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  Why do you collect space mission patches?

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Author Topic:   Why do you collect space mission patches?

Posts: 145
From: Derbyshire UK
Registered: Mar 2023

posted 08-27-2023 06:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Axman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm seeking an insight (from those of you who collect these patches) as to why you collect them.

I can see (no pun intended) that they are visually attractive, I can also appreciate that they would be capable of a magnificent display by the right individual.

But! They don't seem (to me at least) to offer anything else that would entice me to even contemplate forming a collection. I shall list a number of 'concerns' that prompts me to say that.

  • unlike philatelic covers, patches don't have any official date stamp that ties them temporally to the event they commemorate — therefore they could be produced for years into the future. And presumably can be sewn by anybody.

  • and unlike signed covers, or unsigned flown covers, they don't have any direct connection to 'their' flight (at least not that can be verified).

  • and unlike rocket parts, flown items, and the like, again they seem to have no actual connection to the flight they celebrate.
So please, can any of the "patch collector" community explain to me why you collect them. (I'm not being patronising, I honestly want to understand your reasoning).


Posts: 885
From: UK
Registered: Mar 2012

posted 08-27-2023 02:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Buel   Click Here to Email Buel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Got to say, I also ask myself this question...

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 51001
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-27-2023 03:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As someone who has just recently rediscovered the joy of patch collecting (albeit for reasons probably not shared by many other collectors; I'll explain below), I do think some of your assertions Alan (Axman) are, or at least can be, incorrect. It just depends on what you prefer to collect.

Working through your points in reverse order...

  • Patches can be flown items. If your desire is to have something with a direct connection to the flight, you can collect flown patches (and even that falls into subcategories, such as astronaut-worn flown patches versus patches flown as mementos).

  • On a related subject and pertaining to your second point, the patches that the astronauts wore and flew were sometimes different from those sold to the public as souvenirs in their design, color or other details. Chris Spain (spacedout) has done a fantastic job documenting these differences on his Crew Patches website.

    Finding and assembling a full collection of crew-version patches can be a challenge, which some collectors seek out and enjoy.

  • As to your first point, and beyond the crew patches, there is also vintage to consider. A patch made at the time of a mission 40 years ago is going to be made differently and therefore look different than a patch made now.

    More specifically, though, as Kevin Randall can go into much more detail, the child-safely labels introduced on the back of A-B Emblem patches in 2010 do allow (sometimes) a direct connection to the mission. If it is known (and the research continues), you can trace a patch's design and date code to the same batch produced for the crew to wear or fly.

But none of these factors may be why someone enjoys collecting patches.

Personally, my current interest has been driven by assembling three albums: one devoted to every patch tracing the U.S. return to the moon, from the Vision of Space Exploration through present day Artemis missions); one devoted to having one patch for every launch I have seen in person (presently totaling 59 from six different spaceports); and my primary project, an album themed to collectSPACE with patches representing the articles, subjects, events and missions that the site has covered or taken part in over the past two and a half decades.

While I could probably assemble similar collections with covers for the first two albums, I don't think there would be covers representing half of the topics I have been able to find patches for to celebrate this site's history. Plus, I think patches have more of a general visual appeal than other alternatives, but that is just a matter of perspective.


Posts: 145
From: Derbyshire UK
Registered: Mar 2023

posted 08-29-2023 09:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Axman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you, I'm very grateful for such a detailed response.

It hasn't persuaded me to join you in patch collecting, but at least now I have a better understanding (as well as learning a few points I wasn't aware of).


Posts: 2981
From: Guyton, GA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 08-29-2023 12:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I started collecting patches in my teens with Apollo as an affordable item connected to every mission. I learned a lot about patch collecting and differences through this forum and they have become a part of what I collect.

Certainly the focus for me is on human missions and human rated test missions, but that is not to say the others like SpaceX (when available) and Rocket Lab are not of interest to me however those have to be easily obtained for me to pick up.

I like them so much I have a patch of my own for the Karst-onian Kollection.


Posts: 843
From: Bothell, WA
Registered: Jan 2013

posted 08-29-2023 03:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Liembo   Click Here to Email Liembo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Like any collecting hobby, once you have established your personal parameters for collecting, it then boils down to the "thrill of the hunt." You might have a basic placeholder for a particular patch, but what you really have your sites on is perhaps a flown, or period-correct patch or what have you. For some people its crew-owned/flown, for some people it's every version made by a particular manufacturer, some just want to collect every prime crew mission patch for a particular program. Some collect payload-specific patches, or stick to one company like SpaceX.

I've seen disciplined collectors whose goal is no broader than collecting all the original Gemini crew patches. A noble goal for patches that can exceed $2500. I'm a generalist, I'll collect pretty much anything in the realm that interests me.

There's definitely no one-size-fits-all "why" one collects them.


Posts: 1780
From: Olympia, WA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 09-05-2023 05:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Maybe I shouldn't respond to this as I'm not a collector as many of you are.

I only collect patches for missions I personally saw in the air or at least on the pad (such as the Viking 2 lander, when I was a little kid).

I was involved with NASA peripherally twice in a manner that I think might still be classified (I've been trying to confirm that one way or another), so I have the patches for those two missions. Neither are on my Space Camp helmet bag, though.

Other than that, I wouldn't spend the money for a patch unless there's something very special about it, like a flown patch (which I can't imagine I'd spend the money on one of those).

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