Square knot rankings: What are the most- and least-awarded?

Despite being one of the smallest patches in Scouting, square knots tell a big story.

Many of these tiny, colorful rectangles represent an award earned as a youth or adult. Others symbolize a volunteer’s efforts to get trained, help others or improve Scouting in some significant way. In cases like the Silver Beaver Award, a single square knot could symbolize a lifetime of service to Scouting.

Seeing the square knots on Scouters’ uniforms got me thinking. Which square knots are awarded most? Which are the rarest?

For the first time ever, I’m sharing the official rankings. But before we get to that …

A few things to know

  • There’s no national database of every square knot awarded. But we do know how many of the knots are sold at Scout Shops and directly to councils through the BSA’s Supply Group. Some councils will buy extra knots in anticipation of future needs, so the numbers are good but not perfect.
  • Some Scouters who own more than one uniform will purchase additional knots. That’s why, for example, 65 Silver Buffalo Award knots were sold in the past 52 weeks even though only 10 Scouters received that award during that span.
  • Square knots are a restricted item, meaning you must have documentation to purchase one from your Scout Shop.
  • Two knots aren’t listed: the Professional Training Award, which is only for professionals, and the Hornaday Award, which isn’t ordered through the Scout Shop.
  • To find requirements for each of these knots, head to Awards Central.
  • For an overview about how to wear square knots, read this.

Square knot rankings

1. Religious Award – Youth

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 51,572

About the knot: Represents a youth’s earning the religious emblem pertaining to the denomination of his or her choice.

2. Eagle Scout Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 23,471

About the knot: Represents earning the highest rank in Scouting as a youth. You wear the oval Eagle badge until you turn 18. After that, you’ll switch to the knot.

3. Arrow of Light Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 20,542

About the knot: Represents an adult who earned the Arrow of Light as a Cub Scout.

4. Scouter Training Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 11,927

About the knot: Encourages training, tenure in a position, participation and performance of adult leaders. Earned by roundtable commissioner staff, Cub Scout leaders, Webelos leaders, Boy Scout leaders, Venturing leaders, Sea Scout leaders, commissioners and district committee members.

5. Den Leader Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 9,949

About the knot: Recognizes den leaders who have completed training, tenure and performance requirements.

6. District Award of Merit

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 8,466

About the knot: Available to registered Scouters who render service of an outstanding nature at the district level.

7. Scouter’s Key Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 5,906

About the knot: Encourages training, performance and tenure in Cubmasters, Scoutmasters, Venturing crew Advisors, district and assistant district commissioners, and district committee members.

8. Silver Beaver Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 5,079

About the knot: Recognizes registered Scouters of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service within a council.

9. Religious Award – Adult

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 4,903

About the knot: Represents an adult’s earning the religious emblem pertaining to the denomination of his or her choice.

10. NESA Life Membership Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 4,256

About the knot: Recognizes life members of the National Eagle Scout Association for their commitment to support Eagle Scouts.

11. Unit Leader Award of Merit

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 3,505

About the knot: Encourages units to be strong and viable by attaining certain benchmarks characteristic of strong units; seven requirements must be met with nomination by the top youth leader if for a troop, crew, or ship; nomination is certified by the unit commissioner.

12. James E. West Fellowship

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 3,023

About the knot: Presented to those who make a gift to a local council in addition to — and not replacing or diminishing — the donor’s annual Friends of Scouting support.

13. William D. Boyce New-Unit Organizer Award

 

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,574

About the knot: Presented to volunteers who organize a new, traditional unit.

14. Community Organization Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,475

About the knot: Denotes that a Scout volunteer has been recognized by one of 20 approved national chartered organization partners, such as the American Legion or Kiwanis International, for Scout service within that organization.

15. Venturing Leadership Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,245

About the knot: Recognize Venturers and Venturing Advisors who have made exceptional contributions to Venturing and who exemplify the Scout Oath and Law. Presented by councils, areas, regions and the BSA National Council.

16. Distinguished Commissioner Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,155

About the knot: Presented to commissioners who have earned the Arrowhead Honor and Commissioners Key, served five years of continuous service, and completed a project for their council.

17. Commissioner Award of Excellence in Unit Service

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 729

About the knot: Awarded to a commissioner who provides exemplary unit service, focusing on unit performance as measured in Journey to Excellence and through the use of the current BSA Unit Service Plan and Commissioner Tools.

18. Scouting Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 620

About the knot: Recognizes Scouters who have earned one of these five awards: Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award, ¡Scouting…Vale la Pena! Service Award, Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award, American Indian Scouting Association Grey Wolf Award or the Special Needs Scouting Service Award.

Note: The Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award, ¡Scouting…Vale la Pena! Service Award and Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award have their own separate square knots that are being phased out. Once supplies of those knots run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot will be used to recognize recipients of those awards.

19. Philmont Training Center Masters Track Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 536

About the knot: Promote educational opportunities by encouraging Scouters to return to Philmont Training Center over a number of years, growing through advanced-level training, and then taking knowledge back to units, districts, councils, council clusters, and national and international venues.

20. Medal of Merit

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 441

About the knot: Awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has performed an act of service of a rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others.

21. Doctorate of Commissioner Science Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 403

About the knot: Recognizes completion of a standardized program leading to the completion of a thesis or project and the award of the Doctorate of Commissioner Service from a College of Commissioner Science.

22. International Scouter’s Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 369

About the knot: Recognizes adult volunteers who promote international Scouting on all levels and who, in turn, help broaden the perspectives of Scouting.

23. Venturing Summit Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 341

About the knot: Venturing’s highest honor (replacing the Venturing Silver Award). To achieve it, a young person must serve the crew as a leader — both formally and informally — and mentor others. In addition, the Venturer must strengthen his or her community by designing and leading a service project to benefit others.

24. Alumni Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 268

About the knot: Presented to Scouting alumni who promote continued engagement with the Boy Scouts of America.

25. Silver Antelope Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 229

About the knot: Recognizes registered Scouters of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service within a region.

26. Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 208

About the knot: Recognizes outstanding service by an adult individual or by an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for youth from rural or low-income urban backgrounds.

Note: Once supplies of this knot run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot (No. 18 above) will be used to recognize recipients of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award.

27. iScouting!… Vale la Pena! Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 148

About the knot: Recognizes outstanding service by an adult or an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for Hispanic/Latino youth.

Note: Once supplies of this knot run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot (No. 18 above) will be used to recognize recipients of the iScouting!… Vale la Pena! Service Award.

28. Sea Scout Quartermaster Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 118 (73 with white background, for wear on the dress whites, and 45 with black background, for wear on the New Century uniform.)

About the knot: Represents an individual who has earned the highest award in Sea Scouts.

29. Order of the Arrow Distinguished Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 101

About the knot: Recognizes Arrowmen who have rendered outstanding service to the Order on a sectional, regional or national level.

30. Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 98

About the knot: Recognizes outstanding services by an adult individual or an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for Asian American youths.

Note: Once supplies of this knot run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot (No. 18 above) will be used to recognize recipients of the Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award.

31. Honor Medal

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 96

About the knot: Awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at considerable risk to self.

32. Heroism Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 86

About the knot: This award has been discontinued. Previously it was a lifesaving award presented to a registered youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated heroism in saving or attempting to save a life at minimum risk to self.

33. Silver Buffalo Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 65

About the knot: Recognizes registered Scouters and others of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service at the national level. (See a list of recipients here.)

34. Silver World Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 28

About the knot: Presented for noteworthy and extraordinary service to youth on an international basis. Recipients must be a citizen of a country with a Scouting program that is a member of the World Scout Conference. Registered members of the BSA are not eligible for this award.


Thanks to the BSA Supply Group’s Alicia Reese for the info.