DIY Football Helmet Custom Refurbished How To Part 1: Where to get used Football Helmets

If you are going to custom paint or refurbish a football helmet you probably are going to need to actually have a helmet to get started. There are several different ways to acquire used helmets and I will outline the various ways to secure your helmets below.


Where do you get your helmets?

One of the more frequent questions I get is on where to get helmets and where to get decals (which I will get to in a later article). When I first picked up the hobby I had no idea where to get helmets. The easiest way I could think of was Ebay, which is where I got my first helmet. Here are the pros and cons to all of the various ways to obtain lids and then you can decide for yourself the best way to secure some helmets for your projects.


The easiest way to find just about anything these days is on Ebay. In the beginning Ebay started off as an auction site and many things are still being auctioned off on their site, but more than that you can find just about anything you want for mostly reasonable prices. The same goes for football helmets. The best thing to search for is “Used Youth Football Helmets“. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of adult sized used helmets out there and the ones you can find are usually insanely priced. That’s why I mostly look for youth helmets. They still look full sized on your shelf and are way easier to obtain. The only downside to using youth helmets is the smaller space for full sized logos and the fact that it will probably not fit your adult sized head if you were planning on marching around town in your latest creation, which believe me I’ve thought about. When searching, look for the helmets with the lowest shipping price. Many time sellers will offer a helmet (or any item) for what seems like a great deal, but will have double the price of the item listed as the shipping price. The other trick many people use is looking for typos and for not commonly used terms for the products. This can allow you to jump in on auctions that don’t have a large number of bidders.

Writing High School And College Coaches about their rejected Helmets


Rejected High School Helmets.

Football helmets can be be recertified for 10 years. After that they are essentially useless and are not allowed to be used for any sanctioned game play. This means the teams generally do not have any use for the helmets that are rejected and sent back to them when they send their helmets out to get recertified at the end of the season. Going online and finding the contact information for coaches in your local area will allow you to write them and see if they have any helmets to give you. Many times they will just have some old helmets lying around or would throw them out anyway. This technique is hit or miss and can rely on a good network of coaches who can get you a few helmets every winter. I have had some success doing this with a few coaches giving me the few rejected helmets they got back from the refurbishing companies. As with anything you will have varying results. Some coaches ignore me and some said they did not currently have any. I lucked out and a local coach had a few helmets for me and I try to keep in contact with him so i can get a few more the next time they get some rejects back.

Craigslist/Flea Markets/Thrift Stores/Second Hand Sports Stores

Two 1950s youth helmets. Found at a flea market.

Two 1950s youth helmets. Found at a flea market.

The final place where you can get helmets is locally. One place to go is Craigslist. I have seen a few helmets here or there listed in the Craigslist classified ads. Of course with Craigslist you would actually have to meet up with some stranger to get the helmets, so I have yet to try it. The other spots locally which will occasionally have helmets is at flea markets, thrift stores or at second hand sporting goods stores. I have bought quite a few helmets from flea markets. It could take a few weekends of hunting, but it is not uncommon for sellers to have old, sometimes vintage helmets in their pile of junk. The best part is that they are usually way cheaper than on ebay or other places. The same goes for thrift stores. I have not personally found any at my local stores, but I have heard from other people who have found perfectly good helmets at their local thrift store. Some second hand sports stores may have helmets as well, although most do not actually sell football equipment. The reason being that most football equipment is issued by the teams as opposed to bought by the player like with hockey or other team sports. This limits the secondary market for equipment, but occasionally a store will have some to choose from. The other thing is let people know you are looking for helmets. many people have some sitting around in their basement or garage.

This helmet cost $5 at the flea market, but needs lots and lots of work.

This helmet cost $5 at the flea market, but needs lots and lots of work.

What type of helmets should I use?

I use whatever i can get my hands on. Some people are looking for specific models to match a player or are looking for something brand new to make an authentic looking on-field helmet. Given the lifespan of helmets, I usually only work with ten year old or more helmets. If you are looking to make something that uses one of the current style helmets, you will have to pay big bucks to get them. Some guys like to buy brand new helmets and then either custom paint their shells or pay a company to do it. I like to treat this as more of a refurbishing hobby and like to take a battered old helmet no one wants and make it look almost new again.