Which patches shouldn’t be traded?

Your 10-piece jamboree set for my Eagle patch? Sorry, no way.

Council shoulder strips, district camporee patches, and pins from your hometown are perfect trinkets to trade at national Scout jamborees or other major Scouting events.

But some patches and Scouting memorabilia should stay home.

No matter what the event, including the 2013 National Scout Jamboree next summer, the BSA has rules restricting patch trading.

Here’s the excerpt from Page 9 of the 2012 edition of the Guide to Awards and Insignia:

Patch Trading

Boy Scouts and Venturers attending jamborees may trade among themselves articles and novelties of a local or regional nature. The trading of such items as badges of office, rank, distinguished service, training, performance, achievement, and distinction, however, is a violation of Article X of the Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America, forbidding the holding of these badges by any but the members who have complied with the requirements for them.

In other words, if you haven’t earned a Silver Beaver knot, you shouldn’t have it in the first place, let alone attempt to trade it with someone else. Same goes for Eagle Scout items, religious medals, badges of office, square knots, and more.

Is there a way to reliably enforce this practice 24/7? Of course not. But knowing the rules and the rationale behind them keeps you and your Scouts on the positive side of patch trading.

Trading between adults and Scouts: The exception, not the rule

In September, I mentioned that adults can trade with Scouts at the 2013 jamboree, as long as they do it in specified areas.

But I should point out that this is a special exception granted to the jamboree and that the BSA still has a rule restricting patch trading to Boy Scouts and Venturers. In other words, it’s the exception, not the rule.

Photo by W. Garth Dowling, BSA

12 thoughts on “Which patches shouldn’t be traded?

  1. yes, in general I agree with that, but what about older or antiquated badges, such as obsolete, and the old square merit badge patches. Nobody active as youth today is going to actually wear a Bee Keeping merit badge, but what’s wrong with trading for one? For that matter, would it be ok to wear an older version of the same merit badge that is still an active one (such as the old Wright Flyer version of Aviation merit badge)?

  2. As Scouters get older, their treasured memories get passed down to their children and grandchildren. This can include uniforms and shadow boxes that include rank or MB awards. Sometimes, after passing, these get sold at estate sales or auctions. One of the creepiest moments I recall was seeing a former friend’s wall with nice framed Scouting things that predated him by nearly 2 decades – when I asked him whose they were, because they couldn’t be his, he told me he bought them from eBay. Yet, I can fully agree with Mr. Bubbles’ idea of collecting the rare and old, often which must be done long before they are rare and old. (And where does that line get drawn?) Ultimately, a patch is just a patch – a strip of cloth. It is what is within the Man that becomes the Eagle or earns Beekeeping, and it is for this that Boy Scouts exists. It is after all Boy Scouts – not Man Scouts as some who volunteer think. It’s a sad day when I meet an Eagle Scout who has to tell me so before I figure it out myself. Yet, it happens far too often.

    • I’d rather not be an Eagle Scout and have people think I was then be an Eagle Scout and have people think otherwise.

    • Why would you find a collection of old merit badges “creepy?” I suppose the Scouting Museum would be like a horror house for you.
      I don’t care for patches myself, but I’ve got a growing collection of uniforms, gear, and paper goods. Every uniform, canteen, grooming kit, registration card, advancement record, Scouting magazine issue–all the former property of corpses.
      There’s nothing I delight in more than showing my scouts the “funny” no-collar shirts, or awkward sock garters, or retrospectively-weird swim trunks–they’re our history, they’re like any antiques, there’s nothing “creepy” about them.

  3. Personally, I have picked up some items off of ebay. Old uniforms, sets obviously from estate sales, etc. I pick them up because I like to collect them, but also because it galls me to see them inappropriately wore by someone from outside the realm of Scouting, as I have often in the college town near which I live or on the internet. For whatever reason, the same uniforms that my Scouts deem “uncool” and roll their eyes at me when I require them for Scouting events are a fashion statement to those outside of Scouting (probably many of the same who hound us about our values). It bothers me greatly that many don’t understand the meaning of the earned badges and such insignia as OA patches and sashes. However, I can understand a family that has items from a loved one who has passed and they want to clear room to get on with their lives. It is a bit of a quandary. Personally, I expect to donate a number of my items to either my local Council or the National Museum over time and I will ask my family to do the same with my personal items (and theirs) when they no longer want them. Maybe there will be some better solution at some point.

  4. On this subject, you are all over the place, Bryan.
    You cite your last blog on adult-youth trading; that blog makes no note of any BSA rule regarding or governing adult-scout trades, only “jamboree rules,” leaving any reader with the impression that the arbitrary jamboree rules are the only rules and only apply to jamborees. You further this reasonable conclusion (that there is no rule) by asking us whether we think adults should be allowed to trade, as if it’s up in the air (I quote: “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?”) Why ask us if BSA already had the answer.

    However, in this blog you say there is a rule, and that adult-youth trading is forbidden by that rule, except for the jamboree rules which apparently contradict this national rule. But, you don’t quote the rule, and you don’t tell us where we can read the rule for ourselves. You cite “Article X of the Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America” but they aren’t readily available to the average volunteer, and it’s not clear that article is the rule at the center of the discussion; going to the “Uniform and Insignia Guide” is simply a feedback loop, since it also cites the “Rules and Regulations.”

    If this is to be the official blog of the official magazine, we need due attention given to matters of policy. Whimsy has its place in a blog, and your blog is enjoyable and interesting, but it is also often confounding on matters of policy. We can confuse ourselves, we look to Scouting Magazine for answers.

  5. Myself, I will never trade my earned patches of the event patches I went on or planned. Some patches I traded for are cool and I keep them and every once in a while, I look at them with my son or even with my dad. We tell about the stories we had on the event. Now my son and I have about 6 years of patches in common and we tell stories about them as well. Traded patches mean little to me so I will trade them every once in a while for one I like. Eventually I am going to sew them on a nice wool blanket.

  6. I find this debate very interesting. I am not what you would call a badge collector, I don’t actively seek out badges to add to my blanked I like badges to have a story. So there there is the council patch that was given to me by a scoutmaster from Texas at the World Scout Jamboree in 2007 while we were eating pancakes at the Pancake house and discussing scouting or the badge I traded with a Scout from Norway while share a non-alcoholic beer in the black magic tent. The badges for me hold memories of my scouting experiences. I have been given an Eagle Scout badge, I would like to point out it was not a trade, it was given to me by a friend, I am not really sure why I was given it other that a sign I guess of respect for some work and support I gave that person at the time. I will however say that badges is not on my blanket, in part out of respect for the person who gave it to me and in part our of respect for the award. It disappoints me when I see the Queens Scout badge on Ebay or in trades. I really amazed me when I attended the WSJ in 2007 at the non scouting behaviors that took place and how many adults ignored the rules about only trading in specific areas. On day two I sat down with my Jamboree unit and had a discussion about trading saying badges should be like for like so a unit badge for unit badge if they claim there badge is bigger and is worth two walk away. Never accept of be cajoled in to adding money to a trade and if there is a issue or a problem just say “I have promised this badge to someone else however if you come with me to my unit leader he has some spares” I am surprised to see sometimes our unit badge pop up on Ebay every now and again and am half tempted to contact the people and say I have a stash of them in the loft if you want one. Happy Scouting K

  7. Having though about this for sometime since I saw the comments about the trading at the 1013 Jamboree I have some thought I would like to share. First is that most of use at the local level know that trading is going to take place, both at the site the jamboree is going to have and anywhere else a scout sees a patch he wants. National can make rules and try to enforce them but they only make a majority (in my opinion) of the traders determined to trade. The problem is not the rules or the site its that we on the local level do not address the subject well. As a youth I attended a National Jamboree, a World Jamboree and a NOAC and at all trading was all over the place, but mostly it was cheerful, friendly and well controlled by the youth themselves. Today the trading is very hard to control and the attitude is not that of friendship and interaction it is I want that patch. This is where we as local leaders have missed the boat. As a youth leader I ran trading sessions at my lodges fall event for several years. The topics included why trade, how to trade, and what to trade. We stressed the friendship of the trade and learning about the patch before shaking on the trade. In other words, trade a patch make a friend and learn about his camp or lodge or council. Today I seldom here of these efforts except by ISCA and only at national events. Traders at these event have been trading for sometime and their routine is close to a habit and we all know how hard it is to break a habit. The subject should be address early and carefully on the local level on a yearly basics.

  8. When I was a few years out of college I foolishly let some of my scouting memorabilia go. Oh, it wasn’t my Eagle badge, God and Country award or anything like that but there were other things like OA conclave patches, lodge flap patches, scout camp patches, slides, belt buckles, neckerchiefs, etc… that I let go to a collector. What can I say? I was young and stupid and I needed the money! It took me nearly 13 years to track down all of that stuff to get it back (I still have three items that I am looking for.) The only value that it really has is to me personally. If a scout were to have one of those items, I wouldn’t hesitate to trade with them but I would make sure that the deal was weighted heavily in their favor! I don’t see a real problem with the whole concept of adults trading patches with youth as long as there are safeguards in place. It’s sad to think that there are scouters out there that not only would allow but would jump at the chance to take advantage of inexperienced youth. With proper safeguards and supervision, I believe that allowing adults to trade with youth would be an enjoyable and valuable experience.

  9. I draw a huge distinction between collecting a patch and sewing that patch on my uniform. Simply collecting a patch or medal does not indicate the new owner earned it–sewing or pinning it on one’s uniform does. There is nothing on my uniform that I did not earn somewhere along the line. At the same time, I have a sizeable patch collection packed with stuff I did not attend or earn. Several of these patches are older than I am. (I earned my Eagle in the 1970’s.)

    My point is, I do not claim I earned anything that is not affixed to my uniform or patch jacket. If I do not claim I earned it, where’s the beef? Either you trust Scouts to own a patch and do the right thing with it, or you don’t. “A Scout is trustworthy….”


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