SS Stahlhelm Runic Decal Reference

SS Stahlhelm Runic Decal Reference

Some useful identification tips from the forum!


This thread is an SS Runic Decal Reference thread whereby WRF helmet collectors can quickly compare SS decals and learn the various styles, makers, patterns and shell applications. This should be a great resource for collectors wondering if the SS runic decal on the helmet they are perhaps looking at buying is not only authentic but is the shell maker correct for the helmet.

Please note I have not posted the subtle print variations that can exist within maker and year to year nor is this list complete but has the major makers and this list is just a guide and is by no means a definitive list. All of these decals are from my personal collection and most are published in one of Kelly Hicks books on the subject matter, which is required reading for any serious SS helmet collector.

Formerly known as “First Pattern” decals and found primarily on all varieties of pre-war helmets, makers and shells, primarily on pre-war transitionals and M35s of all makers, the most common being 1935-36 and 1938 dated ET M35s. Very rare to find on M40’s and M42’s unless reissued or reverse runic ( SS decal on the left side vs the right ) helmets which are typically former Polezei helmets and seen on double runic ( 2 SS decals on both sides ).

The defining quality of the CA Pocher is the runes that stop at the sharp break and most prewar Pochers have a tell tale “border” within the printed runes. There is a slightly “thicker” version of this decal but the runes still end at the break of the shield.

The examples below are a CA Pocher on a black M35 Allgemeine helmet and an example of a reissued / redecalled M42 Polezei helmet with the CA Pocher decal overtop.

Formerly known as “second pattern” decals and found on ET M35 and M40 shells and on ckl marked (ET) M42 helmets as well as found on EF M42s. This decal is not found on NS, SE or Q helmets of any kind nor on prewar transitionals or commercial helmets. The decal has some changes in the metallic pulver seen on M40 and M42s which exhibit a milkier background than the pre-1940 version which is noted to turn a bronze patina.

The defining quality of the ET decal is the runes are much less rakish than Pocher decals and the shield on both sides has a nicely rounded break to the shield vs the sharp break found on most other SS runic decals and a soft print.

Similar to the Pocher decal these runic decals are found only on Q shells and only on Q M35 and M40 models. You will not find this decal on any other helmet save Q helmets. This decal is widely considered among SS helmet collectors to be the most visually appealing and is in high demand on M35 double decal models in particular. One of the most common SS helmets is the Q M40 single decal SS.

The defining quality of the Q decal is the runes end 1 mm below the sharp break of the shield and the left rune is slightly wider than the right. There is also a slightly “thicker” version of the Q decal.

Again similar to the Pocher decal and found primarily on EF M42 helmets only. In fact the M42 EF is considered to be the prototypical mid war SS helmet and is amongst the most common of all SS helmets.

The defining quality of the EF decal is the rakish runes that end below the soft break to the shield and a milky white pulver. This is one of the few decals where print variations are almost non-existent.

NS/SE (champagne)
The rarest of the major makers and perhaps the most controversial of all SS decals is the NS/SE or Champagne decal. It is called this because of the pinkish/bronzish “champagne” hue the patina takes over time. The decal is primarily found on prewar M35 NS helmets and on occasion found on SE M35s. They are found on some ckl (ET) marked and hkp (SE) marked M42s however those with lot numbers on ckl helmets higher than 5000 can be suspected as postwar applied hence the controversy. They can also be found on reissues with the thought that these were a contract decal similar to the pre-war CA Pocher and used as needed on short contracts, typically with makers NS and SE. There are many threads to research on this decal on the GHW forum for more information.

The defining quality of the NS/SE decal is the champagne patina these develop and a sharper similarity to the ET runes with a hard break to the shield. These can be found with thicker/thinner borders and various runic alignments within the shield.

Addendum to this decal post, Sept 21. 2015

This decal type family has been controversial for a number of years now. It is published yet some do not believe it to be real, many collectors who I deeply respect and have conversed with at length with on the subject. I believed them to be real because that is what it said in the reference books and my opinion was formed by the experience of others. However my opinion changed over the years as my experience and knowledge grew. Doing some further research I printed some thoughts in a thread by Shaun Winkler Error – German Helmet Walhalla (post 21) back in June of 2013 where I stated M42 ckl and M40 any shell type I had concerns but no conclusive proof. The fact that all M42 decals of this type were near mint, the runes tend to “float” in the shield, and there being 7 variants, was of great concern however.

Well this month I believe I found the proof and confirmation that I need for my comfort zone, that not just the M42 ckl and M40 shells, but all champagne decals which I believe now are in fact bad and are template painted sprayed fakes. I am sure this will raise the ire and objection of some who believe otherwise, especially as these have been extensively published. However a book is merely a snapshot in time, most are a decade old or older, and in the latest reference book by Ken N these NS decals are conspicuously absent. Advancements in digital magnification, studious databasing, internet knowledge sharing and detailed research means knowledge moves forward and what we thought to be true can change, as it has for me.

Of the core SS decals, the Q, Pocher, EF and ET there is no controversy and never has been. There is plenty of evidence to know what is real and what is not including decal to shell relationships, correct graphic styles, print methodology as well as construction. The NS (Champagne) rune has never had this sort of luxury, nobody knows where they were made, who made them, there have never been any loose ones to study, and they are found on all shell manufacturers and on reissues without rhyme nor reason. However they are prevalent on high lot number no decal M42’s and on NS M35 helmets in police lot number ranges with no discernible pattern. They have many “variants” and inconsistencies in the rune positions on same decals and they have a very sharp print and lack a cellulose base.

I am sure the subject matter will continue to be controversial but I felt the need to make an addendum to this thread I created as it is based on what I knew then and what I know and believe today. I do want to thank Ade for his assistance and cooperation in doing so, as sharing information is critical to keeping the hobby safe and growing.

I also know I departed this forum, and wish those who continue to participate here well. I now run the GHW2 forum with RoyA, and time with that, family and business, means I have to pick my poison so you will find me there if you wish to discuss further.


This decal is perhaps one of the earliest known of the conventional SS decal designs. It is found like the CA Pocher only on prewar transitional, commercial and civic black painted parade helmets and only on 5 known ET M35s which date to roughly 1935 or 1936. Of the named helmets this decal is found on all are belonging to members of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler hence the LAH suffix I have applied. This is amongst the rarest and most sought after SS decal, being found only on 5 combat helmets of the ET maker.

The defining qualities of this decal is the “fat” appearance of the runes and like the Pocher they end at a sharp break.

This decal is found on helmets which can be traced to Nordic or Scandinavian units, this decal for example is to a named Danish Schalburg Korps member. It is found on a small handful of helmets to date. It is more than likely a regionally produced decal for Nordic SS units.

The defining quality of this decal is its resemblance to a CA Pocher decal only much fatter with a sloppier print.

This runic decal is found only on prewar Austrian transitionals along with the Austrian party shield and found on 3 of these examples, all painted an earth-brown, possibly for early Austrian SS Totenkopfverbande members.

The defining quality of this decal is a slightly more rakish appearance to a CA Pocher but like the CA Pocher the runes stop and a hard break.

Please note, extremely high end graphically accurate fakes of each of these decal styles are in heavy circulation. For this reason anyone comparing decal photos must demand extremely good photographs of the decal taken head on with no flash glare and must ask to see the entire helmet including the liner.

This example below is an unused CA Pocher fake complete with the “border” micro printed in. This example has fooled many but can be easily spotted using magnification and comparing to good magnified examples. You must examine any SS helmet with at least a 20x loupe. I will do a fakes section when time permits.

Cheers and I hope this helps collectors with their SS helmet collecting endeavours

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