Scouting memorabilia collecting

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Scouting memorabilia collecting is the hobby (and in many cases, the study) of preserving and cataloguing Boy Scouting and Girl Guiding items for their historic, aesthetic and monetary value. Since collecting depends on the interests of the individual collector, the depth and breadth of each collection varies. Some collectors choose to focus on a specific subtopic within their area of general interest, for example insignia issued prior to the 1970s Boy Scouts of America requirement that all insignia have either the fleur-de-lis or the acronym BSA; or only the highest ranks issued by each nation. Others prefer to keep a more general collection, accumulating any or all Scouting merchandise, or Scouting stamps from all countries of the world.


The collecting of Scouting memorabilia likely began when Scouting was founded in Britain in 1908, though in those early years many did not think to save their items, and so much is lost to history. Early Scouters often sewed awards they had earned, as well as insignia they had traded with other Scouts, directly to woolen campfire blankets. Most of the original Scouting insignia of that period was wool itself and has not survived. Several beautiful examples of these early campfire blankets exist in the collection of the Koshare Indian Museum in La Junta, Colorado.

Function of Scouting memorabilia

The vast bulk of Scouting items exist, first and foremost, to recognize a Scout for his or her accomplishments in Scoutcraft, to engender feelings of kinship with other Scouts similarly outfitted, and to assist in the practice of his or her Scouting. The collection of Scouting memorabilia is one of the many ways Scouting can be enjoyed, studied, and passed down through one's family. Everything pertaining to Scouting can be collected. The concept of Scouting memorabilia is not limited to cloth and metal insignia, uniforms and awards, but extends to handbooks and advancement pamphlets, postage stamps, magazines, camping equipment issued by a national Scout organization, photographs, coffee mugs, and other items. Some of these areas may overlap with other spheres of collecting, when valued for a connection to a historical event; for instance if a president signs a document related to Scouting, the pen and the document itself may both be considered related to that president as well as to Scouting.

Living history

Another aspect of collecting is that of living history. There are several individuals and groups who collect period uniforms and equipment in order to re-enact Scouting of the past. Quite popular is the portrayal of Baden-Powell, authentically costumed, reading his last message to Scouts. Indeed, one of the Venturing (Boy Scouts of America) electives is Outdoor Living History.

Scouting memorabilia evolution

All Scout organizations periodically change the design, name, and availability of their Scouting memorabilia, depending on factors such as changes in society (such as the shift from an agrarian society to an industrial society in 20th century America, or Macedonia's change in flag twice shortly after independence), availability of materials and manufacturing processes available, merging of local districts, councils and in some cases whole organizations, and frequently just artistic whim. The participant patch (usually embroidered or woven) for the first Japanese National Scout Rally was printed on paper, because of the financial situation of that time. Period pieces of Japanese Scouting memorabilia from the U.S. occupation period of Japan are rare and highly prized, often fetching upward of U.S. $1,000.00.

Organizations and resources for collectors

Many organizations around the world are dedicated to accumulating and disseminating information on various Scouting memorabilia. The Scout collecting organizations Scouts on Stamps Society International (SOSSI), the International Badgers Club, the Scouting Memorabilia Club of Japan, the International Scouting Collectors Association and the American Scouting Historical Society are a few of the resources available to collectors of Scouting memorabilia.

Many collectors guides and buyers' guides have been published since the first ASTA Blue Book in 1959, among the most well-known are the Arapaho series, which deal with locality-specific Boy Scouts of America insignia.

Scout memorabilia as business

Only relatively recently has the concept of marketing such items for monetary gain come into play, though modern Scout councils have become rather market savvy and now often produce collectibles, items meant primarily and specifically for collectors, serving no other Scouting purpose. Some even later destroy remainders of such items to cause forced scarcity, artificial rarity which many see as depriving later or less-monied collectors of the possibility of filling a collection from their unit, regional division or area of interest. For merchants of Scout memorabilia, the Society of Scout Memorabilia Dealers serves as an umbrella organization.

Caring for a patch collection

To preserve and protect a patch collection: store the collection in a cool, dry, smoke-free place; never put patches in a washing machine; and store them between two sheets of non-PVC plastic. Patches that have become wrinkled can be steam ironed; but should not be stored until they are thoroughly dry.

The best thing to use for BSA merit badges are cardboard holders, "paper flips", found at most coin dealers. The 2.5"x2.5" size of cardboard holder fits Type B and large Type I merit badges and the 2"x2" size fits Type C/D/E/F/G/H/I(small)/J merit badges. Improvising is necessary to store Type A merit badges because of their dimensions. One solution is to cut an 8.5"x11" sheet of non-PVC plastic to the proper size and then sear all but one edge so that you can insert the merit badge into to holder. Another solution is to use hobby card sleeves, which are also non-PVC. Once they are stored between non-PVC plastic, the holders can be slipped into 8.5"x11" plastic sheets made to hold these "paper flips". The sheets can then be placed into 3-ring binders; also available at many coin dealers.

See also

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