Kelly Hicks and the late Ludwig Baer, in a rare opportunity, met to discuss Baer's fascinating journey in the field of German Helmets. Among topics covered was the use of XRF
technology as a potential tool in the authentication of helmets and helmet-related materials.
Friedrichsdorf, Germany, 2010.
Authentication of pictures by email no longer offered. All authentications will be done in hand; cost is USD 80.00 plus return postage. Upon determination of authenticity, a COA will be issued at no extra charge. Contact me for shipping instructions and other information, thanks.
Offers collectors the opportunity to protect the value of their
helmet collections or individual pieces through an array of authentication
services. These services are provided by:
A 40 year collector and established expert in the field of German
helmets; the author of 4 reference books relating to the field of SS helmets
including the acclaimed "SS Steel," and the 2005 release "SS helmets" with
Michael D. Beaver.
For anybody involved in the
collecting of original German helmets, it is no secret that values are on the
rise. Helmet values/prices have continued to rise at a steady pace since the
early days of collecting. In recent years, the values have attained
significant levels and certain examples are known to command very nigh prices.
Consequently, the field has been inundated with counterfeits and fakes. These
forgeries vary in quality from the obvious to the not-so-obvious. The
situation has grown to the point where helmet collecting has become something
of a mine field. With startling frequency, there has occurred the instance of
an unwary collector obtaining a helmet at considerable financial cost only to
discover later that the helmet is not what he originally thought it was.
Protection of re-sale
value. Re-salability and value is becoming dependant, to a large degree, upon
the ability to verify the authenticity of the collectible item. With the
number and high quality level of forgeries on the market, the collector may
find himself in need of such ready verification of the authenticity of his
item. Both for his own assurance and for the assurance of any potential buyer
in the future, having a tamper-proof certificate from a noted or published
expert in the field gives the collector a solid basis for obtaining insurance
protection for his collection, and if necessary legal assistance. Moreover,
the resale value of the piece is upheld and enhanced with an accompanying
certificate. Protect your investment and protect the future of the hobby.
As important as sports memorabilia, where a certificate means everything, a
certificate of authenticity provides a basis for the provenance and re-sale
value of your helmet. Unlike the sports memorabilia collecting arena, there is
currently no ongoing support from government, state or local anti-fraud or
other enforcement agencies. Nor does an international body exist to protect
collectors, with the possible exception of Interpol, whose primary focus is
art. This leaves militaria collectors with limited options for recourse to
recoup losses from dishonest dealers and helmet forgers.
A few words on XRFacts, (just so people know what they are talking about when they criticize it). The company I was a part of for its short but interesting history used a technology called X-Ray Florescence to scan decals and paint on helmets to determine what they were made of. You can google the exact process, but essentially X-rays cause non-organic (i.e. metal) elements to fluoresce or glow, emitting measurable waves based on what the elements are.
Since modern materials, especially paint and metallic decals are made from non-heavy metal sources (by law), it is easy to tell if something is old or not. So we took all of my SS helmet collection plus several other world-famous collections, and scanned the decals and paint. We discovered quickly that ET decals emit a certain pattern or "fingerprint",
as do Quist, EF, and Champagne runes. All of them contain set quantities of aluminum, some iron, and other smaller amounts of metals; and all of them contain vanadium, which is a hardener and brightener. Curiously, Champagne runes contain a very similar pattern of elements to CA Pocher, with the exception of 3% copper, which evidently gives them their special color.
We were pleasantly surprised that we could establish an "average" for each decal maker, that was almost precisely exact in every case. Next, we scanned "crushed glass" and Eastern European fakes, as well as many others, and determined pretty quickly that they had all the wrong elements (or hardly any) in them at all.
We established a database (a copyright-protected one) of all the original helmets we scanned. As I mentioned, the scans and databasing included CA Pocher, Quist, ET, NS and EF style decals. We used it to establish the baseline for originals that was used every time we scanned a helmet. That gave us a baseline for testing and showed comparative quantities of elements that helped us determine if a helmet passed or did not pass when we shot it with X-Rays.
The absolute final touch on each and every helmet we scanned was my personal hands-on of the helmet. I felt if my name was going to be on it, I had to be absolutely precise.
Sadly, we had a couple of hiccups early in the process that brought the wrath of hell down on our heads. One in particular was when we did 60 helmets at one sitting for a dealer (this took 8 long hours in a hotel conference room), and while carefully labeling the originals from the fakes, one of the fake Heer helmets was mis-labeled and put in the wrong stack (and eventually put up for sale on their site). It did not get sold and nobody was harmed. However, that incident was never explained properly, I felt. We had a couple of other mistakes along the way,
but all in all I felt it was a good authentication tool that would have helped create a worldwide database of originals (with their data recorded) so that those helmets would always hold their value no matter if a collector's widow tried to sell them, or if they were passed down through a family for a hundred years. Lastly, it was one more good way to keep fakes away from the market and protect collectors. I’ve invested far too much time and effort into the collecting hobby (51 years and 5 books, written through
immense time and effort of personally accumulated knowledge) to want anything but the best tools (books or any knowledge based tool) in the hands of or at the disposal of collectors—this was my motivation here, nothing more, nothing less. Despite XRFacts' many criticisms, both helpful and unhelpful,
I think none of us would say using any and all available technology (in this case, empirical scientific method) to empower collectors with confidence and knowledge is a bad thing. Good luck and happy collecting!
Authentication of pictures by email no longer offered. Authentications only by in hand inspection: 80.00 plus postage, includes COA; COA only: 60.00 USD can be offered on a replacement basis.