Terry Goodapple Q&A, author of German helmets, a collector’s guide


World war 2 ended 78 years ago and collecting World war 2 memorabilia is more popular than ever!

So I thought it would be fascinating to chat with a collector that started collecting in the early 60’s.

The first time I learned about Terry Goodapple was in the late nineties when I started my collecting career. My father had German Helmets a collector’s guide in his library and the book was a Godsend for me as I had only one collector to fall back on that had some knowledge on German WW2 helmets.

Take into account that the book was written in 1981 and the photos were in black and white. It touched upon all subjects that are still important today : decals , liners and how to recognize the different models.

A couple of years and helmets later I became a member of online militaria forums, still a rookie collector and you never guess whom I met there ! Terry Goodapple.

Terry joined German Helmet Walhalla in 2006 when I was administrator (GHW started started in 2006) and we probably already interacted on the Wehrmacht awards forum before that which I joined in 2005.

Terry for me has always been one of a select group of experienced helmet collectors who’s opinions and views have importance to me and his 1981 book was the inspiration for my own collection. Terry also has contributed helmet photos for my website.

Q&A with Terry Goodapple

When did you decide to become a collector of WW2 militaria and specifically helmets ?

When I was 10 years old I started building model airplanes with my Dad. He was a WWII vet and built plastic models of warplanes from the war.My favorite airplane was the ME109 and I started looking for picture books about the war and reading about the war. I immediately noticed how much better looking German uniforms were than the drab US uniforms, especially with the medals and insignia most German soldiers wore in the field.Plus they had these intriguing and great looking steel helmets with insignia on the sides.It became my dream to own just one of those helmets.

Was it hard to find helmets for your collection back then ?

Next to impossible for a 10 year old kid in the early 1960’s.My Dad was in the army in the Pacific and he brought home a few Japanese souvenirs but I had no idea where to get a German helmet.I did not know there were people who collected this stuff.

My first German relic was a party flag I found at a local antique shop for $6.  Then I noticed there were ads in the back of a gun magazine my uncle loaned me, advertising “souvenirs” from WWII.I wrote away for lists – my first list was from a guy who called himself Der Alte Oberst.I could buy a German helmet for $18 but I didn’t have $18 and my mother wouldn’t let me buy one even if I did.So for the next 5 or 6 years until I got a part time job, all I could do was read and look at pictures and watch TV shows and movies…… and dream.Even though all of my friends and schoolmates had Dads or uncles who were veterans, I had no idea they might have souvenirs from the war like my Dad.

I think I was about 15 years old when I bought my first German helmet from a mail order place for $8.It was painted olive drab and I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a German M40 helmet used by Spain with a Spanish liner and bracket welded on the front.I didn’t get my first REAL German helmet until I was about 18 years old.It was an M16 DD Heer with the NC decal scraped off. As it turns out, it was a pretty special helmet though, which I did not realize until much later.It was an ET60 with a 1931 dated size 52 liner with incised maker/size stamp and early carbine clip chinstrap. Very well worn.I bought it from a newspaper ad in our local paper for $25.I still have the M16, but I gave away the Spanish helmet to a kid, a budding collector, years ago.

How did you learn what to look for to avoid fakes , did you have a mentor ?

I bought the book Stahlhelm – Evolution of the German Steel Helmet by Floyd Tubbs which was published in 1971.It was the only helmet book in print at the time.I read it word for word and cover to cover many times and my goal was to find an example of every helmet shown in the photo section of the book. I checked them off in the book as I acquired each one but I never found them all. For example, I never owned a Berndorfer, or a frontal plate, or a Turkish visorless helmet. Eventually my tastes changed and I stopped collecting civic helmets. 

My new strategy was to have “one of each” combat helmet.I met a local collector around 1971 who was also a part time dealer although he was not a helmet guy himself he bought a lot of helmets via motel buys and running newspaper ads so I was able to study originals and learn what to look for. This guy introduced me to a fellow student at my college who came to my hometown from the east coast. He was a longtime young collector with many contacts in the New England area. He collected German hats but also owned and knew a lot about German helmets.  He was a gold mine of information and a pipeline to acquiring good original helmets. He is still one of my very best friends. 

My philosophy has always been to study, analyze, and never stop learning.

Did you ever buy a fake German helmet ?

Yes for sure, mostly before I was introduced to the first two collectors I mentioned. Until I met them, I was limited to mail order dealers and I bought 2 or 3 helmets that were pretty sad.

One that sticks out in my memory was a DD black SS helmet on a lightweight shell. I ended up giving it away later when I found out the truth about it. I can only think of a handful of helmets I bought over the years that turned out to be bad so I’ve been lucky in that regard.

Probably the worst one was the “Champagne rune” DD SS I bought almost 30 years ago.I did not like it when it arrived in the mail but I showed it around to other collectors at the time and they all thought it was great, so I kept it. I still have it, but it is hidden away in a closet.  Quite honestly, I think we ALL probably have one or two items in our collections we firmly believe (or believed) are real, but they are not.  

In the early days how did collectors look at replacing liners ? Greasing leather or oiling the helmet exteriors ?

In the late 1970’s I met and became good friends with a helmet collector who lived in the Chicago area. He wanted all of his helmets to be mint or near mint condition. He would routinely swap out helmet liners that were dark or worn for mint liners. He was also a big fan of using Pledge to wax the exterior of his helmets and he used vaseline on the liners as preservation.

I never did any of those things because I like my helmets in overall “used but not abused” condition. No one really objected to what he did. It seemed to be accepted as just one personal preference. Of course, as years went by, collectors became more and more obsessed with “untouched” helmets and I think that is a good thing, although you know that very few are literally totally untouched after 80 or 90 years.  The best I hope for is that everything matches as far as condition, age, vintage components, completeness, and so on.

What triggered you to write the 2 volumes of the German helmets books ?

It was not my idea. The only helmet book available in the USA in the 1970’s was the Tubbs book. The Baer book was written in German in 1977 but it was not translated and published in English until 1985. My local (first) collector friend suggested we go together and write a book about helmets. He felt there was a need and a market. He had contacts with a local printer and said he would handle that part including shipping and sales and I could write the book. We’d share profits, if any.  He finally wore me down and we started the project in 1980.

Can you tell me how you went about creating the books ? The content, the photographs in the book , how did that all go practically ?

As mentioned, the writing and the content of volume I of the book was up to me.I have to admit I was influenced to a great extent by the Tubbs book and some of the other collector books on the market on other subjects, some of which briefly mentioned helmets as well.

I have always been a studious person, good at analyzing things (my job for several years was an analyst for the federal government) and I loved to see how things worked and were made. I had been studying helmets since I got my first one a decade or more ago. I just tried to bring together what I knew and what I observed and what I had discussed with other dedicated helmet collectors. Basically the collective wisdom of the day back then. 

As far as photographs, I was far from a good photographer. We had no digital cameras. I took hundreds of black and white photos on film and had them developed and picked the best ones. I hit up my collector friends for photos of their helmets that I did not have myself. I wanted a good general cross section of the basic helmets available. It was my friend’s insistence to include current market values. 

I never expected there to be a volume II. However, two years later, once again my friend convinced me to write another book with more in depth information, a condition grading system, photos of rare and seldom encountered helmets, and some color photography. My friend from the Chicago area, who is an accomplished artist and photographer wanted in on the project and he actually ended up writing a good portion of the second book and furnishing photos of many of his helmets.  I did not agree with everything he wrote (such as using vaseline on liners and waxing shells) but since he did much of the work we left it all in. All 3 names went on that book.  Sadly, I am no longer friends with either of my co-conspirators on the books.

When did you notice the decals vs shell correlation ? Was it something collectors were aware off before the Tom Kibler and Kelly Hicks books mentioned it around 2003/2004 ?

I have to admit that I was slow to accept this as fact. I knew for years that you only saw 2nd pattern SS decals (what we called them then) for example on ET manufactured helmets, and you only saw 1st pattern SS decals on Quist helmets. I also knew or at least theorized that NS did not make SS helmets at all. I also noticed big foot Heer decals only on Quist helmets.  But with everything else, I only cared about whether a decal was real and if it looked like it had been on the helmet forever. 

So my answer is that when the Kibler and Hicks books came out, I was reluctant to accept their theories, and I did my best to find exceptions to their rules. The more I researched however, the more I became convinced they were right. I am 100% behind these theories now and it is usually the first thing I look at when examining a helmet.  Kudos to them for their ground breaking research!

Is there a certain helmet type or branch of helmet that gets you more excited ?

I love just about any German combat helmet. But I do like some more than others. My absolute top favorites are early M35’s, followed by early M38’s. Double decals are best but reissued from DD to SD or even ND are high on my priority too. 

As far as favorite branch, almost everybody likes SS and I do too but my honest preference is for anything Heer. Camo helmets have always been a favorite as well. 

When I first started seriously collecting in the early 1970’s I bought every camo helmet I could find while most collectors avoided them. Part of my collecting philosophy was to avoid having duplicates, and the great thing about camo helmes is that no two are exactly alike. DAK and tropical camos have always been top of the heap for me, Normandy/3 color camos are okay, but not my favorite. I’ve never liked wire camos as to me they take away from the beautiful shape and the aesthetics of the German helmet design.

I’ve attached photos of some of my absolute favorite helmets.

(Note : You can see more of Terry’s favorites at the end of the interview)

To see the photos in a large format read the article on my website here : German Helmet Vault BLOG – German Helmet Vault

Based on what you know now , how concerned are you with the fakes in our hobby in both decals and camo helmets ?

Concerned but not frustrated. I actually consider it a challenge to figure out if a helmet is good or not. I obviously want to find out BEFORE the acquisition but it is what keeps me going. Do I wish there weren’t so many fakes around? Sure. But I do not think it is killing the hobby. I recognize it is incredibly hard to be a beginning collector now though and I wish that was not the case.

How do you see the future of the hobby , for your own collection and in general ?

Everything I see tells me the hobby is going strong. The prices are crazy and anything good that is listed on a website or forum or at a show seems to sell almost immediately. It is especially strange for someone who has collected for 50 years and who was paying $25 for SD helmets and $35 for DD helmets and $75 for SS and paratrooper helmets when beginning to collect. I have no intention of stopping, or selling what I have. But who knows what lies ahead. 

Is Terry still buying helmets ? What was your last purchase ?

I am still actively looking for helmets and buying whatever strikes my fancy, but remaining shelf space is limited. My actual want list is very short but I am always on the lookout for anything unusual or striking or one of a kind. Basically anything that jumps out and grabs me. Attached are photos of a few of my recent purchases.

What advice can you give to a new collector that wants to get into collecting German WW2 helmets ?

The same advice that has been offered time and time again on the forums. Start slowly, be patient, don’t buy junk, save up for quality purchases, ask for opinions, study collector books and reputable online sources like forums, go to shows to get hands-on experience, talk to other collectors, don’t trust most dealers but find the ones that are predominantly good. Don’t give up if you get burned a few times and in fact, expect to learn the hard way occasionally. It is an insanely satisfying hobby but also very frustrating at times.

That’s great advice to end this Q&A with ,Terry thank you very much for sharing your stories and experiences with us. (and the very nice helmets 🙂 )

Below you can find some more of Terry’s favorite helmets. Enjoy !!!

7 thoughts on “Terry Goodapple Q&A, author of German helmets, a collector’s guide

  1. Wayne Hatton June 28, 2023 / 8:36 pm

    Hearing from Terry brings back memories from the sixties. I also remember the treasures that Der Alte Oberst sold around 1965-67. His name was John Stoddard. Did he have the treasure! I wish that he stayed in business longer. Peter Hlinka, Historical Americana, from NYC had great items as well.

  2. Matt Miller June 28, 2023 / 9:24 pm

    Great interview with TG. I have known Terry since the late 70’s and visited his home. He is a leader in the hobby and always had time to help a young collector. A great collector but a better man. I consider him a friend………Matt

  3. John Conrad Head June 28, 2023 / 10:17 pm

    I’ve been collecting German, British,U.S. Japanese military since I was 11 years old now I am 77, I enjoy anything about this stuff

  4. sysyphus June 28, 2023 / 10:57 pm

    A very nice interview (great idea you had Frank) with one of the best known collectors of German helmets; not only a great collector but also a very nice, kind and helpful guy to talk to.

  5. Eric Klein June 29, 2023 / 1:11 am

    Great interview with lots of practical and excellent advice. All collectors should read this. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Ivan June 29, 2023 / 1:15 pm

    Great read!! Good idea indeed, and thanks a lot👌👍

  7. Paul Kremastiotis July 4, 2023 / 1:31 pm

    I’ve owned both books for decades, wonderful read, thank you

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