F or S? What’s in a Letter?

basicsYears ago in the dim ages…of collecting,  in the last millennium, letter conventions were established to allow collectors to talk about patches through the mail or in other non-face-to-face scenarios.

A – Arrowhead Shaped Patch

J – Jacket Patch a larger patch of varying shapes to be worn on a jacket

R – Round Patch, typically 4 inches in diameter or less.

X – Odd Shaped Patch, any shape not described above.

P – A Blue Book addition for any patch which looks like a wedge of pie, typically for triangular patches worn on neckerchief.

F – Flap shaped patch

That was fine when all of the patches were twill flaps and simple designs usually the totem of the lodge were used with perhaps the lodge name or number and not much else.

Twill means that you can see the base material that the patch is made from, it is not completely covered with embroidery.

Then these new-fangled patches started appearing, they were flap shaped, but they were full of embroidery, they had many colors, ooohh pretty.

Well what was a self respecting collector to do?

I can’t have my shiny new solid flap associated with those old plain twill flaps. That will never do.

A problem that has plagued collectors since the early days arose.  Everyone was used to calling any flap shaped patch an “F” issue.  They did not want to come up with two new designations for Flaps,and get rid of the perfectly good letter F.

So the S designation was created.

S – a Solid or Fully Embroidered Flap Shaped Patch

and the F Designation became

F- a partially embroidered flap shaped patch.

To add a bit of confusion to the issue, in the 1970’s when CSP’s were invented; the Patch Gods of Yore determined that new designations would be used for CSP’s.  They could not have an F designation since they were not Flaps.

So for the CSP Collector a CSP is either:

S – A solid, fully embroidered Council Shoulder Patch (CSP)

T – A partially embroidered CSP were at least some of the base twill can be seen.

Can’t we all just get along?

OA Collectors declared this anathema;

so CSP-shaped OA issues are given X desigantions by OA Collectors and S or T designations by CSP Collectors who looked down their collective noses when an OA Lodge dared to issue CSP-shaped patches.



A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” —Herm Albright (1876-1944)



  1. And there are LOTS of letters still left in the alphabet!

    “B” is for Bullion: Forget that cheap mylar stuff, real gold and silver bullion is where it’s at, baby! If the patch market crashes, you can always melt ’em down!

    “C” is for Chenille: Popular in Pennsylvania since the 1940’s thanks to the Standard Pennant Company, and nationwide even more popular now thanks to collectors.

    “D” is for “Don’t know yet” – we don’t use this designation in the hobby YET, but may have to pretty soon when we run out of letters!

    “e” is for Event patches. When Blue Book began listing these as of the Fourth edition in 2002, it exploded to two printed volumes! Used in combination with the other code letters for shape (etc), the first event issue for a lodge in 2009 might be listed as eR2009-1 or eX2009-1.

    H is for “Historical Issue” – generally a reproduction of an earlier patch by a newer antecessor lodge. This designation was used more in the Arapaho guidebooks than in Blue Book. Examples would be 542 HS1 and HS2.

    L is for Leather patch: In more recent years, this has been expanded to include just about anything made of leather, including neckerchief slides and belt buckles.

    M is for Metal. We’re talking heavy metal here, like pewter, lead and iron. Several lodges up in Massachusetts have recently issued sets of metal flaps in pewter and various gold-plated finishes.

    N is for Neckerchief. Pretty obvious, though the early patch collectors pretty much ignored this area of collecting (except for Missituck and Tahawus, perhaps).

    O is for Overpriced. Well, it should be, anyway.

    Q is for…Queer match for the REJECTED patch. Not really sure which BB author/editor came up with this one, but it was meant to communicate the subtle difference between a flap that was ordered by a lodge but rejected without being issued (generally due to some error on the part of the manufacturer), as opposed to an outright fake. In most cases, at least a few of these always seem to sneak out, either through lodge members keeping a few aside before returning (or destroying) the order, or by manufacturers releasing (or selling) their rejects, returns and overruns as “samples.” The result is a patch that, while not a lodge issue, still owes its existence to some legitimate lodge order for merchandise.

    U is for Unofficial. This one is used primarily by the CSP collectors among us. OA collectors generally call these Z’s.

    W is for Woven. You don’t see these too often, but there was a time when these woven silk patches permitted FAR more detail in a patch design than their Swiss embroidered counterparts.

    Z is for FAKE! COUNTERFEIT! UNAUTHORIZED! In some cases these are reproductions of older genuine (and often rare and valuable) patches, In other cases they are simply patches produced by individuals with no authority to use the organization’s name. In most cases there is some element of deception and/or greed involved. In the past few years we’ve even seen the dawn of the age of designer fakes – patches made to order, one at a time, each one different. What a nightmare!

    Y is for… Why did I go out of order and leave this one for last??? Good question. I think this category is the most confusing of all for most people. WHY do we need another category at all? Because as the Blue Book evolved and more and more items were discovered and submitted for inclusion, it became apparent that a [catch-all / default / unclassifiable] category was required for things that defied categorization. A Holding Cell (as it were) for patch listings. Prototypes were among the first items to be listed in this way (not issues, but neither fakes nor rejects). But it soon began to include a lot of other “weird” items as well: apparent OA issues created by a council or district (not the lodge), or items of questionable provenance or disputed sources. It has also become a place to “park” an item until it can be researched and it’s status substantiated. Sometimes these will later be relisted as an official issue. Sometimes the reverse can happen if the story of a patch later reveals that it was not a “lodge” issue. Sometimes items just sit in here forever. Hmmm, maybe they should have called it “O” for Oblivion!

    D, G, I, K, O, V – any takers?

  2. John Pannell says:

    Roy beat me to the punch with “W” and “B”. The latter is my favorite. 😉

    Around the time all those new fangled flap shaped patches with lots of embroidery and colors were coming out which would later be called “S” issues, someone else had he neat idea of making patches like the Europeans did. These would be woven: thin and cheap to make. It was thought to be the wave of the future.

    These couldn’t be like those other “F” issues! These were special! But they also weren’t solids as they had no embroidery! We needed a new category: so W is for Woven… regardless of their shape.

    So we have flap shaped Ws, round Ws, and “odd-shaped” W issues.

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