Before providing information on police collecting, I'll give you a bit of information on from whence the information flows. That's always a good place to start, because there are more experts on line and in print than grains of sand on a beach.
I had my first toy badge around 1946 and my first real one in about 1950. Since then I've bought, sold and traded hundreds of thousands of police collectibles; badges, patches handcuffs, mini badges, patch pins, old photos, certificates, cards decals and more.
I co-authored one of the first how-to books on badge collecting, Badges, a Guide for the Serious collector, which is in its fourth printing. I spent ten years as a columnist for the largest police collector publication and quit because I could no longer stomach the disinformation presented there. My writing will be found in other collector publications, and I owned and operated The Baird Company and International Police Equipment Company, which were the largest suppliers of items for collectors and the entertainment industry.
Is it legal to collect badges? I've heard that question a lot. Current federals are pretty much verboten, unless your name is Elvis, but most everything else is fair game. Some areas have some insane laws, none of which ever get to the supreme court, so if you are in an area that is known for opression, like nazi germany or new york city, be sure to check your local laws.
Here's some simple rules that will help you enjoy your hobby and avoid a few pitfalls.
1. Avoid the naysayers. Those who point the accusing finger at others for selling the dreaded REPROS, usually have a good inventory themselves and will always provide the disclaimer "I have no history on this item".
2. Decide what you want to collect, and be reasonable. There are genuine Texas Ranger badges available, but you won't find them for $10. at your local swap meet.
3. Buy knowledge before you buy products. You will find several good police collector books at amazon dot com.
4. Don't be afraid to buy an item just because you like it. That's what collecting is about anyway, your pleasure.
There's always something new on the horizon. I just received a badge that an old friend made for me. It's a Moreno Valley Traffic Commissioner badge, but the unique thing it's obviously made in the orient. Illustration below. It's obviously made by computer as the letters are too even to be hand stamped, and making a special die for a single badge is cost prohibitive. It looks like the U.S. is about to loose another industry, just like they lost the bulk of the embroidered patch business.
For about ten years I wrote a
monthly column for a national collector publication. Most of the
stories in this book were originally published in that publication,
and during my tenure as a regular columnist, I complained to the
publisher near constantly about the inaccuracies that he published,
to no avail. Finally I decided that he was more interested in
money than in accuracy and penned the story of Cho Lin Lee.
I can't think of a thing about it that's true, in fact I tried to come up with the most unbelievable material and was sure that it would never be published. I underestimated the publisher's naivete and desire for copy and not only did he publish the story but included photos of Wyatt Earp and the OK corral.
It wasn't long before the hoax was uncovered, and since then the publisher has made no effort to make contact with me.
After I quit writing for him in about 1990 there was no change, and over fifteen years later, I have little doubt that he's continuing to provide the same kind of buffoonery that has been the mainstay of his newspaper.
I thought the picture of old friend and co-author of Badges a Guide for the serious collector on page 12 was pretty funny. He didn't. Neither did his wife or daughter. The lady in the picture is the owner of a badge making company.