2005 Year in Review covering 2004By Roy More, ISCA #0020L
It has been another year so its time to reflect and think about what has happened in the hobby and where it is going. This continues to be a great hobby: good items, good history, good feelings and good research.
Historically there has been legitimacy to these collectibles as they were not issued as collectibles but as program materials and recognition items. One can?t say that about baseball cards or many other collectibles. I say historically because this may be changing. There are appearing more items that are made or targeted towards collectors. These are usually offered at exorbitant prices and profits. Time will tell if these hold their value. More importantly, these could turn collectors off. This happened with baseball cards in the 1990s, CSPs in the 1980s and other collectibles at other times.
Another trend is that there are more people participating in the hobby but in general they are less informed. Most collectors have entered or in many cases re-entered the hobby in the past 5 years. For quite some time now, I have defined ?old? as something that came out before one began collecting. For such a collector, it is hard to distinguish from an OA lodge?s 1990 75th anniversary flap and the 1 per life restricted, no trade issue from the 1960s. Both came out before such a collector started. Actually, they may have seen others with the 1990 flap but never seen the restricted issue. Their sense of value based upon scarcity is usually off. Put another way, the restricted issues are under appreciated.
There is increased interest on the part of collectors in more than just the badges. There seems to be more interest in the history. In other collecting areas this might be called ephemera ? program passes, meeting minutes, membership cards, etc. Although all Scouting collectibles might be referred to as ephemera as they are offshoots of the Scouting program I now see collectors seeking the paper and disposable material in many programs. This is true at least for Order of the Arrow items and World Jamboree memorabilia. We?ll have to see if this trend extends into other areas.Trade-o-rees (TORs)
TORs seem to be declining if they are poorly run. It is expensive to travel outside your area. Dallas continues to be the best national, annual show.
The NOAC show was again in a large space. They had a large display area along with display contests. This is another positive about this show.
This year?s NOAC TOR was shorter than 2002 but that seemed to work better. Due to the lack of adequate facilities in the NOAC city of Ames, Iowa the TOR was held in Des Moines. It worked out ok this time. The last time this occurred we were in Indianapolis and NOAC was at Bloomington it did not work out as there were competing TORs. I believe those who participated in this TOR viewed it as a success although attendance by contingents was down. 2006 NOAC is in Lansing, Michigan where we should be able to have adequate in town facilities. We hope to see you there.
With NOAC moving to a Saturday start, there was less interest in the TOR even though there is no NOAC program to speak of on campus. With the TOR out of town, it was not easy for contingents just coming in to participate in the TOR.
Regional shows can be solid if the sponsors focus on the customers. If the sponsors are ?in it for the money? then the results may be mixed. (Before someone flames me I recognize that no TOR organizer makes meaningful money if they factor in the hours they spend but clearly some organizers have that as a primary focus when I think customers should be the first consideration.)Ebay
Ebay is still, and will for the foreseeable future, be the dominant forum for selling Scouting memorabilia. Most dealers have cut back or eliminated their mailing lists for regular eBay selling. From our experience the costs are just as high (we used to spend $6,000 to put out a newspaper catalog before we sold a single item) but things can turn more quickly.
Three dealers account for about 20% of the listings (TSPA/The Scout Patch Auction, Brushcreek Trading, and Streamwood.)
The average selling price is under $20. The median, the 50/50 point, is even lower. I don't know if it is just Boy Scout collectibles but it is wild to see 15 bids on a lot and it is only up to $10.51. Talk about the old days when patches were bid up $0.25 at a time. I am not sure what this says about the bidders. Roughly 60% of the items sell which also means close to half do not. Still many consider this the golden age for collectibles as items come out of the attics that would have gone to the city dump.
Ebay is very much a ?buyer beware? environment. Some recent examples include: a lot that was labeled as a type 1 Silver Beaver that had the wrong pendant and the wrong pin, ?OA? put into the title of things that aren?t OA, putting ?come on? patches that aren?t what they are titled. For example, I saw a solid embroidered Philturn patch that was actually a patch cut-out from the center of an anniversary patch. I have also seen ?vintage? jamboree patches that must be ?real? because they came from the 1973 National Jamboree although they are plastic-backed reproductions issued by the BSA as trading post items. Other problems include cheap patches and ridiculous shipping charges. For example, we saw a $0.37 patch with $3.00 handling fee.
Ebay remains impersonal and provides virtually no education. Even the pricing information could be misleading unless one looks at a lot of information over time.
To Snipe or not Snipe - who does it help? Senior/experienced collectors. Actually we would prefer bid-offs thus making it true auctions. Although there is some economic theory behind it that says it leads to fair pricing, eBay's format I believe under sells rare or rarely seen items. The format works to the advantage of experienced buyers as they have a better sense of value. Because the sniping systems are out there, I can't deny their existence. I use one myself, as much for auction watching/tracking as bidding (find it a lot easier than eBay's site.) Here's the company I use.
I do not know if this is a surprise or not but consistently, when looking at the highest priced items on eBay they are non-OA items. The majority of the top ten highest priced items are either insignia or world jamboree. OA items are represented but they usually are just a small proportion.Category review
The following are my general impressions about the interest level in major segments of our hobby.OA
OA continues to be the highest valued area of Scouting memorabilia. Within this though there are several sub-categories that each have their own trend. Here are some of them.
First flaps continue to be solid. There are new highs in values on a regular basis although not across the board. Dave Thomas and I took some heat a few years back for publishing here in ISCA an updated value guide. Some thought the prices were too high. Now, for some although not all, the prices listed would be great buying prices.
For merged lodge issues there is a general closing of the values between the restricted issues and the common issues post lodge merger.
There was a lot of excitement around the new NOAC issues but that seemed to have faded more quickly this year as we got away from NOAC than in recent NOACs. This year after collectors filled in their collections prices declined. From a trading perspective, Scouts were better prepared this year for trading. Most came with fistfuls of patches to trade but they may not be valued much more than one for one issues for some years to come.
As prices move up the ?provenance?, i.e. background and documentation, of a patch and any certification are becoming increasingly important in the higher valued items. Also, condition is increasingly important as those willing to pay top dollar are demanding top conditioned patches.
I believe we are getting into dangerous territory though when new issues to be offered up for more than anything else from the lodge. For example, we saw a lodge 147 delegate item being offered at a minimum bid higher than any other issue from the lodge including their first flap or first issue.
Another problem that seems to be centered on eBay is the creation and sale of privately made re-issued flaps. Some make sense like a 34 Gonlix or 241 Tomahawk but others make no sense at all. It will be interesting to see some years hence when collections get offered up and people think they have a multi-hundred or even multi-thousand dollar patch that in reality is a fake. There will be a grading and authentication service for this area (actually we?re working on one with some other collectors.) Collectors will require assurance that what they are buying is true and accurate particularly when making a major financial commitment.Shoulder Wear
CSPs ? Cool but still the most broadly collected area of Scouting memorabilia.
JSPs ? Flat ? depends upon council
Red and Whites (and other pre-CSPs) Sizzling. There are more four figure ($1,000+) items in this category as a percent of the total items than any other area of shoulder wear and maybe a greater proportion than any other Scouting collectible area.
Community strips are now actively collected. It was not that long ago that these were considered throwaways. Peter Bielak of the Trading Post told me of his experiences visiting Lyon Brothers, a major patch manufacturer for the BSA, that had row upon row of warehouse shelves full of boxes with these strips. When he visited the company a few months later, the shelves were empty as they had taken truckloads to the city dump as they had been discontinued. One negative aspect of this area of excitement is that fakes are beginning to surface.Insignia
Sizzling. We can?t find enough quality items. We can?t find enough vintage items. ?Odd? cloth items are dramatically under appreciated. For example, wool, fine twill, and serge-based badges often do not sell for much more than their twill cloth brethren but they are magnitudes rarer. Fine twill merit badges are the only area where there has been a distinction for a period of time. But even for fine twills it has been a relatively short period. Fine twills are going for 10 times their original estimate.Merit badges
Squares ? Sizzling for the rarest issues and teens; flat elsewhere
Fine twills and wide crimp ? If accurately described, sizzling. Many wide crimps offered though are squares cut and folded down. Many are hard to authenticate as wide crimps.Rank
Eagles ? Solid/flat
Silver Awards - Solid
Combined ranks - SizzlingWorld Jamborees
Very hot All years All itemsUS National Jamborees
Felts ? Sizzling to solid.
Embroidered ? Sizzling to solid There is a geographical bias. That is, the same vintage and scarcity of patch can command a widely different price depending upon what part of the country it is from. A major estate of a Region 8 committee man lead to some very interesting auction results this past summer that enlightened collectors to the potential value for some of these badges. On the other hand, not all felt camp patches will bring $20 or even $10. We are soon approaching though the first $1,000 camp patch. Many of these are scarcer than the comparable OA patch even though the OA patch could bring four or five figures.High Adventure Bases
Philmont - Solid
Sea Base ? Limited action
Region 7 and Region 10 ? Limited actionRegion patches
Original 12 ? Up from prior years
Old 6 ? Solid, more than expected
Current 4 ? Not much history yet
All in all, another good year for the hobby. With next year?s National Jamboree and the plans for the various TORs we expect another good year. Go have fun!