The military and other honourable organisations divide their members into various ranks to demonstrate seniority, power, and achievements. Cap badges are a popular way to differentiate these ranks and create distinction among nationalities, branches of service, and experience. For many, these badges are a sign of honour, and a way to show their dedication and achievements. These badges are unique collectibles on their own or as an addition to other military or service memorabilia collections.
Military-cap badges differentiate between individual groups and ranks. British military-cap badges specify individual regiments and corps. British Army cap badges, for example, represent the divisions within the arms and services of the army, including those service members who prepare for and serve in combat, and those who provide vital support, such as engineers and medical staff. Within these divisions, rank is also differentiated. British Army officer badges are crafted out of more substantial materials and tend to be larger and more elaborate than those designed for lower ranks. When it was the convention to wear berets into combat, the badges were crafted out of a darkened material so that the glint from bright metal would not call the attention of the enemy. Contemporary badges, however, generally do not follow this guideline, as it is less common to wear the beret in combat. Cap-badge collections often feature both original badges and collectible restrikes, so it is essential to check each one carefully if you want to collect only original badges.
Police-cap badges show affiliation with a particular police force. They also differentiate between different ranks and divisions with these forces, such as constabulary badges. These badges are cast from metals including chrome and brass for prominence and durability. Some of these police-helmet badges are no longer in use. Many of these obsolete cap badges are rarer than contemporary versions, making them more valuable and desirable for collectors.
Some of the most valuable cap badges are historic military-cap badges. Many WWI cap badges have the dull or darkened design used so as not to call attention to the service member. This is particularly prevalent among WWI officer-cap badges. WWI British army-cap badges included unique designs for each regiment and service. Commonwealth countries produced their own cap badges during this time. These badges, such as WWI Canadian cap badges, helped to identify a serviceman's own compatriots, but also the friendly among larger military groups. WW2 British Army-cap badges show the evolution of the insignia for many of the regiments. Because metal was a highly prized commodity during wartimes, these cap badges are often crafted out of plastic. These cap badges should be checked carefully for cracking, fading, and other damage more common to plastic.