I see more and more chinstraps being sold separately the last couple of years , especially in Europe. Prices having moved up from 100 – 150 euro to 200 euro and more. The big question of course is , are all chinstraps that are being sold real?
We know about 80+ different wartime chinstrap makers
The reality is that the chinstraps for sale are often a mixed bag. Fakes and originals , the price being asked however is the same. So anyone looking for a chinstrap to add to a German helmet should do careful research as if buying a German WW2 helmet. We know about 80+ different wartime chinstrap makers so the playing field is big for those looking to make an extra buck with fake chinstraps.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR : BUCKLES
You can put chinstraps in two categories.
- Aluminium buckle chinstraps (pre war till approximately 1940)
- They will have a maker mark and a year stamp
- Steel buckle chinstraps (1940 till 1945)
- Between 1940 and 1943 They will have a maker mark and year stamp
- From 1943 to war end they will have an RB / RF nr or letter code , occasionally accompanied with a year stamp
Fakes with aluminium buckles are rare and the buckle is not comparable with war time ones , same with the maker stamps on these chinstraps. So you will encounter less fakes amongst the straps with an aluminium buckle.
Aluminium buckle chinstraps are the safest to buy
Steel buckle chinstraps are the territory of the fakers. There is one infamous fake steel buckle that’s been on the market since the nineties which is still being sold today as original (loose or with helmets). The buckle is quite unique as no German wartime manufacturer ever produced such a buckle. Collectors call it the humpback buckle or just humpback fake. It is the easiest of fakes to spot once you remember its shape.
The majority of steel buckles produced are thick steel buckles with thick pins. There are a lot of possible shapes for these wartime buckles. Thinner or more flimsy looking buckles can be found on some later chinstraps but these are rather uncommon. Buckles can have a grey overpaint or be bare steel.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR : Maker stamps
Maker stamps come in many different fonts and styles. We can put them in three groups.
- Fully marked ones have a Name , city and year
- RB / RF number marked one (From late 1943 to end of the war)
- Letter code marked ones (From late 1943 to end of the war)
Fake chinstraps can carry authentic wartime makers and RB / RF numbers so make sure to compare the stamps with known accepted originals. Check the font and style , location of the stamp. Also in addition judge the leather and shape of the adjustment holes. Wartime used straps have a good patina both on the buckle and leather. Like with the leather of helmet liners the leather darkens with use from sweat and dirt.
Straps that look brand new should be looked at with suspicion.
Here’s a fake example. Note the thin leather and adjustment holes. Also the buckle is not a correct wartime buckle.
Straps that look brand new should be looked at with suspicion especially if you are buying online. New leather will smell.
New straps being made with wartime buckles (often ground found buckles are being used).
Hoard finds , while hoard finds are perfecty acceptable and exist they are also used to explain an inexhaustible supply of chinstraps by some sellers.
TO SUMMARIZE HERE’S MY PERSONAL ADVICE
- Avoid brand new straps altogether even if you find a mint authentic strap it will not match well on most helmets.
- Buy a used one with a nice patina and make sure the leather is still in good shape enough to attach it to a helmet.
- Buy a strap with a verified maker or RB/RF nr or 3 letter code. Use the resources I will list at the bottom of this post.
- Don’t spend top money on unmarked , shortened straps or broken ones.
- If you have even the slightest doubt , don’t buy.
- Go for the thicker steel buckles or aluminium ones.
- Double verify the authenticity of so-called late war straps , chinstraps that are a bit different and lack a maker are often called late war straps to help them sell faster. More often than not these are to be avoided.
- Demand high quality photos
To help you there’s an abudance of resources online and in books. First of all there is my page on chinstraps which I am working on expanding.
Another very good online resource is German Helmet Walhalla’s chinstraps gallery. I use it a lot myself. You must be a member to see it.
And the third is Jan Meland’s book German helmets 1916 – 1945 which has a large photo section that shows many different buckles and chinstrap stamps.
That’s it again for now , thanks for reading my posts and for those that want to interact feel free to join our small German Helmet Vault communty.
Stay healthy ,