I have never owned or collected game used football helmets so let’s get that out of the way right from the start. I have also never owned or collected a T-55 or a T-62 tank. While I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express on more than one occasion, I do have actual and practical experience when it comes to performing and utilizing imagery analysis. Where am I going with this? Recently, I had a very cordial e-mail exchange with a helmet collector known to me only as “Robert”. We exchanged correspondence that came from some visual observations he provided on some football helmets that MEARS was said to have evaluated for a Mastro’s Auction back in 2005.

“Robert” is one of a growing number of seemingly well versed and focused collectors who share information via the web. He is a regular poster on the Game Used Universe Forum and does so under the “aeneas01.” As I looked at his observations about the helmets in question and the period images he provided, it got me thinking about developing a template that could be used to support the imagery analysis of football helmets. Please understand this has nothing to do with a person’s level of expertise as a collector and you need not have ever collected them before to make use of it. This does not mean that this checklist/template is all you need to become a helmet expert…far from it…Rather like most things, it is designed to help the new collector become better informed and the advanced collector become maybe a bit more organized or methodical.

It has been my professional experience, and this is not hobby related but based on some 15 years of intelligence work at the tactical through strategic levels, that errors relating to imagery analysis often result when no specific method or protocol is followed. I see this all the time with today’s “photo matching crowd”. They find one thing or a few points of comparison, only to have it pointed out that the items are not the same based on the totality of the relationship between image and object. This is not counting those items when size and distance are not even addressed in any empirical manner or with any supporting scale.

The first thing I would offer is that to do this work well with respect to helmets, consider all the various angles you would want to compare a helmet and an image from:

1. Full frontal

2. Left oblique

3. Right oblique

4. Rear

5. Top

6. Interior

I bring this up now as this is what you will want to have for both the images of the helmet in question and the images you look for as a means of comparison.

Before you begin to analyze any images, make sure your reference sample is as complete as possible. If you are serious about collecting football helmets, then don’t limit yourself to what can be found on Getty, Corbis, or other on line references. If I had to offer suggestions on other on-line image sources to consult, I would recommend these as well :


For face masks, consider:


While these on-line sites are very helpful, but please consider print and moving media as well such as wire photos, team yearbook, Street & Smith Football Annuals and any number of other football related periodicals.

Remember that in comparing the helmet you are looking to buy and the one the player has or is wearing in the image, you really only know the helmet with the player is a known and true example, so spend the bulk of your time up front deciding for yourself what “right should look like.” If you do it in reverse, going from the offered helmet to images, you run the risk of falling prey to the natural tendency among collectors (and junior imagery analysts) to find what you want to find and see what you want to see.

The next thing you will want to consider is how you view and evaluate the helmet and the images in your sample. In our western culture, our normal eye progression runs from top to bottom and left to right. This is due largely to how we were taught to understand and process visual information when being taught to read. Also, most of the images you will find in either print or other mediums have either been manually cropped or shot with the intended purpose of getting you to focus on something in particular. To counter all this, I suggest that whatever image you are looking at, that you divide it up into four quadrants:

Upper Left

Upper Right

Lower Left

Lower Right

Decide what you are looking for and begin your analysis in the lower right quadrant, followed by lower left, upper right, and finally upper left. This “working against the grain” will help to counter act your tendency to want to visually read or scan the image.

Mind you, you still should only be concerned with the actual images of the player at this time and not the offered helmet. Remember the goal is to determine what right should look like before making any observations or drawing conclusions about the offered helmet.

Since I offered six angles of observation, let me suggest what you may want to make note of in each. This is not a definitive list, but it does offer a structure and process that you can follow with some consistency. If you would like to get a copy of this checklist in the form a Word Document that you can print out and use, just send me an e-mail and I will be happy to oblige.

1.Full frontal

-Type of face mask

-Manner in which mask is affixed to helmet by location, clip style, screws, bolts, etc

-Jaw Pads.

-Rivet style or screws securing helmet interior.

-Shape or style of the shell (to include means of coloration).


-Chin strap.

-Team/Player identification and manner of appliqué.

– Snubber or other types of padding or protection.

-Indications of interior padding type by type, material, and location.

2.Left oblique

– Type of face mask.

-Manner in which mask is affixed to helmet by location, clip style, screws, bolts, etc

-Rivet style or screws securing helmet interior.

-Rivets for jaw pads.

-Ear hole.

-Team ornamentation/logos by both style and placement.

-Shape or style of the shell (to include means of coloration).

3.Right oblique

– Type of face mask.

-Manner in which mask is affixed to helmet by location, clip style, screws, bolts, etc.

-Rivet style or screws securing helmet interior.

-Rivets for jaw pads.

-Ear hole.

-Team ornamentation/logos by both style and placement.

-Shape or style of the shell (to include means of coloration).


-Shape or style of the shell (to include means of coloration).

-Team ornamentation/logos by both style and placement.

-Player identification (note both method and placement).

-Year, team, or macro level specific points of reference (stickers, logos etc.) Note both style and locations.

-Manufacturers identification


-Team ornamentation/logos by both style and placement.

-Ventilation holes by number, size, and location.

6. Interior

-Padding design, style, and materials.

-Suspension type, style, and materials.

-Possible player identification.

-Rivet or screw backings by type and location.

-Shape or style of the shell (to include means of coloration).

-Means of year dating or other forms of coding such as reconditioning.

* For all areas and angles you evaluate, make note of color(s)

Your ability to utilize a template like this will can begin right away. The level of detail and degree of certainty you take away from it will improve over time. These are all sterile points of reference and one thing I have not addressed is the issue of size and spatial relationships. Remember to consider how far things are apart from each other both in your references and the offered helmet. Don’t be one of those folks who simply offers “too small, too large, to far to the left… etc.” Force yourself to quantify your observations. This does two things; it forces you to look at things in the necessary detail required and it also makes for a more objective and compelling argument.

For the record, I have only looked at one football helmet for MEARS and it was a Cliff Harris Dallas Cowboys helmet that was deemed Unable to Authenticate. I have not done any other helmet work because of the difficulty I had with the submitter over this opinion. This was over a year ago and it really caused me to lose all interest in looking at helmets. I don’t see this changing since I really enjoy the work I do on the other things I research and write about. I have however been reminded that not everyone likes the same things I do, that is also the reason I have chosen to provide this template. MEARS does not have a worksheet especially designed for or intended for football helmets. The reason is we just don’t evaluate that many of them nor are we asked to. In speaking with Troy, the ones we do see in the future will done incorporating this imagery analysis template.

It remains to be seen if the helmets Robert mentioned from the October 2005 Mastro Auction were done by MEARS. In the mean time, we have a new way to look at things and have seen there is always a way to better at what we do…If you are of the opinion that we should have been doing things this way all along, I will gladly concede that point. We were not for no other reason than we just weren’t doing it this way….no excuse or double talk.

As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect. Hopefully I have provided you something that will assist you in this endeavor.


For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.