The Imperial German spiked helmet ("Pickelhaube") is one of those artifacts that has reached iconic status in its association with the Great War and the German soldier of 1914-1916 (as well as long before). They have always fascinated me, and the museums in which I have either worked or volunteered have always had at least one or two in their collections. Seeing photos and newsreels of German soldiers wearing them has always grabbed my attention, and yes, I've always wanted to have one that I could wear!
After years of waiting, the author found a reproduction spiked helmet he could wear. Can you tell which one of these is the original and which is the reproduction??Scroll down the page for the answer.
Because jamming one's head into an original spiked helmet is not a good curatorial practice for museum curators or private collectors, collectors have had to patiently bide their time until an accurate reproduction that meets the high and complex authenticity guidelines set by the originals could be produced. Finally, the wait is over.
Pictured here is a reproduction Model 1895 Prussian Pickelhaube that I bought from Schipperfabrik in March 2006. Schipper's Web site (www.schipperfabrik.com) seems to be coming out with new many products for the Great War living historian.
Not having ordered anything from them before, it felt like a big risk to buy a helmet. But after studying the photos of their reproduction helmets--I made the decision to order one.
Upon initial inspection, I was pleased with my purchase. However, I tried to keep my enthusiasm in check until I could nit-pick it by comparing it directly to an original specimen.
Each Model 1891 side post ("Knopf") mirrored the original and the attached cockades ("Kokarden") are perfect matches.
An original Model 1895 Prussian Guard helmet--though it bears a different helmet plate, serves as a good standard for measurement and comparison. An enlisted M1915 also was used for the comparison of basic shape and materials.
Starting at the top, the reproduction's spike ("Spitze") is as heavy-duty as the original. The ventilation holes ("Luftlocher") on the repro spike are perfect and are the same size as the originals. At the base of the spike, the dome studs seem to be just slightly larger than the original studs.
However, when one flips the reproduction over to view the split pins that connect the spike base to the body, it is obvious that the pins are quite lightweight and will easily pull through the holes. What one will need to do is either find better quality dome studs, replace them with 4 original studs, or remove the split pin backs from the studs and solder on replacements that are heavier-duty. The third choice would probably be the least costly.
The rear brass spine ("Hinterscheine") on the repro (right) has two problems: it lacked a vent device and the base was merely bent over the leather neck guard. A little shop work easily corrects the second fault.
The profile of the reproduction is remarkable. The quality of the leather matches the original, and should retain its shape quite well through time. The weight is also what one would expect. The only thing missing from the reproduction is the surface crazing acquired from 90 years of existence!
Moving to the side of the helmet, each Model 1891 side post ("Knopf") mirrors the original and the attached cockades ("Kokarden") are perfect matches. They display the same weight and definition as the originals. However, the chinstrap ("Lederriemen") seems a little on the lightweight side, and the brass buckles are way too thick when compared to both the M-95 and M-15 originals. Many vendors exist who supply this piece of repro equipment.
The neck guard ("Hinterschirm") appears to be in proportion to the original, and displays the same thickness. The stitching is also well done and appears quite sturdy.
The rear brass spine ("Hinterscheine") on the repro has two problems. Although of the correct thickness and general appearance, it lacks a vent device. Furthermore, the base is merely bent over the leather neck guard, whereas the original is fastened with a bolt. While installing a vent into the spine would be problematic, it would be quite easy to retro-fit a small bolt and nut into the fold-over section (after a small hole is drilled).
The front visor ("Vorderschirm") and visor trim ("Vorderschirmschiene") look very good next to the original. A stud on each side is present at the base where the visor connects to the body. The helmet plate ("Wappen") is visually very close in quality to the originals but appears to be cast, whereas originals were stamped. As a result, some of the detail appears grittier and slightly less defined than the original plates.
The liner is made of real leather. The number of ears differs slightly, as several originals I examined had nine ears, and the repro displays eight. And the fit? It fit very well--a true size 60 (7-1/2), just as it is marked.
Overall, I give this reproduction pickelhaube a B+. There have been several attempts over the years by various manufacturers to reproduce this historic helmet, and this one, by far, comes the closest. The $425 price tag seems reasonable, and the helmet is purportedly made in Germany using many of the original dies. Exactly which parts were reproduced from original dies is not known, but the overall quality and attention to detail is very high. Different models/states are available, and prices vary.
Of course there is a question on whether or not these helmets will ever be sold as originals. The problem exists only when an unscrupulous dealer gets hold of one of these, artificially ages it, and resells it as an original to an unsuspecting buyer. Looking at it on my shelf, I can tell immediately it is new. But add some years, sweat, and a couple minor alterations, and we may have a problem. But that will have to be another article...
Real or Repro??The helmet that appears on the left in this article is the original Model 1895 Prussian spike. The reproduction made by Schipperfabrik is on the right.
Charles Pautler works as a site manager for the Minnesota Historical Society. Schipperfabrik is located in Clearwater, Florida, and can be reached at www.schipperfabrik.com, or 727.533.9723. They did not solicit this product review, and the author takes full responsibility for all article content.