at the back of the plate
before buying off eBay. Period. Unless you have
a trusted dealer be careful.
Look at the sloppy
sewing job around the edge of the liner. You can
see the machine sewing job as a dark line on the
Lots of fakes here. There is
even a web site that tells you how to make a felt
spiked helmet. A collector friend's husband
visited a factory in England where felt helmets
were being made in the 1970s. There were also
some fakes that came in through the Eastern bloc.
Those were allegedly squishy. The standard
filzhelme is quite hard. Most of the metal
fittings look old or are old. There are even
reportedly very good stamps of depot marks on the
back of these helmets. Frequently they are
non-sensical, marked to a Saxon in X Corps for instance.
Frequently these depot marks are very clear and brightl.
A black-light can work wonders on the threads of
the liner. New thread will glow. Many
fakes have a leather edge that goes all the way
around. These are regularly light in color.
I call them the chocolate colored trim. These
pictures represent a modern trim and a helmet made
to trick. Good example of a fake. Leather
trim all around..... I know of no original made
of Fliz. (Cork sometimes, very dark trim.)
These pictures from the Booth collection.
to be careful of wappen that you find that are not
in reference books. The wappen above looks like
a Bavarian wappen at first glance. But the excitement
of finding a new, unknown wappen, has to be tempered
by the discovery that this is actually a modern
device used on a box of cookies.
These are getting very
convincing. They have been often copied and used
to cover holes and other sins. Look at the font!
This example with tea soaked in the label might
convince but is misspelled!
The R22 Helmet
One of the most frequently encountered fakes is the famous R22 helmet. Also known as a scroll helmet these are discussed in some detail at: http://www.pickelhauben.net/articles/Scroll_helmets.html
Johansson has an example of R22 helmet in his book "Pickelhauben" on page 60. It is a filz helmet with a ventilated spike base and a scroll with cut out letters. He calls the metal "pewter", and states that the R22 designation stands for Infantry Regiment 22. There is no visor trim. It has a black leather chinstrap with gray metal buckles. This was obviously a rare example and if you could fake it you might be able to make a tidy profit and explain away some anomalies in the helmet as a rare variant. While often faked these have changed over time. Due to largess and humility of certain collectors we have two examples here that are 30 or 40-year-old fakes. Trawnik found these in an old collection and is sharing them with the community to help educate others to stay away from such tripe. It may be instructive to see how these were done.
The word on the street was that these fake helmets came from two sources – one from Great Britain and the other from Eastern Europe. I believe these two examples are from Great Britain. Let’s look at the first one.
An oddly shaped filz helmet. A very rounded top with a leather trim all the way around. A gray metal spike and a brass M91 post. The gray metal items are magnetic. The Wappen is not flush to the helmet body. The round studs used to apply the spike based to the helmet body are very large. The spike base itself is unusual and the spike does not twist off like a normal M15. There is some sort of lacquer on the spike and spike base and the two pieces are quite static.
The Wappen appears crude. The letter “R” is embossed and you can see how it was pushed up from the back of the plate. The number “22” is recessed into the plate and you can also see on the back where it is pressed in.
The Wappen is attached to the helmet through the use of metal prongs. These are set very low and resulted in the top of the Wappen not being flush against the helmet body. These prongs are metal. There are no grommets.
The M91 posts are attached with these metal prongs.
There is no spine on the back of the helmet.
There are a series of faked marks on the rear visor. It is instructive to the collector that both the corps assignments as well as the typeset or font are dead giveaways of the non-originality of this piece.
Known to be “squishy” this finger pressure should show a lack of rigidity of the helmet shell.
The second helmet has many of the same characteristics but appears to be later production. The Wappen has deteriorated in detail significantly. The reproduction process has taken its toll as you can see by this example.
The material of the helmet is darker in color, all metal parts are a gray metal. The spike is still static and the Wappen still has a lean.
The method of attachment has changed with only one prong per side and this is placed into a slit instead of a larger hole.
The M91 posts are attached in this way.
There have been changes to the marks and we are back to well-known fakes.
This helmet also was squishy.
So these are examples of older helmets. Collectors might value seeing some of these characteristics.
This article would not be possible without the kind contribution of pictures from a host of sources including the Trawnik, Francom, Booth, Braziel, and Chen collections.