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 

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.