Examples of German WWII militaria such as helmets, daggers and insignia are highly collectable, and for that reason they are also widely faked. While many of these fakes can be quite convincing, you shouldn't be fooled as long as you bear in mind two pointers: Genuine items were made to an exacting standard and real people used or wore them, often in perilous circumstances.
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Look first for any insignia -- applied decals that would indicate a particular unit, rank or role. During World War II, the German authorities were prolific in issuing these not only to the army but to civilians, such as air raid wardens. These decals were produced by the best printing firms in Germany and originals have survived remarkably well. If you are looking at an object with a decal that is faint, scratched or half-obliterated, then it's probably a fake.
Consider the condition of the item. Any items which look -- and smell -- brand new should be dismissed right away. But what if a fake has been distressed to look old? In that case, you need to think carefully about the pattern of wear. On a dagger, you might expect to see a couple of nicks or dents around the point of the blade where it has been used to open tin cans. With a helmet, look at its leather lining -- there should be a build-up of sweat stains. In every case, use your imagination and common sense to ask yourself whether the pattern of wear is credible.
Check items of clothing including helmets, belts and boots for inked or impressed stamps indicating the size, date of production and the manufacturer. However, on a complete uniform, don't necessarily expect all of the dates to match, as pieces may have been replaced at different times.
Tips and warnings
- If you find a German helmet that has been crudely hand-painted, don't immediately dismiss it. Soldiers often applied their own camouflage in this way.
- If an item has smart insignia and impressed date stamps but still looks and smells brand new, then continue to be suspicious. A credible pattern of wear -- even if it is only a little loose stitching -- is the most reliable criterion.
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