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