Reproduction decals have been available since the seventies and perhaps earlier. The first generation reproduction decals were merely a representation of the original. Graphically completely incorrect.
In the last 15 years in large part due to the internet collectors have gained so much knowledge on helmet decals. We know exactly how many different types exist , on what type of shells they are used and during which period. We can fairly accurately pinpoint when decals were no longer applied thanks to the lot number database.
Part of this new info is also utilized by miscreants to create fake decals , I say fake because most of the 21st century generation decals are made with the intention to deceive inexperienced collectors. Graphically they can come very near to the originals but still they have flaws , a studied collector will not be easily misled by today’s fakes.
My assessment of the current situation
- Over 95% of helmets with fake decals have decals that are too graphically flawed. The other 5% will have the 21st century photocopy fakes which come close but see the next points.
- Over 95% of fake decals applied are applied on the wrong shell for that maker or applied on helmets that should not have decals.
- 100% of all fakes are not created by the same process as the decals made during the TR period. Most look in fact like thin stickers even the water transfer ones. In rare cases a decal can be painted on. So far only observed with SS decals.
What the numbers above show is that when you put the time in to learn your original decals you have nothing to worry about. If time is lacking you can always fall back on the opinions of experienced collectors populating the forums.
A gallery of fakes
While it is good to be aware of the fakes that exist your time is best spent studying original decals and getting to know their look and feel and on what helmets you can find them.
If you want to challenge yourself do side to side comparisons.
Fake Heer Big foot decal
- One of the most common fakes and exists in many versions. This was one of the first designs that was copied from an original Q Big foot decal.
- It is flawed in several areas and often applied on the wrong shell.
Fake Heer ET hybrid decal
- The examples below although different all try to be an ET decal.
- These decals all have traits of an ET decal but they are by far no exact copy. The decal on the M35 of which I provided the close-up is the better of the three posted but still should not fool experienced collectors.
Fake Heer – newer more recent fake 2017 – …
- Seen first in 2017 on an NS shell in the inventory of a well known German dealer “W” , well known for using the mixed inventory scam I talk about on my page Frauds and scams.
- You can see ‘fake’ age cracks , at first sight believable print but flawed in design.
Another example which turned up in October 2018 on an M40 fake white camo EF shell
Another example on a reissue NS M35 with fake liner and chinstrap. Was posted on a militaria forum in 2019.
Fake Heer decal – Pocher / Peiniger style
This fake turned up in October 2018 at the Wehrmachts awards forum on a good NS M42 shell. It’s a hybrid of a Pocher decal and also looks to have some traits of a Gustav Peiniger decal.
Fake Heer Photocopy decals
- These are newer generation (approx. 10 years old) Basically these are photos of original decals that are reworked with Photoshop . The wear you see is the wear of the original decals. Often the original photos are just ‘stolen’ from the web.
- These really look like stickers and do not have the sparkle of originals.
Fake Heer decal aka Yellow fake
- Surfaced around 2009 on a dealer website.
- Tries hard to be an ET style decal but seems to have some HJ&K traits as well
- Construction wise on the photos at least it seems like a good attempt. But if you look at the close-up you can clearly see a modern print signature.
- Also take note of the shadow under the swastika which tries to copy a feature of original decals but in this case is a red flag.
- This fake decal is not seen often and probably was a local endeavor.
Fake Luftwaffe decal – The easy one
- This is the most common fake found on today’s market
- There are many versions which are more or less based on one another
- Graphically a seriously bad attempt.
Fake Luftwaffe decal – Improved one
- This version is a slightly better version than the “Easy one” , some flaws were removed making it look better at first glance but still far removed from an authentic one.
- It is not a fake that is often seen.
Another newer fake
- Just saw this one for the first time (16/10/2020)
- It looks like it is printed in the same way like those raster printed Heer decals I discussed above.
- Inner print lines are not pronounced enough , claws are wrong.
Fake Luftwaffe Straight and Snake leg eagle
- Most commonly found fake of this type but much less in use than the fake posted above.
- One of the photos shows an unapplied example that’s been magnified with a USB microscope. You can clearly see the digital saw tooth signature of a modern print.
- A camo helmet with this fake was sold in 2005 dealer to dealer as authentic and it spawned a huge forum discussion. You can read my topic here.
Fake ET SS decal – Round bottom fake
- This is the most common fake SS decal on the market and exists in many versions.
- The simple graphics of SS decals makes them easier to reproduce so with SS helmets more caution is needed.
- This decal is often used on the wrong shells so always check that first.
- The color of the silver is usually not even close to an original and a loupe will be a big help.
- The graphical flaw of this decal which is the too rounded bottom border is often masked by creating a small scar in that area.
Fake SS Q/Pocher hybrids
- SS decals are so popular that there are many versions of fake decals on the market.
- Here are some examples that try to copy the Q and Pocher decal but they fail big time graphically.
- Again a lot of these decals will be applied to the wrong shells.
Fake NS Champagne runes
- This particular decal was a tough nut to crack amongst collectors. It was featured in Kelly Hicks’s book SS steel as an authentic decal for NS helmets however experienced collectors on forums saw irregularities in the way it was applied. Popping up on different shells and many times on M42’s that according to the lot number database should not carry a decal. Also graphically it seemed inconsistent and controversy surrounded this decal for years. In 2015 one of the most dedicated SS collectors went looking for the truth and discovered that the NS champagne rune is not a decal but paint ! This discovery made all the other inconsistencies fit together.
- Until 2015 SS helmets with this decal were sold as authentic WW2 examples.
- More on this fake here
Fake Kriegsmarine decals
- Below you will find 4 examples of attempts at faking a Kriegsmarine decal.
- The deep gold color and sparkle of an original is impossible to replicate so the examples below are only dangerous as being “Toned” Heer decals.
- In the top left decal you can clearly see the modern print signature.
- Another KM fake put on an original helmet. The graphics are all wrong.
Fake NSKK decals
- The fake decals all have graphical errors , the NSKK letters are a good place to start.
- Authentic NSKK helmets are rare so check any purchase you consider carefully.
Fake RAD decals
- Original RAD decals are printed the same way as Heer decals , this is something I learned when using the USB microscope. Fake RAD decals will not have the same look at high magnification. You can read a topic on a fake RAD I analyzed here.
- 2 of the below examples are fakes copied from an original RAD decal. They are too thick , have small graphical errors and will not have the same silver sparkle.
- Around 2008 a self proclaimed RAD expert sold many Gladiator style helmets with fake RAD decals through the WA forum. Good to know if you should encounter such a helmet for sale. You can read my topic here.
Fake Polizei decals
- Fakes of Polizei decals generally less encountered. The silver is more grey and they have a sticker like appearance. They are also always paired with bad copies of the Party shield decal.
- The decal in the bottom right corner is a copy of an Austrian decal.
Note the typical raster print effect we see on other fakes.
Fake Tri color decals
- Like with SS decals the graphics of a tri color decals are simple and people struggle harder to judge good ones from bad ones.
- In 9,5 out of 10 helmets the fake tricolor will always be paired with another fake decal (Heer , Luftwaffe , etc…). So even if you cannot tell it is fake you will be able to judge the other decal.
- As with all decals they will look like stickers and lack the depth of an original.
- Many versions exist.
The sharp corner tricolor fake
- The sharp corners where the shield slopes to the bottom point really stand out on this one.
- The other measurements are wholly incorrect as well
Raster printed fake tricolor
- You can see clearly the vertical print spoor across the decal
Fake Party shield decal with off center circle
- These are easily recognizable as fakes simply because the white circle with the swastika is sitting too high in the shield.
- To double check you can always verify the decal it is paired with (SS or Polizei) because in almost all cases that decal is also bad.
Fake Party shield – Improved version
- This improved version may trick you at first and especially on photos.
- Approach this decal in the same way as I explained earlier , look at the paired SS or Polizei decal. That should tell you the whole story.
- In hand like with all the other decals listed on the page they will appear more smooth and sticker like. The wear will look unnatural and with a loupe they will fall apart if you know what to look for.
Some other fakes
- The round DRK decal is a fantasy decal , it never existed.
- The fake round bottom DRK decal , a fake that is used very often to upgrade the cheaper civil helmets. It is not proven an original version of this decal ever existed.
- Fake Org. Todt decal , there are many variants of this fake floating around. Until today it is not even sure this decal actually existed !
- Fake Sauerland decal , I put this one under the USB microscope and you can clearly see when you compare with other period decals that this is a modern print.
- At the top a reproduction Luftschutz decal.
- On the bottom right : fake Feldherrnhalle decals. These are always stuck on shells that do not correspond to how the FHH were supplied. Wrong paint , wrong color.
- Fake Bahnschutz decal combo , always seen on black civic helmets.
Some more examples of fake Luftschutz decals
Fake DRK decal accompanied by a fantasy DRK decal (left decal)
Reproduction CIVIC decals
Authentic civic helmets like the M34 and the Gladiator shells have been abused by fakers for decades simply because they are cheap and available.
Quite a high percentage have been turned into factory fire protection helmets bearing the logo of popular and collectible factories like BMW , Mercedes , Volkswagen, Krupp.
Often they have Eigentum tags glued inside which are huge red flag.
Such logo’s are either spray painted using a template or applied as a decal.
Authentic factory helmets exist but are very rare. 99% of the ones you see for sale are fake.
A fake Krupp and BMW decal.
A fake Volkswagen helmet sold on Ebay for 740 $ , note again the Eigentum tag.