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Author Topic:   Differences in shuttle mission patch qualities
mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-21-2012 10:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've been collecting patches and other NASA paraphernalia since I was a kid, but never paid much attention to the quality, backing, thickness of my patches. It was always more about getting one of each.

Going through my mission patches, especially the very first few, I am now noticing major differences in thickness, stitch quality (especially around the borders), stiffness, etc. I know these all came from JSC, so I'm curious as to why they are so different? Were some re-releases, possibly? Or were they switching back and forth between vendors?

I see STS-2, 3, 4 patches for sale for $100 or more, but at the same time I know the NASA gift shop still sells them for a few bucks.

Again, sorry for the new guy question. Hoping someone can point me to a previous thread that might explain some of it, since all my questions probably take a book to answer...

GoesTo11
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Posts: 1025
From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 08-21-2012 11:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mdhcollection:
Again, sorry for the new guy question. Hoping someone can point me to a previous thread that might explain some of it, since all my questions probably take a book to answer...

Actually, I'm curious as well (and I'm not a new guy), specifically with respect to Shuttle patches. I have a set of patches (STS-1 though 51-L, as well as few misc. program patches) purchased from the Dryden gift shop in the mid-1980s. I also have a few recent late-program AB patches. I'm looking at completing my collection (that is, acquiring every mission; I'm not going down the road of individual/period variations, cancelled missions etc.), and I'm interested in quality and finish variations over the course of the program, specifically from AB. The later mission patches I have frankly aren't that impressive in terms of finish and heft, especially given the advances in manufacturing technology. I'll be doing this regardless, but I'd like to know what to expect.

Gonzo
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Posts: 374
From: Lansing, MI, USA
Registered: Mar 2012

posted 08-22-2012 06:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having collected space patches now for a couple of decades, I too have seen differences in quality of the individual patches. But, from what I've seen, there is a reason. When a patch for a mission is released, it goes to the "official" manufacturer, AB Emblem. (By the way, AB has had the sole contract with NASA to make the "official" patches since about 1972 or so.) They produce the patches and release them for sale, in varying quantities depending on the patch and the collectability of that patch.

Here's where the story takes a turn though. Once the patch is released, other manufacturers, and there's been many through the years, copy the patch and sell their versions as well. And each manufacturer has varying degrees of quality. There has been a flood of patches lately coming from Malaysia too. So you will find varying degrees of quality in the patches depending on the manufacturer.

"Stiffness" of the patch was mentioned. This can come from not just the thickness of the patch itself, but also from the backing, if there is one (usually plastic, wax or an iron-on substance). So the backing will give the feeling of "stiffness" to an otherwise non-stiff patch, adding to the general feeling of the quality of the patch.

As you'd expect, since there are different manufacturers releasing their version of the patch, there are differences in the patches themselves. These are what interests collectors — those variances. Take for example Apollo 11. There are about 10 different variations of the mission patch. And as can be expected, some are more rare than others depending on the number released and the number coming up for sale. And that in turn effects the price of the patch.

Age is another factor that can effect the value. Vintage patches, those released during the time of the mission, generally will garner higher prices. I have one patch in particular in my collection that I paid $35 for in 1991. That was expensive for a patch then as it was a controlled release and it has never been released for sale to the public. Now, there are several manufactures selling "replica" versions of that patch. An original, like mine recently sold for $400. So age is another factor.

Most new collectors would think too that if they get their patches from the various space center gift shops that they would be getting "official" versions of the patches that in turn should be higher quality. That is a false assumption as the gift shops are usually private contractor run businesses and can generally sell whatever they want. Yes, you CAN get good quality patches there. But there is no GUARANTEE that you will.

While I'm sure others will pipe in their opinions on the subject and if I'm wrong I'll be corrected (hopefully!). The truth is, a whole book can be, and several have been, written about the subject. If you are new to collecting these little works of art, you've just opened the door to a whole world of history and interest. When I started, I too just wanted the "official" patch for each mission and some related project patches. I now have well over 400 patches, all unique in their own way. And I have a what many would call a small collection compared to many collectors. There's a whole world of research, learning, curiosity and places you can take your collections!

I would add this comment though. If you collect patches, at some point you may want to consider focusing your collection to a specific area. Many collectors, for example, are interested in shuttle patches and their collections show that with the overwhelming number of patches related to the shuttle. Others (like me), are more interested in the early missions (Gemini, Mercury and in my case, particularly Apollo) and they focus their collections to that historical era. Trying to have a "general" collection exposes you to way too many patches to try and start a collection. So take what interests you and focus your collection in that area. At least to start. That way your collection will maintain your interest long term and as you add to it and it grows, you will find other areas that interest you and you can then expand your collection to those areas.

Good luck!

mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-22-2012 04:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for all the information, so far. I'd love some suggestions on books or websites that break all this down somewhat. I don't expect to get really serious about collecting, but would love to know what I have.

An example of what I was curious about can be highlighted with a couple of pictures. These are the early shuttle patches on sale at the Kennedy Gift Shop (So, I assume they are somewhat "official").

These are the versions of STS-1 through STS-4 that I have. I see quite a few differences, but don't believe mine are "non-official".

Gonzo
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Posts: 374
From: Lansing, MI, USA
Registered: Mar 2012

posted 08-22-2012 08:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
mdh - two things I want to point out to you.

First, there are a couple of books you should look for. The one that comes to mind is called "Space Patches: From Mercury to Space Shuttle" by Judith Kaplan and Robert Muniz. It's an older book but has great details about patches up to the start of the shuttle period. There are others but it will depend more on where you want your collection to go.

Second, I looked at the 4 patches you posted that you have. I can't tell you about the patches you have for STS-1 through 3 off the top of my head - I'd have to check them to be sure, but the STS-4 patch you have is what is called the "pink" version. If you look, there is a pink (or "light red" as some refer to it) triangle where the contrail makes the first bend. THAT my friend is the version that the crew used. The version that you can find everywhere has this triangle in red like the rest of the contrail. There was a thread on here that discussed this in some detail, but suffice it to say that the version you have is rare and worth keeping. (If you ever did want to sell it though, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE keep me in mind! I'm still looking for one! )

Hope this helps. If you want more, PM/email me and we can discuss at length!

mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-22-2012 09:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Again, thank you VERY much. I'll look around for a copy of that book. Great lead mentioning that it might be a STS-4 crew patch. Did a little more searching and it looks like maybe they all are, which explains the differences. That other thread lead me to the crewpatches site, which explained in good detail.

As for selling, we'll see. Still going through everything and trying to keep one of each patch to pass on to my nephews. Anything that turns out to be a duplicate may hit the block, though!

J Blackburn
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Posts: 113
From: Riner, Virginia USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 08-22-2012 10:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for J Blackburn   Click Here to Email J Blackburn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As for the STS-1 patch, it appears to me in the photo that it has a multi colored or four color exhaust. Look on eBay and you will see what they sell for, not cheap my friend. One just sold for $42.01 on August 19th. However it is hard to tell exactly if it is a multi or four color exhaust in your photo. Gonzo is right about the STS-4, they are rare and come with a nice price tag. Very nice collection.

mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-22-2012 11:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is the 4 color exhaust ... and I am getting quite the lesson in patch values on ebay right now. I had no idea!

Kevin T. Randall
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Posts: 458
From: High Wycombe, Bucks UK
Registered: Dec 2008

posted 08-23-2012 12:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kevin T. Randall   Click Here to Email Kevin T. Randall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Matt, the STS-3 patch you have is also an example of the rare 'crew' patch variant as worn by the two astronauts during the mission. Your example is one of the better patches I've seen, most others have had white thread faults on them.

The STS-2 patch you have is a standard AB Emblem early souvenir patch. We have not yet found a specific 'crew' variant of this patch like we have for STS-1, 3, and 4.

KAPTEC
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Posts: 500
From: Madrid, Spain
Registered: Oct 2005

posted 08-23-2012 04:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KAPTEC   Click Here to Email KAPTEC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes. The STS-1 is the original 4 colours variant. Congrats!

spaced out
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Posts: 2597
From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 08-23-2012 06:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'd be interested to know where you acquired these patches as you were pretty lucky to end up with the 'crew patch' versions of STS-1, 3 and 4.

Incidentally for Gonzo I should point out that I have one example of the STS-4 crew patch still available on my Astro Gallery.

mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-23-2012 06:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Kevin - Thanks for the info. I wasn't sure if the STS-2 was "crew" or not. It felt extremely thin and flimsy like the STS-1 and STS-4, so I thought it might be.

Spaced - I received them from "crew", so I suppose it only makes sense. I just didn't realize there was a difference until I looked closely.

spaced out
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From: Paris, France
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posted 08-23-2012 07:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It might turn out that there are 'crew' versions of other early Shuttle missions too but at the moment no-one has clearly identified these versions.

If you have other early Shuttle patches that were given to you by crew members it would be interesting to see scans of those too.

mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-23-2012 07:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
These are the next 11. I don't see any obvious differences comparing them to stock "insignia" photos, but my eyes aren't trained to look for the minor inconsistencies, obviously.

Kevin T. Randall
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Posts: 458
From: High Wycombe, Bucks UK
Registered: Dec 2008

posted 08-23-2012 08:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kevin T. Randall   Click Here to Email Kevin T. Randall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sorry Matt, all those STS-5 through to STS-51C look like standard AB Emblem souvenir patches from the fronts.

Do any of those patches have AB Emblem labels embedded under the plastic coating on the backs of the patches? Or velcro strips?

mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-23-2012 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can look more carefully this evening when I get home, but I don't believe so. I know there aren't velcro strips on any of my mission patches ... only remember seeing those on name badges. I'll do a check for AB labels, but I haven't noticed any.

mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-23-2012 10:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nope. None of them have AB Emblem labels, or any other kind of labels. Did a quick check up to STS-50 and can't find labels or tags on any of them.

5, 6, 7, 9, 41D, 41G, 51A are all single tail.

8, 41C have two tails.

41B, 51C are cut, no border.

mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-26-2012 06:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gonzo, I couldn't figure out how to PM/email you from here, but wanted to let you know that I found I had duplicates of those crew patches for STS-1 and STS-4 (still looking for another STS-3!). Look on eBay for item #180961026683 or search under my username if you're still interested.

Kevin T. Randall
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Posts: 458
From: High Wycombe, Bucks UK
Registered: Dec 2008

posted 08-29-2012 03:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kevin T. Randall   Click Here to Email Kevin T. Randall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I see you have found another STS-3 'crew' patch, unless you are selling the one who's image is in the above link, as the one you listed on eBay is the same patch.

mdhcollection
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Posts: 22
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Aug 2012

posted 08-29-2012 08:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhcollection     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Both, actually. I found another one and I'm selling the one pictured above.

Kevin T. Randall
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Posts: 458
From: High Wycombe, Bucks UK
Registered: Dec 2008

posted 08-29-2012 08:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kevin T. Randall   Click Here to Email Kevin T. Randall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought they both looked the same Matt. I take it the extra one you found is a slightly better example than the first one in the link above?

Nice one!

Go4Launch
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Posts: 400
From: Bethesda, MD
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 09-06-2012 08:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Something that may be of interest on this thread's original topic is a question I raised in another post in 2007, which is when AB changed its embroidery technique for shuttle patches.

It's clear that at some point in the late 1990s, the company began to sell shuttle crew patches that have what I can best describe as a tighter weave and duller thread. To me, it seems to have started with STS-88. The one I have of the first crew is of the original variety, while the expanded (final) crew has the newer technique.

I prefer the original style, which has a shinier look and of course is consistent with the AB crew patches dating back to the 1960s.

You even get this type when you order their Apollo patches (AB also changed to different versions of its Apollo patches probably in the 1980s).

My other comment is that "Space Patches: From Mercury to the Space Shuttle" by Kaplan and Muniz contains a significant number of errors so I would not regard it as 100 percent accurate by any means.

All times are CT (US)

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