Collecting snow camo & red cross helmets

 

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RonR’s magnificent M40 Red cross helmet

Availability on the market

Both winter and red cross helmets are too often available for purchase these days. This was not always the case. 10 years ago and earlier they were rarely available. I have looked at all the top dealers sites and followed all helmet related the topics on several forums for the past decade so I easily recognize trends.

Given popular demand and price increases it comes as no surprise there are suddenly more of these helmets available so extreme caution is advised.

Below are 2 chapters in which I describe my personal experience with these helmets.

I. SNOW CAMO’s

Why would it be harder to find a snow camo than any other camo helmet ?

Winter camo’s were painted for snow landscapes. Come spring these helmets needed to be repainted again. Plenty of examples exist where the white paint was overpainted with grey. I also saw examples where a steel brush was used to scrub the white paint from the shell leaving marks in the underlying feldgrau paint.

Another way of preparing a helmet for winter was to whitewash it , basically this is a kind of chalky white substance that unlike paint was easier to take off again.

The third way was to use white cloth and a rubber band.

Taking into account that often winter camo’s (unlike other camo helmets) were undone come spring time it is just logical that there are not many originals around. One remark on the above statement : It would appear more original painted winter camo’s pop up in Norway where there was a more permanent need for such camo’s for a longer period of time.

White paint = white paint

You do not need to be a Van Gogh to fake a snow camo , the only difficult thing to replicate is patina and wear and find an original shell.

How do you check if the white paint is original ?

I will be very honest , if you have assessed the interior as being authentic (see the page on camo helmets) and you have compared the interior patina and wear and are happy with it than all you have to go on is your gut feeling. This is the very reason why in 20 years of collecting I still do not own a full snow camo helmet.

But I still want one snow camo , what is your advice ?

Simple , get one with a decal but be patient , full snow camo helmets where a sign of decal is visible are hard to find. I would take extra care when no decal or no trace of it is visible.

Why with a decal you ask ? Because the majority of snow camo’s popping up do not show any traces of a decal. Which for M40’s and early M42’s is a bit strange especially as multi color camo’s almost always have a hint of a decal , even if completely overpainted.

Strong signs of an original decal coupled with patina and believeable wear increases your chances to own an original snow camo big time.

II. RED CROSS / MEDIC HELMETS

Are Red cross helmets rare ?

They should be extremely rare although oddly enough they follow the same pattern these last couple of years as the snow camo’s. Many many more are available than 6 years ago. The market was literally barren of them. Of these new ones popping up I would not have 98% of them on my shelf.

There is period photographic evidence that German helmets with the red cross were painted although more are seen on photos wearing cloth covers.

A new theory suggests that most German Red cross helmets were painted at the end of the war in Allied prisoner of war camps thus helping the German imprisoned Red cross volunteers stand out more.

Authenticating the paint on Red cross helmets

The majority (99%) of Red cross helmets I have seen so far are all white with a red cross. There is no rule on where or how the crosses were applied. The problem facing collectors here is exactly the same as with the snow camo’s. We can only look at wear , patina , interior , decals. Then decide on our gut feeling.

Again just as with white camo’s you do not need to be a Van Gogh to fake a Red cross helmet.

But I still want one Red cross helmet , what is your advice ?

Again patience is key and do not settle with the first helmet that crosses your path. Be extra cautious with late war undecalled M42 shells. They are always easy prey for fakers.

Where are the decals ?

Most red cross helmets you see for sale do not show signs of decals , if the helmet is a factory painted M35/M40 or M42 the decals should show up under the paint like they do on other period camouflaged helmets. The absence of even the slightest trace of a decal would put me off. Why you ask ? Because then it’s a possible beater lid that was ‘upgraded’.

CONCLUSION

Finding an original winter camo or red cross helmet is extremely tough even for an experienced collector. Finding one for sale these days is not , these helmets go for a lot of money and for 99% of they are not worth a penny. Check with other collectors before you decide to purchase one.

Example of a fake medic , easy to spot because of the fake liner and incorrect interior paint. If only all fakes were like this one.