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Category: Colour patches

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Reproduction Colour Patches and how to pick them

It is a sad fact of collecting that sooner or later items of a collectable nature are generally reproduced, either because of their rarity, or perceived value in monetary terms. Fortunately colour patches appear at this stage to have escaped any major organized attempt at reproduction, possibly because of a lack of knowledge as to exactly what existed, and the relatively small number of specialist collectors in this field. 

While there is nothing wrong with filling gaps in collections, either for display or personal satisfaction, which appears to be the original reason behind many of the reproductions in existence, many of those reproductions are being passed on with the sale of that collection, which is not only fraud, but when identified it tends to lower the confidence of the new owner in the status of the remainder of his collection.

In general, colour patch reproductions fall into two categories:

(a) The modem reproduction; these are unmistakable, usually being made of a soft, compressed felt, often with a backing, and do not always conform to the original sizes. They are in many instances similar in manufacture and material to Series I (Heritage) colour patches worn by some units of the Australian Army between 1983 and the present. In some cases these are produced specifically for re-enactment groups or medal mounting firms.

(b) The collectors' reproduction; these can be at times difficult to identify without a close examination of the colour patch because they are generally made up in the correct material by mutilating two or more genuine patches. There are however several points which can indicate a reproduction and these include: (i) The use of glue prior to the sewing together of the various components of the patch. Even if it is not visible the centre of the patch becomes hard where it has set. (ii) Visible stitch holes in either the front or rear of the patch indicating the removal of part of the original patch. (iii) The type of stitching used to sew an inset on is not compatible with that used for the remainder of the patch. A different colour thread is not necessarily by itself an indicator of reproductions except for WA manufactured patches where the primary thread colour is always white. Hand stitched patches should be treated with suspicion, as should those where machine stitching is incomplete or not finished off at the end of the stitch. (iv) The existence of thread holes in grey backgrounds is unfortunately not a sure indicator that the patch has, been worn and is therefore genuine. There is a school of thought amongst some collectors that a patch from the 1939-1949 period has greater significance or value with a grey background hence some patches will be found with worn backgrounds added on. These are usually easily identified by some or all of the characteristics discussed at (i), (ii) or (iii).

There is no truth in the often repeated assertion that compressed felt colour patches are often reproductions, and that the thinner facing cloth patches are alright. Reproductions occur in both types of material, it is just 'a little bit harder to detect those in facing cloth because the open weave tends to conceal previous stitch holes and the quality, colouring and thickness of the stitching differs from patch to patch. Because of the woollen content of facing cloth there is not a great deal of difference between wartime and postwar material of this type and there is no doubt that patches had been made in postwar material with the deliberate intention to deceive. This material is slightly coarser and can be identified by its brighter shade, the use of glue, and thick thread stitching.

Finally, only experience can provide a measure of confidence in the status of the items in your collection. It is worthwhile retaining a number of colour patches of different manufacture, preferably those which have come to you directly from the individual that wore them or their family, as controls, to which your new acquisitions can be matched. In addition most returned services clubs and military or Corps museums, as well as the Australian War Memorial, have colour patch collections of varying sizes donated by the wearers' which can provide an indisputable reference.

The material on this section of the site is drawn from "Distinguishing Colour Patches of the Australian Military Forces 1915-1951" by Keith Glyde. ISBN 0-6460-36640-8  


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces