As a long-time armor triangle collector, many times insignia was offered to me that the sellers indicated was a “good piece”. Many times, they have been wrong. Many other collectors have contacted me to ask me if I know whether or not a particular triangle is good, or how to tell a repro from a good period piece. There is nothing wrong with patches made for collectors; they fill holes in one’s collection until the real McCoy comes along. Some people are perfectly happy picking up reproductions, because they are usually inexpensive. A problem arises when a seller has the fair market value of a real numbered triangle on a collector’s copy. Most of us are familiar with the standard core of triangles that everyone seems to have. One point to make clear is that the following information discusses general rules – there are always exceptions. It is simply not possible to describe or even define all of the exceptions – no one person, nor any group of collectors, knows all the answers.
In my experience, the king of repro triangles was the late Jack Britton (of Britton and Washington fame). I had a difficult time finding triangles (more on that later), but he was always selling triangles with added numbers, so on one of my trips back to Tulsa (c. 1979), I visited him at his house. He took me out to his garage, and showed me this humongous filing cabinet –the legal type, with file drawers that are wider than they are deeper. He had trays (like those found at public libraries) with numbers on cards, and there were dozens of each armor patch under each number. I was stunned at the scope, to say the least. He told me that he knew collectors wanted the triangles with added numbers, that there weren’t very many patches that came from vets anymore, and since there were so many collectors who wanted them, he had them made concurrently. I paid close attention to how they were made and kept many mental notes.
Most of us are familiar with the standard core of triangles that everyone seems to have. One point to make clear is that the following information discusses general rules – there are always exceptions. It is simply not possible to describe or even define all of the exceptions – no one person, nor any group of collectors, knows all the answers.
Most of the tank battalions of WW II were separate, non-divisional units. Just prior to the war, only five separate tank battalions were authorized – 70th, 191st, 192nd, 193rd and 194th Tank Bns. At the beginning of the war, a few more tank battalions were designated – on paper. These were the 71st-80th Tank Bns. These battalion numbers were subsequently changed to the 751st-760th Tank Bns. My research, consisting of interviewing as many former tankers as possible, reviewing photographs, and my experience as a collector, has shown only a few battalions had their own separately numbered triangle during WW II – and these are all “woolies”. These were the 70th, 191st, 741st-- 744th, 746th, and 751st. There are many period US-made triangles for separate battalions, and they are all most likely PX patches. The remainder of the battalions were authorized the Armor Force triangle, with no number in the apex. Of course, during occupation duty, many GIs of the battalions with official “non-numbered” triangles had their battalion numbers added. And that characteristic is determinant upon the length of time a particular GI spent on occupation duty. Trust me, those units that migrated home immediately after VE- Day generally they had no particular interest in getting their battalion numbers added to their patches. The units that remained, or the GIs transferred to other units due to points shortages, seemed to have a greater instance of numbers added. For the most part, this appears to have been done on a limited basis, perhaps a particular crew, or even a platoon, or perhaps a company. The exception to the rule is the 778th Tank Bn, with several different variations. Also, after WW II, old tank battalions were redesignated; new tank battalions were activated, and former tank destroyer battalions were converted to tank battalions. Many of these units had numbered triangles. One point to also make perfectly clear – the Army did not authorize the numbers on the patches, except for the above rare exceptions.
First, the sharp collector arms him or herself with some research materials. You want to know when, where, and if a particular unit existed. Stanton’s Order of Battle WW II lists the armor divisions (and their tank battalion elements) as well as all the separate tank battalions that were activated in WW II. The Department of the Army Unit Citation and Campaign Participation Credit Participation lists every tank battalion that was in any theater in WW II. Sawicki’s Tank Battalions of the U.S. Army does an outstanding job of defining activation/inactivation dates and locations.
As I have previously posted, there are several characteristics to look for in made-for-collectors armor triangles. These characterictics apply to standard, U.S.-made fully embroidered armor force triangles. If you have two or more, and you are still unable to make a determination, put it down and walk away if you only collector original insignia.
1) On the front: the numbers are not uniform
2) On the front: the numbers look “fuzzy”, not distinct
3) On the front: you can see a zig-zag edge where the numbers meet the yellow cables of the apex
4) On the front; the numbers are misaligned
5) On the side: one or both sides of the patch where the numbers have been added is/are pinched
6) On the back; the numbers tend to be much thicker/higher than the rest of the embroidery; they noticeably protrude; this characteristic is easily seen as well as felt
7) On the back: there is usually white thread from a pick up bobbin
8) On the back: this white pick up thread GLOWS
9) On the back; there may be newspaper, thin gauze strands or a thick white gauze square; the white pick up thread and this gauze all GLOW
Due to the many different skilled tailors and seamstresses in many different occupation locales, and because I don’t have them all or have not seen them all, the purpose of this thread is not to depict original period examples of a real numbered triangle. The purpose is to depict the typical, made-for-collectors armor triangles so often found for sale. Based on the above list of characteristics of what constitutes a bad patch, an astute reader can make his/her own determination of what a good numbered triangle should look like. EXCEPTION: if you find a dealer who has numerous armor triangles with none of the above characteristics, but the numbers all look to have been made at the same time and/or place, then put them down and walk away.
See how many characteristics YOU can find with these bad boys.
Edited by tredhed2, 08 October 2009 - 01:06 PM.