Recently, I acquired a pre-pro2 Fett Helmet casting. A legitimate acquisition bought and paid for. So I’ll be taking this opportunity to treat it as such by openly sharing my findings as well as a rather surprising and quite pleasing discovery made in the process. Though it wasn’t actually the helmet that was suggested to be in the sale, at the end of the day it ended up being pretty special in it’s own right. Thanks to our own DarthVoorhees, I was led to a sale on another forum (non Fett related) for this casting. The owner, (to remain anonymous for now) is in failing health and had to liquidate his assets to cover medical expenses and retirement. Some of you that have been around a while will recognize the helmet. And the first impression would be that it is a Lee Malone PP2 Fett Helmet casting. For those of you that may not know, you ca read more on the topic 'Boba Fett Helmet History' in the TDH Wiki.
What was suggested or eluded to by the seller, more so by supporting conversations and messages with several others somewhat connected to this sale, was that this helmet came from the EXACT same mold that the Lee Malone “Plaster Master Casting’ came from in 2003. As the story goes, the sale to Lee Malone originally included the ‘Plaster Master Casting’ and one ‘Worn Mold” that yielded both Lee Malone’s plaster casting, as well as the casting that was for sale. Effectively making the helmet I purchased the same generation as the Lee Malone 'Plaster Master'. And this is supposedly where the ‘ear cap mold tear’ anomaly originated in said 'worn mold'. However, I wasn’t born yesterday. And while quite an interesting tale, I as well as many others know this to be absolutely FALSE . And don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
On THAT note, the first thing that caught my attention was that it had the rangefinder ear cap anomaly as described above to what has only been known to be a trait of the Lee Malone mold where pieces of the mold started to ‘tear out’ after only the 3rd casting. It had obviously been trimmed out. The intact anomaly can be seen here as example … (this is what is apparent on several other castings such as the BM copy)
Secondly, and equally important to ‘ME’, was that the helmet was 'cleaned' (sterilized) of 99% of it’s trademark scratches and damage, as well as base coated and airbrushed in Lee Malone’s EXACT ESB colors from his list of 10 years ago. If you didn’t already know, Lee Malone shared several very poor ‘CLEANED’ castings of his plaster master back in the day. What can be considered 2nd generation castings of his plaster master. So naturally, I assumed that is all this helmet really was.
In spite of all this, I made a fair offer anyway, and was allowed to buy the casting. My interest at first was only to ensure it didn’t fall into the wrong hands and/or passed off for something it is not. People have been itching to offer castings of this helmet for years. And funny enough, the terms and conditions that came with this sale were the allowance to make wearable ‘castings’. In no uncertain terms, this meant ‘share’ castings of this helmet. By now anyone that knows the tale of this controversial helmet are likely wondering WHO could grant such permission other than Lee Malone himself? The next logical assumption based on the information I’ve already given, would be the original source of the 2003 plaster master sold to Lee Malone. And whereas I’m not confirming or denying that, you would be making a very intelligent assumption.
Some may feel that my acquisition was solely for consent to share. Frankly, I would be lying if I denied that I bought it because I didn’t want someone ‘competing’ with me. That’s where my interest ended though. Not for permission to recast it. However, I do have consent, based on what this helmet was advertised to be, and especially from whom it originated. And although a gray area, I could take advantage of if I choose to do so. I’m being perfectly honest. So the jury is still out on whether or not these will be shared in the future, for the record. For now, this article is for showing off a personal acquisition.
Fast forward to having received this helmet. It sat around for less than a day untouched. I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to know what was underneath the paint. I dropped everything I was ‘supposed’ to be doing (my apologies to my customers) and started to strip it. I made an educated decision based on almost two decades now of experience, of what would be best to strip the paint based on what the helmet was made of so as not to affect the casting material (material omitted until necessary for a reason). To my surprise, there was proverbial gold underneath the paint and primer.
What became instantly clear, is that this helmet was likely not a 2n gen cleaned up casting of the Malone 'Plaster Master'. Or even an unauthorized recast of one. But instead, a 1st gen casting of the Malone plaster master itself. All but 3 of the signature scratches and damage were lightly filled with bondo brand glazing putty. Which melts right away with the right compatible solvent (again not affecting the casting material at all). So the surface detail remains 100% intact as well as the original paint chips and burlap texture.
The three areas not filled with glazing putty, were actually repaired/restored with plumbers putty. Carefully applied and un-sanded. Which popped right off revealing the pretty original nastiness these castings are famous for. Again, lossless detail retention.
After getting farther and farther into the delicate stripping process, I recognized the helmet. I felt I knew what it was, where it came from, and why it was in the state it was when I bought it. Circa 2003-05, Lee Malone as I already mentioned, made a ‘clean’ version of this helmet by pulling a casting of the first mold he commissioned to have made of his 'Plaster Master'. I should note that part of the terms of the original sale were to never offer castings of this helmet. That was sidestepped by making a clean version instead. So the casting pulled from mold number 1 was sterilized (scratches and signature marks removed), and a second mold commissioned to share a few “cleaned’ castings between close friends. As the story goes. But I remembered I still had the pictures Lee Malone sent me directly that illustrated what he did to the helmet to prepare it for this second mold. As can be seen here ….
My thoughts back in the day were “what a shame”. Erased and ruined an artifact. Lee explained to me at the time that he's a professional, knows what he’s doing. He told me he ‘lovingly’ covered the signature damage, making every effort not to disturb the original shape and sculpture of the helmet. And, that he wanted the future castings from mold number 2 to be a perfect restored representations of his actual plaster casting. The finished product appeared just like this prior to the second mold being made (1st gen untouched on right, 1st gen clean on left) …
My second thoughts now were, even in spite of the torrid relationship he and I have had over the years is, he wasn’t kidding. Everything strongly suggests my suspicions are correct. That being said, I have to give the guy credit where credit is due. He is a magician. He did a fantastic job restoring the helmet without harming a single proverbial hair on its head (or dome in this case). The primary sanding that would have been required to knock down the glazing putty must have been done with a micro fine sanding sponge. Most of us know how easy that stuff is to sand. After nearly a decade, I strongly believe this to be the very same helmet.
In the first pic, you can see the two areas at the bottom of the mandibles where he used plumbers putty to restore the lowest most chips (he was famous for being a proponent of using plumbers putty). Visible as the darker gray areas at the bottom of each mandible.
And here you can see one of those two areas uncovered showing the plumbers putty ( I would have taken better pictures during this process had I know what I’d be needing to substantiate clearer, but you can see it).
Here are a few of the markers that can be matched to glazing putty areas he lightly filled ..
Here is what appears to be the same helmet in the first stage of being airbrushed with the Malone ESB Colors (the helmet I purchased was clearly airbrushed, and has the strip of primer on the front left uncovered).
Lastly, I found one last awesome little tell tale to it’s origin. If there is still any doubt that this is the real mccoy, and you think it's more likely just a ‘recast’ of one of Lee Malone’s helmets , I think the evidence strongly suggests otherwise. The mold that Lee commissioned to be made was made of a blue brittle dupont brand silicone. Which is why it failed after only 3 castings and chunks started coming out, sticking to each subsequent casting in various stages of decay. Which means that every helmet pulled from the mold differs in that ear area slightly from helmet to helmet. As the deterioration progressed, so did the size of the 'glob' on the top ear cap of each casting.
Underneath the ear cap anomaly, encased in one of the bubbles was a nice nearly decade old piece of that very silicone ..
My unequivocal conclusion at this point is … my acquisition IS the very same helmet. a first generation casting of Lee Malone’s original 'Plaster Master'. But even more interesting and cool to me, is that THIS VERY HELMET is the most likely to be the ‘FATHER’ of all of the ‘cleaned’ castings that were shared back in the day. Including but not limited to ‘Gino’s’ ultimate ESB helmet (the one pictured is an example of what they all looked like and not his copy specifically to my knowledge)
However , it could all still be argued I suppose. But there is one last ‘ace’ of evidence. And that's what this helmet is made from. The reason I omitted this in the first place. There is only one answer if argued. Only the one who made it or pulled the castings from it would know the answer. I’ll leave that for if and when it is necessary.
What is still unclear is how it came to be in the possession of the individual that sold it to me. What has been offered to me as an explanation in my research is that it was a gift from Lee Malone as a token of gratitude for having been allowed to own the plaster master. I don’t know if there is truth to this. But I find it most ironic that it ended up being sold as ‘an equal casting’ to the original 'Plaster Master'. And someone could have bought it hook line and sinker. And had a serious bit of egg on their face. At the end of the day, it is EQUAL in generation to other castings that have been spotted around (such as BM’s), and much better than some ‘others’ out there that have suffered deterioration and breakage from VERY poor glass casting skills.
Another irony, after my having turned down buying the original plaster casting back in 2003 (I couldn’t prove it’s provenance), this casting surfaces almost exactly to the day, of the very same month as the opportunity back in 2003. Albeit not the plaster master, it is as close as one can get (the plaster master was apparently obliterated with a shotgun for some reason ----> VIDEO LINK). Again, this is going back to the material it is made from , used in the industry for lossless reproduction. There was only one made this way. Making it very unique all by itself. Measurements taken and compared to the original plaster master measurements verify no loss whatsoever. All in all, I am very pleased with the acquisition. I took a chance. Got lucky. It's really as simple as that. It could have been a lot worse lol
Here she is ... (teaser pic). I'll be doing a full shoot on this helmet as soon as I have a small block of time to do it. I'll do my best not to take forever.
Thanks for reading everyone !