Many people seeking information on German helmets are interested in
finding safe methods by which they can "preserve" their helmets
without damaging them. This is particularly true of those people
who wish to "restore" an old helmet without changing its value or
overall look. Among collectors there seems to be two different
schools of thought regarding the need to 'clean-up' or improve the
look of an original German helmet. While all collectors agree that
collections should be maintained to some degree or another, there are
differing opinions regarding how to go about it and whether or not a
helmet should have anything done to it that might change its original
appearance. Collectors seem to be clustered into two different groups
regarding philosophy of preservation and care.
A simplified understanding
of what collectors often believe can be characterized as follows:
Opinion One: "Leave
a helmet just the way you found it -- no matter what. Never do
anything to it."
This is the current and
prevailing attitude among advanced collectors. This concept holds that a
helmet should never be altered, changed, or cleaned in any form
whatsoever even if found with dirt, dust, and cobwebs. Collectors of
this mindset hold that a helmet should be left 'as is' to preserve its
historical condition (and value). This is true even if there is the
potential that the helmet will continue to deteriorate in its current
state. Collectors who follow this practice tend to believe that any
helmet that has been modestly cleaned has been postwar altered and is
potentially less valuable than one that has original dirt and dust
left intact. The general reason for maintaining this attitude is
to preserve the value of the helmet in 'just as it was found'
Opinion Two: "Do
some minor cleaning -- but only if the helmet is in danger of being
damaged in its current state."
This collector mindset
holds that an original helmet should be modestly cleaned if there are
elements about the helmet that indicate damage has already been done
or will continue as a result of natural conditions. Essentially a
collector with this belief subscribes to the concept that dirt should
be removed from the helmet to prevent rust or paint loss, parts can be
interchanged if correct to the time period (and only if authentic),
and that some conservation efforts are worthwhile if the helmet is to
be stored or maintained for a long period of time.
While both concepts have merit, it does seem reasonable and prudent to
modestly clean a helmet if it is in need of some basic care.
However, doing so is rarely needed and most helmets need
basically no treatment whatsoever.
Most collectors prefer to do
nothing at all to their helmets and simply leave them as found. If in
doubt, this is always the best course of action since no permanent
damage can be done.