Should an adult trade patches with a Scout?

Scouts trade with Scouts; adults trade with adults.

Along with “trade one for one,” “always shake hands,” and “don’t bring money into a deal,” it’s one of the central tenets of patch trading.

But does that age-old rule still make sense? Or should Scouts and adults be allowed to swap patches under certain circumstances?

I ask because I recently learned that adults will be able to trade with Scouts at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree — but only in designated, supervised areas.

Here are the facts:

Why adults and Scouts usually don’t trade patches

The rule of separation, as I’m calling it, has been about keeping things fair.

Russell Smart, a top-level volunteer and program group chairman for the 2013 jamboree, said some nefarious Scouters have tried to take advantage of Scouts in patch-trade deals at past jamborees.

“There are adults who have the resources to go out and fabricate cheap, nonofficial, but seemingly valuable patches and trade them to kids,” Smart says. It’s “the shiny lure where you entice a kid to trade a patch that does have real, official value for something that has none. Kids typically don’t do that. It’s the adults that do that.”

What’s worse, some adults (who somehow call themselves Scouters) might artificially inflate the value of their patch and/or deflate the value of a Scout’s patch — offering a giveaway district camporee patch for a collectible from the 1960 jamboree, for example.

Why trading at the 2013 jamboree will be different

A lot will be different next summer for the first Summit jamboree, and patch trading is no exception.

For the first time, Scouts and adults will be allowed to trade patches, but only in the “stadium” (the area known as the “arena” at past jamborees).

Here, representatives from the International Scouting Collectors Association will be on hand to answer questions and — more importantly — monitor deals.

“Anybody who operates outside of the rules is not going to be tolerated,” Smart says. “It will be a discovery experience for all of us.”

If there’s a concern about Scouts getting a raw deal, why allow Scouts and adults to trade patches at all? It’s simple.

“Adults have patches that kids want,” Smart explains. “And kids have patches that adults want. There are more kids that trade patches at jamborees than adults. Adults that are in the hobby can be very instructive with kids and help them learn how to trade and teach them about the value of the trading part of our hobby.”

Then there’s the practical side.

“You trust adults to take your children on a camping trip, but you don’t trust them to trade a patch with Scouts? That just makes no sense,” Smart says.

One for one encouraged

No matter how valuable you think your X-Men patch is, it’s still just one patch.

That’s why Smart encourages one-for-one trading only.

“That ought to be the ideal of the jamboree,” he says.”Whether it’s a kid or an adult. The abuses occur when somebody says, ‘My patch is worth five of yours.'”

Though some patches bear special designs or licensed characters, “all cost about the same to manufacture,” Smart says. “So there’s no intrinsic difference in the economic value of one patch over another. It’s only supply and demand and the enthusiasm of a certain design.”

Adults and Scouts trading outside the jamboree

Smart makes a good case for Scout-adult trading in the supervised jamboree stadium, but what about elsewhere at the jamboree? And what about Scouts and adults trading at weekend camporees, summer camp, or other Scouting functions?

That’s when it gets a little trickier.

So what do you think: Should Scouts and adults be trading partners? Why or why not? I welcome your comments below.

Coming in our November-December issue

In the next issue of Scouting magazine, read the story of one Scout’s patch trading protest at the Summit Shakedown. Find the issue in your mailboxes in late October!

Photos from the Summit Shakedown by W. Garth Dowling/BSA

69 thoughts on “Should an adult trade patches with a Scout?

  1. It is sad that this even needs to be a policy. I do not even support a “one for one” rule. Like all things in life, it needs to be handled with education. I would rather teach people the value of their collection than give them another rule that they are going to ignore when they think no one is looking or see no value in obeying.

    Every troop, either a Jamboree or a local troop should hold work shops on patch trading every once in a while. Etiquette, value, security and preservation are things all scouts, scouters and PARENTS should be educated on when dealing with patches. Patch trading has always been a part of scouting, it is not going away.

  2. One for one can also have issues. If we are trading 2013 Jamboree “sets” (i.e. a patch set from a particular council) it should be one set for one set. Just because one council’s Jamboree set has 14 patches, and mine has 7, I shouldn’t have to trade two for one.

    • One set for one set would rarely be fair. The fair way to transact your example would be 14 patches for 14 patches.

      I am from a council that has a large contingent. At the 2010 Jamboree, our set was ~24 patches, and cost us $50 to purchase. Do you really think that would be a fair trade for a set from a smaller council that has 3-4 patches and is worth about $10?

      Where the 1 for 1 logic breaks down is when you have patches that are not of standard size/shape/stitching/quality/etc. A fully embroidered large jacket-size patch stitched in 25 colors is not equal to a silk-screened little patch from a district event, nor is it equal to a standard CSP/JSP. (Notice I did not say that any patch is inherently more valuable because of a cool picture/logo, or because more/fewer of them were made. That is a different subject/argument.)

      If they are really going to be picky about a 1 for 1 rule, then they better plan on people being upset that they can’t trade their cheap crap, or that so-and-so won’t trade his fancy jacket patch with me.

  3. I also was told by my dad that the “rule” of no Adult to Youth trading was to protect the adults. Those kids are sharks on the trade tables. I am very much for this as the adults that want to be scummy probably shouldn’t be in scouting anyways, so why ruin the experience for everyone.

    I like the 1 for 1 “rule” as much as I like price fixing. While the patch may be only worth X dollars to make, supply and demand and the secondary market say what the real price is. 1 for 1 is good if there aren’t any really hot patches out there that are of high demand and low supply. I’m not sure what would be a good way to handle it, but better education about trading is where I would start.

  4. As a seasoned adult trader, I enjoy trading patches with Scouts because I like to encourage the hobby. Scouts rarely have patches that I am interested in, but I will trade with them for the sake of trading! I usually have the boy ask another adult if they think it’s a fair trade, before completing the trade.

  5. i had a friend who has since passed away, I watched him traid with many a scout, & the scout all ways came out on top, i hav seen Dan give a patch that was worth something & get one in return from the scout that he all ready had,

  6. Pingback: Which patches shouldn’t be traded? « Bryan on Scouting

  7. No, adults should not trade with youth .. ever. Adult / youth trades, even if done right, set the stage for drama and trouble. Frankly, I wish the concept of monetary value could be rooted out of patch trading entirely, it has ruined patch trading. Rare is the time that I want into a patch swapping area and don’t tablets, laptops, and smart phones being used to check current values, and ebay sales history …really! Not only do these devices not belong at a scout event, but it kills the “magic” of two scouts making a trade for the fun of it. A few years ago I started trading after a patch trading break of, cough, a few decades, and it just wasn’t any fun. As soon as I spread out my patches the vultures with all the gadgetry were circling, identifying, pricing, looking for buyers … I was so disgusted that I refused to trade and went off in search of fun.

    • i cannot agree due to the fact that it helps the fun of trading to trade between youth and adults what is the point of trading if you cant trade with the person with the patch you want? and also like it or not just like coins, stamps, antique plates, ANYTHING that has historical or visual value will be worth money to somebody, making a price for it

  8. I don’t understand the restriction on trading more than 1 for 1. The article mentioned that they all cost about the same to make, but with any collectible hobby, rarity is not based on the cost to manufacture. Rare coins, stamps, toys, etc all have a value than can be many times their manufacturing cost. I know that if there was a patch I needed to complete a collection, I would be more than willing to trade more than 1 patch for such.

    • I do trade with youth. However, I never complete a trade until they find another adult to advise them that the trade is fair. I always let the youth get the better end of a trade, so it’s never an issue.


  9. Well, as we are almost there, another comment. Kenneth’s comment about his friend above is right in all respects. I’ve traded with scouts (World Jamborees have no restriction on adult/youth trades) and I know what the patches are worth. I’ve never had a scout who wasn’t all smiles and off to tell his friends how he got over on the old guy who didn’t know what the patch was worth. That smile is better than a dozen great trades. I trade one for one, and event for event. Which I think is a great rule. In other words, a flap for the event you are at is equal to the same, a flap from an older jamboree is worth the same, etc. for csp’s jsp’s and etc. Its hard not to be fair with a scout — but frankly, I’ve seen some really dirtball “scouters” at jamborees. The worst I ever witnessed was the young man who designed the 2010 logo (the eagle behind the date). BSA had given him some unique patches just for him to trade. A visitor in a scout shirt was trading and convinced the young man that his patch “wasn’t worth much” because it only consisted of the logo and his autograph. The young man got taken. I tried like the dickens to even out the deal when he traded me one of the specials. Then I chewed hard on the other guy. Oh well, its probably best that the adults will be supervised in 2013.

  10. I see the source of the problem: The post-trade handshake in the photo is right-handed. The left-handed handshake is a sign of respect and honor among scouts. Lacking that, who can you trust?

    • when i have traded i always use left handed hand shake/oahandclasp depending on who im trading with but i dont think it should really matter which hand due to the fact that both tradee’s should be scouters who follow the scout law especially the trustworthy part……

  11. One for one does not make sense, the value of a patch has many variables. Knowledge of what you have and what you are trading for should determine its value. Disadvantage to youth is most do not know real history of Scouting, so in turn do not know a value of a patch.

  12. As an adult I have traded many times with youth. And with out fail i always make sure they get the better part of the deal. I also have seen more youth “sharks” than adults.
    Hope to see you at the Jambo!!!

  13. Adults to kids? My 17 year old soon to be Eagle will be staffing Jambo ’13. He wants to trade and build his already large collection. He’s staff yet not an adult. So where does he fit in? The adults in scouting is half of the reason my son is a Scout. Role models are needed in every venture.

    One to One: Again, my 17 year old staffing scout already sorted his patch collection. There’s no way his rare, foreign, world jambo patches are getting traded for a local district cub camp patch. We run a museum and my son works as a tour guide. He understands there’s value in collectable items and some things are of more value than others.

  14. I have seen patch trading at many local and national events, and the only place that youth/adult trading has been banned has been at the Jamboree. In all the places where I have seen trading occur the Jamboree is by far where I have seen the most unethical trading. Coincidence? I think not.

    Adults are trusted to take the youth on camping trips, teach them ethics, strong morals, and lead by example. Yet they are unable to teach ethical patch trading at the Jamboree because they are not allowed to trade with them. I am happy to see that Scouts and adults will be allowed to trade patches this year.

  15. I am a youth who was recently introduced to patch trading at a conclave which i attended, i immediatley became addicted its easy to do this is a concept which i am new too because i have never been to a national jambo or noac or anything much bigger than conclave but where i live ( not specifying where ) either the rule is nonexistent or is never mentioned nor enforced. during the time i was there i probably made 6-7 deals, i was trying to start a collection and bought a lot of the event patches availible only to my lodge to trade with others. However probably only 2 of the deals even involved other youth, mainly due to the fact that they do not have large ammounts for the most part, and the adults that were there had years of experience and many cool patches that i enjoyed trading them out of. Personally i do not see a problem with Adult to Youth trades they help to keep patch trading going if a scout wants a patch and does not know its worth he should always research it with somebody who knows the worths of patches naturally. I do not agree with a 1 for 1 policy either, patches are worth something due to what is on them, just like a coin, or a stamp, or a old coke bottle, or any other collectible item and naturally they will not always be the same. I also disagree with a rule of ” no money involved” due to the dificulty of begining a decent sized collection of patches. I am a huge supporter of online traders/sellers aswell due to the fact it can help newcomers to trading get started. several of my patches have been purchased off of ebay from people i do not know and have never met. However if they have a good reccomendation usually they are not scam artists. if you happen to be burned by somebody selling phony patches simply give large ammounts of feedback on the seller so that nobody else gets scammed, what is 10$? a piece of paper, just the same as a patch is a piece of cloth it is not a huge price to pay for experience. and for all the people out there who do scam kids with patch trading they are not truly scouts now are they? hope this helps somebody and sorry i went on so long idk when to be quiet sometimes hehe.


    • P.S. i didnt get to go to jambo this year and i know this post is like wayyyyy kinda late on this issue but i dont really care it is valid for future jambos still

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