What’s in a Letter Part II – The Rest of the Alphabet


Last week I posted F or S? What’s in a Letter?, about several of the letter codes used to describe the shape of the OA patches we collect.  While I did not intend to include all of the letters in use today.  Roy Whetherbee took up the unspoken challenge and explained what how many of the other letters are used.

It was to good to leave as a comment, so I’m using it as a separate post here, in Roy’s words.

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?

Thanks Roy


There is always a well-known solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.
H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920
US editor (1880 – 1956)

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