Monday, March 1, 2010

A Little Mystery (UPDATED)

One of the best things about running this blog is the response I get from Packer fans far and wide. It's an amazing community, and I'm honored by those who read and follow this blog.

I was recently contacted by St. Vincent de Paul in Green Bay, looking for a little help in solving a mystery. Somebody donated an old Packers helmet (as you might expect, they get their share of old Packers treasure), and they were looking to learn a little bit about it before putting it on eBay.

Helmets are not my strength, but I'm not averse to a little research, and I love a good mystery. Maybe you can help me learn a little more about it.

The helmet is in rough shape, but it's still a beauty.

This is what they had to say about it:
From what we can tell the helmet is a 60's style helmet but no one wore the number 54 in the 60's. In 1970 Walker had it and 1971 Winther had it. I guess our main question is if the Packers used these helmets into the mid 70's. In 1973 Larry McCarren wore the number and he is a local hero being a sportscaster and all. When did the packers use decals for the numbers on the back of the helmet?

Also the decals on the helmet are different. The one on the left side is 1 piece and the one on the right side has a G decal ontop of a white oval decal.

You can see here how the two-layer decal is revealed. The white "G" has been scraped away, revealing the green field below. Compared this to the even scrapes in the top photo. The single-layer decals appear to have been introduced around 1970 (we do know that the double-layer were still in use as of the 1968 Pro Bowl).

The shell itself is comprised of several pieces of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, joined with tight seams. Riddell bought its ABS from the Marbon Corporation, under the trade name "Kra-Lite".

The construction appears to match, so far as we can tell from these types of photographs, the helmet worn by Forrest Gregg in the 1968 Pro Bowl:

We'll definitely need to get a closer look at the stickers inside, which often contain date of manufacture and other information. On the back, we have large black number decals.

There's the Kra-Lite mark, although we can't tell if there are any numbers after the trade name, which might help us date it.

The number decals appear to date from the early 1970s, when they replaced the Lombardi-era stenciled numbers. This game photo from 1973 shows similar decals:

So we have number decals from the early 1970s, logo decals spanning two different years. I suspect this helmet was originally used in the late 1960s and recycled into the 1970s. The two different helmet logos might tend to support this, as the team might have replaced decals only when they showed enough wear to need it. It's certainly possible that Larry McCarren might have worn it in 1973.

UPDATE: The responses have been great so far. I received this email from an anonymous collector:

Just thought I could help you out in identifying the Packers helmet. I am a collector of vintage football helmets and I have some info you may find valuable.

First of all the the helmet is the Riddell, "TK2" (Tru Kurv) model, which would have had either a 12 point, canvas suspension interior like this Packer helmet:

or a six point canvas suspension like this Browns helmet:

It dates from the early to mid 60's as is evident from the six air holes in the top of the helmet. The font of the Riddell stamping on the back of the helmet is from the late 60's to early 70's so it may have been reconditioned (the sticker in the interior looks like a reconditioning certification sticker) and therefore may have an additional stamping underneath the current paint. They wore this style helmet throughout the entire 70's at which time Riddell stopped making the suspension model and went to strictly foam and air padding.

As far as the decals go, you can tell the two piece decal has slightly squatter, more pointed ends or football shaped. It is the older 50's and 60's style. The other one piece decal is more oval shaped and is the style from the 70's.
Excellent stuff. Thanks!

I also received additional photographs from St. Vincent de Paul in response to my query, highlighting the back and interior markings. Click for larger:

Uncropped back pic

Inside sticker #1

Inside Sticker #2

Only stamp inside of helmet very back and bottom where the green and white stripes fold over

Left newer logo

Right older logo

Love the differences between the two logos. You can really see the difference between the thinner outline of the older football-shaped logo and the thicker outline of the modern ellipse.

Once again, much more to come....


Vince Prygoski said...

oh my God, that is such a beautiful old Packer helmet!!! and it has the number i wore when i played in high school...54.

i WANT that beat up old Packer helmet!!!!!!!

Rick E. said...

Thanks for the two helmet logo photos. As a Packer fan since 1966, I feel very strongly that the team should go back to the older G logo. In my opinion, it is MUCH more beautiful...the G looks so much more dynamic, especially its left side, which is a bit more oblong and fills in the green background more fully. This assymetry -- plus the fact that the great Packer teams of the 1960s used it -- cries out to be reinstated. Packer management: Restore this original G lgo!!

Chance Michaels said...

I'm hearing this sentiment more and more. Keep watching this space.

Packerfannyc said...

Does anyone know if Packer management is aware of the difference between the old "G" helmet logo and the current one? I've previously posted that the older logo, which was more oblong and had a thinner green background, seems to me to be far more beautiful than the modern logo, which is just an ellipse. And since Vince Lombardi himself approved the older logo, why can't we have it reinstated?