Looking for an intriguing hobby? You should consider collecting Scout or Guide seals. Most people who collect them are also collectors of Scout/Guide stamps or memorabilia.
What is a seal? It really is any item with a paste or pressure-sensitive surface that makes it possible to attach it to another surface. Seals include stickers, labels, decals, transfers and non-postage stamps. Some seal collectors consider photo stamps, book plates and crests or patches with adhesive backing in the same category.
In England, seals go back almost to the origins of Scouting in 1907. They have been issued by national, international, and local Scout organizations as well as Scout groups, individuals, Scout camps and other charity and commercial groups and organizations. Over the years, ethnic Scouts in exile have issued many Scout seals.
The purpose of issuing seals is to publicize jamborees, international conferences and organizations, special events and camps. Groups may issue decals for fundraising. Seals are also issued for advertising and decorating. You see them on Scout articles sold through Scout shops. In fact, there is no end to the number of Scout/Guide seals you can collect.
What might you expect to see on seals? They picture Scouting and Guiding activities, Scout logos, camping scenes, slogans and advertising messages. Many show Baden-Powell, Scouting's founder. St. George is also a popular figure on seals, particularly in Denmark and Sweden.
One of the oldest seals was issued in 1908 in Hungary. England had seals for the first three World Jamborees in 1920, 1924 and 1929. France issued a set in 1913; France's 1920 seal sets (Tobler Chocolate) are probably the most colorful ever issued. There are German seals from 1913, 1914 and 1915 and there is a very nice 1914 seal from Norway.
Among the old seals are those from Denmark (1916 and 1924), Switzerland (1925), the Netherlands (1912 and 1916), and Sweden (1911 and 1914). Czechoslovakia issued Scout seals in 1920 and 1927, and some of the earliest Scout seals from the United States date from 1925.
Because it would be an almost impossible task, there is no catalogue of Scout and Guide seals. In 1955, Harry D. Thorsen, Jr. and W. Arthur McKinny published a book titled Boy Scout Fund Seals and Camp Post Stamps and, in 1961, Thorsen published a specialized catalogue that combined Scout stamps and Scout seals. Several seal supplements to this catalogue appeared later.
The lack of documentation makes it highly challenging and rewarding to track down these old and new Scout seals from around the world. You can build quite a collection of these often-forgotten but very attractive items from Scouting's past and present. Values are established among collectors on age, demand, condition, appearance, the number known to exist, and the like. Older Scout seals, like older Scout stamps, often fetch a very high price.
The next time you come across a Scout or Guide seal, look at it as a worthwhile collectible. Consider it a separate part of your stamp collection, and you may just find that the challenge of locating seals is more exciting than your original hobby.
[Editors Note: The late Murray Fried may have had the largest Scout seal collection in the world - more than 6,000 Scout/Guide seals, labels and decals. He operated a club called World Scout Sealers which published a biannual seal news bulletin.]