When I first looked at the Riddle some weeks ago, I searched for "six bars" and other unusual terms using several search engines, particularly Hotbot.
I found two sources that come quite close to the +ORC text, but are not the same, nor consistent in their differences. I posted these to Fravia, who suggested I start up this page. (That's where this all started!)
I had a couple of emails over the past few days from Epic who went into some detail in comparing the texts. He had found the same ones independently. His view is that "the answer to the riddle is helmet of course".
So I decided to set out the relevant lines from the sources to allow a full comparison. There are some close similarities and some differences. One problem is that one of the texts has only four, not five, lines, as it combines the second and third categories. Also, the second source uses different wording which requires a bit of reordering to allow easy comparison. First I'll quote verbatim the original texts, then the compared extracts.
Here are the two most relevant riddle text references I found:
The First Hypertext Edition of The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
THE DICTIONARY OF PHRASE AND FABLE BY E. COBHAM BREWER
FROM THE NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION OF 1894
Helmet in heraldry, resting on the chief of the shield, and bearing the crest, indicates rank.
Gold, with six bars, or with the visor raised (in full face) for royalty!
Steel, with gold bars, varying in number (in profile) for a nobleman;
Steel, without bars, and with visor open (in profile) for a knight or baronet;
Steel, with visor closed (in profile), for a squire or gentleman.
Lowell R. Matthews, Copyright (c) 1995
Revised October 20, 1995
C. The Crest: the helm and decorative crest inspired by the decorations worn by knights at tournament, which rests on top of the shield and is composed of four parts. In British heraldry neither a clergyman nor a woman, except the queen regnant, may use a crest. In Novite heraldry, female combatants may use a lady's crest, which excludes the helm, torse, and mantling.
1. The Helm: there are five types, based on the rank of the armiger:
a. The Sovereign, princes, and royal dukes use a full-faced helm of
demasked gold with six bars.
b. Nonroyal dukes and marquesses (the senior peers) use a full-faced helm of steel demasked with gold with five gold bars.
c. Earls (counts), viscounts, and barons (lords) use the same helm seen in profile.
d. Knights and baronets use a full-faced helm of steel with the visor open.
e. All other armigers, both private and corporate, use a sidelong helm of plain steel with the visor closed.
Comparison of the +ORC Riddle text (+O) with the first option (A) and the second option(B), with the last reordered and slightly reworded to compare the sequences.
+O Gold, with six bars, or with the visor raised (in full face) for royalty
A. Gold, with six bars, or with the visor raised (in full face) for royalty!
B. Demasked gold, with six bars (in full face) for sovereign, princes, royal dukes
+O Silver, with five bars, (in full face) for a duke or marquis
A. Steel, with gold bars, varying in number (in profile) for a nobleman
B. Steel demasked with gold, with five gold bars, (in full face) for dukes and marquesses
+O Silver, with four bars, with visor raised (in profile) for an earl, viscount or baron
A. (Steel, with gold bars, varying in number (in profile) for a nobleman) [repeated]
B. Steel demasked with gold, with five gold bars, (in profile) for earls, viscounts and barons
+O Steel, without bars, and with visor open (in full face) for a knight or a baronet
A. Steel, without bars, and with visor open (in profile), for a knight or baronet
B. Steel, with visor open, (in full face), for knights and baronets
+O Steel, with visor closed (in profile) for a squire or a gentleman
A. Steel, with visor closed (in profile), for a squire or gentleman
B. Steel, with visor closed, (sidelong), for all other armigers, private and corporate
As you can see, there is no consistency, though +ORC and version A are very similar in the first and fifth lines.
My opinion is that the +ORC text and version A have both come from another, original source, with copying errors or changes in expert opinion.
Personally, I don't think the differences tell us anything.