An excellent resource for collectors of space patches is Russ Still’s book Relics of the Space Race. Only a single chapter is devoted to patches, but that chapter is worth the price of the book. It’s been out-of-print for a while, but you can probably find it used, if you are persistent. Anyone who intends to seriously engage in the pursuit of vintage patches simply cannot do better than to bookmark Chris Spain’s Crew Patches site. It 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” — first, because collecting these would quickly bankrupt most collectors; and second, because it’s a fairly tricky proposition to verify the authenticity of the claim “flown”. If you’re considering starting a collection, it’s a good idea to pick a theme and stick to it — at least initially; otherwise, there’s simply no end to the patches you could acquire.
It’s also a good idea to keep a record of your purchases: when you bought a patch, who you bought it from, how much you paid for it, and a description of the patch, including any distinguishing characteristics.
Sources are numerous and varied.
This is a simple way to start a collection:
Lion Brothers patches, beta-cloth patches, flown patches: these are usually only available at auction, or from private collectors:
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 for many years, until 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.
I decided I liked my little web site, and it evolved over time; and then I found that there were other space patch sites “out there” on the web. Whether they were there before I started, and I just hadn’t been able to find them; or whether they started up in the same time period pretty much by coincidence, I don’t know. But here we all are. And this web site is now an integral part of my collection.
My particular twist on patch collecting is that I like to frame patches with associated artwork. So far I have seven framed patches, which I share with you here: