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Monday, November 12, 2012

Texas Ranger Badges... and those that want to be

OK, first of all, calm down.  The search for a real Texas Ranger badge is the collecting version of the Agony and the Ecstasy... and mostly agony. If you are researching a Texas Ranger badge happily laying on your computer desk, take a deep breath, and prepare yourself for a reality check.

9/9/03  Just for example, I received a kind note recently from author/historian/collector John Boessenecker with these observations:

Russ -  I really enjoyed your post about Ranger badges.  I always say that 99% of all Ranger badges are phony.  I would not buy one without good provenance.  I have been collecting antique badges since 1978 and have bought only two, both of which were authentic...  

My thanks to John... and you will hear more from him in a moment... here is the blog... my most successful ever... But first let me explain one thing... I compiled this to protect collectors and save them a lot of money and frustration... This information is free, and I have NOTHING to gain from telling you what has come the hard way for most of us...

Now.. about the badges...

Courtesy Burley Auctions 
A true piece of Ranger history, and one of the most interesting Texas Ranger badges, Jack Dean had his fairly modern-made Ranger badge modified when he became a U. S. Marshal. Look closely at either end of the word MARSHAL, and now filled in with silver, you can still see the ghosts of the letters which spelled TEXAS RANGERS.  Also the word TEXAS was filled in and the U. S. etched into the star. Otherwise, this is a classic, authentic 1960's -70's- 80's era Texas Ranger "Peso" badge design. This item was recently sold along with the complete Jack Dean collection at Burley Auctions, in New Braunfels, Texas.

Perhaps one of the most sought after icons of Texas, if not the whole American West, are Texas Ranger badges- The real ones. They are pretty scarce. 

Contrary to what you read, (that the early Texas Rangers did not have badges) there are reliable histories, especially the accounts of Ranger George Durham, that tell us that Captain Leander McNelly and his men of Company A were the first Texas Rangers to be issued official Texas Ranger badges, sometime in 1876, right after Reconstruction when the Rangers had been reorganized. These badges were shipped in bulk and probably all made by the same silversmith in Austin, and sent to the company which was fighting banditos in South Texas. But I have never (knowingly) even seen a picture of one, or even of a Ranger wearing one. A badge like that, with provenance, would be worth a fortune. Really. And most of us will never see one.

I have however,  seen hundreds…  maybe thousands of fakes. Outside of museums I have only seen a few Texas Ranger badges that were authentic. At any given time you can find a dozen or so reproductions for sale on Internet auctions, and sometimes a real old Ranger badge appears to be slipping through.  As a rule, you can relax, because most badges you come across are just fairly cheap, pitiful tributes to the greatest state law enforcement organization in the world.  But if you actually found a real one, AND THAT HAS HAPPENED, how would you know?
From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue.
Probably made in the '70's, Senior Captain Clint Peoples' gold Ranger badge was probably the product of modern machine die-stamping, lacking the thick and thin lines of the older badges, but with some hand-engraving for personalization. Note the visible stem between the oak leaves, (not typical). You can perceive the difference in making the near perfect die-stamped letters ( TEXAS RANGERS ) with the custom hand-engraved ones, (name and rank); leaning C in CAPT, the P's do not match in PEOPLES... and other imperfections in the hand lettering. As in most modern badges, all however are filled with black powdered-glass enamel, which makes the letters and details pop.

The modern Texas Ranger badges were die-stamped and then engraved, on a 1947 or '48 Mexican 5 ("Cinco") Peso coin. The engraving and the Pesos have changed over the years, but there are telltale signs to look for.

Schreiner Collection, Little John's auction catalogue
An early modern era (1960's), hand-engraved Texas Ranger "Peso" badge. Note the thick and thin decoration lines and irregularities in lettering of hand-engraving. Also the stretched letters on TEXAS and the crammed letters in RANGERS. Never-the-less, crisp details in the stitching around the star, distinct differences between the plant stems.

A variety of REAL badges from the 1930's - 80's. The top left was probably not made from a Mexican 5 Peso coin.

From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue. Top row; 1930's, bottom row; (Peso badges) 1960's- '90's.

A probable fake made to simulate the later die-stamped badges, cast from a mold, as the slick back suggests it is not made from a Peso. Note the sketchy stitching around the star, and the lack of any kind of stem on the plant stem on the left to connect the leaves... which appear to be floating.
This reproduction badge was stamped STERLING. No attempt was made to make this badge look like a Mexican coin.

From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue. Top left; (Peso badge)1962 to 90's, top right; 1930's,
bottom left, much eschewed; 1957 - '62, bottom right, also not popular; 1938- '57. 
 Above are authentic modern era Texas Ranger Badges since the 1930's. For over seventy years, their badges have identified them as an official part of the Department of Public Safety. Many Rangers felt like they were losing their distinction, as the DPS badges were almost identical in design. Popular lore is that some Rangers had their own "retro" Peso badges made... as far back as the 1930's, like the one below.

But from where I sit,  this is a fake.
This is a darn convincing apparition from the front, but I have not found a single authentic badge like this.   Although Internet Auctions give the impression that an authentic Ranger badge can be had for a few hundred dollars almost every week, this is not the case. Most, if not all of the ones you see are forgeries. And the variance of craftsmanship makes positive ID on Ranger badges difficult. But let's assume some of these are the real deal... One concern should be the branches on either side, which are almost indistinguishable from one another (and they should look very different, as different as oak from wheat).
And yet some old, authentic badges don't look much better....

From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue.
Important note: Most badges from this period (60's - 80's), if they used the old Peso design, still had the words DEPT. OF PUBLIC SAFETY across the top. Later badges in the Seventies began to lose the D.P.S. and as in the past, put the holder's name instead. I'm sure that rank sometimes had something to do with the name badges. New Rangers might have been issued a generic badge, and with time they had custom badges made.
I see serious collectors get caught up in the excitement of the hunt and purchase questionable relics all the time. We want to find one so bad, we will rationalize a great deal…. We think, this may be our lucky day. So if you are researching Texas Ranger badges, before you purchase one, and are looking for advice, you came to the wrong place. I am just as big of a sucker as the next guy. But I see many Internet auction bidders compete for so-called Peso badges every week, paying exorbitant prices for pure deceptions. And often even I want to bid... they are often very tantalizing. Especially those genius Internet auctions where the seller intentionally posts awful photography, slightly blurring the details, letting you fill in the blanks with your imagination! And they are so careful about what they DO NOT SAY!

These clever sellers let our greed do the talking! And the thinking. But the red flags are usually flying in my mind. I often have to remind myself the basics to collecting this great icon. And I hate seeing so many people get ripped off. 

*I have to remind myself the scarcity of authenticated  non-DPS marked Peso badges.

*I have to remind myself of the devious and disarming ways hucksters will market replicas of highly coveted historical items; They will employ any method necessary to get your money.

I have to constantly tell myself not to let my desire or imagination pull the trigger on a purchase. I have to be hard to convince, or end up with a drawer full of expensive disappointments; To study, VERY CAREFULLY,  the PESO on the back!   

I provide this blog for convenient comparison, FOR MYSELF AS MUCH AS ANYONE, and in the process try to share what I have learned so far. I go back and read it myself almost everytime I want to bid on a Ranger badge... The following article is an introduction to this passionate quest, which will probably end in failure for most of you. Still, the search goes on…

One of the oldest of these Peso badges known to me, which was believed to have originated in the early 1900's. It was marketed along with the Colt revolver, holster and gunbelt of Ranger Jules Baker. Since it appears to be hand-engraved with a tool, and lacks much of the machine engraving commonly associated with the later models, it seems plausible. The font, HOWEVER,  amazingly matches those done fifty years later! It would have to be that it or one of its litter-mates was used as the prototype for the 1960's Peso badges.

From Raymond Brown Collection, Tom Keilman Auction Catalogue.
Lacking much embellishment, this was Ranger Frank Hamer's Peso badge around 1913, right after he returned to the Force. Although the photo is terrible, it is obvious this badge is very similar to the one above, and seems to suggest the Ranger Peso badges go back at least that far.
From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue.
Little is known about this messy, authenticated badge, sold from the Schreiner Collection in 2003. A little crude, as these early badges were all hand-cut and hand-engraved, but  its design seems to be the inspiration for the many fakes on the market today. Note the telltale thick and thin engraving of hand work, (kind of like a felt tip pen mark) dating the badge to the 1960's or probably even earlier. The lettering is barely passable. RANGER is crudely centered. I'm picky, and this badge would torment me without some provenance.. And ultimately I would have been afraid of this badge...  without seeing the Peso on the reverse, so you see the problem...

A one-of-a-kind, script- lettered and poorly made badge, even for the early days. This one even looks crude, new and counterfeit. If it walks like a duck...

An atypical, yet beautiful design, which is an authentic alternative modern style. Although very intriguing, a collector has to ask, what are the chances? In this case, something over the top, with frills and dogwood blossoms is right-on. Right when you think you have it figured out, something comes along that destroys your confidence. It is on the back of the badge where you can usually get some clues of authenticity and some peace of mind. Counterfeiters can forge the badge itself pretty well, but few have succeeded in replicating the Mexican Peso on the back!

My first advice is to go ahead and buy some of the repops, as they are quite instructive. Some of them actually mimic important characteristics which you will be looking for. Second of all, understand the huge diversity of the actual badges. A real one may not look anything like what you will be expecting. Although the fakes do sometimes almost fool some of us, it’s only because we forget that... as we stare hopefully into the computer monitor.

Replicas... Dangerously Close

A fairly authentic, Sterling silver (and I assume authorized, die-stamped replica)  limited reproduction of an early Texas Ranger badge design made by the Franklin Mint. Although made after an authentic design, it is HUGE, almost 1 3/4 inches in diameter, a full 1/2 inch larger than the originals. It is possible that Franklin Mint was not copying a design that was originally made from a Peso... These were sold in sets with other badges of the Old West in the 1980's. They sell for around $100.00. As these are handled and gain a patina, they will become a bigger nuisance. But the size is a dead give away. The Texas Rangers have been known to grant permission to reputable badge makers to manufacture limited numbers of historic Ranger badges, for collectors and re-enactors. They have also been known to require some tell-tale inaccuracies to be used in the designs of the replicas so that the originals are easily distinguished from the replicas.
Fake Peso on back of Franklin Mint badge... eEay
Not surprisingly, Franklin Mint does a good job simulating the Mexican Five Peso coin of the 1940's, but actual cuts of an actual Peso nearly shave the bottoms of the letters ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS.  The designers at Franklin Mint could not resist the temptation of enlarging the whole badge, and then slightly rearranging the elements to make them more balanced.  
 Sold inexpensively on Ebay as a faithful reproduction, this badge has several tell-tale shortcomings. probably dye stamped, the font is too small and is not extended enough, the plant stems are jumbled and indistinct, and the period after the Co is HUGE! 
Most reproductions, even the good ones, focus on the official badges that were adopted very late. The most common form, like those above, the relentless silver star in a circle, that reads TEXAS RANGERS on the circle and features some bad facsimiles of plant stems of various descriptions on either side, with "Co. A" inside the star, is the one that pops up so much it is humorous.  Nobody seems to have served in the other companies...  And yet there are probably real ones, but authentic Peso badges we see so often would just as likely have Co. F, B, C, D or whatever on them... But if they are the real deal, they are a design that was used in the 1960’s or later, and are not really relics of the Old West.

 A real one of these '60's nostalgic badges, without a name inscribed might bring $500 - $1,500. Originally they were hand-cut out of Mexican 5 Peso coins… which can be easily seen on the backside. They were also hand engraved, until dye stamping took over. But also in that period it was quite common for a Ranger to have his name inscribed into the badge, and that is where you can study the difference between the dye stamping and the hand work.  One that has no name on it might be real… but is worth much less as it has no traceable provenance and may have seen very short service, if any at all. No doubt badge makers let a few nameless badges slip between the cracks before it got so sticky to have them. So if you are going to buy a Ranger badge, this model is the easiest to locate and yet the hardest to authenticate. But here are a few tips.

Looks promising, BUT... from my expertise, this is not made from a Mexican coin, and hand-cut or dye cut and engraved, but has been cast from a mold. The "stitching" around the contour of the star is badly done, seems primitive, more like  erratically spaced dots (probably due to worn out molds in the casting process). The details, especially the letters inside the star have the appearance of being reworked while still in the wax, giving them a randomly widened and crude, irregular effect. The font is also too big. Also, the spacing between the E and R in RANGE RS is off. If this badge had been made by a real badge maker, it would have, should have been discarded. The winning bidder had to pay over $200.00 for this questionable item. I have seen multiple badges like this sold on Ebay. THINK ABOUT IT! By the 1960's the Texas Rangers would never have accepted such shoddy craftsmanship, whether dye stamped, hand cut,  or cast. If you see two badges, both having the same anomaly in letter spacing, when these are supposedly dye cut and stamped... that means the badge maker had to mass produce this exact mistake in spacing... and this is not likely... but he didn't because this was CAST. It is a fake. Read on...
The big tell-tale sign is the design of the so–called Peso design on the back. Some fakers, yes, they would go to this kind of trouble, will use a real peso…  but fail to use one old enough to match the ERA THEY ARE COUNTERFEITING. Some late Teens, Twenties and Thirties Pesos had very little silver in them, and were not suitable for the badge making process. But by 1947, when silver once again made up around 90% of the content, the Mexican Peso had shrunk. So to add to the confusion, an actual One Peso coin from the "silver period" period was way too small to be used... (silver values went up) so in 1947 and '48, Mexico issued these same Mexican eagle designs with the Aztec chief Cuauhtemoc on the obverse and issued them in the Five Peso denomination. The Five Peso coin of these two years is almost exactly the same size (slightly larger) as the historic silver Mexican One Peso from earlier years, the one used by the earlier Texas Rangers.

SIZE MATTERS: Top (by itself), the eagle design on the Turn of the Century Mexican Pesos; (Second row, lft-rt) a 1920's shrinking peso eagle, with not much silver and unsuitable, in the middle a Texas Ranger badge for comparison, and a Franklin Mint replica. (Bottom row) A 1947 Mexican Peso (too small),  1910 Mexican Peso known as the "Caballito", and bottom right, the most copied Peso eagle, the 1947 Mexican FIVE PESO coin.

Sometimes the fakers will take an actual handmade badge (Not necessarily a real Ranger badge!), and make a mold from it and cast it in brass or silver alloy. They can make hundreds of these from one mold, using the lost wax process. But the letters and details will be… strange, not worn like a coin, the letters on the "coin" will be raised, and yet somewhat flattened and lack any sharp edges, or any crisp corners, which are often lost in the molding and casting process. Many badge sellers advertise “cut from a Mexican Peso” when it is just cast from one to appear so.
The fake Peso (in my estimation) on the back is pretty easy to spot, just take note of the fat, blurry, misshapen, almost swollen letters on the reverse side above. This is typical after taking a mold and casting from a replica. A lot is lost in the translation. Also the patina has been artificially applied to the "peso" to enhance its visual appeal. Mexican coin craftsmanship is far superior to this, and remains so after considerable wear. See below.

 The real deal.
In 1947, the Mexican Government began to issue a Cinco Peso with this eagle design... for a couple of years... so here you should make two personal notes; First, any Ranger badge with this design on the back, even if it is authentic, could be no older than the coin, and 2nd, the details on the badge should be fairly crisp, and as this coins shows, there are considerable details in the oak and olive branches which should survive as well.

FYI, this the obverse design, which the badgemakers obliterated to make the later Ranger badges. This is  a portrait of the legendary Aztec chief, Cuauhtemoc..   

So let’s say you are looking at a possible fake, and the red flags have shot up in your mind over the reverse side. Let's go back to the front, or obverse side.

The engraving of scroll work on the badge, such as the curly-cues and stitching around the border of the star, would have been hand-done in the fifties or before with an engraving tool, and will have a “thick to thin” line, or inconsistency, which indicates hand craftsmanship. That is a good thing. There will be very sharp features... almost triangular chisel marks  made with the engraving tool, and the overall look will be more like calligraphy. 
The modern and reproduction badges, although great looking, are done with dye stamping and engraving machines, and the lines are machine precise. Or in other words, there is almost no variance in thickness of line, and very few anomalies,thus more perfect badges.

 The value goes up as the the badge gets older. It goes up if the badge has a name on it. It goes up if the details on the Peso on the reverse side are right... And almost none of the badges I see on Ebay pass this test.

 Die-stamped with intentional imperfections, no thick and thin here. I call this common replica the "leaning C" badge... as the almost italic C does not match the rest of the font on the badge. And once again, that giant period after Co...

IF it is real. Even the pin hardware on the back will have the look of precision and quality. The pin and clasp are substantial, well functioning, attached very cleanly, no solder splashes or overflow, in other words, done as if a TEXAS RANGER WAS GOING TO PIN IT ON.

There is nothing junky in appearance about the 60’s badges. They were made with pride, out of real Pesos that had high silver content and had not been worn out… mine, that I think might actually be real, is dated 1901. Well, at least the PESO is real! This was the obverse side and these pesos were used from 1867 to 1905.

Surprise! Here is a fairly modern vintage Texas Ranger badge cut from a 1901 Mexican Peso, using a Peso from when "Peso" badges  evolved... known as the Second Republic period.

The artwork on the obverse side of the coin depicts a "freedom cap," known since ancient times as the "Phrygian cap," in front of sun rays, with the word LIBERTAD inscribed at the bottom.  Early badges will be made from Mexican Pesos like this from the early 1900's.  Below is the Ranger badge belonging to Ranger John R. Peavey. The badge maker chose to use the eagle on the reverse side of a similar coin for the back...

Reverse side of Mexican Peso around 1900, which reads REPUBLICA MEXICANA, quite different from the later Pesos.

1902 Mexican Peso, Second Republic period, reads REPUBLICA MEXICANA. 

Later authentic badges,  from the 1960's might look like the one below.

The real deal. This is the reverse side of Ranger Bradley Freeman's Peso badge. I do not know whether these are dye cut from actual 1940'S Pesos, then plated with gold, or are extremely fine castings from molds of some kind of gold alloy... My guess is they were die-stamped, cut and plated coins. You can see every beautifully formed feather on the Mexican eagle. It appears that the coin's edge has been smoothed... and not that precisely. 
For the badge to be in proportion, the letters on the Mexican coin will have to be shaved a little on the bottom. The letters are dimensional. In other words, they will catch light and cast a shadow. They should be crisp. There will be sufficient negative space between the letters. EVEN IF THE COIN IS WORN, THERE IS NO REASON FOR THE LETTERS TO BE SMUDGED, MASHED OR MISSHAPEN! The next time you are tempted to bid on one of those fakes, pull a coin out of your pocket and look at the details... and ask, does the back of the badge have that kind of clarity? It should!

Even when quite worn, the lettering will still be pretty crisp.


Historic Badges

The oldest known Texas Ranger badges are very different from any of those above. There are so few from before the turn of the Nineteenth Century, that there can be little said about them. There are none on display at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas.

It seems that Ranger badges were not even used much until 1900. The following, very rare  badges are on display at the TRHF. 

 Texas Ranger Hall of Fame
A small hand-made badge circa 1900. The letters appear to be stamped rather than engraved, which would have been expected. A replica of this badge has been authorized. In the early days, the badges would often read TEXAS STATE RANGER or RANGER FORCE. Compare the fonts above to the much later Peso badges. Very different.

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame

This shield design was from around 1910. Fairly good reproductions of this badge are available on the Internet. Enter the extended Helvetica font which became the norm later.

Here it is. Circa 1910. Proof that the early Texas Rangers, at least some of them, used a star in a circle cut out of a Mexican Peso. There is no fancy etching or artistry. Edwin D. Aten was a brother of Ira Aten, the famous Texas Ranger. Check out the back! Look closely! This is your best authentic badge to compare to...

UPDATE from John Boessenecker "...the Eddie Aten badge you picture on your website. I bought that at auction but only after I found out that the consignor had a letter of provenance which Heritage did not list in the catalog description. That is an 1890 cinco peso with a Hermosillo, Sonora, mint mark. So this badge was made in 1892 when Aten joined the Rangers and the coin was new."

WHAT? No eagle, rather a sunburst behind the cap of freedom.. Dated 1890. The word, or parts of the word  LIBERTAD are often visible in the crotch of the star. Note how the points of the star line up perfectly with the rays of the sun!

Early Brass Badges

From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue.
The pigmented lettering on J. Eagle Vaughn's oldest Ranger badge, made from brass, is from early in the Century and is reminiscent of Aten's badge.

Courtesy, Ranger Bob Connell (retired) 

Ranger Captain M. E. Bailey's exhumed brass badge from around 1910. Stamped letters, no hand-etched scroll work, CAPTAIN CO B in the star. Many might have called this one a fake... but I know the guy that dug it here in Navasota and the guy that owns it now... a retired Texas Ranger. This pops the bubble of the predominant lore of the Peso, the silver, and the size.. This thing is almost two inches in diameter. You can read more about it by clicking on the link below:

From Raymond Brown Collection, Tom Keilman Auction Catalogue.

Frank Hamer also had a brass badge early in his career... around 1915. Replicas of this badge have been offered for sale....

Mini- Badges

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame

A small badge, around 1 1/4 inches  diameter.  From around 1920, this was a diminutive predecessor to the typical badge we all think of today.

From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue.

Thinner and smaller than a Peso, this crude, hand-cut and stamped, yet unimpressive, nickel "Special Ranger" badge makes you wonder what was so special...

Gold Badges

From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue.
A handsome badge from the 1920's. Many were made from brass, and not from any kind of coin. NOTE: Most of the earlier badges say TEXAS RANGER, singular.

From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue.


 From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue.
Captain Frank Hamer's eagle and shield badge, circa 1930's.
Captain Frank Johnson's buhitchin' Ranger FORCE badge... circa 1909. This badge is a monument to hand craftsmanship!
Special Ranger Badges
Ranger Clint People's Special Ranger badge.
An IDENTICAL badge, but in gold. When you compare these two, note the asymmetrical X and enlarged A in TEXAS, in both. Even the inner rim circle around the star plays out in exactly the same place (upper left). This suggests that by the late period, they were machine stamped with a die,  with "anomalies" accepted and even intended to separate real badges from fakes. These idiosyncrasies would be hard to counterfeit.
Related Badges
{My error} An 1870's pressed metal shield badge of the Texas State Police... a Reconstruction era enforcement agency, instituted by the Federal occupiers and hated by most Texans. John Wesley Hardin made a career out of killing them with no hesitation.
UPDATE from John Boessenecker: "The Texas State Police badge you illustrate is a real badge but it is from the 1930s, not 1870. This type of badge did not exist in the 1870s. A number of these have surfaced, with numbers ranging from 3 to over 300. One possibility is that they were made in 1934-1935 in anticipation of the creation of a state police by Governor Allred and were never issued, because the DPS was formed instead. That would account for the fact that the badge you show never had a number attached to it."
Thanks again to John for graciously sharing his knowledge.  [ NOTE: I have to add that a similar badge was sold at Burleys during the sale of Donald Yenas' collection, and it was attributed to the Reconstruction era...  The controversy continues...]
From now dispersed Schreiner Collection, Little John's Auction catalogue.
Official badge of "Special Rangers" assigned to the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.  This badge is probably from the 1930's- '40's.
Many men were awarded badges like these during the infamous Ferguson Administration of the 1930's.  Movie stars, entertainers, political allies... 
Modern Badges
By the early 1930's there still was no uniformity to the Texas Ranger badge. The Rangers went to work to resolve that and there were probably several different results during this period until the final, first official badge was selected. It was about this time that the Texas Rangers were absorbed into the Texas Department of Public Safety (Highway Patrol).
Silver and gold badges emerged that were shields of sorts, with the Texas star, and the plant stems... very sharp, crisp details... this is probably a combination cast and a dye stamped badge and is fairly heavy. Some suspicious cast forgeries of this beautiful badge show up as well.
This badge came into use around 1938.
It also came in gold... 
Fakes, Forgeries and Toys
COMPARE! (To the above) Beware of dull, flawed fakes, cast from molds off of authentic badges, and not worth anything. In casting forgeries, the embossed letters swell, and the engraved letters shrink. The near bulbous letters on this badge are an outrage to anybody who knows and admires badges; Extremely inconsistent thickness, (this style featured a clean, helvetica font) and terrible alignment, uneven letters, improper spacing... the word OF is crammed too close to DEPT. The word SAFETY has no common baseline. The star has been put to a grinder and barely buffed. It should be smooth as glass... People are fooled by cheap artistry...  such as the patina, which makes it look old, but also enhances the casting flaws that would never pass inspection. Study the words TEXAS RANGERS, on this badge and all their pits and dings. I guess it's possible this officer was fired upon with rat shot... and then had the badge buffed...
The above style of badge was used until the Peso-star form was adopted in the 1960's, basically a throwback to the "old timey days." The lore became, "Look for the Mexican Peso for authenticity..."
For the official word on AUTHENTIC Texas Ranger badges, there is no better source than the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame... Here is a convenient link:
The Wanna-bes... 
A comparison from sublime to ridiculous...
Here are few hilarious examples of  bogus pesos...
The spring-type pin is of course not right either...
Sharp, but fake details!! 
Not so hilarious, this really pitiful, blurred casting job attracted 11 bids on Ebay... and sold for way too much for what it is.


 Probably because it actually says Co. C and not A, this clever badge attracted 20 bids on Ebay and sold for over $500.00! People wake up!  The C must be for Crude, as this badge is not only a poor casting, (probably from a real Ranger badge) but has obvious casting flaws... such as the rat chews on the inside of the circle next to the right leg on the star. The "Peso" marks on the reverse are typical for a cast forgery.


Hmmmmm. Albeit beautifully conceived, and very much old style, this handsome badge was poorly executed... the band saw over-cuts at the star-points ruin the suspension of disbelief. And the letters are badly stamped... R up, A down... G up... Too bad, because this would be great for a re-enactor. Note: Still, after my observations, this could be real... a primitively made frontier badge, but the preponderance of fakes makes buying a questionable badge on Ebay or wherever, a very questionable way to acquire such a treasure. But this could be the real deal, if compared to one known early badge with real sloppy craftsmanship, especially the letter stamping.  The tiny, sporty stars, unlikely, but possible for an early, handmade frontier badge, (compare to H. E. Garner's cheesy Special Ranger badge ) So how did I make my call? You have to look even closer... and THINK. The font is very much like the '60's badges... too incredible for a coincidence. So if it is authentic, it is from the 1930's or later...  Also, and more importantly, the back was buggered up, and the pin gone and a screw button attached, as if it had been attached to a holster or gunbelt... not a very Ranger thing to do... more of a Hollywood / Old West re-enactor style ... AND last of all, as this would have to be a very old badge to justify the poor craftsmanship... yet is IT IS MADE WITH A MODERN ERA PESO, like the 1960's Ranger badges are known for. And from where I sit... a FAKE one.

Close... but no cigar.
And they get much worse...
the bold- fresh Ranger..
Pretty cool looking badge... until you look at the back!
The Mexican Government should track these replica makers down for slandering them. I don't know if there is any significance to the year 1895. It has come to me that these may have been sold in conjunction with a Winchester promotion when they began to market new, second generation Model 1895 Winchesters.
The jagged branches are almost bizarre... more like nettle... the angry ranger!
Fanciful Creations
the digital Ranger..
 Some of these are hilarious, as if they were described over the phone by International traders to some Chinese craftsmen who farmed the work out to Bedouin tinkerers. The elements are there... but something got lost in the translation.
The Arabic Ranger!
The lucky 7, SPECIAL AGENT Ranger.... Texas Ranger Hall of Fame says there were never any lawmen commissioned as Texas Ranger "SPECIAL AGENTS."
COOL looking Civil War-esque badge, but it NEVER happened...
These folks are clueless...
A gorgeous impostor. Nothing remotely authentic.
 That will do for starters.. you get the idea... and hopefully you won't waste as much time as I have trying to sort this all out.

And hopefully, if enough people wise up, we can end some of the deceptions and counterfeiting going on... a shameful and unnecessary legacy of these great relics of our heritage! 

One last word: I am told by one old badge collector, who claims to have worked for several law enforcement agencies and would know these things, That  IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO SELL A TEXAS RANGER BADGE.  THE REASONING IS SIMPLE. THERE ARE NO "OBSOLETE" RANGER BADGES. ANY OLD BADGE MIGHT BE WORN BY A TEXAS RANGER TODAY, MAKING ALL OF THEM POTENTIALLY ACTIVE.

IF YOU OWN ONE, as far as I understand it, you can keep it, but you cannot legally sell it, to anyone but a Texas Ranger. So it is an asset with dubious commercial value.

THE ONLY PERSON THAT CAN LEGALLY PURCHASE SUCH AN ITEM IS A TEXAS RANGER. If you have one you want to sell, you have to go through the Rangers, and they might be able to help you find a buyer from within... this is how it was explained to me. I'm sure some get found, given, inherited, traded etc. and collectors have managed to snag a few by careful hunting and dodging, but this is not a game for most folks to play. 

Having been in the antique/collecting world all of my life, I have known dealers who tried to play with marketing authentic Ranger badges and saw their rare badges confiscated. Others have told me that they were luckier, and were just told to take the badges oFF the shelf- or else.

If you see a badge for sale out in the open, it is either a fake, with no value, or the dealer is either stupid or asking for trouble, or most likely both. And that is why I say this whole thing is bound to end in disappointment for most of you.

A reader has graciuosly forwarded this statement of Texas State Law:

Texas Government Code Sec. 411.017

(a) A person commits an offense if, without the director's authorization, the person:
1.Manufactures, sells, or possesses a badge, identification card, or other item bearing a department insignia or an insignia deceptively similar to the department's;

2.Makes a copy or likeness of a badge, identification card, or department insignia, with intent to use or allow another to use the copy or likeness to produce an item bearing the department insignia or an insignia deceptively similar to the department's; or

3.Uses the term "Texas Department of Public Safety," "Department of Public Safety," "Texas Ranger," or "Texas Highway Patrol" in connection with an object, with the intent to create the appearance that the object belongs to or is being used by the department.
(b) In this section, "department insignia" means an insignia or design prescribed by the director [ of TDPS ] for use by officers and employees of the department in connection with their official activities.

An insignia is deceptively similar to the department's if it is not prescribed by the department but a reasonable person would presume that it was prescribed by the department.

(c) A district or county court, on application of the attorney general or of the district attorney or prosecuting attorney performing the duties of district attorney for the district in which the court is located, may enjoin a violation or threatened violation of this section on a showing that a violation has occurred or is likely to occur.

(d) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that the object is used exclusively:

(1) for decorative purposes, maintained or preserved in a decorative state, and not offered for sale; or

(2) in an artistic or dramatic presentation, and before the use of the object the producer of the presentation notifies the director [TDPS] in writing of the intended use, the location where the use will occur, and the period during which the use will occur.

(e) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor, unless the object is shipped by United States mail or by any type of commercial carrier from a point outside the State of Texas to a point inside the state if the shipper or his agent has been sent notification by registered United States mail of this section prior to the shipment, in which event the offense is a felony of the third degree.

I'll leave it to you to interpret all of that, but I did highlight a few things for emphasis.

Now, can you tell the difference? Do you care anymore?

Try to buy or sell real Texas Ranger badges, and you will have to answer to these guys!
Around 70 Texas Rangers posing in the 1970's... and ironically maybe one badge in sight!

Good LUCK!


moriyah said...

Best article on TR badges and authenticity ever.
The TR Hall of Fame needs to hire this man and ditch their amateur 'experts'. This cowboy should be the go to guy for museums and auction houses.
He, alone, has put together so many disconnections as to make the TR Hall of Fame look like misinformation experts.
Go Russell.

Anonymous said...

I have a replica badge stamped on the reverse, "Allen Stamp and Seal Co. Kansas City". I'm waiting for a response from the Allen Company to see when it was produced. they are one of the oldest companies in Kansas City (1874).

Anonymous said...

I loved this article. But one thing to keep in mind...
My Father was a Texas Ranger from 1960 to 1961 when he was killed in the line of duty. This was during the "Blue Bottle Cap" badges that the Rangers HATED.
He was stationed in El Paso when he first became a Ranger, and being a traditionalist, he hopped over the border & had a street merchant make him a peso badge out of a 5 dollar peso. He thought it was great, although it's very crude looking.
But that didn't stop him from going home and putting the "Bottle Cap" badge in a drawer & pinning the peso badge on - and that's the badge he wore everyday & the badge he had pinned to his chest when he was killed.
Now you tell me - is that a REAL Texas Ranger badge? He had it made on his own - it looks very crude (being done by a street merchant) but it was commissioned by an honest-to-God Ranger & worn by him while on duty.
But without telling the "experts" who I am & where this badge came from - every single one has told me it's a fake.
So take heart...some of you may truly own a genuine badge - including the writer of this article.
You have to realize that my dad was not the only Ranger to go have their own badges made in the 50'6 & 60's. Lots (if not all) of them did.
The one REAL reason I would be suspicious of a Ranger peso badge is because the only people who would have one (that's less than a hundred years old) would either be the Ranger, or his family.
And you can take it from the son of a Ranger - there's no way in hell we'd ever sell it!
Now I suppose the odds are that some Ranger must have died with no relatives and his badge went out into the world as a collectors item. That's not only extremely possible, it's extremely likely. But there can't be the thousands that you see for sale on the internet. Hell, there's never been that many Rangers.
Happy Hunting.

Anonymous said...

Our family descends from some of the first Texas Rangers. Their graves were recently marked in a ceremony by the Texas Rangers to acknowledge their contributions as the first Texas Rangers (see Captain James Cunningham) - we have a Badge from the family and would never part with it. But I wonder the value for insurance purposes. Can anyone help with that? I'm not sure if it belonged to the Captain or one of his sons - it looks like the plain "original" badge. SCOTT7778@MSN.COM

Anonymous said...

In 1986 the Tom Keilman Auction House sold “the Raymond Brown Collection” In the collection were Frank Hamer were personal effects including badges, guns, and id’s, including letters from Mrs. Hamer and Frank Hamer, Jr.

Aimee johnson said...

Very interesting post and all the badges you have presented here are very unique. I have never seen such badges, keep updating.

Corporate Name Badges

Anonymous said...

Insurance tends to cover "The Cost Of Replacement"
And seeing as how you CAN'T replace a piece of Texas history like the badge you have, my advice would be to invest in a safe deposit box at your bank.

Wyatt Earp said...

Anonymous post on May 29, 2013 at 7:52 PM claims "My Father was a Texas Ranger from 1960 to 1961 when he was killed in the line of duty."

^^This (according to official records) is a false claim. There is ONLY ONE Texas Ranger death in, or near, that time frame and that death DOES NOT match the description provided by that particular anonymous poster. You can reference the information I have provided as follows.

Homer A. White
Texas Department of Public Safety - Texas Rangers, Texas

End of Watch: Friday, December 8, 1961

"Ranger Homer White and Polygraph Operator Oscar Brett were killed when the patrol car they were in was struck by a train while en route to a murder investigation."

"Ranger White had been with the agency for 5 years."

Why do I bring this to your attention?

First - I [honestly] found the "poster's" story interesting.

Second - I am related to [at least] two Texas Rangers. Richard Fowler who served with the Frontier Forces 1873. I also have an Uncle that is a retired Ranger out of Company "B", Brantley Foster. Foster is still living and is now the Director of the Former Texas Rangers foundation, among other obligations.

Third - I am a combat disabled, medically retired, military Veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. I had 10 years in, 4 years between Iraq and Afghanistan. I was injured outside of Balad, Iraq in 2005 during combat operations. I EARNED everything I have; so, it really gets my goat when people who have never served in the military TRY to claim stolen valor. People with NO legal claim TRY to claim. To me it is no different with the Texas Rangers and defending their heritage too, against stolen valor.

Lastly - I love to research Ranger history, at least as applicable to my genealogy. My family is [currently] in the process of researching other possible ties to TR history. Hopefully there are more; if not, I'm satisfied with what we have and am proud.

Your site is AWESOME and I will continue to return and browse. Thanks for your research, it's superb.

Thank you,
Tex Fowler

Anonymous said...

Just found your site, and in particular, the ranger badge article . I was lucky enough to acquire a real named badge about 13 years ago with a binder of provenance (including two certified DPS letters) to go along with it from a party who obtained it from the family decades before I obtained it. The coin it is made from is one of the 1900 era republic pesos. I was able to find an antique sterling silver watch chain & knife that it is attached to. Your site trumps the info on the ranger hall of fame web page by tons. Good job! Mike H., Green Bay, WI.