Collector has passion for truck company patches

by Adam Ledlow

SHIPSHEWANA, Ind. – People today don’t seem to be into collecting things like they used to. Baseball cards, stamps and POGS seem like outdated bits of 20th century nostalgia rather than current keepsakes.

But 50-year-old David Ross has been amassing a collection for 35 years now and shows no signs of slowing down.

Ross collects truck company patches. To date he claims to have about 9,000 of them.

The Indiana-based collector first became interested in patches when he was working part-time at a trucking company in Ohio. It was actually the decals he saw on a couple dump trucks that sparked his collector’s instinct.

“I wrote to the trucking company to get some decals, but ended up with a couple of patches instead,” Ross said. “From there it just went on and on and on.”

On and on indeed.

Five years into collecting, Ross had accumulated 500 patches. “I thought I had the whole United States, but I didn’t and still don’t.”

Ross’ 9,000 patch collection today is the end result of over 100,000 letters of request to companies. And his interest shows no sign of dimming.

He still has patches which top his ‘most wanted’ list, including patches from Motor Dispatch, Inc. of South Bend, Indiana; SGI, Inc. of Grenville, Mich.; and Freight Savers of Fort Hampton, Wis. All three companies went out of business.

“I’ve been searching for any information on all three of them,” he said.

Ross’ passion for patches has also led him to attend and exhibit at truck shows across the U.S. He and his collection were first invited to a council meeting in Lansing, Mich.

He’s been making regular appearances ever since, recently attending the American Truck Historical Society convention in Auburn, Ind.

But Ross doesn’t travel with his entire collection.

He only brings about 2,000-2,500 patches with him to each show – a fraction of his entire collection.

Still, if he does show up at an event near you, you’ll be treated to a viewing of truck patches from as far away as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa – not to mention some of his favourite patches: the Canadian ones.

“I like the Canadian patches better because they go all out. They’re more decorative and colourful,” he said.

“I like to send letters to Canada because they actually write me back.”

Believe it or not, there are other collectors out there who share Ross’ passion.

“There are people that I know here in the United States that have maybe 500 to 600 patches they’ve collected themselves. But after they hear about how many I have, it’s no big deal,” he said.

Ross, now retired from Teamsters Local 164, says he’s nowhere near having every patch from every company and estimates the number of U.S. trucking companies at about 186,000. So really, 9,000 is only the tip of the patch iceberg, which Ross fully intends to keep chipping away at for as long as he can.

“I don’t think I’ll get them all because of the finances to send out letters and the rising cost of stamps. I’ll just have to be selective, I guess,” he said.

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