People have asked me quite often why is the German Helmet Vault not on Facebook ? There are various reasons. From the onset I have never been keen to throw my life online for all to see. In recent years so much data has been harvested from people’s accounts , data that’s offered to the highest bidder , that I’m glad that I did not participate in that scheme.
I find it still remarkable that Facebook was able to get people on their platform with their full names as usernames. Seeing how things progressed for the worse I don’t think it’s smart to walk in the online world under your birth name. I’m for 100% anonimity as far as it is possible to do so.
But that’s my personal motivation , so what about the website ? In the early days of the website I was considering a Facebook page but there was a reluctancy of course due to my personal reservations , another factor was taken into account as well. Censorship.
Facebook policy gives them power to delete whole pages and Facebook groups without looking at the context. The swastika is a forbidden symbol and pages , photos or groups are deleted without investigation.
On one hand I understand the necessity to police their platform against extremist groups but they should make the distinction between groups dedicated to military history and collecting and bald people with swastika tattoos on their forehead. We are miles apart. Couple the swastika ban with the fact that they have your name and data and it becomes a little bit creepy. True World war 2 militaria collectors don’t run around the neighbourhood showing their German helmets or flags , it’s first and foremost a personal passion shared with like minded individuals. But online , on Facebook , we don’t do that , we show and tell. I think that’s a mistake.
Funny thing is even now the platform has been proven not to be ideal for WW2 collectors that are into Third Reich militaria , it’s still being used , people go to the trouble of photoshopping the swastika’s from their photos.
The alternative ? Facebook has emptied out the smaller forums but it’s not in the interest of the hobby as forums are a much safer environment where you are only showing your collection to like minded individuals. Where a posting history shows someone’s track record and where you can hide behind an alias. But not just that , forums have a good search function that allows you to do serious research. I use it a lot to find examples of rare helmets. The bigger forums like German Helmet Walhalla , Wehrmacht awards and Warelics have been around for almost 2 decades and the amount of information they have gathered is a treasure trove for both new and old collectors.
I want to make it clear I am not discrediting some of the excellent Militaria groups that exist on Facebook. There are several that set high standards. (I have been told) But Big brother is watching them all , that is no conspiracy theory. Just fact.
In the end it’s about learning and informing and different venues can have different benefits. It’s not about us or them. Facebook versus forums. You can perfectly be part of all venues and let your participation depend on the quality of the venue. But for those that seriously want to dive in feet first into this wonderful hobby I strongly recommend to subscribe to the forums mentioned above.
Dear readers , with this article I want to get a closer look at many different types of black painted helmets that were used in the Third Reich. When we think about black helmets we immediately think of the transitional M16/M18 and Austrian helmets used by the early SS. But also M35’s and medium weight Edelstahl helmets were repainted in black for the SS and as you will see also for the Wehrmacht.
REPAINTING HELMETS WAS COMMON PRACTICE
New collectors often think the Germans were very strict when it came to altering their helmet’s appearance. But in fact the opposite is true. Crookedly applied decals were accepted. Despite general orders a lot of soldiers kept their tricolor on their M35 helmets and putting camo paint on a helmet was common practice done by the individual soldier or at unit level.
But it didn’t stop there. The Feldherrnhalle division and auxilliary units like the NSKK and Bahnschutz polizei overpainted their factory decalled helmets with their own color. A kind of brown for the FHH , a blueish grey for the Bahnschutz and NSKK had a variety of shades from green to greyish blue. Also M35 Reicharbeitsdienst helmets and some M40’s are observed with overpaints.
METHOD OF REPAINTING
It looks like two methods were used. Brush repaint or spray gun repaints. Very often the interior was also painted but always only right up against the liner band usually leaving such paint traces visible on the leather and on the liner band itself. The early transitional SS helmets were already painted this way. According to Kelly Hicks a cardboard template was placed inside the helmet to protect the leather from being sprayed. (reference SS steel page 45). Below an example of an Algemeine SS transitional helmet with interior painted , note the black on the chinstrap bale and the first green color in the dome.
WHY OVERPAINT A BRAND NEW FACTORY SUPPLIED HELMET ?
All the units talked about earlier in the article at some point decided to stand out more and have their own helmet color. Was there ever an official order for it ? So far as I know it has not surfaced. It was also never uniformly done , what I mean by that is that there is a big variety in paint colors. Helmets were being repainted all over Europe and everyone interpreted their ‘official color’ a little differently. Especially the NSKK have more different overpaint colors. For the RAD it seems it was not that often done. Early RAD used Luftwaffe helmets as they were. Some got overpainted when the RAD decals arrived but most M40 and M42 were never overpainted ,they just got a RAD decal stuck on them.
So to answer why ? Unit proudness , the practical need to be recognized amongst other soldiers. These are the only two answers I can come up with.
PAINT IT BLACK
Only commercial helmets seems to have received a factory black paintjob but the Feuerschutz traditionally wore black helmets so that makes sense.
Bahnschutz / Railroad protection
Apart from the SS we also know the Bahnschutz used black transitionals with Heer decals. These black transitionals may have been SS helmets initially as they are painted in the same way. The connection to the Bahnschutz has only been very recently discovered. One helmet was found with a card attached to it that it was attributed to a Res. Lokführer = Reserve train driver.
Others have been found with railway stamps in the dome.
Very little is known about exactly which Wehrmacht units painted their helmets black. We see black helmets in every branch of the Wehrmacht. Luftwaffe , Heer and Kriegsmarine. With each come some possible expanations of their use based on unit markings found in the helmets or where they were found. Militaria dealers refer to all these black Wehrmacht helmets as Flak helmets. Some are Flak , some are not.
When I bought the below helmet the story was that the helmet was worn by a guard of Kriegsmarine installations in Denmark. It’s an SE 64 M35 painted also up to the liner band , you can see more details on my Kriegsmarine helmets webpage.
In Norway some local collectors also found black KM helmets out of the woodwork related to Kriegsmarine installations. Check out below topic on GHW2.com.
Whom were using the Heer black helmets is at this time still difficult to pinpoint but an exciting research project nonetheless. Could be also Flak as Heer Flak batteries also existed. Could they have been used by the Bahnschutz or otherwise railroad related , guards ? A third theory suggests the black helmets belong to Panzer units. A black overpainted gasmask cannister which links to a Panzer abteilung was posted on a topic about a Black M35 on the Wehrmacht awards forum. It could even be all or some of the above.
The below helmet is an M35 reissue with Methner and Burger decal , the black paint was painted over the reissue paint , decal painted around. 1940 dated liner.
Example 2 has some interesting features , none of the rivets have washers. It makes the most experienced collector scratch his head. Judging by the overall patina these were intentionally installed that way. Lack of washers available ? Another very similar example surfaced recently also without washers. See further down.
This helmet looks more brush painted , the decal like the first helmet I showed is also a Methner and Burger. The rivets are 1944 dated.
On the Wehrmachts awards forum a gentleman shared his M35 black overpaint with ET decal. The black brush paint reminded me of mine. Guess what ? None of the rivets have washers. You can read the topic if you click the link below. There you will also see the black overpainted gasmask I mentioned earlier that belonged to a Panzer abteilung.
The 3rd Heer helmet I can share is one that’s not been painted inside and the decals have been overpainted , a very nice wartime example without a doubt. The stamp in the shell reads : 2.flakregiment 11. batterie (photos kindly provided by Quentin on GHW2)
It is always exciting and perhaps a little strange to find a gap in the knowledge we have about certain helmets because so much has already been written. Unknown is often unloved in this hobby of ours but I hope this article will renew the interest in black helmets and result in even more knowledge becoming available. Also to avoid any wartime black helmets being destroyed by people feeling the need to remove the overpaint.
If someone reading this topic has a black helmet with unit markings you can share it with me via e-mail. (see the contacts page)
Thanks to all of you who share their collections on forums , you make them a treasure trove of information. Also thanks to those who reached out to me privately with information. Also to my friend and co moderator of the German Helmet Vault Andrea who tipped me on the black Kriegsmarine helmet and Scott B who tipped me on the black gasmask can.
Keep collecting and keep sharing (not on Facebook)
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.
I touched upon this subject briefly when answering question 10 in my previous blog article ’10 questions for the German Helmet Vault’ but it seems necessary to make it into an article all of its own as I see more and more people posting questions or making wrong assumptions based on the information they got from a lot number list.
HOW MANY SUCH LISTS EXIST ?
First of all there are only 2 Lot numbers lists out there. One is posted here on the German Helmet Vault and is maintained by me and shared for free. One is in the form of a book. I have only seen some excerpts of that one.
There is a distinct difference between the 2 lists. My list has a description of the helmets which helps me to add helmets with similar lot numbers which in turn gives us better insight at how similar or disimilar in build they are particularly with regard to the installed liner , size and branch.
THE START … WITHOUT AN END
The idea of the creating a lot number list started a long time ago. Must have been 2005 maybe earlier on a forum that no longer exists. I’m not sure anymore how it all got started , I remember members sending in their lot numbers and they were put into a topic on that forum.
When that forum was closed and I got the chance to set up and run the German Helmet Walhalla forum we revived the idea and started working on a completely new list with moderators adding to it as they saw fit.
At a certain stage the list became unmanageable because we were working in a forum topic. The data input was uncoordinated because everybody used different codes and language and there was no way to check the data integrity.
So I decided to make it my own personal project , create the list in Excel. Add descriptions of the helmets so I could also add more helmets with the same lot number. As for the data integrity part I only added helmets that I had seen in hand or were posted on forums with enough details to ascertain authenticity.
I worked fevershly the first few years to get a 1000 helmets in the list. I can tell you it is A LOT of work.
Today there are 2200 helmets in the list , still a microscopic sample of all German combat helmets made during WW2.It is roughly estimated that 25 million German helmets were produced in WW2.
Q&A ABOUT LOT NUMBERS
I found my helmet lot number in your list does it mean my helmet is authentic ?
No. A visual inspection is always required.
Ifmy helmet does not have a decal , can a lot number tell me what branch it used to belong to ?
No. We discovered thanks to the lot number list that a lot number is not branch specific. So one number can be Heer , SS , Polizei , KM and so on. Only if the paint color is Luftwaffe blue can you be sure your helmet is a Luftwaffe helmet. No Lot number needed for that.
Are helmets with identical lot numbers all from the same branch ?
No , the lot number is unrelated to the branch. So one lot number can have helmets of different branches and sizes even.
alu reinforced liner
The green colored entries in my list show this clearly , these are helmets with identical lot numbers.
Can I tell from the lot number if my M42 helmet should have a decal ?
The lot number list can help with that depending on the factory. We have a pretty clear view around which number CKL started to produce no decalhelmets and also the Quist M40 decal drop is visible. For the other factories it’s still rather vague.
One watchout , any conclusion drawn from the lot number list must be accompanied with a visual inspection of the helmet in question.
Can the lot number list tell me what year my helmet was made ?
The best indicators that can help you with that are the liner band date and the dome stamp (if your helmet is an M35). In case you can’t see them clearly you may be able to ascertain the approximate year of production by cross referencing the lot number with my list.
Can the lot number tell me if the components on my helmet are original to my helmet ?
A visual inspection is key of course but you can use the lot number to check if your liner band conforms with entries listed in the list but of course you have to compare apples with apples. A reissued M35 with lot 7XXX can have a later steel dated liner when compared with a factory untouched DD M35 with the same lot 7xxx number.
I see dealers adding lot number list print outs with the helmets they sell , should I have more confidence in buying a helmet that is listed in a lot number list ?
No. Having a lot number match means absolutely nothing so using this information to sell a helmet is useless.
Remember that lot number list present only a minute number of total helmets produced.
So what are lot number lists useful for ?
It’s usefulness has proven itself more on a higher “factory production” level than on an individual helmet level.
It helped us to see some interesting things about which factories produced for which branches. For example SE only produced Kriegsmarine helmets in a very small time frame (1940) and used M35 shells. NS never produced for the Kriegsmarine.
And as more and more helmets get listed we will get a better view on around which lot numbers the decals stopped being applied. For ckl and Q we already have good data.
Also useful when comparing component of helmets with identical lot numbers or very near lot numbers.
Do you use the lot number list when buying a helmet ?
Depends on what I am buying and where I am. On a fair I never check the list. If online I will have a look in exceptional cases. I will check for a late war M42 for the decal drop date or for a very early helmet for the liner band type and also for a late M35 for the liner band type.
But I don’t let the lot number overrule my visual inspection. If a helmet is untampered with I will buy it whatever the lot number data tells me , experience and knowledge trumps the list.
That’s it for this newsletter/blog , if you want to discuss it with other collectors you can do so in our community forum here : German Helmet Vault
Most of the helmets shown in this newsletter are often considered ‘easy fakes’ by experienced collectors. But they must be easy fakes to spot for the dealers selling them but apparently they are not or they are throwing them out there hoping they will turn real in the near future. It’s like a blast of fake news , once people keep seeing and reading about fake news chances are some will start to think it’s real. In that regard there are entire websites in business for decades dealing in these obvious fakes and asking top dollar. If they can get one such fake SS helmet sold per month for 6000 euros they already done good business. So don’t buy anything for huge amounts that you are not familiar with , always check with fellow collectors first.
Military Antiques in UK
Here’s a nice helmet that got a new set of decals and a new much higher price tag. Always a red flag helmets with these decals , in all my years of collecting I have not seen a good one yet.
It should be so obvious this is fake , why omit this information from the description and compromise your integrity as a serious dealer ?
An M42 ‘raw edge’ German single decal Luftwaffe helmet in very good condition. The helmet shell is in excellent shape, marked ET64 and batched 2019. The steel integrity has not been compromised at all, there are none of the usual bumps or dents. The helmet shell retains its paint finish across its surface, decal is approx. 60%, a dot above the right wing is visable as second pattern type, a single strand type wire is fitted around the helmet outer, there are two initials painted into the rim. The liner is in good condition with the leather being reasonable though stiff in parts, liner is dated but difficult to read and sized 57. A good used Luftwaffe helmet.
Franz Furth Militaria
Franz wasn’t paying attention when he listed this HKP helmet with the obvious most common fake big foot decal for a hefty 990 euros.
Ebay always has been and will be a cesspit full of Third Reich fakes and frauds. Experienced collectors can pick them out easily but people hoping to score a rare helmet at half the price will be left with a hole in their wallet. Even sellers with a 100% are no guarantee and shill bidding happens very often.
Here’s a fake (not mentioned) FJ that can fool a lot of people. Remember sellers that know what these are worth can sell them faster to a dealer or private person. There’s no gain to sell an original FJ on ebay if you are a collector or dealer. Why give 10% to ebay ? (note 100% feedback)
By the way the below FJ was sold on the 29th of September for 1150 USD but apparently the buyer bailed or a shill bid won the auction instead. Now it’s relisted.
Here’s another piece of crap , a Normandy camo featured in a book with buy it now price of only 600 GBP. From a trusted ebay seller no less !
For the civic helmet collectors this would be something special , helas do walk on. Complete fantasy piece. Interior also repainted.
Relics are especially vulnerable on Ebay. Add some wire and price it up a 100%.
Original grid he says 🙂
You see that price or quality does not come into play when upgrading TR relics at any level helmets are getting humped up.
To close , another ‘cheap’ fake wire camo like there are so many. Fake dome stamp and painted name as well.
The sales text is funny though.
Original WW2 German Helmet. Size 68, Great condition minimal damages some scratches and the paint is messed up under the wire. SD, named, stamped, and marked well is in Brian Ice’s book This listing contains no offensive markings and I do not support nazis or their ideas, my 98 year old grandfather was tortured by them 80 years ago and still remembers it better than he should. Minimum offer is 400, act quick could get taken down!
In the night of 3rd of August burglars broke into the Eyewitness museum which is located in Beek in the Netherlands.
It is estimated that the burglary took only 5 minutes and that they knew exactly what they wanted to steal. The break in is suspected to be placed ‘on order’. Multiple cars were used and witnessess speak of 6 to 8 men that were involved.
The museum which was founded in 2013 shows predominantly the collection of the owner. The thieves stole 9 full mannequins that were displayed in diorama’s behind glass. Also weapons and helmets were stolen.
I know the author from the online forums for more than 14 years. He made it his trademark to source helmets out of the Norwegian woodwork. On regular basis we are treated with topics on his new finds on the German Helmet Walhalla forum. In 2014 he published his first book showcasing his Norwegian finds. With this new book he takes it a step further and goes into detail about the specifics of the German helmet.
The book starts with a very nicely detailed chapter on the first German steel helmets as used during World War 1 and moves on to what we collectors call the Transitional helmets , First World war helmets re-used in the Third Reich period.
Gladiator style helmets and the Medium weight Edelstahl helmets are only touched upon briefly and then it moves on full speed ahead to the German combat helmet models. Of each model (M35 , M40 and M42) we get chapters with nice examples of each branch of service (Heer, Luftwafe , Polizei , Kriegsmarine and SS). Helmets shown are from the author’s collection or from friends.
After those chapters the book dives deeper into the specifics , these are my favorite pages especially because there are so many photos that can be used as a visual aid. We get to see the many different shell stamps , learn about the liner band and all its components. The chinstrap maker section is probably the largest brought together to date. I counted more than 90 photos ! Also the for the first time published is the correlation between leather size stamps and liner band makers. This study was done by 2 Italian collectors Andrea and Marco. The decals are up next and get a detailed breakdown by type and branch. The decal photos are really superb.
The above is just a review of the first half of the book and there is much more. There’s an excellent chapter on reissued helmets and camo helmets including winter camo helmets , wire camo’s and net camo helmets of which most were found in Norway. Even Wehrmacht and SS cloth covers are shown in detail. The final chapter of the book is about Fallschirmjäger helmets.
This book is a must have for anyone interested in German combat helmets of the second World war be it as collector or history buff. The photos in the book are of very high quality and every chapter is supported by period photos as well.
How to order ?
This is a self published book so first editions may sell out fast. You can order it directly from the author via this e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Dedicated to the victims of the infamous fake Big foot decal.
How this decal can still feature on so many helmets on dealer websites is unbelievable. We know already for 20 years that a good Big foot decal is only found on Quist helmets. Still dealers present us with a plethora of shells with this cheap fake plastic knock off.
Type in German helmet in the search box and some hideous fakes will appear from the likes of Antiques storehouse.
A typical and common abuse of such platforms by people that lack knowledge on the subject or that have downright criminal intentions to rip someone off.
Yes the below shell is sold as an authentic DD SS for 1100 GBP , they are serious.
The next one a Heer with that typical cheap fake Big foot decal and a horrible fake liner. The shell is SE.
They sure like their SE’s with fake Big foot decal.
This website provides a similar service or disservice depending on the way you look at it like the Gunstar website that started this blog article. Scam or clueless seller of that website seems to be Breedon antiques.
Here he is selling some Chinese fake commercial M18 looking contraption for 995 GBP.
The next one is kind of funny taking his sales pitch into account :
Good condition and liner, complete nothing missing, some slight rust but would clean off and make good, large sized, rare helmet, offering free worldwide delivery reference OSS
I’m sure a kid in Asia painted this one thinking that German paratroopers were present when Jesus was born which may explain the comet symbol.
Yours for 1250 GBP.
Any seller that knows all about German helmets must have the iconic Afrika Korps palmtree helmet for sale ? And of course it’s the rare DD M40 kind that don’t exist. He is kind with the price on this one though he only ask 795 GBP.
I found this NS M42 for sale as a Kriegsmarine and I am sure you recognize our friend the fake Big foot decal.
PARADE MILITARY ANTIQUES
A no decal with a decal. CKL lot number 4462. The wire of course is someone’s hobby project and a rubbed off fake decal.
Another UK based dealer with a serious crappy helmet inventory and while his flavour texts don’t tell you what he’s selling is fake his prices seem to say ‘hey I know it is crap that is why I price a Normandy SS camo for 30% the value of what an original would cost’. (which is still 95% too much)
n M35 single decal Waffen SS helmet in Normandy camo. Large size helmet shell has screw-in vents and is stamped with serial number 6033 on inner skirt. Camouflage paint has a rough cork-grit texture. A large darker patch on the crown suggests the helmet has been standing in water at some time in its life. SS decal has a margin of original paint around it which is brown in colour. Decal is 50 per cent present with some flaking but the runes are clear. Eisenhuttenwerke maker and size stamp ET66. Tan hide liner, and black chinstrap. This helmet can laid aside and paid for in interest-free instalments.
Let’s close with this fake TENO M42 , for sale for 1295 GBP.
NO EFFORT ONLY SALES
If you just look at the poor quality of the fakes I posted here it seems that most of these dealers with their fancy names can’t seem to be bothered to do any kind of research. They just throw it online and hope to sell at a high price. It does not seem to matter to them if their descriptions are completely wrong. Easy money of course unless they themselves bought the fake helmets believing them to be original. But dealers have large networks and should know what they are selling and if you do the job do it right.
Happy hunting everybody , the real stuff is out there !