The Boy Scouts of America grew out of the international Scouting movement founded by Robert Baden-Powell in 1908. Chicago publisher W.D. Boyce was impressed by the popularity of Baden-Powell’s U.K.-based organization, and in 1910 formally created the Boy Scouts of America. Based on its initial mission to teach boys “patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values,” the Boy Scouts focused on these broad goals as learned through outdoor activities and hands-on life skills.
Boy Scout collectors generally look for items officially marked either by the Boy Scouts of America or its various lesser known groups, like the Cub, Sea, and Air Scouts. Most items issued by the scouting programs have included outdoor supplies or tools like compasses, first-aid kits, canteens, and flashlights, as well as a long line of pocket knives. These folding knives were produced by major manufacturers like Ulster, Imperial, and Remington, often with a traditional faux-bone handle inlaid with a metal Boy Scouts insignia.
In 1911, the organization issued its first “Handbook for Boys,” a publication that has been updated yearly ever since. Additionally, the Boy Scouts have produced a variety of fieldbooks, guides, and even novels devoted to the world of scouting. Another beacon of the scouting movement, “Boys’ Life Magazine,” was purchased by the Boy Scouts of America in 1912, and by 1954 the magazine was reaching more than a million subscribers.
Besides the basic shirts and shorts, official Boy Scout uniforms also included hats, boots, neckerchiefs, and belt buckles. Before sashes became popular, merit badges were stitched directly onto shirt or jacket sleeves for display. These badges and patches offer a particularly extensive collectible genre, with hundreds of different designs issued over the last century, as awards for achievements like signaling, metallurgy, forestry, journalism, plumbing, and dramatics.
The many tokens or coins created by the organization, often inscribed with the Boy Scouts’ motto “Be Prepared,” make up another popular collectible area. These range from the “Good Turn” coin, a token to be switched from the left to right pocket after performing a good deed, to the “Get Out the Vote” coin awarded to scouts for encouraged Americans to cast their ballots during the 1950s. In addition to the abundance of insignia and outdoor supplies, the Boy Scouts created a much smaller selection of toys and games, like mechanical Boy Scout banks or miniature scout figurines.