Fake & Reproduction Railroad Badges

Above: These two railroad badges are fakes but, nevertheless, well-weathered and convincing at first glance. Photos courtesy of Tom Stranko.

There is a growing consensus among experienced collectors that counterfeit railroad badges are becoming one of the most serious problems in the hobby of railroadiana collecting. Some would even say that this part of the hobby has already been seriously compromised. At the heart of the issue are several facts:

  • A number of manufacturers currently offer wide varieties of reproduction badges to order, and large quantities of reproduction badges have already been unleashed on the market.
  • Some reproductions can be difficult to distinguish from authentic original badges that saw railroad service since a number of "aging" techniques can be applied to them. Moreover some of the original manufacturers are still in business and make modern reproductions with the same or similar tooling as the originals.
  • Much buying and selling of railroad badges is occurring on the internet, particularly in internet auctions, where anonymity is easier to maintain and where authenticity is much more difficult to detect.

The best advice that can be offered to collectors interested in badges is to thoroughly educate themselves. Also, seek multiple opinions about what dealers can be trusted. This is clearly one area of the hobby where networking with other collectors can definitely pay off. Some experienced collectors especially caution against buying badges on internet auctions or in other circumstances where the seller is not known and trusted. This is a sad situation but it must be acknowledged.

The following information on known or suspected fakes and reproductions has been obtained from various sources judged to be knowledgeable and accurate. The information is presented with "honest intentions"; however we cannot guarantee complete accuracy, so please use this information as advisory only -- see Disclaimer.

The following fakes have been reported: (a) shield-shaped badges with the words "Railway Express" at the top, an image of a locomotive in the middle, and the words "Special Agent" at the bottom; (b) Shield-shaped badges with the words "C.R.I. & P. R.R." and "Private Police Detective" with small stars separating "Private" from "Police" and "Police" from "Detective"; (c) a shield-shaped badge with "Railroad" at the top, "Police" at the bottom, and U.P. R.R. on a star in the middle with cutouts. These look like obvious reproductions, complete with "weathering".

The following railroad badges are showing up on Internet auction sites. They are not authentic.

Badges for porters, engineers, and other titles with a little locomotive stamped in the center are becoming quite common. While reports say that these are cheaply made, this quality may not be readily apparent on a small website photo.

A very good fake detective badge supposedly from the D&RG RR is shown below left. Click for a larger version of the image. According to Bill and Sue Knous, the company that markets this and other badges represents it as a reproduction but it has been sold as authentic. The hallmark is Sun Badge Co. over a sunset design over L.A. County. Beware of any badge with this hallmark. The NY&GIRy badge below as well as a Union Pacific Guard badge #6 are also made by this company. The Union Pacific RR Police badge and the Wells Fargo badge below are also reproductions.



Update - email received 1/17: "Based on what I read in this website, I have avoided railroad police badges made by the Sun Badge Company and marked "LA County" (it said "beware of these"). Having seen a variety of Sun badges marked with various locations ("LA County", San Dimas, CA", "Ontario, CA"), I finally went to the Sun Badge Co. for clarification in detecting authentic and forgery Sun badges (reference documentation from Sun Vice President Ben Dawson). He indicated that Sun did make badges with the "LA County" marking up until the mid-1980s. After that, until about 2008, they were marked with the "San Dimas, CA" location. In 2008, they moved their manufacturing to Ontario, CA. He said they've seen forgeries of all their hallmarks like any other badge company, but forgeries are not necessarily detectable by the location indicated in the hallmark." [Thanks to JJ]

A variety of reproduction breast badges were made in the 197O's. There were several railroads represented including D&RG DETECTIVE, DL&W, NYC, READING, SANTA FE, ROCK ISLAND, UNION PACIFIC DETECTIVE and REA. All badges are six point star design made in lightweight brass. Some have the railroad logo in the center. Shown at right is the Santa Fe version.

There are brass reproduction badges in SANTA FE, UNION PACIFIC, WELLS FARGO TRAIN GUARD with or without numbers and SAN FRANCISCO CABLE CAR CONDUCTOR. All are made of lightweight brass and have steam engine in center.

Badges with "PGYRS 1983" in raised letters are reproductions made by an individual and stand for Paul G. Yorkis Railway Supply. The raised marking and date identify such badges as a legitimate and responsibly done reproduction.

Reproduction railroad hat badges are also available on the market today. They are identical to the authentic so you must be very careful. Some of the badges have had reproduction incised on the reverse, but this mark has been reportedly ground off for misrepresentation purposes. Inspect the reverse and learn the original manufacturers' hallmarks.

A drawing of a PRR KEYSTONE over CONDUCTOR hat badge is shown at right. The design is a gold pebbled finish with raised maroon framed logo and black enameled lettering. These hit the market with only an easy off MADE IN TAIWAN sticker on reverse. Authentic badges are hallmarked EBY CO. Measuring 3 1/4 x 1 1/2 inches, the badges arrive flat which results in manual manipulation to receive a contour fit - certainly a hint to help identify real versus fake. There are probably other railroads represented. Also beware of an OLD COLONY BRAKEMAN cap badge. The reproductions are identical to the factory originals made by AM. RY. They have been incised with reproduction on reverse but once removed are easily misrepresented. Inspect the reverse well for any signs of tampering.

Fake"engraved" cap badges have been turning up. Things to look for: the inside corners on the lettering does not have a crisp 90 degree corner to it; there is slight rounding due to the cutting process; and the backside of the badge is missing the "ghosting" that is produced when the metal blank is die stamped under pressure.
Above: This badge has been identified as possibly a fake --corroborated by a number of collectors. Compared to known authentic badges, the stamp is too prominent and can be read easily from the back (as opposed to a smooth surface). Normally all that can be read from the back is a manufacturer's mark and perhaps some slight "ghosting" of the letters.

[The following was sent to this site in early 2006. All names have been omitted.] By chance, I came across your website and was very interested in the fake railroad badges article. As a seller, I see many RR badges that are offered as original; however, they are clearly fake or reproduction to the trained eye, but passable to the uninitiated. There is a team of sellers that flood [the internet] with fakes. ...Some of the badges offered are Washington Terminal, NY, NH & H, NYC, Santa Fe, Northern Pacific, Missouri Pacific, SP, PRR, Boston & Albany, MKT, UP and a host of others. Some are newly made by Smith Warren and some have Blackinton hallmarks. Blackinton has had their mark copied in Taiwan and by clever engraving on suspect dies. They have also taken legitimate badges and have applied RR seals and logos to enhance the badges' worth. The fake sellers' listings state everything about the badge; however, they do not say anything about the authenticity. Any questionable badges are sold under "private auction-bidder's ID protected." You cannot contact the bidder to warn him that he is going to lose $400 on a fake! Their Gode badge descriptions in the auction say "double hallmarked, etc." so as to make the buyer think he is getting a masterpiece. Just clever marketing to make money off of reproductions. Another seller of high quality fake RR badges is rumored to have the old dies of the American Railway Supply Company and has made badges using the services of Smith-Warren and C.B. Braxmar Company in New York. -MS

Special thanks to Tom Stranko, Doug McIntyre, Raymond Brown, Mike Sullivan, Bill Kajdzik, and other collectors for providing photos and information, and especially to Bill and Sue Knous who graciously gave permission to reproduce text and images from their book on railroad reproductions.