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When they stepped out of the recovery helicopter onto the deck of the U.S.S. Ticonderoga the Apollo 16 crew were wearing blue jumpsuits with an embroidered mission patch attached.

The same patches are visible on their jumpsuits in photos taken during later during the cake-cutting ceremony onboard the ship. The closeup images above show the details of the patch taken from two of these photos.

Originally I had considered that these patches were almost certainly the regular AB Emblem versions as AB were the offical supplier to NASA at the time and the designs appeared to match the standard AB patch based on the images available to me. Any subtle differences in appearance could be put down to lighting conditions.




However, some time ago keen patch collector Colin Burgess (not the author) came across a bare cloth back Apollo 16 patch which was apparently the regular AB Emblem design but with distinctly darker grey thread used in the details of the background of the patch.

He sent me photos of the Apollo 16 patch on John Young's jacket on display in the Astronaut Hall of Fame, FL which appeared to be of the same style, noted that it matched an Apollo 16 flown patch that was sold by Young at Heritage in 2009, and suggested that the patches worn by the crew on their flight suits after the recovery were of the same design.

Thanks to RetroSpaceImages I now have much clearer high resolution photos of the Apollo 16 crew post-flight to examine, and I am now convinced that Colin was right. The crew were indeed wearing this distinct variant of the Apollo 16 patch on their flight suits.

It's not clear whether this was a distinct early run of the AB Emblem patch distributed to NASA only, or whether, like the Apollo 13 crew patch, this version of the patch was also sold to the public for a certain time before the regular version replaced it.

Whatever the case, I believe that this patch variant qualifies as a Crew Patch for the Apollo 16 mission.

The patch seems to be very uncommon, as I have only seen four examples offered in the best part of a year and three of these came from the same source. That said, perhaps once it is recognized as a crew patch more examples will surface.

One thing collectors need to be wary of is the later plastic-backed AB Emblem patches, some of which use a fairly dark thread in the background which makes them resemble the original crew patches. Examples of this style are fairly common in Willabee & Ward collections.

I have to thank Colin Burgess for researching this patch and bringing it to my attention.

The Crew Patch

Patch id:

The Crew Patch

Worn by crew? Yes. This was the design worn by the crew on their post-flight jump suits.
Flown? Yes[1]
Manufacturer: AB Emblem
Distribution: Unknown.
Dimensions: 4" / 101mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Merrowed border with 'tail'.
Scarcity: Scarce.
Value: Unknown.[2]
Notes: Although the design is identical to the regular AB Emblem patch this variant uses a much darker grey thread for some of the detail in the lunar surface background. This dark coloration is distinctly visible on the rear of the patch.

As well as being worn by the crew on their recovery flight suits, at least one example was flown on the mission itself by John Young as evidenced by an example in a presentation he sold at Heritage in 2009.

Collectors need to be wary of the later plastic-backed AB Emblem patches, some of which use a fairly dark thread in the background which makes them resemble the original crew patches. Examples of this style are fairly common in Willabee & Ward collections.

Embroidered Mission Patches

Patch id:

AB Emblem patch

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? Unknown.
Manufacturer: AB Emblem
Distribution: Sold as souvenirs.
Dimensions: 4" / 101mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Merrowed edge with 'tail'.
Scarcity: Uncommon in bare back form.
Value: Bare cloth back examples sell for maybe $5-15.
Notes: The standard AB Emblem patch is very similar to the one worn by the crew but uses a lighter grey thread in the background giving much less contrast in the crater details.
Patch id:

Lion Brothers patch

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? Yes[1].
Manufacturer: Lion Brothers
Distribution: Was available commercially.
Dimensions: 4 1/8" / 105mm
Type: Fully embroidered. Merrowed edge without 'tail' (selvedged).
Scarcity: Scarce.
Value: Examples sell for around $15-30.
Notes: The Lion Brothers patch has a distinctive red border along the bottom of the shield that differentiates it from the AB Emblem version used by the crew. It also has the number "16" embroidered upside down in the grey background at center right as a hallmark.

A variant exists with a with distinctly orange thread (apparently a match for the border of the Apollo 11 orange-border variant) instead of the yellow-orange of the usual version.

Note that a rare plastic backed prototype version of the Lion Brothers Apollo 16 patch also exists.

Interestingly, the majority (4 out of 5) of embroidered mission patches flown by John Young on the Apollo 16 mission and subsequently sold at auction are Lion Brothers versions rather than the AB Emblem variant Crew Patch.

Patch id:

[AS16UNK1]

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Approx. 4" / 101mm
Type: Fully embroidered. Merrowed edge with 'tail'.
Scarcity: Uncommon.
Value: Examples sold recently for anywhere from $12 to $103[3]
Notes: This patch, from an unknown manufacturer, is quite similar to the AB Emblem version but has distinctively large text - both the APOLLO 16 and the crew names are significantly larger than in the AB version.
Patch id:

[AS16UNK3]

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: 4" / 100mm
Type: Fully embroidered. Merrowed edge, possibly selvedged
Scarcity: Rare.
Value: Few examples sold but most recent went for $134[5]
Notes: Similar-enough in appearance to AS16UNK1, particularly in the execution of the eagle, to suggest it's from the same manufacturer. However, this patch has a distinct border added to the blue area at the top of the shield and more noticeably a red border added around the lower edge of the shield. This latter feature is often used to spot the Lion Brothers Apollo 16 patch. The other standout feature of this patch is the vastly extended crew names at the bottom.
Patch id:

[AS16UNK2]

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown, but possibly Hilborn Hamburger or GEMSCO.
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: 5" / 127mm
Type: Fully embroidered. Stitched border with trimmed edge?
Scarcity: Rare.
Value: An example sold recently for $102.52[6]
Notes: This unusual oversize vintage Apollo 16 patch measures 5" across and is also missing the crew names at the bottom. The size is typical of patches produced by Hilborn Hamburger but I have no evidence to prove that they made this particular patch.
UPDATE: The recent discovery of an Apollo 14 5" patch produced by GEMSCO which also lacked the crew names for that mission would tend to imply this Apollo 16 patch may have been a GEMSCO product.
Patch id:

Space Spin-Off Ltd. patch

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Space Spin-Off Ltd.
Distribution: UK mail-in offer
Dimensions: 3¾" / 98mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue cloth. Stitched border, cut edge.
Scarcity: Rare
Value: An example sold recently for $67[7]
Notes: This patch was offered to readers of Look-in magazine and Countdown magazine in the UK in 1972, and was part of a set manufactured by Space Spin-Off Ltd. The design is executed on thin blue cloth (not twill) with a cut edge.

3" Embroidered Mission Patches

Footnotes

[1] Examples of flown patches from Apollo 16:
      Heritage Spring 2009 Space Auction lot no. 41126 Apr 1, 2009 FLOWN Lion Brothers patch.
      Heritage auction lot 41139 Oct 8 2009 sold FLOWN Apollo 16 & STS-1 Crew Patches [Young]
      Heritage Spring 2010 Space Auction lot no. 41159 Apr 21, 2010 sold at $1,912 FLOWN Lion Brothers patch.
      Heritage Auction lot no. 41149 sold Jun 3, 2011 at $1553.50 FLOWN Lion Brothers patch
      Heritage auction lot 40271 Nov 3 2013 sold at $2500 FLOWN Lion Brothers patch [Young]

[2] Examples of Apollo 16 crew patch sales:
      eBay item no. 380747735815 Oct 17, 2013 - 2 examples in large patch lot
      eBay item no. 281197681457 Nov 3, 2013 sold at $39 (one of above examples resold with other patches)
      eBay item no. 370938536041 Nov 10, 2013 sold at $19.99 [buy-it-now] (tail trimmed away)
      eBay item no. 221316703691 Nov 14, 2013 sold at $4.99 [buy-it-now] (from same source as first 2 examples)
      eBay item no. 380846935078 Feb 27, 2014 sold at $17.95 (with condition issues, in lot with other patches)
      eBay item no. 281278984571 Mar 9, 2014 sold at $20.50 (with condition issues, resale of above patch)
      eBay item no. 171310537834 May 1, 2014 sold at $51.22 (with other patches)

[3] Examples of Apollo 16 [AS16UNK1] sales:
      eBay item no. 220800959034 Jun 24, 2011 sold at $103.05
      eBay item no. 280826185346 Feb 19, 2012 sold at $67
      eBay item no. 130674704859 Apr 8, 2012 sold at $16.05
      eBay item no. 140885668840 Nov 20, 2012 sold at $19.95
      eBay item no. 390513654589 Dec 29, 2012 sold at $9.99
      eBay item no. 121102001365 May 5, 2013 sold at $39.99
      eBay item no. 130961830451 Aug 11, 2013 sold at $22.50
      eBay item no. 261371142807 Jan 15, 2014 sold at $11.99
      eBay item no. 141162795279 Jan 19, 2014 sold at $14.50

[5] Examples of Apollo 16 [AS16UNK3] sales:
      eBay item no. 220913246346 Dec 18, 2011 sold at $78 [lot of patches]
      eBay item no. 140737081693 Apr 15, 2012 sold at $134.49

[6] Examples of Apollo 16 oversize patch [AS16UNK2] sales:
      eBay item no. 380808674542 Jan 2, 2014 sold at $19.99 (or lower offer)
      eBay item no. 390878948627 Jul 11, 2014 sold at $102.52
      eBay item no. 161371929823 Jul 26, 2014 sold at $39.99 [badly warped]

[7] Examples of Apollo 16 Space Spin-Off Ltd. sales:
      eBay item no. 130674707179 Apr 8, 2012 sold at $66.99

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