One of the true rarities in U.S. militaria (though accessible from time to time), are examples of Quartermaster sample sleeve insignia. These patches are basically pattern pieces generated from an approved maker under Army supervision. Once approved for color, design, size, and construction, they are labeled, with a sealed tag, to indicate they have met specifications.
These little “jewels” of the textile trade are then shipped to potential contractors for bid submissions to the Army Quartermaster. Although I have not fully researched this process, one could easily assume that the sample pieces would be very limited in number. Perhaps 50 of any given design?
Over the years, I have seen them pop up in collections and occasionally surface by way of veterans of the process. One of the most sizable and noteworthy groups of this type of insignia came out of the south a several years ago.
The dealer, who was fortunate enough to have stumbled on them, told me they had originally come from the estate of an army officer who had served in research and development of the Quartermaster Corps. The variety of insignia as far as design, type and time frame was absolutely staggering.
There were literally hundreds of tagged shoulder patches and a wide variety of related items ranging from fender flags to cloth rank and qualification badges. Many of them I had never seen before, and some dated as far back as the 1920s.
The dealer graciously offered them, reasonably priced, at one of the OVMS shows in Kentucky. He later remarked that collector interest was varied and in some cases he actually had to remove the QM labeling to sell the better patches!
SAMPLES OF QM-APPROVED INSIGNIA
Some of the pieces reflect an attempt to obtain quality examples in the area of operations such as the 1st Cavalry division patch illustrated here. Fortunately the patch was still attached to it’s improvised identity card. Overall, the quality of the patch is outstanding and the fact that it was made in Japan could have been easily overlooked had it not retained an original little paper “Made in Japan” label on the back.
The card has handwritten notes on the front indicating the patch was submitted for evaluation to the office of the Quartermaster by Headquarters, U.S. Army Japan. Another point of interest, which may have cost them the job, was the patch has an O.D. border. This was a full 3 years after the A.G.44 shade was standardized. Noted on the reverse of the card are the details of what was known about the patches manufacture.
The labels and packaging of the pieces seem to vary a bit. Among the most formal of efforts I’ve seen are the examples sealed in clear celluloid and then tagged with a typewritten linen description tag that is authenticated with an impressed wax seal from the U.S. Army Quartermaster depot.
The more common method is peculiar in the sense that they actually punch at least one hole in the patch, lace a cloth band through it and attach it to a cardboard description tag to which an embossed paper seal is applied. Many patches marked in this manner bear the actual signature of the Quartermaster or an assistant as well as a technician involved in the process.
One example tagged this way that most interested me was, perhaps, the lowest form of insignia in the eyes of the G.I., the Honorable Discharge Emblem, or “Ruptured Duck” as it is more commonly known. The tag on this rather smallish “patch” exceeds it in size several times and contains a wealth of information. The example illustrated is in Army shade O.D. which is duly noted on the tag and further it is formally recognized: “This Honorable Discharge Emblem, O.D., is sealed this date (6 March 1945) as standard for the U.S. Army”. When it comes to having a type example of the “Ruptured Duck”, it just doesn’t get any better then that!
Generally speaking, these very special patches are still a bargain in the market. Prices usually range between $20 and $50 for common designs. Although cumbersome and frequently perforated or otherwise altered for the attachment of the tag, they should be regarded as the quintessential example of any given design, second only to one worn by a veteran of the unit!
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