How to spot fake Scouting patches and memorabilia

Think you can spot a fake?

Fake patches and other phony Scouting memorabilia, that is.

These items are Scouting’s currency. You collect them, trade them, and pass them on to your children and grandchildren.

And like any currency, people looking to make a quick buck from unsuspecting victims will produce counterfeit and unauthorized versions of these items.

But it’s easy to sniff out an impostor. You just need to Be Prepared; I’ll tell you how.

What’s the harm in unauthorized merchandise?

Unofficial Scout gear is typically poorly made, and it improperly uses trademarked words, phrases, or symbols. That makes the Boy Scouts of America look bad, and it diminishes the value of your collectibles.

What’s worse, unauthorized items may be unsafe, contain hazardous materials, or use child labor during production. Improperly connecting the BSA name to those harmful practices damages the reputation of our movement.

Here’s how Greg Winters, team leader for the BSA’s Licensing Programs, explains it:

“In our department we review and authorize every single licensed product that comes through, including every patch design,” he says. “We see every one. When it doesn’t go through those checkpoints, we can’t make sure the brand is being properly protected.  Sometimes there are instances when a third-party trademark is placed on a design without permission, inadvertently infringing on another party’s intellectual property.”

OK, then where can I get official Scouting stuff?

It’s simple. Anything you buy at your local Scout Shop,, or from a BSA Licensee is guaranteed to be authentic and meet the high standards for quality, safety, and morality of the Boy Scouts of America.

How do I know that gear or apparel is official?

Check for the seal like the one seen at left, or look for a BSA holographic sticker or hangtag on the item that bears the same seal.

All items produced after Jan. 1, 2007, will have them. The seal can be found on the product packaging or the product itself.

This mirrors how major sports leagues identify their officially licensed products, Winters told me.

“Just like with NFL merchandise, our licensed merchandise carries holographic stickers on the items and apparel,” he said. “It’s no different than buying gear for your favorite sports team.”

This is useful if you’re at, say, Hobby Lobby and see the BSA’s 100th Anniversary model train set. Look for the seal or holographic sticker, and you’re assured of its authenticity.

What about patches? How do I know they’re official?

Follow these steps:

  1. Flip your patch to see if it has the appropriate backing. Whether it’s distributed by the BSA Supply Group or a BSA Licensee, all authorized patches made after 2006 should have the proper backing. See an example pictured at right. Individual patches which do not carry an authorized BSA backing could still be considered official, provided they have a BSA holographic sticker affixed to each one.
  2. Check the online licensee list. Is the company that produces this patch legit and official? Check this frequently updated licensee list to find out.
  3. Contact the Licensing team. “If people are unsure whether they are working with an authorized supplier,” Winters says, “they can contact us. We’d rather we err on the right side than the wrong side.” Click here for the contact form.

Patch collection photo by Flickr user stevejb68 

15 thoughts on “How to spot fake Scouting patches and memorabilia

  1. Only issue I have is with any of the stuff produced before 2006. All of my patches and memorabilia come from the mid 80’s to late 90’s. Particularly anything from the now defunct Otetiana Council which has merged with a couple others.

  2. “What’s worse, unauthorized items may be unsafe, contain hazardous materials, or use child labor during production.” This makes me think about all the unsafe and unhealthful things I keep hearing about in and coming out of China. Oh yeah, that is where all our uniforms and patches are coming from. This doesn’t fly, it is all about money.


  3. I have memorabilia from the 1970s that was my fathers & is all BSA issue. I know it is authentic & I guess since I am keeping it in my collection that’s all that matters to me, but if challenged how would I be able to authenticate it due to it’s age? We’re talking pre-1975 Oregon memorabilia & I now live in SC …

  4. I agree with Bill’s earlier post. It IS about the money. I have a closet full of “Officail BSA” products, and they aren’t worth anything. I cringe every time I see that “Made In China” sttiching on my uniform. I’d rather buy a higher priced quality outdoor product I need and stick a BSA patch on it than buy an overpriced piece of “Official” junk. Sorry, Bryan, you hit a nerve on this topic.

    • Like my unofficial Woolrich Red Wool Shirt with official BSA patches that in total cost less then the official shirt?

      Jim Deroba

  5. It’s funny, but in recent past years when the collecting community told National about fakes being sold on e-bay, they greeted the news withy a big yawn. As far as I know, they did nothing to shut down these sellers of fake BSA goods, as their sales continued for quite a while (years) after the notification. The only thing that changed was the particular patch being offerered.

  6. I think nothing “damages the reputation of our movement” like having your stuff made in a country that doesn’t permit Scouting. Maybe nothing “damages the reputation of our movement” like shipping our jobs overseas. At least we can be sure that our stuff isn’t being made by prison labor and political prisoners. I know we can trust the Chinese to not use lead-based paints – well maybe we can trust them after the recall when they did it the first time. Really, who are the “people looking to make a quick buck” here.

  7. I’m taking this with a large block of salt. What makes a patch a “fake” is whether or not the emblem is being used as an advancement piece; or as a recognition piece. “Square knot insignia”, sure…there may be “fake versions”. Rank insignia, sure, there may be “fake versions” of that too. But come on…CSPs? Order of the Arrow (OA) Lodge flaps or pocket patches? Patrol medallions?

    Some of our local Councils produce Council Shoulder Patches (CSPs) and OA insignia with as much regualarity as the wind blowing. It’s all “official” as they are simply trying to help raise needed funding for their Council or Lodge (or both) through the development, creation authorization and sales of those pieces of cloth. Outside firms have assisted Troops (and now Packs) with creating special insignia which the BSA never thought about or don’t really want to be involved in doing — special “patrol emblems”, spoof patches and what-not.

    People who REALLY engage themselves in the patch-collecting trade, know or aware of those “imiation” patches and insignia and some folk actually COLLECT THAT STUFF.

    The point is that the BSA has established a licensing format for their insignia, since they can’t always place that small (c) or (r) on everything which is made. At the same however, much of that same insignia is made overseas in plants which the BSA says is safe from child labor, harmful dyes and other hazards — but do we KNOW FOR SURE? Not unless there’s a BSA employee working and observing those items being made in Korea or China or Hong Kong — and personally, I think the BSA wants to spend their monies on developing program, furthering our camping operations, and enhancing our ability to promote our organization to our various publics.

    Not in making sure that patches won’t kill us if we eat them.

    And so, everything made BY THE BSA to an exacting standard in plants operated in the United States and Canada, manufactured before 2007 ARE FAKES. That means ALL of the Jamboree insignia which lines my office room walls are fakes. The ALL OUT FOR SCOUTING! insignia and neckerchiefs in a corner are fakes. The complete collection (less those pieces created after 2008) of square knot insignia and their devices are fakes.
    Even the Old Kentucky Home and Kentucky Councils CSPs are fakes (I KNOW that one of them is a fake — there’s no such thing as a “Cardinal Council” but hey, I’ve got the CSP to *round out the collection*).

    Large block of salt. Thanks for the education, but I would rather KEEP my collections of “fake insignia” and show people that indeed, at one time in the BSA’s history (before 2004 or so so), the insignia which was produced was created with care, examined and inspected with great concern, and was made in American-owned and operated businesses and sold to local Councils and individual Scouts with pride. Didn’t need any “stickers”; no “full iron-on backs with logos”, and no “seals”. We knew it was official, we knew that it was safe to use, and we knew that if our little brothers or sisters attempted to put one of them in their mouths, we would immediately TAKE IT AWAY and tell them “you don’t put that in your MOUTH…it’s A SCOUT PATCH!”


  8. All of this is fine and good except my council (Golden Empire, California) still issues patches without the Scoutstuff backing.

    As for the National office. These are the same people that sell the American labor MB with the made in China sticker on the back AFTER they jacked up the process a couple of times.

    Makes it really really hard to talk about character and values when this type of stuff takes place.

    • Speaking of MB’s, they are $2.00+, and thousands are made in China for pennies on the dollar, not including other BSA merchanise.

      The BSA has forgotten the youth they are, or should be reaching out to help, and who can barely pay for a Scout Handbook, let a lone a uniform. Prices have gotten out of control at the expense of the youth and the BSA cannot blame it on rising prices, since a great majority of the items are no longer made in the Good Old U.S.A.

      Makes you wonder who’s getting all the money? BSA Retirement Funds??

  9. At the Jambo in 2010 I had scouts come up and look at my older Jamboree insignia that I had out for trade (yes, I let them look but didn’t trade with them, honoring the BSA policy). They would look at a 2001 patch or a 1977 patch and say “That’s a FAKE!.” Um, no – they didn’t do the labels and logos back then. “My SCOUTMASTER told me that any patches without that are FAKES! You are trying to cheat us.” Good thing I can’t trade with you then, isn’t it Scout….

    Why does National not leverage the collective wisdom and commitment of collectors like those that belong to ISCA? This group self-polices, has high standards for integrity (like the Scout Oath and Law) and has a vested interest in ensuring that REAL fakes are identified and communicated. Collectively – and many times individually – these are the individuals that know more about documented (and undocumented) BSA history than does National. When a new historical issue is found, they demand provenance for it before accepting it as real. THESE are the folks that are the “real deal” – National would be well served by partnering with them rather than ignoring them and dismissing them.

    Couple this with the new campaign on p. 47 of this month’s Boys’ Life and wow, we’re at new heights, … or perhaps lows…

  10. Steve should stick to writing about topics he knows something about. This is just a shill piece for National Supply.

  11. This entire article does not sit well with me. First, something fake means made to deceive. Yes, a patch can be a fake like making a copy of a valuable OA patch but almost all patches made are for an activity or as a special patch for a unit or for fund raising.
    Quality of a patch is a function of quality control, not where it is made. I submitted the designs for the 2010 Boy Scout and Cub Scout rank patches and I think the quality is very poor and they are BSA approved. All the square knots that are being issued seem to be made by a number of different companies; hardly standard at all. And what is all the extra material sticking out beyond the border? Any good patch company will cut that off if asked.
    Back in 2002 before all the approval rules, I had a patch made for my unit. It was made in China because few American companies can afford all the associated costs. The quality was great because I reviewed a sample before it was approved for production. I practiced quality control and I expect many companies do but I don’t believe BSA makes sure it is practiced.
    I fully understand having BSA approval but BSA charges the patch company a percentage for each patch made. That has to drive up the price. I guess that is a normal business practice but it is my understanding that all profits sold through Scout Supply go to into the retirement fund for scouters. So instead of doing something that makes scouting more affordable for our youth, BSA is doing the opposite. The prices of uniforms are horrible. That is why a lot of units do not have full uniforms.
    I’ll get off my soap box but I think the article is mostly propaganda. (Maybe it came from China 🙂

  12. im a tiger cub for pack 402 in harrison,ohio and i always look at the back of my badges for the bsa logo. i always tell my freinds to flip it over and do the same.   my name is logan stine age 6 pack 402 den 3 in harrison,ohio and i love being a tiger cub

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