William Henry Knives

Patch Together


By Pamela Wiggins Siegel

Boy Scouts of America has been inspiring and educating youngsters since its founding in 1910, and there has been no shortage of scouting memorabilia produced along the way.

Some of these items are worth big bucks today, including several notable examples sold by Heritage Auctions. But when it comes to collecting Boy Scout memorabilia with kids, experts agree that it usually starts with colorful, embroidered patches.


Mark James of Arlington, Texas, joined the Boy Scouts in 1958. He received his first patch when he attended a fall camporee that year. He quickly learned that he could buy extra patches when attending similar Scouting events. From that point on, he acquired one for his uniform and another to save for future trades with other Scouts. Fast forward to 2002, and his affinity for those treasured patches from his youth morphed into something bigger.

As a scouting historian and memorabilia conservator, James frequently gets calls from folks offering a variety of Scouting items he willingly adds to his stash. Since he has been collecting and studying this type of memorabilia most of his life, keeping it around for future generations to learn from and enjoy is important to him. All these years later, he still has the patches he earned as a child, along with more than 30,000 varied items in his inventory at TradingEagles.com.


Black Eagle Lodge
Patches like these examples from the Transatlantic Council, for American Scouts living in the United Kingdom, are prized by Scout collectors. Photo by Mark James.

One way James shares his dedication for preserving Scouting history is by sharing his knowledge with youngsters earning Scouting Heritage and Collections merit badges. Closely examining collectible patches is a big part of that endeavor. “I found at a very young age that I could learn the history of Scouting by researching and studying the patches,” he shares.

The focused hobby of buying, selling and trading patches goes on all year, both at Scouting events and online. For adding to a collection of memorabilia in person, however, James says there’s nothing better than attending one of the many local “Trade-O-Ree” events held across the country.

During these events James will often trade one-for-one with kids if the patches of interest are readily available in the marketplace. These types of easy-to-find examples are usually offered for sale in the $2 to $4 range by event vendors, making them well within a kid’s budget, even if a young shopper doesn’t have patches to trade.

The basic types of Boy Scout patches sought by kid collectors are three-inch activity patches received for attending events like those James traded years ago, Council Shoulder Patches (CSP) from around the country, Order of the Arrow (OA) examples, and those developed for National and World Jamboree gatherings. Not all patches are easy to find and inexpensive, though.

The rarities in this area of Scouting collectibles, James says, can easily sell in the thousands, and many more go for hundreds. When a young patch enthusiast wants to trade for something pricier, he uses the opportunity to talk to them about what makes a patch out of the ordinary and valuable, including the age and history of the example. If it’s doable, he’ll then trade value-for-value with the interested Scout. Either way, the youngster walks away knowing a little more about what they are collecting as well as Scouting history in general.

Kids working toward earning the Collections merit badge can attend Trade-O-Rees, too. Folks like John Ryan, who first joined BSA in 1967 and currently serves as the Lone Star Trade-O-Ree’s chairman, are on hand to guide them. He personally became interested in collecting patches after joining the Order of the Arrow, a part of BSA that recognizes “Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the South Oath and Law in their daily lives.”


Group of images
Boy Scouts collectibles under $100 can range from calendars and handbooks to movie and wartime propaganda posters.

Now, at the events Ryan oversees in the North Texas area, kids can further their patch collections while learning about other types of Scouting memorabilia available. Ryan also organizes activities that help kids in earning their Collections merit badges during the Trade-O-Rees.

At the urging of the BSA Museum, Ryan actually oversaw the development of the Collections badge curriculum. He notes that the steps required to earn the badge were designed to easily engage Scouts. “It’s an annual tradition for me to offer it at my unit,” Ryan says. “I am a counselor, so any Scout can call me and I can organize a class.”


But the Collections badge doesn’t stop with patches or other types of Scouting memorabilia. Any collection a kid might be interested in can qualify, from sports cards to travel souvenirs to toys like action figures, James says. The only items excluded from earning this badge are coins and stamps, since those topics have their own collecting-related merit badges for young Scouts.

One of the many lessons garnered through earning the Collections badge includes how to preserve memorabilia, so kids understand the importance of storing and displaying their collections appropriately. They also explore values and investing in collections, and how grading condition and looking for identifying marks and nuances can increase value. They’re even encouraged to explore possible career paths associated with collecting to round out the badge-earning experience.

Learning more and obtaining resources to help kids get started in this area is as easy as visiting the website of the International Scouting Collectors Association (ISCA) at ScoutTrader.org. The organization provides helpful checklists for patch collecting and detailed information on what earning the Collections merit badge entails, along with other free downloads. There’s even a helpful section on fakes, reproductions and overruns that adults can share with their little collecting buddies. Other resources are available for purchase to assist in collecting BSA memorabilia as well.

So if you know a Scout who isn’t collecting yet, guiding them in that direction is easy. By combining the wisdom and experience of adult counselors who have a lifelong love for Scouting with the enthusiasm of youngsters, exploring BSA memorabilia can be a fun and rewarding hobby for everyone involved.

Pamela WigginsPAMELA WIGGINS SIEGEL is the author of Collecting with Kids: How to Inspire, Intrigue and Guide the Young Collector, a book based on her columns in The Intelligent Collector. This story appears in the Winter 2018-2019 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.