SPORTS PATCH HISTORY FAQ
Please Note : MAJOR UPDATE ONGOING FOR 2020!
We have already added over 200 more scanned exemplars and new information, with much more to come, plus an in-depth look at the history of college patches! Please stay tuned and continue to check this History FAQ page!
www.teampatch.com was recently asked about the
history of many of the sports patches that we have listed on this site by CAPS.
CAPS represents the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL & NCAA Collegiate Licensing Company
and serves to protect the trademarks of the various teams and leagues that it
represents as the Coalition To Advance The Protection Of Sports Logos.
Team logo patches have been produced and sold for nearly 50
years now, but there is little information about all the many manufacturers and
retail companies that sold them, so we would like to present as much
information as we can about the history of sports logo patches.
Before the hologram licensing programs started in the early
1990’s, there were many dozens of licensed sports patch manufacturers dating all
the way back to the 1960’s. Sports patches were sold at stadium site concession
stands and souvenir shops, college bookstores, 5 and Dimes, sporting goods
stores, toy stores, even hardware and drug stores. As the years have passed, it
can be quite difficult to pinpoint an exact source of where a vintage patch may
have been originally sold, or which company manufactured it, since the
licensing standards of identification were much different than they are now.
One of the largest of the licensed sports patch retailers
was a company called Uniforms Unlimited Inc. from Albany, New York. UUI
produced licensed sports patches for retail under their “Pic-A-Patch” and “All
Pro Series” during the 1970’s and early 1980’s, before going out of business.
Uniforms Unlimited Inc. sold patches for all 4 major professional sports, plus
other leagues like ABA and AHL and college teams. (Vintage Baseball Memorabilia
purchased the remaining stock from a former partner in UUI at his where house
in Yonkers NY, where it had been sitting for over 20 years. The majority of our
vintage selection comes from this purchase of the remaining UUI stock.)
Many of UUI’s sports patches were actually manufactured by Lion
Brothers, as were many other company’s sports patches. Lion Brothers was founded
in 1899 in Baltimore, Maryland and has been a world leader in manufacturing
embroidered patches for decades. Many times you come across a vintage sports
patch that has an original Lion Brothers inspection tag with it.
Here’s a partial list of some of the confirmed team sports patch
retailers of the 1970’s and 1980’s. (This by no means is complete.) :
1. Uniforms Unlimited Inc.
2. “SportsStripe” line produced under patent by Joy Insignia
3. The Show Offs
4. All Sports Collectibles
7. Patch Happiness
8. U.S. Design Corp.
10. “Stick-It” line produced by Elaine Post Ltd.
12. Fashion Embroidery Inc.
13. Goal Line
14. ABC Sports Products
15. Original Emblems
16. Voyager Emblems
17. Designer’s Cloth Emblems
19. Super Sports
20. Netco (Newmark-Tribex Corporation)
21. Penn Valley (MLB Player Portraits circa 1978)
22. Celebrity Patch (MLB & NBA Player Signatures circa
23. Picture Patch (NBA Teams & Players circa 1978)
24. Action Player Patches (NHL Players circa 1992-94)
25. Alumni Association (NCAA College)
After the mid 1980’s, many of the original patch embroidery
companies were going out of business, most likely due to not being able to keep
up with the modern computerized embroidery techniques as well as expanded foreign
production of their competition. Patches were still continued to be made by
smaller US & Canadian companies throughout the 1980’s, but by the early
1990’s, with a few exceptions, retail sports patch production had slowed down
In the early 1990’s, Willabee & Ward entered the sports
patch retail market, but with a unique subscription based approach. W&W has
offered many different collections, with a historical slant including NY
Yankees World Series, St. Louis Cardinals World Series, Super Bowl, NFL Team
Anniversaries, Pro Bowl, NHL Hockey Historic Teams, NFL Golden Age, Lost
Treasures Of Baseball, 125 Years Of Baseball, and Official NFL Team Emblems.
Willabee & Ward still offer subscriptions to some of these collections
today, while others (i.e. Golden Age, Lost Treasures, NFL Team Emblems) have
been discontinued over the years.
In the mid 1990’s, two of the major embroidery production
companies, Lion Brothers & The Liebe Company tried to fill the retail void
and obtained retail licenses. The Liebe Company started with a MLB license and
marketed their patches under the “Pro Team Collectibles”
banner. The Liebe Company approach was to display the patch at retail on a swatch of material
similar to major league jerseys. Starting in 1999, Lion Brothers released
sports patches under the “Pro Patch” banner, which used a fact card backer. This
lasted for a few years with some success, but eventually a company called
National Emblem purchased the main retail license.
Since approximately the year 2000, National Emblem has been
the major retailer of sports patches, and currently holds retail licenses for NBA & NHL, including team logos and special commemoratives. National Emblem also was the official NFL football licensee until January 2008, and the official MLB baseball licensee until December 2008.
In 2006, two more companies entered the retail sports team
The first was EK Success, primarily a scrap booking supply
company, offered an officially licensed patch selection of 32 NFL team logos
and 12 select MLB team logos, under their line of embroidered stickers. This
line has long since been discontinued. None of
these patches will be produced again.
The second was the PatchLinePro series of MLB Baseball mini
jersey patches produced under license from The Emblem Source. PatchLine Pro
patches include a 4” size and 8” size and have home jerseys for every MLB team,
plus selected road and alternate styles, and specialty jerseys such as the
American & National League jerseys for the 2006 All Star Game.
The Emblem Source holds the current MLB License for collectible patches and represents the full line of official baseball jersey sleeve and commemorative plus retro and historic World Series collections.
Unfortunately, as of January 2008, since the expiration of the National Emblem NFL license, there is no current NFL Licensee for football patches.... the only exception being the annual current Super Bowl patch eventually produced for the Willabee & Ward subscription collection.
Team logo patches have also been used for many promotional
and giveaway premiums throughout the years as well. From an MLB series used by
Quaker Oats in the 1950’s/60’s, an NBA series given away by Burger King in the
late 1970’s, an MLB iron-on series given away through 7-11 stores in the Detroit
area and as recently as 1997, Molson Beer gave away 2” NHL hockey team logo
patches as a premium with their product, these are just a few examples of
another source of vintage sports patches for collectors.
What we would like to present here are scans of as many
vintage sports team patches in their original retail packaging as possible, to
use as exemplars and to hopefully find out new information and add to the list
of original producers and retailers of the pre-1990’s era. We invite you to
send us scans of patches in your collection that have identifiable original
manufacturers or retailers, so we can all continuing learning about the history
of sports patch collecting. Please feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any further
information, corrections or any other comments to this posting. Thank you.
Vintage Baseball Memorabilia aims to provide the largest
selection of vintage sports team and college patches online. We are only interested
in offering original, vintage, team patches, not unauthorized bootlegs,
rip-offs or imitations. We do our best to make sure our offerings are either
original vintage patches or newly licensed patches by such companies as
National Emblem, PatchLinePro, The Emblem Source, etc.
Vintage Baseball Memorabilia is primarily a small family run
company specializing in vintage sports collectibles. We are NOT manufacturers
of patches or any other products, just resellers of what we believe to be
vintage authentic patches and new licensed patches.
We mainly purchase patches from antique shows, trade shows,
private collections and sports card shows. Other sports patch lots and single
patches pop up from time to time that we have purchased to add to the site,
from closeout dealers, online auctions, private collections and sports
memorabilia shows, but we are always very careful and do our best to make sure
that these patches are legitimate and we usually look for either a ™ or R sign
embroidered somewhere in the patch to indicate that. Sometimes it gets hard to
pinpoint exactly what company made which patch because the labeling was much
looser back then and these patches are 15-20 years (or more) old now. Plus even
some of those patches were licensed but did not include a TM or R embroidered
in their design to begin with, so that makes it even harder to identify when
you are dealing with vintage material.
We have been so careful to only include patches on our site
that we believe to have been produced legitimately. You will notice on our
website that there are some teams and events listed that do not even have a
patch available. For example, the most recent Super Bowl. Since National Emblem no longer has the NFL license and we could not find any patches from what
we believed to be a licensed and legitimate source, we can not offer a patch
for sale, so the Super Bowl is listed, but no patch is actually for sale for it
yet. During the Super Bowl this year, we saw that there was no patch available
for retail at all. The only patch officially made for release was in the
official NFL giveaway media issued goodie bag and this is the same design that will be
issued by Willabee & Ward months afterwards. This patch will be very difficult to get as only longtime subscribers in the collection will receive it right away. Until we can find either a legitimate NFL issued media/VIP version or the Willabee & Ward issue (released far after the game is played), we will not be carrying one. Period.
We are always looking to learn and expand our knowledge of
the sports patch market, so please feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com with any information,
comments, scans of patches in packaging, or any other relevant details so we
can share with the collecting community. People have collected sports patches
for over 50 years now, and we are here to help! We hope you enjoy browsing
through our teampatch.com website.