One of the most common questions we receive is how we can quickly tell if a US Navy Mark V diving helmet is authentic or not. Due to the volume of photos and inquiries we receive, identifying fakes versus original examples is essential. This brief blog post will provide you with a few quick and easy visual cues to tell the real ones from the fake ones.
In most cases, fake Mark V helmets were not made to deceive. They were and still are made as an economical alternative to the authentic helmet! So why would companies for the past 40 years still be making them? The answer is original examples sell anywhere from $5000 to $15000. Many people do not want to spend that much on a décor piece if they are not interested in owning an actual working piece of history. New replica helmets sell for a few hundred dollars in most cases, which is a massive price difference.
Rather than get into a lengthy and detailed post about all the differences, which in many cases is not necessary, below, we have provided a photo of an authentic and replica Mark V helmet. We have also pointed out two key differences that will allow you to tell if the helmet you are looking at is real or not.
Mark V helmet first clues
The first visual clue to look at is the Mark V helmet's transceiver cup, located on the top right of the helmet. In most cases, replica helmets will have this cup situated towards the top of the helmet. Authentic Mark V examples have this cup more towards the front close to the faceplate. This detail is typically a dead giveaway that allows for easy identification of a replica.
The second clue is the ID plate, located on the lower front of the helmet. In many cases, the ID plate on a replica will be oval and flat brass. The most common date found on the replica helmets is 8-29-41, with no serial number. The authentic ID plate from 1941 is cast brass with raised letters with a serial number and date stamped into the rectangle brass pads. We have yet to ever find an authentic Mark V diving helmet with the date 8-29-41. The close-up photos provided have a fake Mark V helmet ID plate on the left, an original US Navy Diving Helmet Mark V on the right. The date on the authentic example is 8-25-41.
US Navy Mark V diving helmets
It is important to note that while almost all Mark V model diving helmets were constructed almost identically from 1916 till the mid-1980s for the US Navy, the ID plate from the four different manufacturers will differ. The only companies to produce the Mark V were;
A.J. Morse & Son
Morse Diving Equipment Company
A. Schrader's Son Inc.
A. Schrader's Son Div.
A. Schrader's Son Division of Scovill Manufacturing Company
Miller Dunn Company
Diving Equipment and Salvage Company
Diving Equipment and Supply Company
Other quick traits of replica USN Mark V diving helmets vs. authentic examples
Authentic Mark V helmets are approximately 65 pounds in weight; replicas are much less than this.
The top & bottom halves on fakes are bolted together on the inside neck ring.
In many cases, the copper body of replicas lacks any dents and appears to be in perfect condition.
Real Mark V's had their copper bodies coated in a gray tinning to prevent saltwater corrosion.
The glass on a reproduction Mark V may be loose and not sealed.
Forgeries may have a manufacturer not listed above on the ID plate.
It is important to note that replica or fake Mark V helmets are not functional. Never attempt to use one of these helmets underwater or for any purposes other than decor purposes! The United States Navy Mark V is a fantastic piece of diving technology. When certified serviced by a qualified company, the Mark V will function flawlessly as it did for most of the 20th Century. The above list of details regarding the differences of real vs. fake Mark V helmets is not 100% and simply provided as a quick reference guide.
If you are still not sure a diving helmet you are looking at is real or not, regardless of it is a Mark V, please do not hesitate to give us a call or text at 316-371-1828 or email firstname.lastname@example.org