Collecting Boy Scout Patches and Insignia 101
This green long-sleeved Boy Scout shirt, dating from the 1954, displays several patches and pins, including a Westlake “red and white” council name patch, a key and a wheel patch, a rank patch and service pins.
Many of us collect things that connect us to happy times in our childhood. Collecting Boy Scout patches and insignia is one hobby that, for many of us, fits that category. Scouting has made a difference in the lives of many people, and I am one of those people. An added benefit of this hobby, in addition to rejuvenating wonderful childhood memories, is the collector’s value of things. It’s hard for the non-collector to understand these values. You can have a boy scout patch from the early days of scouting that might still only be worth a couple of dollars, while a recent rare issue might bring hundreds or thousands.
This first article will summarize the various ways and methods of collecting scouting memorabilia and cover all of the major collecting areas again, in summary form. Future articles will go into detail about each major collecting area, discussing rare items and values. So, let’s get started and look at each of the major categories of collecting.
Order of the Arrow Memorabilia
This is the area that has the most rare and expensive patches and neckerchiefs and is usually where a dealer looks first in a collection that is for sale. The Order of the Arrow is the scout brotherhood of honor campers. It is a very special organization. Most of its members are Life or Eagle Scouts and are the “pick of the litter.” Every Boy Scout council has an Order of the Arrow lodge, and most lodges have issued patches and neckerchiefs since their inception. Generally speaking, the older the patch is the better. And, O.A. lodges no longer in existence are usually the best. There are some exceptions to this rule, as in recent years, some lodges have made modern rarities—a patch or neckerchief with very few made. O.A. patches vary in value from $2 to a recent sale I am aware of that realized $30,000 for one patch. That patch was one of a kind from the 1920s. By far, the majority of these patches can be had for under $10, but more and more of the early rare patches are selling in the thousands of dollars.
CSPs or Council Shoulder Patches
Every scout today wears a “CSP” on the left shoulder of their uniform shirt. CSPs are usually multicolored with the name of the council on it. These were first used officially around 1973, although a few councils had similar patches in earlier years and these are also considered CSPs. Most collectors collect one from every council, including those councils no longer in existence. Some collect every issue from specific councils. The truly brave collect all issues from all councils, which is a huge undertaking. There are just a handful of collectors still attempting to collect all issues. One popular collection is to go after the first CSP issue from each council. CSPs vary in value from $1 to some in the hundreds and a few in the thousands.
A “red and white” council patchs and from a Hibbing, Minnesota, Sea Scout uniform.
Red and Whites and Preceding Colors
Red and white patches with just the council name are another specialty area, and these preceded CSPs. There is a growing group of people collecting red and whites, and I predict that group will expand greatly this year as these are being listed for the first time in the CSP book. Preceding the Red and Whites from the 1940s and earlier are khaki and reds (scouts), green and browns (explorers), blue and golds (cubs), blue and blues (air scouts), blue and whites and white and blues (sea scouts). When these are found with the council name and not the city and state, they are very collectible. It’s worth mentioning that many scouts collect the early colors that were made for their state or all states. These are called state strips and all states can be collected from these early years.
Philmont is the largest and most famous of our scout camps, located near Cimarron, N.M. Scouts from all 50 states and many foreign countries have hiked across its 137,493 acres of beautiful mountainous terrain each year. There are 32 staff camps and 50 trail camps operated by the ranch, which sees more than 20,000 campers every year. Because of its popularity, many people collect Philmont patches, and this camp has become a large specialty area of memorabilia in this hobby.
The brown arrowhead patch is the most well known, as every camper gets one for completing their trek at Philmont. Over the years, this patch alone comes in various types and varieties and lately, border colors. Collecting memorabilia from this one camp could be a lifelong task seldom completed. Patches vary in value from $1 to thousands of dollars.
High Adventure Camps
High Adventure Camps are the camps with national recognition and open to scouts from across the country. Philmont, mentioned separately above, is in this category, as is the Charles L. Sommers High Adventure Base, Florida Sea Base, Maine High Adventure Base, the older Region 7 Scout Landing (later Region 7 Canoe Base) and Region 10 Canoe Base. These camps are usually owned by national BSA organization and advertised nationally. Today, you can win an award for completing three of these national adventures. The patches go back through the years and are wonderful additions to any collection. Most of these patches run from $1 to hundreds of dollars.
These are the patches made by scout camps, usually attended in the summer by scouts. Many collect all of the issues from the camps that they attended, while some collect their state or their region, and a few collect all camps throughout the USA.
A patch from Boy Scout Camp Wichingen, issued in the 1960s.
Again, the decision needs to be made about whether or not to collect all issues from these camps or just one from each. My collection that I prize includes all patches issued by the two camps where I served on the camp staff. A handful of collectors collect—and have made great strides in collecting—all issues from all camps in the United States. Camp patches can be had from 25 cents to no more than $100 for most issues. There are always a few very special issues that bring more. This is an area that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to collect.
The first National Jamboree was scheduled to be held in 1935 but was cancelled due to a polio epidemic. It was rescheduled and actually held in Washington D.C. in 1937.
A patch from the 1960 National Boy Scout Jubilee Jamboree held in Colorado Springs, celebrating celebration of their 50th anniversary of the first national jamboree.
Some collectors believe that the first jamboree was held in Buffalo, N.Y. in 1930. That event was called Niagara Frontier Oregon Trail Scout Jamboree and had national attendance. The other National Jamborees were held in 1950, 1953, 1957, 1960, 1964, 1969, 1973, 1977, 1981, 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005 and the 100th anniversary of scouting and National Jamboree will be held next year in 2010. It’s a natural for most collectors to include a set of official patches and neckerchiefs from all jamborees in their collection. Since so many patches were made for each one, it is not an expensive undertaking. Some collectors try to collect every patch made for the jamborees that they attended. And, there are a very few that try to collect every patch, neckerchief and souvenir made for every jamboree held. THAT is a large undertaking. A sub-category, crossing over to CSPs, is collecting jamboree shoulder patches, or JSPs. We’ll cover them next. Any of the pre-1973 jamboree patches—with a plastic back—are reproductions issued by BSA at recent jamborees in a set. The Buffalo pieces are quite rare and unknown by most. The 1935 and 1937 Jamboree patches and neckerchiefs start around $75 and go up from there based on availability.
JSPs or Jamboree Shoulder Patches
Jamboree shoulder patches are similar to CSPs, as they all have the council name on them. In addition, however, they have wording or symbols that show that the patch was issued for a specific Jamboree. Some councils have multiple issues, usually distinguished by a different border color for each troop, staff or leaders. Lately, some councils issued a center patch that their whole set of JSPs could be displayed around the center patch. Cartoon characters and other well-known designs are often big traders at jamborees, but worth much less in the long run after the jamboree is over. Some collect JSPs just from jamboree’s they have attended. Others attempt to collect them all from all jamborees. A common retail price for JSPs is $5, but the rarer ones bring much more.
The first World Jamboree was in 1920, and there was little memorabilia issued for that event. 1924 saw the first World Jamboree patch, and these usually bring $5,000 and up, depending on condition. The reason for the high price is that these were serially numbered on very fragile silk. Many have fallen apart over the years, leaving few for collectors to find. The next World Jamboree was held in 1929, and items from this event are much less rare. These patches can be found for around $250. The World Jamboree of 1933 was next, and these patches bring around $400-500, but they have also been reproduced many times, as have many of the patches in this category. If you buy these early patches, be sure you buy them from a reputable dealer. The 1937 World Jamboree was the first year that the sub-camps each had a different bar at the top of the patch. Attendees traded their patch with others from other sub-camps in an attempt to get an entire set. Today, these patches bring $600 or more, depending on condition and the bar at the top. The 1947 patches were similar, but were distinguished by the actual name of the sub-camp at the bottom. Some World Jamboree patches are much rarer than others, but the prices start around $500 and goes up from there, depending on rarity and condition. Other World Jamborees were held in 1951, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1963, 1967 (USA), 1971, 1975, 1979 (to be held in Iran but was cancelled; still, some pieces exist), 1983 (Canada), 1987, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007. The rarest and most valuable patches are, of course, the early ones, but there are rare issues from each World Jamboree.
A collection of 1950s-vinatge Boy Scout merit badges on a sash, including Reading, Camping, Cooking, First Aid, Home Repair, World Brotherhood, Canoeing, Carpentry, Metalwork.
Badges of Rank and Merit Badges
Anyone who has been a scout can relate to badges of rank and merit badges, as we all worked hard to get them. This becomes a collectible area because the patches have changed so many times over the years, as have the metal pins and Eagle medal awards. Collectors of these rank insignia try to find one of each major variety and some go after the minor varieties too. Merit badges started on pieces of square cloth and evolved over the years into the round multicolored patches of today. But the patches on square are really cool. The Eagle patches started with an Eagle patch with no lettering on square cloth—and several different kinds and colors of cloth at that. These are quite rare. Then the wording was added, still on square and then began the several different Eagle patches over recent years on oval with rolled edge. The first Eagle medals were made by T.H. Foley (1912-15), and these can bring $10,000 or more. Most of these were a silver wash over bronze. Next came medals made by Dieges and Clust (1916-20), and these usually run around $2,000. Many more companies and medals followed, but these are the rarest ones. We’ll go into more detail in future articles. Being an Eagle Scout is still a significant achievement for a boy and affects most of them positively the rest of their life.
These started out on square felt and these are very rare, worth hundreds each if in good condition. The came the red and black felt patrol patches without the letters BSA. Most of these in good condition bring around $50 each. Then followed the felts with BSA followed by red and black patches of the same design made on twill. Most of these are around $1-$3 each, although again, there are a few rare ones. Today, patrol patches are also multicolored and of small value. But, a full set of patrol patches from the beginning is a museum quality collection.
National Order of the Arrow Conferences (NOAC)
These were first called National Meetings of the Grand Lodge and the first one was held in 1921 in Philadelphia, followed by similar meetings in 1922, 1924, 1925 and 1926. The first piece of collectible memorabilia was issued in 1928 and was a comb case that read W.W.W. 1926. At the 1927 National Meeting a leather wallet and a round celluloid nametag pin was issued. There was no memorabilia issued for the 1929 and 1931 National Meetings, but in 1933, there was a beautiful rectangular celluloid nametag issued, as well as a ribbon that was attached to the nametag that said “Delegate.” Other than paper delegate nametags in 1936 and 1938, 1938 also saw a metal arrowhead-shaped neckerchief slide with a plastic arrow attached. The arrow was very delicate and as a result, most of the surviving slides have a broken arrow. The 1940 National Meeting saw a delegate medal which could be taken apart after the event and the arrowhead bottom could be used as a neckerchief slide, as well as the first official neckerchief and Host neckerchief. Delegates were also given a felt camp patch, while staff members were given the staff camp chenille patch. A second type of felt camp patch was given to VIPs.
Most collectors either start their collection with the large 1946 round celluloid pin or the 1948 patches. In 1948, the Order of the Arrow became part of the Boy Scouts of America, so many start their collection on that year. The patches in 1948, however, proudly stated that that was the 15th National Meeting of the OA. NOAC’s were held in 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1987, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009. Most collect all the official items from all the NOACs. A few also collect all of the contingent items from all the lodges for the NOAC. This can add up to a couple of thousand issues per NOAC, which is a task pursued by the hardy. NOAC patches usually cost $5 and up. The early items mentioned from the early years cost many thousands of dollars.
Badges and Pins of Office
This collection includes all of the various office patches made for scouts, as well as leaders and professionals, from the local level up to the National level. In the early 50s and earlier, it was common for adults to have pins on their scout jacket designating their office—from Scoutmaster to National President. These pins are not made any more and are quite rare. The earliest patches of office for leaders started out being various colors of the first-class emblem, designating the office the man held. They then evolved into separate patches for each office. In the early days, you needed a book to look up some of the offices, as they were distinguished by different color Eagles or backgrounds. In more recent years, the patches are clearly labeled so you can read the office of the person. Most valuable are the early national-level office pins and patches, as most were worn by very few people in those days. Daniel Carter Beard and Mortimer Schiff had their own patches.
Surprisingly enough, the number of Americans who collect foreign patches is small compared to the other specialty areas, and yet this is an area rich in history and full of rare memorabilia. A popular specialty area is a collection of the highest rank from every country, like Eagle Scout in the USA and Queen Scout in the UK and Canada. Many Americans have accumulated foreign patches and don’t have a clue what they have. This is a rich place for foreign scouts to come and harvest rarities that we are often pleased to part with. I’ve been told about many rare old foreign patches purchased for practically nothing at American scout patch trade-o-rees in junk boxes.
World’s Fair Scouting Memorabilia
This is a great area to collect. The 1933 World’s Fair saw a couple of U.S. patches and a beautiful neckerchief made for service corps members. World’s Fairs in 1939 and 1940, held in New York and San Francisco, respectively, sold scouting service corps memorabilia. And, just about every World’s Fair since has had something for scouting. You can add to your scouting items things found in antique stores to celebrate the various World Fairs to really add to the interest of your collection.
A group of Boy Scout patches from the late 1960s thru 1970s from the Mason Dixon Council. Most every boy who was a scout has a collection of patches like this, marking the events he attended while a scout.
Most of us have those personal patches that we earned personally by attending camporees, scout shows, NOACs, jamborees, Klondike Derbies, etc., that we will never trade or sell. I have two books of these patches myself. But, even these sacred patches often end up in someone else’s collections after we die. This is sometimes how really rare items that are unknown in the hobby appear after 50 years sometimes come to light.
One of the rarest scouts on stamps souvenir sheets was issued by Korea in 1957 for Scouting's 50th anniversary. Only 500 were made.
Scouts on Stamps
This topical area in stamp collecting covers all of the stamps issued by all of the countries of the world that honor scouting. The first stamps in this specialty area were issued by Cape of Good Hope during the Siege of Mafeking, issued in 1900. These stamps are included because two of the three stamps picture Baden Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts who also commanded the troops who defended Mafeking. Many stamps have been issued over the years and a complete collection of scout stamps with all of the proofs, imperforates, souvenir sheets and other variations would cost tens of thousands of dollars. And yet, many stamp collectors who were scouts find this specialty area to be a favorite—so much so that there is an International organization for these collectors called Scouts on Stamps Society International—SOSSI for short. SOSSI members attend many jamborees and man the stamp collecting booth—and often issue patches for their participation.
I have not covered all of the areas of collecting but have tried to cover most of the major ones. The plan is to go much more in depth in each of these areas in future articles. From one “bald” Eagle to you, I wish you the best and hope you will all find treasures in this great hobby of ours. There still are many more things to find in attics, garage sales, antique stores and from friends. Good luck!
Ronald G. Aldridge, Ph.D. is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in Boy Scout Memorabilia.
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