Friday, March 27, 2015
Hungarian/Finnish m.35-38 combat helmet part two, and some thoughts on helmet collecting
This is the second Hungarian 35-38 I've collected and I've said pretty much everything I have to say on the subject here. Instead, I'd like to think out loud about helmet collecting in general.
When I started collecting helmets nearly forty years ago, my main source was militaria shows. specifically a yearly show in Lansing, Michigan.
Every year I'd go to the show with $450 in my pocket and my empty Navy seabag. At the end of the day I'd have a helmet full of five or six helmets and sometimes money left over. Good helmets were plentiful and reasonably priced and I was lucky to have picked up my unit marked M1s and WWII German helmets in that golden era.
I also frequented gun shows. helmets were less plentiful, and frequently over-priced, nonetheless I often found a bargain on a helmet I didn't have.
Back in those early days there was also an outfit named Collectors Armory that advertised in gun and military history magazines. CA sold what they purported to be WWII German helmets for $50. I never saw one of those so I can't speak to their authenticity, but it is worth remembering that other nations used versions of the m.35, m.40, and m.42 German helmets including Finland and Norway and could be easily tricked-out to look like German helmets.
I did buy three helmets from CA back in the early eighties, and I'm glad I did because back then they were very inexpensive. Purchases included an m. 40 from Portugal, a Swedish mod. 21-18, and a Japanese m.30-32 which turned out to my delight to be the Siamese version.
I've gotten a few helmets at flea markets and antique malls. Antique malls are similar to gun shows in that helmets are a sometime thing and frequently the seller isn't aware of the value and as a result overprices the helmet. As with gun shows, I have acquired a few helmets at antique malls.
Now ebay has changed everything, for better and for worse. Ebay makes available to the buyer a world-wide market. Helmets are numerous and plentiful and the price is whatever the market will bear. Because the buyer/bidder cannot physically hold or examine the helmet it is a riskier proposition. On ebay I seldom buy unique or remarkable helmets, viz - a marked divisional M1 helmet or an Adrian with a badge other than the most basic; artillery or infantry - similarly with Belgian Adrians. But frequently I can acquire some really nice lids through this on-line market place. My recent posting of a Turkish parade helmet (liner) was an Ebay purchase, as was a really nice Norwegian mk I. If you know what you're looking for - and looking at - ebay can be a great source for helmets.
The Hungarian helmet pictured in this post I recently purchased from a company called International Military Antiques (IMA).
IMA sells both original and reproduction helmets. I have heard others question the details of some of their claims but overall I believe them to be a trustworthy source for original helmets.
In recent times IMA experienced every collectors dream - a warehouse filled with hundreds of helmets! IMA purchased an enormous cache of Hungarian and Finnish helmets.
IMA claims the the Finnish models were manufactured in Germany, on original WWII machinery, and often by the same people who made German helmets during the war. The latter is a pretty brave claim but I have no reason to doubt their assertions.
One thing that IMA does that I do have doubts about however is their practice of taking original helmets and reworking or restoring them into something that they never were e.g. Original German mod. 18 shells "refurbished" -tricked out with reproduction camouflage patterns or decals and Hungarian/Finnish helmets with totenkopfs newly applied to the front. Unless these "refurbished" helmets are marked as such there is no way that second-generation collectors won't have these items passed off as authentic originals by an unscrupulous intermediate collector.
Nontheless IMA delivered the goods on this m.35-38.
IMA does, during the ordering process, provide the option to "hand select" the desired helmet from their stock. I paid fifteen dollars for this service, and the condition of the helmet I received either was money poorly spent or a reflection of the tatty condition of the entire horde.
I also belong to a few online helmets collectors groups. In this manner I have come to know, and trust, other collectors and have successfully bought helmets from them. In this manner I have had great confidence in the honesty of the seller and the pedigree of the helmet.
Another source which has produced some nice surprises sort of came out of the blue. In both instances I was contacted by women who recently lost their husbands and were left with an old helmet he picked up along the way which they were offering for sale. For a scrupulously fair price on my part I acquired a French mod. 1915 Colonial Troops helmet. Similarly an old friend, who's husband had recently passed away gave me a box filled with the souvenirs her husband brought home from the war (thanks Norma). The treasure trove included a German mod. 1940 tropenhelm and both urban and rural police shakos. What a good friend and what a lucky day indeed!
The bottom line is, do your homework; use good reference materials and ask seasoned collectors. Belonging to an online helmet group is a wonderful way to become familiar with issues of authenticity and fair pricing.
That's my experience of forty enjoyable years of collecting, and I hope yours are equally satisfying.