History of Patch Collecting

Since before the first century, insignias were adopted to show dedication to a religion, family, or culture. The Greeks and Romans and later, the Christians, all had emblems that were symbols of the religious and cultural beliefs. Medieval Christians wore badges made of metal and pinned onto their clothing to show they had been to famous shrines and well known places. The pilgrim’s collections grew quite large and were even mentioned in ‘Canterbury Tales’ by the well known author Chaucer.

Philanthropists saw an opportunity and, with the growth of the souvenir industry, began making consumer goods in the 19th century to accommodate the desires of these new secular pilgrims by offering items to remind them of their journey. This included postcards, plates, pins, and patches.

During the early 20th century in Europe, people began to place these patches on their backpacks and clothing to note the resort towns they had been to while hiking. And in the US, the trend was mirrored with the rise of National Parks and vacationers collecting patches from their various expeditions.

After World War II, some of the American soldiers would send back patches and badges of the places they were stationed to their family, girlfriends, and wives, which later became known as “sweetheart patches”. The British caught on to this fad and also began producing patches that denoted famous tourist destinations and other patch souvenirs.

Since this time patch collecting has become a huge past time for retired military and veterans, motorcycle bikers, gun collectors, and the still every day tourist. The patches represent the events that have affected the collector’s life and are considered beautiful works of art in addition to the represented history of the event. Each collection holds the memories that the collector has from their own personal history and viewing each patch brings back the fondness and the joy of these memories.


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