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WWI M17/Brodie Painted Helmets

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#1 Russell 1910

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 04:39 PM

Just wondering how one goes about identifying a fake WWI painted helmet. Apart from simply having the backround or ability to handle numerous painted helmets and just getting a "feel" for it, what are some tried-and-true ways (that even advanced helmet collectors might always use) to avoid getting burned?

Are "normal" WWI painted helmets that don't otherwise bring in big bucks (like camo, or USMC, 2ND ID, etc) faked? Has this been experienced?


#2 Greg Robinson

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 07:31 AM

I recall seeing a Manion's auction catalog in the late '90's listing all the US Inf Divisions which fought in France in WW1 painted on Model 1917 helmets. Far as I could tell from their description the helmets were legit but the markings were reproductions. It was around that time that somebody uncovered a cache of new Model 1917 helmets and they were selling cheap. So, in my opinion, any "painted" US helmet from WW1 is suspect unless you know for a fact where it came from. I don't think it's a coincidence that since the early 2000's militaria dealers seem to always have a good supply of those.

Can the fakes be spotted? I asked Chris Arnold this question years ago and he said it was often very difficult. So buyer beware!!!


#3 aef1917

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 08:17 AM

I think it's safe to say that every division has been faked. However, I don't think that the more common divisions are faked nearly as often.

If you're just getting started, you're fairly safe with 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, (various sub-units of the) 26th, 27th, 28th, 30th, 33rd, (various sub-units of the) 35th, 77th, 78th, 80th, (various sub-units of the) 89th and 91st division helmets. These are all relatively common, and don't sell for super-high prices. 2nd division helmets are also fairly common, and the less-exotic units don't see fakery quite as much as USMC or MG units. For the 26th, 35th and 89th divisions, all of which have distinctive insignias for their sub-units, you are generally safer with infantry or artillery units (such as 164th FA of the 89th, 102nd and 103rd Inf in the 26th).

There is also a helmet manufacture/unit correlation. I'm being vague here so I don't help the fakers too much. Certain divisions are commonly Brodies, while others are commonly m1917s. For a couple of the common divisions, not being the "correct" type of helmet is a huge red flag for me. I have also noticed that one division in particular often appears painted on Wilmer eye-shield helmets.

The only real hard-and-fast rule I can think of is never buy a helmet from captainscarlet47 on eBay.

#4 Shenkursk



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Posted 20 January 2007 - 07:42 PM

The only real hard-and-fast rule I can think of is never buy a helmet from captainscarlet47 on eBay.

:D That's a good one! Yes, always pays to know your source.

As a dealer that specializes in WWI stuff, I have handled well over 1000 of these in the last few years and like aef1917 mentioned, there are certainly some trends that you can spot after a while. Nothing is absolute, however.

After you handle a bunch of them you will find that most fakes are actually fairly easy to spot. Fakers, generally speaking, are looking to take a shortcut to make their $$. They don't want to put in the effort to seek out and acquire good items - easier to make their own. People who take shortcuts tend to be lazy in their efforts, and sometimes it really shows.

I remember walking by a table at one of the mega-shows and there was a guy with dozens of helmets - all the really 'rare' and desirable units. That does not mean anything in itself; maybe it was a big collection just coming on the market.... However, even a causal inspection showed that ALL of the helmets were painted using the same paint set. Same tints, same style, etc. First thought is "the guy is a crook, but thank goodness he is also a moron." (for setting them all out at the same time.) Second thought was "holy crap! People are actually BUYING this stuff!" as people walked up to the table and handed him big $$ for helmets. Couldn't believe it.

Unfortunately there are also some guys out there with incredible talent who have made a science of it. Their stuff is quite hard to spot, and anyone can be fooled by it. I have been burned in the past as well, and like I said I have the benefit of hands-on experience with a large number of helmets.

The good news:
We had over 4 million men in uniform in WWI, and they were allowed to take their stuff home. Not all of them had painted helmets, but a bunch of them did. Moths don't eat painted helmets, and so no matter how industrious the fakers are, there will always be more real helmets out there than fake ones.

If you are looking for guidelines here is what I would suggest:
1) Handle as many absolutely no-doubt-about-it originals as you can. Even better to study helmets that are part of identified groupings with established provenance. Make friends with collectors who will let you get up close and personal with their helmets.
2) Don't get desperate. There are lots of great helmets out there. If you are uncomfortable with a helmet, don't buy it - wait for the next one.
3) Buy from people you trust, and who will let you return a helmet if you are uncomfortable with it.

Buying from someone you don't know on ebay is a lot like going to Baghdad for a peaceful vacation. You might very well get lucky, but you run a pretty high risk of having an unpleasant experience.

And the best advice (though I can't take credit for it) :
My friend Darrell likes to say "Experience is a lot like a condom. Sure, it protects you 99% of the time, but when you move from the nice girls to the bad part of town, your chances of catching something unpleasant still go up substantially."

Edited by Jeff Shrader, 20 January 2007 - 07:45 PM.

#5 cefiler

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Posted 09 December 2013 - 04:55 PM

Also very good information.  Thanks very much for posting it.

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