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Catching The Fakes Guide - Insignias And Patina


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#1 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 03:45 AM

Well thought i would start this new thread to show my findings, i don't want to clutter or hijack Bugme's own thread, so here we go. Basically, this is just a helpful guide, some things i've found over the past few weeks and things to watch out for, mainly for new collectors to helmets. I will go into some things in detail, others i will just skim over. The idea being, to hopefully give enough information to new collectors, while not telling the hump artists anything they don't already know. I'm still 100percent confident that a helmet cannot be artificially aged 100percent accurately, short of actually naturally weathering and storing one for 60+years. So as long as you do your research and read and read and read and read and observe and read and read, you'll be fine. The topic still comes up as to why blatantly bad insignias to the clued collectors, are actually bad, to the starter collectors, so hopefully this may provide SOME insight. I've used a couple of saved photos of collector helmets on my computer. I hope the owners do not mind, please let me know, so i can give credit, as i cannot remember who owns them. Cheers much :) Let's get started.

Up for the discussion is this repainted 502nd Lt. Helmet i purchased from Scott Berry a few years back now. He's a good bloke and his helmets are marked as repaints. I'd recommend him for a reenactor pot! It was originally a front seam, WWII issue that has been repainted and converted to D bail for display or reenactor use. It was in perfect condition. The only thing i did to begin with was strip the new paint off the helmet rim to expose the original dark green paint underneath. All the rim paint as you see it is genuine WWII. Then i did the rest of the aging. It's a nice looking helmet, no question, i've always liked it anyways, it's a well done display and will be engraved as such when i'm done with it, so it will never fool anyone.

Now a term that comes up often with repainted helmets is 'washing'. A wash is simply a mixture of any antique looking color, that is applied over an insignia to make it appear vintage/old/used/dirty. Effectively, what they are doing is as simple as this example on my BBQ cover. To the left is where i had previously cleaned rusty rifle parts, and the rusty water has covered the white cloth making it look older. A wash can be made off various materials, tea's, coffees, iron oxide (rust), but are usually a dead giveaway as they are
1. Excessive
2. Rub off easily
3. Uneven
4. On top of the surface
Rustwash.jpg

You may ask, ''what do you mean by 'on top of the surface', doesn't rust start on the surface anyway?'' Wrong.........But we'll get to that in a moment's time...............
The moments time is now :P
Let's take a look at something called 'rust bleed'. Now, rust will affect anything containing even the tiniest amounts of iron. For rust, we need 3 things.
1.Iron
2.Air
3.Water/Moisture in the air

When we paint something, we seal the surface against the weather, combatting rust for hopefully, a long time to come. Think about a car, we can sit a newely painted car in the weather, for hopefully years, without any rust forming, because we have sealed the metal surface from the elements. It's only when that sealing layer gets thin, that we get problems. Helmets are no different. A freshly painted helmet, never exposed to the elements to thin out that sealing layer, won't be rusted (hence the few 'mint' M1 helmets we occasionally see around). BUT, helmets exposed to the weather, will naturally thin over time. Rust cannot form until it gets into contact with any bare metal containing iron. You might even be saying ''well hang on Blake, i've got a helmet here that's covered in green paint and has rust'', but take into consideration rust will form on the tiniest, micrscopic gaps in the sealing layer. As the helmets weathered from the rain, sun, wind and air, this sealing layer gets thinner and thinner and thinner until even the tiniest, little pores are open, for rust to start attacking. We know this beautiful, subtle mix of green paint and rust as 'Patina', and it is the overall look of the exterior of any helmet. Now this is where Rust Bleed plays in. If the rust seaps in to any of these micrscopic gaps in the sealing layer, there is nothing from stopping it spreading UNDER the paint, in turn, rusting the helmet from the INSIDE OUT, through the painted layer. Usually around the cork, giving an even effect. This is called 'rust bleed', as the rust will appear to be bleeding through the outer layer of the helmet, from the inside out. Here's a look at rust bleed on an iron bar. We can clearly see the huge gaps of paint missing, where the rust has gotten under the sealing layer of paint and is rusting from the inside out.
Rustbleed.jpg

Now, when we apply this theory to helmets, we get our lovely patina, complete with rust bleed, yet still plenty of green paint left. This is an excessive look, but right as rain and genuine as can be. Much more subtle looks need to be held in hand to be examined, hence the term collectors use of needing to 'see the helmet in hand' Many may even use a microscope to check super close ups of the exterior, i'm not sure to be honest. This is why buying a big price helmet sight unseen is risky, make SURE to get a returnable period, so once examined in hand, you can give the OK, or NO K. ;)
DSCN4118.jpg

Edited by Bugme, 14 June 2009 - 03:51 PM.


#2 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 03:48 AM

DSCN4119.jpg

This effect is something that can not be faked. The helmet's sealing layer of paint must thin out gradually, naturally and evenly with the painted insignia, and it takes years upon years upon years to gently, gradually happen/appear. This is where the fakers will never succeed. Rubbing down the exterior takes off the cork, scratches and takes gouges, smooths it down to much, or makes it uneven, trying to speed up the process does it too much, too unevenly, or not enough. Repainting changes the look completely. This is your best defense of spotting a fake, by studying the patina of genuine helmets. The look is unmistakable, especially in person. Notice the helmet pictured has no descernible scratch marks, the original layer is still there, just very thin, and the whole helmet matches, insignia and overall patina are completely even.

One thing, the fakers can do however is PAINT a patina on, as my helmet shows. Notice how the patina is ON TOP of the sealing layer, not rusting from the inside out. Dead giveaway. Many methods are used for this, rust dyes, brown paints, spatter work, acids, it's all relatively detectable. However, the more subtle it gets, the harder it is to tell. Again, most of the time in hand inspections are MANDATORY.
So i can hear you asking ''well if it's that easy to detect, how come so many people get bitten?''
The fakers best ammunition is to get an original helmet, already with a 60+year patina developed, then repaint the insignia only (usually of an elitist or desirable unit http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/ermm.gif ) and age it to match the rest of the helmet. These are the hard ones to tell, but i'll attempt to show some easy to spot differences.

Let's take a look at the helmet. To many, it is laughably easy to spot as a fake, to some, it may appear right as rain. These are excessive, but i am a relic fanatic at heart, so bear with me :P This is the effect of the helmet being lightly surrounded by wet soil on the perfect paintwork after about 2 weeks. 1 week dry, 1 week solid rain. As you can see, as it got muddy from the rain and the helmet was submersed, with air trapped inside the shell, it has rusted significantly. This is the effect of just 2 weeks outside in the weather and in a wet environment. Anyone who tries to sell you a 60+yr old relic with just the lightest dust rust on it, is obviously full of hot air. NOTE however, the deeper something is buried and COVERED IN, where the air cannot get to it, the LESS it will rust. Remember you need air for the reaction. The relatively fine condition of member Yannick's 29th Infantry dug pieces are testament to this.
The rust is relatively light as it is still new. Many think dark rust = old rust, but this isnt always the case and vice versa. New rust can be darkened VERY easily, but i will not reveal how.
My502helmet1.jpg
My502helmet2.jpg

Edited by Blake_E, 23 May 2009 - 04:09 AM.


#3 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 03:49 AM

My502helmet3.jpg
My502helmet4.jpg
My502helmet5.jpg

#4 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 03:50 AM

My502helmet6.jpg
My502helmet7.jpg

Looks pretty old doesn't it? Now let's take what we've learned and some other pointers, and take it down a couple of pegs.

#5 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 03:52 AM

My502helmet8.jpg
1. Patina is way too new and doesn't match the age of the insignia
2. Scratch marks present from scrubbing for the 'aged' look
3. Brown wash evident for the antique look, ON TOP of the insignia
4. Rustwork very light and fresh, uneven with the other exposed parts, although a nice example between the difference of the wash and real rust
5. About the only right thing about it, rust bleed look, only evident from the massive gap taken out of the sealing layer, and the water washing the rust over
6. Mask lines, a no no. Insignias are usually hand painted or closely stenciled
Also, the overall sizes of the insignia's are MASSIVE. Something very rarely done, or made much smaller very quickly, when realised how obvious a target it made the wearer!
My502helmet9.jpg

Again, we can see the painted on patina of the shell, which appears to be brown paint lightly dusted over the green, then sealed.
Also the rust bleed, from the huge-rump gap taken out of the sealing layer of paint. Rust bleed cannot be achieved this quickly without taking this much out of the sealing layer, and obviously, you can tell it looks fake with such a huge bare patch.

Edited by Blake_E, 23 May 2009 - 04:07 AM.


#6 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 03:53 AM

My502helmet93.jpg
My502helmet92.jpg
My502helmet91.jpg

#7 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 03:56 AM

Some interesting things i noticed, it seems the stress cracks AND the peeling paint off of the stainless rim are due to heat - ie extensive exposure to the sun. These developed during the process, and weren't there 2 weeks ago. I won't say how. We can also see here the painted patina of browny dust paint again.
My502helmet95.jpg
My502helmet94.jpg
My502helmet96.jpg

Edited by Blake_E, 23 May 2009 - 04:05 AM.


#8 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 03:58 AM

Rust can easily be darkened, dark rust doesnt always mean a good helmet
My502helmet98.jpg
My502helmet99.jpg


Chinstraps appear to be some kind of copper and not brass. In real life they are much more of a reddy color than the goldy brass. They have developed verdigris very quickly and i believe copper verdigris' a lot easier than brass. For reference, the statue of liberty is made of copper. My soil must be quite salty, or high in Ph i believe it is.
My502helmet97.jpg

Edited by Blake_E, 23 May 2009 - 04:06 AM.


#9 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 04:00 AM

Just some more genuine relics with provenance and the excessive effects of rust bleed from weather. Note once the finish gets to a certain point, it starts pitting evenly, again, something that just simply cannot be faked. Once again, on most M1s the effect is very very subtle, and is hard to capture in photos but is clear as day in hand. This same effect just smaller/microscopic. Get out to shows and start examining!
Myfixedbale.jpg
Myfixedbale2.jpg

Edited by Blake_E, 23 May 2009 - 04:16 AM.


#10 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 04:00 AM

Also note the stainless rim. The paint has come off naturally, with no scratching or rubbing of the stainless steel. Don't be fooled certain grades of stainless DO rust, but not the type used on the M1 rims. Any rust on the rim of an M1 surely means artificial aging of some kind.
Myfixedbale3.jpg
Myfixedbale4.jpg

#11 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 04:02 AM

Two more genuine lids for comparison, we can see one has evident brush marks, very subtle patina and is freehand painted. The other a little bit more patina, rust bleed, and again freehand painting. Notice how the insignia's lightly change color with age. Not the excessive wash, but just a subtle subtle change.

post_1726_1213929381.jpg
post_1726_1213965330.jpg

#12 Blake_E

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 04:14 AM

Ok all, that about finishes it up, feel free to add any info, tips, posts, insults, whatever takes your fancy, hopefully will be some more handy accessible info for the newer collectors and no further ammo for the fakers, nothing they don't already know, and they'll never get a helmet spot on. I'll be leaving the 502nd helmet in the air outside for another week or so, then will seal it up and engrave it as a recreation. Cheers :)

#13 Bugme

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 04:15 AM

Great work Blake_E and don't worry about thread stealing or clutter, this is all information that needs to get out into the hands of new and old collectors alike. I certainly don't have the corner market on the dispensing of information to other collectors. I've got two helmets in the process right now that I'll be posting here. Since you've already got a good start on a lot of the same information I've got and this thread has already been pinned... then why should I reinvent the wheel ;)

#14 Bugme

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 04:59 AM

I had made a request a few weeks back to forum members to pass along any helmet regardless of condition(worse is better) and I'd use their helmet in some of my testing. Below is a helmet provided to me by forum administrator craig_pickrall. I incorporated the old patina of this post war helmet into the new(old) insignia. My total time invested in what you see is less than 30 minutes. Believe me the fakers are not even taking a lot of time to make these convincing. This was my first try at doing this particular procedure. If I can do it in this short of period of time, someone who is really good will be able to do better. I haven't even finished the aging process on this one. I'll post more on this one when it's finished in about two weeks.

The Findings?
1) Real Patina(old rust) can be used to the fakers advantage. A helmet does not necessarily need to be stripped, re-corked and repainted to fool you. As a matter of fact, the less a faker does to a helmet the easier it will be to fool you.

2) A strong magnifying glass is your greatest friend at this point, bleed over into the patina from the paint is something you'll be looking for.

3) It's been said that an "even" patina on an insignia could be a sure sign of a fake wash. Well, I did an uneven patina here just to mess up that theory a little bit. So, you'll also want to look for the patina wash to have bled over in some area's also.


I get strange looks at shows when I put a helmet in a black bag with my black light and stick my head in it. Let me remind you, a black light is only one tool, not your only tool. Then you'll see me with my magnifying glass going over it but, I'd rather get strange looks and not get ripped off than to wear that same "strange look" after I later realize that I spent good money on a fake. http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/pinch.gif

Again, Education, Education, Education...

The untouched post war helmet below:

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  • msg_1726_1243053997.jpg

Edited by Bugme, 24 May 2009 - 05:08 AM.


#15 Bugme

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 05:01 AM

A close-up of the existing natural patina that I used:

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Edited by Bugme, 24 May 2009 - 05:04 AM.


#16 Bugme

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 05:02 AM

The "30 minute" result:

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#17 Blake_E

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 10:28 AM

Scary good Scott! The strange looks at shows sure do pay off when you have some of the nicest lids around on your shelf. Again all, research till your brain can't take no more, then rest while thinking about nothing other than patinas', and get right back up to research some more! Keep the info coming Bugme!

Edited by Blake_E, 24 May 2009 - 10:35 AM.


#18 ccmax

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 11:28 AM

Congrats on an excellent and informative thread. I would just add another category of fake helmet, the type that purports to be an original in very good condition. These are also very dangerous in my opinion.

#19 Blake_E

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 10:27 AM

I would have to agree, seeing as how they are 60+ years old, and WERE supposed to be war helmets, very mint condition lids are incredibly scarce, and for that reason, are hard to compare to the lack of others around. Although they certainly do exist, tread carefully

#20 craig_pickrall

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 07:26 AM

This is an example of a real untouched 60+ year old helmet. These used to be fairly common but not any more.

This is a front seam, fixed loop, stainless rim helmet. It has the second set of hooks added as well.

HELMET_5A.jpg
HELMET_5B.jpg
HELMET_5C.jpg

#21 Bugme

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 08:05 AM

This is an example of a real untouched 60+ year old helmet. These used to be fairly common but not any more.

This is a front seam, fixed loop, stainless rim helmet. It has the second set of hooks added as well.

What an odd and interesting configuration Craig, It's got the late war ball and hook with an earlier war J-hook in front of it. Every time you think you've seen it all...

#22 Bugme

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 08:30 AM

This is a reproduction 29th ID insignia. It is very well done using lead based paint. The cork and olive drab paint are also well done. The insignia was hammered up a bit exposing bare metal and then was aged over a period of ten days using enhanced non-acid methods. Here is where the problem comes in: this method is totally undetectable after it's been done seeing that it leave no real residue behind. I suppose someone in a crime lab could probably find trace elements but, I somehow think this is beyond most collectors affordability.

I can't reveal the procedure in which this one was done but, I can share the only way to detect this:

1) Again, get out your magnifying glass. This method does produce a slight crystalline or a very slight sparkle look to the patina. Of course this is not a 100% deterrent to a fake because this same look can be found on Navy helmets exposed to ocean type elements.

This will probably be repeated throughout this thread for as long as it continues but, I'll say it again: These pointers that are being exposed here will only be a "help" to you... an extra tool in your box, so to speak. Please, do your homework and get your hands on originals and examine them closely so you know what your looking for.

Insignia before aging:

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  • 29th_ID_helmet_004.jpg


#23 Bugme

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 08:30 AM

Insignia after slight aging:

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#24 Bugme

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 08:31 AM

The top of this same helmet before:

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#25 Bugme

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 08:32 AM

The same spot after:

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