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.) :
2. “SportsStripe” line produced under patent by Joy Insignia Inc.
21. Penn Valley (MLB Player Portraits circa 1978)
24. Action Player Patches (NHL Players circa 1992-94)
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 considerably.
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 MLB, NFL, NBA & NHL, including team logos and special commemoratives. (Teampatch.com has over 300 different officially licensed National Emblem patches for sale.)
In 2006, two more companies entered the retail sports team patch market...
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 since been discontinued and only what’s left of what was produced during this year is currently available from this manufacturer, with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Yankees being completely sold out. 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. (Teampatch.com carries the full line of MLB PatchLinePro patches.)
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, 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, last year’s Super Bowl XL. Since National Emblem did not offer a Super Bowl XL patch and we could not find any patches from what we believed to be a licensed and legitimate source, we could 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 last 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 was the design was later issued by Willabee & Ward months afterwards. This patch is very difficult to get and only longtime subscribers in the collection have received it so far. And so far with this year’s 2007 Super Bowl XLI, once again, we know of no legitimate licensed patch released yet for this new patch, so we will not be carrying one until a legitimate source can be found.
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.