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

This post was originally published June 25, 2018, and last updated July 17, 2019. 


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?

You’re about to find out. 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 will purchase additional knots for their additional uniforms. That’s why, for example, 97 Silver Buffalo Award knots were sold in the past 52 weeks even though only 13 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.
  • Requirements for knots can be found at Awards Central.
  • Guidance for wearing square knots is available here.

Square knot rankings

1. Religious Award – Youth

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 37,656

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

2. Eagle Scout Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 20,175

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: 17,369

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: 10,856

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, Scouts BSA leaders, Venturing leaders, Sea Scout leaders, commissioners and district committee members.

5. Den Leader Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 8,706

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: 7,184

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: 5,553

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: 4,505

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: 3,565

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

10. NESA Life Membership Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 3,531

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

11. James E. West Fellowship

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 3,372

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.

12. Unit Leader Award of Merit

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 3,112

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.

13. William D. Boyce New-Unit Organizer Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 2,102

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

14. Venturing/Sea Scout National Leadership Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,238

About the knot: Recognizes Venturing and Sea Scouting youth and adult volunteers who have made exceptional contributions to their program and who exemplify the Scout Oath and Law. Presented by councils, areas, regions and the BSA National Council.

15. Distinguished Commissioner Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 1,083

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.

16. Community Organization Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 815

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.

17. Commissioner Award of Excellence in Unit Service

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 767

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. Philmont Training Center Masters Track Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 666

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.

19. Doctorate of Commissioner Science Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 540

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.

20. Medal of Merit

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 478

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. International Scouter’s Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 445

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

22. Scouting Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 384

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.

23. Venturing Summit Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 356

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 their community by designing and leading a service project to benefit others.

24. Alumni Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 271

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

25. Order of the Arrow Distinguished Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 245

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

26. Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 194

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. 22 above) will be used to recognize recipients of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award.

27. Silver Antelope Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 172

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

28. Sea Scout Quartermaster Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 108 (69 with white background, for wear on the dress whites, and 39 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. iScouting!… Vale la Pena! Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 107

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. 22 above) will be used to recognize recipients of the iScouting!… Vale la Pena! Service Award.

30. (tie) Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 101

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. 22 above) will be used to recognize recipients of the Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award.

30. (tie) Heroism Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 101

About the knot: This award was reinstated in August 2018. It’s 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.

32. Silver Buffalo Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 97

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.)

33. Honor Medal

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 75

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.

34. Silver World Award

Number sold in last 52 weeks: 8

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.

About Bryan Wendell 2913 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.