The Stamp and Coin Place Blog: connecting the past and present of stamp and coin collecting, and looking to the future.

Collecting American Flags

A portrait of Betsy Ross showing how to sew on stars.

A portrait of Betsy Ross showing how to sew on stars.

 

In April 2014, an American Revolutionary War flag went up for auction in New York City. The flag is the earliest known surviving flag representing the 13 original colonies and sold for millions of dollars.

Early American flags tend to sell for high prices at auction. Flags often wear away or deteriorate over time, so finding flags in good condition is rare.

In wars of the 18th century, soldiers strove to capture the opposing unit’s flag as a victory trophy. It makes sense, then, that flags have often been prized possessions through the years.

Of course, American flags have evolved over time. The star-spangled flag of all 50 states is the result of a long process of designed and redesigned flags.

The first American flag combined the British flag with red and white stripes.

But in 1777, America decided it wanted its own flag and Congress passed the Flag Resolution that said, “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

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A 1777 battle during the Siege of Fort Stanwix saw the first flight of the official U.S. flag. Soldiers used their shirts to make white stripes, red petticoats of officers’ wives formed the red stripes, and the blue came from Captain Abraham Swartwout’s blue coat.

The Betsy Ross flag, a flag with stars forming a circle rumored to be the first flag created by Betsy Ross herself, may only be a story of legend. But the flag with the thirteen original colonies in a circle is still a distinct early design, albeit one not designed by Betsy Ross.

In 1787, Captain Robert Gray sailed around the world displaying the flag on his boat for all the world to see.

A variety of star formations formed on the flag through the years, thanks to the increasing number of states of this growing country.

Today, you can easily find replicas of American flags, but finding the originals becomes a little more difficult. Aside from the country’s official flags through the years, other flags formed from U.S. battles and ships.

You can learn more about rare flags at this link.

Do you collect flags? Which flag throughout history is your favorite?

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