30 July 2009
Collecting items from police services is a popular worldwide hobby. In some cases, it can be a lucrative business. In the U.S.A. badge collecting is big business with some rare badges commanding prices in the thousands. However, the problem with American badges is that there are so many that no one could collect every single badge in a lifetime. Unfortunately, badge collecting also attracts it's fair share of unscrupulous sharks and con men who's sole purpose is to separate a buyer from his hard earned money. There so many good fake badges around these days that only an experienced professional collector can tell a fake from the original.
Australia is a different story altogether. There are much fewer police jurisdictions which have only seen a few changes in their insignia design over the years. There are fewer replicas getting around and they are easily identifiable as fakes. Generally speaking, Australian replica badges are usually products of having being copied under contract and for the purpose of being used in theatrical/TV/film productions. Most are stored away after they have served their purpose but some are kept by cast and crew as mementos. They inevitably find their way to flea markets and junk shops and the usual auction sites like ebay. There is a simple rule with buying anything on the web and that rule is buyer beware.
Be wary of any badge which does not have an image of both the front and rear, preferably clear focus close ups. The badge should be hallmarked or stamped on the reverse by the maker and wherever possible the seller should include some provenance or history for the badge. This is not always possible but it certainly helps. For more information on Australian badges there is an excellent website called Ozbadge.com or you can get further information from each police jurisdiction's historical society or unit. I also recommend joining PICAA (Police Insignia Collectors Association of Australia). You will find this organisation a wealth of information and a good source of collectibles.
The other thing to bear in mind is that it's technically illegal to sell ANY item of police property but the authorities generally turn a blind eye so legitimate collectors can continue to enjoy their hobby. Badge collecting can become addicitve and very expensive. You can expect to pay in the hundreds for very rare pieces so you'll have to have deep pockets if you intend on getting into this hobby in a serious way.
Police memorabilia is sold or traded for collecting and display purposes ONLY. It's a criminal offence to use any item of police equipment for the purpose of impersonating a police officer. So do the right thing. Collect or trade responsibly so everyone can enjoy the hobby for many years to come.