Collecting Patches

The best resource for collectors of space patches is Russ Still's Relics of the Space Race. Only a single chapter is devoted to patches, but that chapter is worth the price of the book. It can be ordered through the collectSPACE web site. Another excellent book, though not oriented towards collectors per se, is Dick Lattimer's All We Did Was Fly to the Moon. Anyone who is interested in or who collects space patches should have both of these books. Finally, Chris Spain's Crew Patches web site is an essential reference for collectors of pre-STS patches.

Serious collectors generally eschew the 3" souvenir patches, preferring the 4" patches. Some collectors like Beta cloth patches, though you need to be careful about the quality of these, as many on the market tend to be quality rejects due to misaligned colors. As for "flown" patches, I personally don't consider them as "collectibles" -- collecting these would quickly bankrupt most collectors. If you're considering starting a collection, it's a good idea to pick a theme and stick to it; otherwise, there's no end to the patches you could acquire.

Purchasing Patches

  • For current (i.e. Shuttle, ISS, etc.) patches and current production of older patches, you can order directly from AB Emblems and Caps, which claims to be "Official Contractor to NASA," which they have in fact been since Apollo 15, and as far as I know, still are. However, the older patches they sell are mostly remakes, and of lower quality than the originals.

  • Personally, I find The Space Store to be a reliable source of NASA mission patches with prompt service. The patches sold here are probably manufactured by AB Emblems.

  • Spaceflight Now is also a good source of current patches, and some older ones as well.

  • Stewart Aviation, in the UK, claims: "We have probably the largest stock of space and aviation patches in the world". It is certainly impressive, and includes many Russian and European patches. I gather that they make many of their own patches.

  • Older patches, ones no longer produced -- the Lion Brothers patches, beta-cloth patches, and so on -- are rarely available except through auctions. Farthest Reaches is the only alternative I know of, but the selection of patches tends to be quite limited.

  • I'm happy to report that Donnis Willis has resurrected his Lunar Legacies business. Donnis also posts auctions regularly on eBay under the name llspaceauctions.

  • For Soviet and Russian space patches Alex Panchenko is probably the best source for a variety of vintages. And check out Spaceview of the Netherlands for recent Russian patches.

  • eBay always has lots of patches, but seldom anything of interest except to the casual or beginning collector -- once in a while there will be something really worthwhile here, so do check.

  • Aurora Galleries is generally a good source for interesting patches (as well as other space memorabilia), but they only have about two auctions a year. While their web site in not very informative, you can view lots and place absentee bids through eBay Live auctions.

My Collection

As for my own collection, you've been looking at it. With only a handful of exceptions, nearly every image of an embroidered patch on this site, and every image of a beta cloth patch is a scan or photograph of a patch in my collection. I started with the patches I had collected contemporaneously for Apollo 11 through ASTP. I just kept them stashed away until, a few years ago, my wife suggested that I display them somehow. I decided to fill in the missing Apollo missions (1, and 7 through 10) and frame them.

In late 1999 I started taking classes in web design, and I had to come up with a project. I had never been able to find a site about space patches, so I decided to make that the subject of my class project. I knew about the stories behind the patches from Dick Lattimer's book; and I knew about the various different patches from Russ Still's book. I put together a site, and in the course of doing so, I did more research to fill it out. In the process I discovered that there were people selling all kinds of patches, expecially on eBay. I decided to pick up a few of these patches ... and it quickly snowballed.

My particular twist on patch collecting is that I like to frame patches with associated artwork. So far I have six framed patches, which I share with you here:

 

Apollo 11, with artwork by Walter Weber. This is a page from the July1950 issue of the National Geographic Magazine. This painting was later reproduced in the 1965 National Geographic book,"Water, Prey, and Game Birds of North America," where Mike Collins found it.

 

Apollo 12, with artwork by Jack Spurling. At the time he designed the patch, Victor Craft was employed by the RCA Services Company, and they released several photos to the press of Mr. Craft, one of them showing him at his drafting table with some books on clipper ships. It was pretty clear that this particular painting was Craft's main inspiration for the design of the ship on the patch.


 

Apollo 13, with artwork by Lumen Winter. This is a print of a painting Winter executed in 1981, not the original "Steeds" painting.

 

Apollo 17, with a gorgeous photograph of the Apollo Belvedere by Joe Letteri.


 

Skylab Expedition 1, with a poster of the painting by Kelly Freas that appeared on the cover of Analog magazine.

 

Skylab Expedition 2, with "Vitruvian Man" drawing from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci.


   
 

Apollo/Soyuz Test Project, with a lithograph of artwork by Robert McCall. I had this print signed by ASTP technical director Glynn Lunney at the time of the mission.

 
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