Beginning Collectors

We have devoted a large section of this website to assist people who are new to this hobby. Our intent is to make helmet collecting enjoyable for anyone who wants to participate in it. Remember if you are tricked into buying a fake you have contributed to the problem.

Here are a few pointers that you may find handy.

Learn about helmets: We have tried to provide a good first step on the path to knowledge. In addition to our sections about helmets, gallery and fakes and Repro’s you may benefit for studying the photos and descriptions in our helmets for sale area. You might want to consider buying books on the subject. See our books section. If you know a collector near you, ask to view his collection. But don’t touch anything without asking. The learning process should never end.

Develop a plan: Many new collectors get bogged down in buying “junk” helmets at bargain prices. Before spending much money determine what your collection should look like in the future.
NOTE: “Junk” typically refers to helmets that do not have their original paint, or helmets with holes, large dents or excessive rust. These are fine if you want to try your hand at restoration, but they do not make a good “collection”.

Consider adding other items: You can fill in your collection with some nice original items that are less costly and will display very well with your helmets. For example a belt buckle, an iron cross or other badge, a cloth armband, a small flag, etc.

Determine your budget on a larger scale: By budgeting for each three or six months, rather than monthly, you can make larger purchases and set your sights on much nicer helmets. Use some restraint; buying excessively can be hard on your marriage!

Know your knowledge limits: Learn how to recognize original characteristics, use extreme caution with items outside your knowledge base. Avoid camouflage helmets, chicken wire helmets, SS helmets, and paratrooper helmets, except from the most reputable sellers. All are very rare and expensive. Accidental and intentional fraud is very common with these.

Helmets as an investment: A well put together helmet collection will undoubtedly increase in value. Ask any long time collector what he was paying for helmets ten, five, or even two years ago. Compare that to your Enron stock! This does not mean you should cash out your 401K and spend it all on helmets. But there is extra satisfaction from a hobby that will pay you back.

Will helmets keep increasing in value? Presumably so. Check pricing on original head gear from the Civil War, Revolutionary War, or American Indians of the 1800’s.

On-line auctions: There is no shortage of helmets available on online auctions. There are even some nice ones. However, a very high percentage of these are intentionally or unintentionally misrepresented. There is nothing worse than the anticipation of a nice helmet being crushed when a piece of junk shows up on your door step.

If you wish to buy this way, try asking the seller for additional high resolution photos, ask many questions, and clarify if the seller will take it back if it is not what you are expecting. If the seller cannot provide good photos or does not give clear answers to your questions, play it safe and don’t buy.

Estate auctions: Safer than on-line auctions because you can inspect it. But “let the buyer beware” is still the rule. Just because it belonged to an elderly person doesn’t mean that it was brought home from the war by that person. Even if it was, it does not guarantee that that person didn’t repaint it, add decals, etc. So inspect it as you would if you were buying it from a random stranger in a parking lot.

Antique shops and military surplus stores: These people have some knowledge of all things old or military. You should assume that they know a little bit about everything but do not expect them to know more than the most basic details, therefore the burden of determining authenticity and value it fully on you.

Buying direct from a Veteran: This is a great way to get a helmet. But caution is still required. Just being “old” doesn’t make him a vet. The blood and guts stories he tells may be straight from HBO. Even as a vet he may have bought the helmet at a garage sale in 1972. So be as thorough as ever in your inspection.

If you are fortunate enough to find the real thing (both the vet and the helmet), be sure you give the man the respect that he deserves. You can only imagine what he has done for you and this country. Don’t try to buy it too cheap. You will be more proud of the helmet over the years if you pay him a good price for it.

A couple of interesting observations on the hook some sellers will use. "never been in a collection" or the opposite "From my collection of 25 years". Of course it make's no difference, each item should be judged on it's condition etc, not whether or not it's ever been owned by a collector.

Finding a real SS Helmet: We get more inquiries about the authenticity of SS helmets then anything else. They are more then 99% fake. If you have seen 26,000 SS helmets you have probably seen at least one real one. If you want to own a real SS helmet, we suggest that you start by buying the SS helmet book in our books section. DO NOT buy an SS helmet from a stranger or anyone who you cannot trust 200%. Think you found a great deal on an SS helmet? Wow what if it's real? Oh my goodness, this is great..... Forget it! There are no great deals on SS helmets left in the world, it's a fake.

How to care for your helmets: There are a number of leather treatments and cleaners that you may be tempted to use on your helmet…. But don’t. In general, helmets are better in their as-is state. A couple passes over the outside with a feather duster will be enough.

There may be some exceptions, for example if the helmet has a dry, mis-shaped liner, perhaps it can be improved by applying leather treatment then gently placing a ball, etc. into the liner to reform it. Be very careful doing this! Depending on its condition, leather can become almost as fragile as wet paper.

You cannot turn back time, leather treatment can make the leather more flexible, but not stronger. Also, leather treatments will usually darken your leather, regardless of what the label says.

The best treatment for you helmet is to keep it in the living area of your home because of the climate control. Keep it far away from the kitchen or any work area, and definitely out of reach of children. Keep it out of direct sunlight.

To avoid having guests try the helmet on, tie a bright colored piece of yarn loosely between the chinstrap rings. If you want to let your friends try one on, this is a good use for that junk helmet you bought and restored.

A few buzz words to be aware of:

Relic commonly means it is very rusty
Salty commonly means used and abused
Museum Quality is commonly used describing reproduction items. It means nothing; each museum sets its own standards. But it is doubtful that many are choosing reproduction items in their displays.
Out Of the Woodwork
means that it was recently found in an estate etc.

 

Free help:

We are always happy to answer your e-mail questions. But one of the things that has been loading up or e-mail is people asking our opinion on helmets that are on e-bay. We want to help people but here are some points that will help you and us:

#1 there are no nice original helmets that get by the other collectors on e-bay. If it looks like an original SS helmet, paratrooper helmet, or double decal helmet but the price in not running sky high with bids from the more experience collectors then it is a fake. You are only one of 300 people who have looked at it.

#2 If you are not certain you know what you are doing then do not buy anything from outside the USA. We get a lot of inquiries about helmets from Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, etc. 99% of those are junk.

#3 We do not have the time to check e-bay very often. But what we hear from experienced collector who do, is that there are about 2 original SS helmets on e-bay in a years time, and perhaps 3 original Paratrooper helmets in a years.. THE REST ARE FAKES!!!!!!

#4 If you want to buy a nice original helmet, remember we sell them here.

 


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