I remember our move to Ft. Huachuca, AZ in the spring of 1993 for a number of reasons. The one that ties in with this piece is when my then five-year old son Jacob and I discovered Marc Okkonen’s wonderful reference “Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century” at the post library. One of the things we did was pick out what we thought were the best uniforms. My list was focused mostly on rare styles, many of which I had never seen in person. Jacob’s list was rather eclectic and I was a having a rather tough time at first trying to figure out why he picked what he did. When I asked him what he liked about the jerseys he selected, his response spoke the wisdom and clarity that most often comes from small children…”Dad, look at the cool patch.”
Patches has long been a staple of uniform accoutrements for some time, much more in recent years. A while back, the Willabee & Ward Company produced a series of reproduction patches that are mounted on informative and colorful cardboard backings that are designed to be contained in an album. I think there was also a resurgence in the interest in patches brought about by the line of reproduction jerseys manufactured by Mitchell & Ness. If you look at their original offerings, many of the baseball jerseys they chose to recreate included these as well. A number of the Major League “Turn Back the Clock Uniforms” have also been of a vintage style that featured a “cool looking patch.”
In any discussion of patches or collecting them, no dialogue would be complete without getting some insights from an advanced collector. When I thought of whom best to discuss this with, the choice was clear…Murf Denny. Murf has been in the hobby since 1975 and runs a very successful and collector friendly web site located at:
One of things that caught my interest in Muff and the way he does business was an annotation he had in his printed catalogs a while back. That being, if you consigned him a replica jersey for sale, he would mark it as such in a very discrete manner so that future buyers would protected. He also stated that if you did not agree with his policy, then he asked that you please not consign the item to him. All this pre-dated the days when volumes of information was available to new collectors to protect them from such things.
I knew then and there this guy was a “collectors dealer.”
Enough about me, but what about Murf and the topic at hand. Let’s get started.
MEARS: Tell us a bit about how long you have been collecting uniform patches and what got you started?
Murf Denny: I have been collecting patches for the past ten years or so. An interest in sports, the challenge of finding them and the history behind them caught my interest to seek them.
MEARS: It seems to me that the number of uniforms that feature patches has literally exploded in recent years. What do you attribute this to?
Murf Denny: The practice of adding patches to jerseys has been a natural evolution of the jersey and also Memorial patches have provided a nice way to remember and celebrate the lives of people who were responsible for their own person success and also to commemorate people who stood up and above their own sports success.
MEARS: Have you seen an increase in the number of people who collect uniform patches? Are they mostly sport specific (baseball, football etc…) or patches in general?
Murf Denny: There has been a definite upswing in patch collecting as collectors from around the US have access to their own teams’ games via cable and satellite TV and can closely follow their local teams as well as all the others in the league. Also many people who buy patches may not be active patch collectors but rather collectors of memorabilia of their own favorite team. Also eBay has brought patches to the forefront with their visibility 24/7.
MEARS: If someone out there was looking to begin “patch collecting”, what advice would you offer them?
Murf Denny: My only suggestion is enjoy them. The prices can vary from extremely low to very high. When a patch first comes available the prices are usually much higher than when the patch stabilizes. As an example Super Bowl patches around game time are about two to three times the price as what they will be in a couple of months. Be patient. Values can still be found.
MEARS: Are there any reproduction patches that you have found are more likely than others to be passed off as originals? What should folks be on the look out for?
Murf Denny: Lots of reproduced patches are around and will continue to be around. They do have a place in the collecting market. Many patches from older years and memorial patches continue to be hard to locate and as game used jerseys surface many of the harder to find patches have been removed and need to be replaced. If the price is much lower than what is the norm they are possibly reproduced patches.
MEARS: A few years back I was looking to buy a 1951 Cincinnati Reds road flannel of a common player that featured the National League 75th Anniversary Patch. When I asked about the price of the jersey I was told $900 without the patch and $1800 with the patch. Do you know of any other patches that seem to command a price above the jersey itself?
Murf Denny: Many old patches continue to bring high prices. Those patches that were discarded over the years are still in demand. A company that produces reproduction patches (Willabee and Ward) has kept prices down of the very old patches. Several Memorial patches bring very high prices. The most recent example was the Walter Payton patch and I did sell one of them on a consignment basis for $800. It has been widely reported that only enough were produced for the jerseys and very, very few were available off of the jerseys. A small amount of them were sewn on black memorial bands and made available to only some club officials. Other than memorial patches the other patches can be found – at times – from much more reasonable price.
MEARS: What are the favorites in your own collection and why?
Murf Denny: All are my favorites and especially the Memorial patches. The Memorial patches represent “someone’s life” and not a date in a sports calendar and the stories behind the Memorial patches are very inspiring.
To highlight some of the points Murf made about patch availability consider these results from E-Bay Searches. (For these I did not include item description box in the search. Should you choose to, I am sure the number of items and “sleepers” will increase substantially):
Willabee Ward Patch: 391 Items Found. A number include full offerings of patches by sport including the binders.
Vintage Baseball Patch: 51 Items Found. Including what appears to be a nice Chicago White Sox jersey sleeve patch.
Baseball World Series Patch: 31 Items Found
NFL Super Bowl Patch: 148 Items Found. For a complete listing of when these where actually worn in the Super Bowl, refer back to my article of 1/26/2006.
NHL Hockey Patch: 204 Items Found.
NBA Basketball Patch: 168 Items Found.
I would also invite you to look through the patches Murf has on his web site as well.
This link will take you to his patch inventory:
One of the things I know you will enjoy about this is that Murf has started adding links to photos of these offerings as well.
I hope all this has created some level of interest for you on patches. Next week I will expound on this topic and show you how to make use of these attractive offerings within the context of imagery analysis. Until then, “The Patches Are Cool, Dad.”