Back to the painted numbers: here is my 8. JzP, one of my favourite helmets. The raw Tombak fittings have a wonderful deep even patination to a copper brown colour. Plus it nicely shows that the eagle Wappen had a gilt wash. I love it.
I was very curious about the numbers on 8. JzP helmets behind the eagle Wappens, so I went to have a look, but the leather wedges have verdigris around the metal which means they have never been off, so I can't and won't take them off. Here are more images if anyone is interested.
However, after this very interesting thread I have no doubts that behind that Dragoner eagle is a Quartermaster serial number painted on. I had no idea this was a common feature of these helmets.
Having said that, I believe the painted numbers should be recognized by anyone who has been in uniform. Weapons and optics etc. have serial numbers. In my own experience, many other tools or pieces of equipment that were 'accountable' on my Tank had a hand applied Quartermaster stamped or painted number. It not only made you take better care of it, but if you lost it, when it was found they would know who it belonged to. Several times a year I had to account for everything and sign for it.
Scenario: Jäger Nippleburg joins the 8. JzP and is issued serialized weapons that are recorded in his Soldbuch. As that Metalhelm is also an expensive piece of Crown property, someone in that Regt. like the Supply Officer or Head Quartermaster decided to number the helmets. Why there are matching numbers on the reverse of the eagle Wappen though is a mystery to me. Purely conjecture of course, but a Quartermaster serial number to me makes the most sense as it's practical.