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Posted on Jun 16, 2008 in War College

‘This Old Helmet Room’ – Building a Room to House Your Militaria Collection

By Peter Suciu

As a collector of military helmets from various eras, I’ve long dreamt of having a room that would do double duty as office and private museum. For career reasons, I live in New York City, where space is truly at a premium. It took my wife and me nearly three years to find and purchase the perfect apartment. After an exhaustive search last October we found our dream apartment, a three-bedroom, two-bath co-op with a private terrace and 24-hour doorman. I work from home as a writer and need a doorman to receive packages, and after sharing an all-too-small home office with my wife it was decided we each needed our own space.

Actually purchasing the apartment, selling our existing apartment and arranging the move was enough to cause endless stress, and more than one sleepless night. But it also gave me the time to plan EVERY detail of my home office. One friend commented, “You’re putting more planning into this than Napoleon did when he invaded Russia.” To which I replied, “But look how that turned out.”

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As a full-time writer I need to be organized, and I’ll admit I’m a control freak. I also have good sense of space, and did take the time to consider multiple options. First I decided the existing helmet room was all wrong.

The old room; not too inviting.
My old apartment’s helmet room was located — unfortunately — in the apartment’s entryway, and thus made either for an inviting or intimidating first impression. I opted for Metro Shelves, as these are affordable and highly adjustable. Unfortunately, these get dirty very easily and the grid design is impractical for helmets and helmet stands.

Ineffective organization diminished the effect.
The old helmet room also mixed dress and sun helmets with combat helmets, and lumped in everything with my books. If I wanted to read a book I had to move multiple helmets. And to accommodate more helmets I put up a series of white laminated shelves, that neither complemented the Metro Shelves nor worked well to show off the helmets.

Out with the Old, In With the New

The other significant problem with my old apartment’s helmet room was that it was off the kitchen. While New Yorkers might eat out a lot, we actually cook and every time I boiled water I was concerned that I was slowly but surely damaging my precious helmets. These helmets had survived wars, but my cooking pasta 20 times a week was probably doing more damage.

For that reason most collectors and preservationists would recommend keeping helmets and other military collectibles – notably uniforms and flags – out of direct sunlight, and in rooms with low humidity. My new room is far from the kitchen and has a door so I can close it off to create a mini-ecosystem. As a journalist I cover consumer products, and have written extensively about air purifiers as well. I’ve tested dozens and recommend any model from IQ Air or BlueAir. These use a HEPA filter that can really clean the air. Never use an air cleaning product with Ionic in the name, as these are 1) mostly junk that do very little, and 2) can actually create ozone, which may be good hanging over the South Pole, but is bad for you, your pets and your collectibles. Likewise, I would advise keeping collectibles away from tobacco smoke and other noxious fumes.

For the new room I opted to go green – or at least greener to an extent. I decided to stay away from manufactured woods as much as possible. I did purchase an IKEA cabinet, but according to the manufacturer these are free of formaldehyde, which is commonly used in the particleboard of cheaper cabinets.

New shelving was more expensive but worth it.
For the new helmet room I splurged and opted to go with the Rakks shelving system. This was a truly upscale version of the traditional track shelving. It is durable, made of heavy grade aluminum and looks nice. The cost was probably four times what the based notched track shelving costs, but for my helmets it was worth it. I also opted to have a custom installer do the work for me because time was truly of the essence.

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17 Comments

  1. Nice, Very Nice indeed!

  2. I AM IN AFGHANISTAN NOW. I RECENTLY BAUGHT A HELEMT THERE AND WAS WONDERNG IF YOU CAN TELL ME ANYTHING ABOUT IT. IS THERE AN EMAIL ADDRESS I CAN SEND YOU A PICTURE OF IT TO?
    SSGT WITT

    • Germany sold after WW1 many helmets to Afghanistan which was a kingdom then.
      This because the Germans needed money for repair bills from the allies.
      Mostly they are M-1916 models and at the right side there are often 2 small wholes who were put there in Afghanistan to affix the national embem there i think this emblem was triangular but i’m not sure.

      Regards Frederik-Jan.

  3. Outstanding job on the display.

  4. hello

    can you (or any body) please help me?!! I saw
    on the internetsite a dutch M40 helmet with “WOLFS HOOK” used by the NSKK.

    i’ve been surching for that helmet for a VERY long time but I cannot find it! so now is my question, do you sell that helmet?!! or do you know any body?

    i would be pleased to here from you. all the best. greatings
    roger theissen.

    • Hello Roger, i have a German helmet with Wolfsangel. It was worn by Dutch volunteers and it is a very rare item to find. The you ask about i never saw before in my life (an original one i mean) and i collect over 35 years now…. Maybe you should aslk a friend of mine who is the know how from Dutch helmets. You can contact him on his Hobbywebsite and it is called http://www.dutchhelmets.nl The site is in Dutch language and english so everybody who reads this please take a look at this site. It offers so much information for collectors.

      Kind regards Frederik.

  5. Outstanding collection and exquisite room. Worthy of a Museum exhibition. I remember your contributions on the WAF forum were always informative. I will bookmark your page. Good luck with your collection.

    Regards Dennis

  6. First class presentation of an excellent collection! Kept one eye on quality and one eye on the budget. But, if you are going to collect it does not do to stack them one on top of the other; gotta have the shelves.

    Now you can see it all and enjoy the effort you put into the most extensive pith helmet collection I have ever theen; theriouthly. Uh, sorry about that. But I have a feeling that your DVD collection includes The Four Feathers, Zulu, and of course, Gunga Din. OK, every British/Arab war movie ever made.

    So when you get a chance you might want to go to Netflix and rent The Party, with Peter Sellers. It starts with the greatest take-off of Gunga Din ever made.

    Yeah, my wife doesn’t understand all of the time I spend in my study with my helmet collection and watching the History Channel. She doesn’t understand that part of the process is communing with all of the people who actually wore those helmets through time. And part of it is because she is downstairs watching Desperate Housewives, ER, Boston Legal, and all of those other doctor/lawyer/steamy shows. Oy.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Mike

  7. I was handed down an aluminum helmet that my father had apparently used sometime in the Marine Corps, but I have not been able to find anything on the internet about it. The hemet is made by George Evans & Co. If I could get an email from you, I will send a pic of it, any response will be greatly appreciated.

  8. Dear Peter: excellent work you’ve done! I’m astonished and have ruined the keyboard drooling… Thank God I had a spare one!
    Congratulations! Gabriel Ll.

  9. I just purchased a WWI French Adrian on ebay.It is quite low grade as that’s all that I can afford.My question is,it has the emblem holes on the right side just the same as on the front.Any ideas.Thank-you

  10. Hi – what do you recommend for types of display stands for helmets and what do you use? Impressive display, thank you for sharing.

  11. Hello,

    I,m from Holland and i saw a beautifull tunic with yellow ribbons/linings on the chest.
    Now i,m wondering what it is,to me it seems the tunic from “De gele rijders” which means the yellow (horse)drivers.
    Think you have the furrlined helmet to.
    It is a bit small on the pictures and i cannot clearly see.
    Do you collect Dutch militaria?

    Sincerely and kindest regards Frederik-Jan.

  12. Dear Peter, i,m very impressed. I am a Dutch collector and i often visit your site to get more information about (sun)helmets. Thanks!
    With regards, Hans

  13. I can be reached via my MilitarySunHelmets.com Website.

    Thank you,
    Peter Suciu

  14. Peter,

    I’m a current member of the “President’s Own” United States Marine Band in Washington, D.C. I noticed your excellent example of the 1880′s Marine Band helmet as worn by J.P. Sousa while he directed our band from 1880-1892. Our library has an amazing collection of historic band uniforms and headgear dating back to the civil war, however we do not have a white, 1880′s-era bandsman helmet in our collection. Do you sell any items? If not, any idea where we could obtain a lead on one?

  15. Dear Mr Suciu:

    I was so grateful at long last to find an EXACT description of the British Empire topi. On more than one occasion, W. Somerset Maugham mentioned the topi in his short stories, but until I found your excellent website featuring Combat Helmets of the World, with an entire section devoted to the wide variety of distinct British Sun Helmets, I could not be sure I was imagining the right style & shape. As it happens, I was In the correct hemisphere, but in the wrong country; I was seeing the so-called “Bombay Bowler,” but felt the style was not sufficiently formal & imposing to suit the characters who sported it. Possibly Maugham could have been referring to the similarly shaped “Cawnpore,” which you identify as also being a topi, but the Wolseley Pattern Service Helmet seems much more likely.

    Anyhow, Please accept my sincere thanksfor having created such an interesting, informative & well organized site. Your descriptions are more discriminating & informative than any others I’ve ever seen. Many collectors’ websites indiscriminately lump the Wolseley Pattern Foreign Service Helmet (which term, by the way, I learnt thanks to your website) together with British pith helmets, Prussian Pickelhäuben, & even modern headgear that appear to be American baseball caps made from Harry Lauder’s kilt, as if they were all called the same thing!

    Ted Reinert

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