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Collecting Patches in Afghanistan- Lessons Learned


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As the war in Afghanistan continues to wind down and our footprint retract; the insignia and patch availability continue to shrink with it. This is my 6th Deployment and , like all the previous ones, I pick up as many patches as I can that I find of interest. For those that know me, I consistently gripe about the misrepresentation of SF and ODA patches by the 21st century patch king crowd that sell items without any provenance or proof that what they are selling is what they are claiming. Of course if you don't have a solution don't bitch. So I thought I would share a few tips that I use when collecting patches overseas to document the origin of the patch, the chain of custody, and a story behind it. One of the advantages of being in Afghanistan now is most patchmakers are selling their stock as quickly as they can for better prices than before. Additionally, patchmakers from camps that are already closed are selling their stock to other shop owners or at great prices. So, there are alot of earlier war patches coming out of the woodwork. The steps I take when I buy patches are as follows: I photograph everything, the storefront, the patches in the store, and the store owner, if he will let me. I try and get a business card of that shop. Then i consolidate all the patches with those pictures. I label every patch with the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, and maybe why). This is important as many patches are made year after year by the sellers, or guys who will have the patch makers run copies of what they have on file. Anyway, that is my two cents. here are some photos of the last week's finds. I will not enclose photos of the shops or the owners till those locations are closed down. Regards. David

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Your research and attention to the facts would make a great reference book for future collectors of Afghani/Iraqi made patches. This collecting area could be very hot in the future.

Hardstripe

I collect US Army chevrons and US Army Finance Corps items. I also collect CCC insignia.

ASMIC Member - OVMS Member

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Thanks for the info.I've heard that some of the shops "outsource" some of their patch making work,with some being made as far away as China then sold incountry through the shops.I'm wondering;unless one actually watched all the patches being made,how can one tell whether or not the patches were made within the shop?

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silver wings;

Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there

I've chased the shouting wind along and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue

I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,

where never lark, or even eagle flew;

and while, with silent, lifting mind I've trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

 

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

June 9, 1922 – December 11, 1941

 

 

 

" And each man stands with his face in the light of his own drawn sword. Ready to do what a hero can." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

 

Don't let the B@stards wear you down -"Vinegar" Joe Stillwell

 

 

Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world.Unreasonable

people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.All progress,

therefore, depends on unreasonable people.

George Bernard Shaw

 

 

" Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining" , Fletcher,from the movie "The outlaw Josey Wales"

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My comment to that is that is isn't cost effective. Why fly to China what they can make in-country? The turnaround on patches is generally 5-7 days, most bigger shops have their machines right there in the shop; the smaller shops will take your order and drive it to a shop in Kabul, Jalalabad, Bagram, etc and get them manufactured there. Also, most of these guys keep a stock but not in the amount to fly to China and get them made and still turn a profit.

 

Now I have seen examples of ODA patches from Afghanistan that have been made in thailand, Singapore, P.I., U.S. that were advertised as Afghanistan patches. That may be cost effective.

 

I hope this helps.

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ODA021, thank you for explaining you patch purchase methodology ... Definitely going to keep it in mind in my 'travels.' And, thank you for your service, sir!

Looking for:

 

1. CIB with M16 instead of 1795 Musket

2. Rarer current era brassards and armbands

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

 

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I've heard that some of the shops "outsource" some of their patch making work,with some being made as far away as China then sold incountry through the shops.I'm wondering;unless one actually watched all the patches being made,how can one tell whether or not the patches were made within the shop?

 

When I was there the only patches I saw that I believed to come from China (or other Asian sources) were common ones such as divisional patches, not the custom patches shown in this thread. I can't say I personally saw any morale-type patches that were imported in bulk but it wouldn't surprise me. The construction was nothing like the custom-made patches shown above; they were just cheaply embroidered mass-produced patches like you see in surplus stores.

Looking for older Virginia Military Institute items: insignia, uniforms, cadet sabers, documents, and groupings belonging to VMI alumni.

Also interested in Virginia Reserve Militia (VRM) uniforms and insignia, or other items of general Virginia interest.

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VMI88, that is a good point and for the bigger FOBs or bases that could be cost effective. I remember the machine at Phoenix was able to crank out large numbers of patches each day and would have a large stock of division patches. I was thinking geographically it wasn't cost effective to physically transport from china to Kabul. However, if one of the North Face or other brand name knock off companies sent back a scan then they could ship it cheap.

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Like hardstripe said, the documentation is a good reference, and will be of great interest to other collectors. Also, woah! Just this one thread is making me envious, I would imagine your entire collection is quite amazing. I am especially fond of the OCP pattern ANA Commandos patch in post #3, I have never seen one like that before.

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There are a couple of different variations of color on those ANA Commando patches. I have another one that is almost the ACU pattern, grey, white, and black. They came out to replace the Red Colored ones on uniforms worn on mission.

 

The funny thing is I do not collect these. I just fell into it out of being down here so much. I sell everything I pick up down here to fund what I do collect. I just think if you are in a position to help the collecting community you should. Imagine the mess a decade from now.

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This is a good thing you are doing, and hopefully at some point in the future you can either share or even publish your research (Let me know if you want to pursue a book, I might have some suggestions for you.)

 

We've said over and over again that it is unfortunate that nobody had the foresight to do this during the Vietnam War. Only a handful of specific shops have been identified, and a few patches have been identified to specific locales without mention of the specific shop that made them. The majority of patches today are only tagged "Viet made", "Thai made" etc.

Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

 

"One is easily fooled by that which one loves."

 

Moliere: Tartuffe

 

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This is a great idea and alot of work on your part to keep who,what,where,when straight for the years to come..........

 

You may, if possible, document soldiers in the field wearing the patches that you have in your collection. I know that usually requires a ton of leg work but pictures can be shared quickly, so you don't necessarily have to be at each camp or base.

 

I'm learning that it's not only in-country patch makers that are running the game. There is a person I know (read: not necessarily a friend) that is tied to supplying camps. He has patches made to order for guys and just drops them off with the supplies. Next trip back, patches are on and he photographs them with their unique patch. Of course, he holds back a few. I'm not sure how this will play out for the future of patch collecting for this theater of operations.

 

 

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Great stuff here: Having bought a few legit patches from Dave I can say he definitely documents it well for the buyer: and for what its worth: the other soldier who sent me home patches from Afghanistan identified each and every one as to where he picked it up with a note on each one.

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@ River patrol; That is a very common practice here that has been going on for years. I think it comes down to what does the seller want: a patch that was actually worn by that team member or unit member or a representation of that patch that was made in Afghanistan? If you just want an Afghan made team patch, no worries. They are everywhere. But if you want one that came from a team then you would have to get it from a unit or team member. On the other hand, patches are so cheap here to make that I will have buddies send a new team patch design and get them done here and mail them home to them at a fraction of what a US maker will charge. I get all of my nametapes, tabs, and patches made here as it a fraction of the cost of what the PX charges.

 

I think that it has been going on for so long here than the best anyone can do is document what they can for that time period and compare notes. Just like the Vietnam era, there is not any definitive answer. I also would bet that the moment a book comes out on these patches, the market will flood with fakes that reference the book; just like Vietnam patches and Ian Sutherland's book.

 

Eventually, if the OIF/OEF/RS collecting market gets big enough then why not start a thread on it?

 

I appreciate all the comments and suggestions. I will continue to post photos and take notes and then one of you really smart guys can write the book.

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However, if one of the North Face or other brand name knock off companies sent back a scan then they could ship it cheap.

 

Yes,that is what I was alluding to in my earlier post.It would be quite easy,and cheap,to order the patches and have them shipped,without anyone physically having to travel to China.

I can't recall where I read about some of the patch work being "outsourced".It may have been an earlier thread posted on this Forum.

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silver wings;

Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there

I've chased the shouting wind along and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue

I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,

where never lark, or even eagle flew;

and while, with silent, lifting mind I've trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

 

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

June 9, 1922 – December 11, 1941

 

 

 

" And each man stands with his face in the light of his own drawn sword. Ready to do what a hero can." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

 

Don't let the B@stards wear you down -"Vinegar" Joe Stillwell

 

 

Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world.Unreasonable

people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.All progress,

therefore, depends on unreasonable people.

George Bernard Shaw

 

 

" Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining" , Fletcher,from the movie "The outlaw Josey Wales"

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  • 2 months later...

I thought I would post an update. Here are some photos of the various SOF (mostly) patches I have been finding at different camps I have been to. Besides documenting where they come from, it is hard to pin down a specific camp with a certain partnered unit. I have seen Afghan commando patches at about every place I have been and all sorts of variations. So I hope you enjoy the photos. I am about halfway through this rotation so am hoping to continue finding great patches to bring home.

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