Texas Ranger Badges: Fact or Fiction?

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Texas Ranger badges are a hot commodity in the collectibles market, but the caveat “buyer beware” applies in a big way. The vast majority of items marketed as genuine Texas Ranger badges are reproductions, facsimiles, or toys. Very few legitimate badges exist outside museums and family collections, and those that do hardly ever are sold. There’s a very good reason for that: Manufacturing, possessing, or selling Texas Ranger insignia, even fakes that are “deceptively similar” to the real thing, violates Texas law except in specific circumstances.

According to Byron A. Johnson, executive director of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum (the official historical center for the Texas Ranger law-enforcement agency), “Spurious badges and fraudulent representation or transactions connected with them date back to the 1950s and are increasing. We receive anywhere from 10 to 30 inquiries a month on badges, the majority connected with sales on eBay.”

If you had to, could you identify a legitimate Texas Ranger badge? Test your knowledge: Which of the alleged badges below are genuine? Pick one from each set. (All images are ©Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, Waco, Texas, and are used with permission. All Rights Reserved.)

Set 1

©TRHFM, Waco, TX

©TRHFM, Waco, TX

Answer: The left-hand badge, dated 1889, is the earliest authenticated Texas Ranger insignia in the collection of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Badges weren’t standard issue for Rangers until 1935, although from 1874 onward, individual Rangers sometimes commissioned badges from jewelers or gunsmiths, who made them from Mexican coins. Relatively few Rangers wore a badge out in the open. As for the item on the right? There’s no such thing as a “Texas Ranger Special Agent.”

Set 2

©TRHFM, Waco, TX

©TRHFM, Waco, TX

Answer: On the right is an official shield-type badge issued between 1938 and 1957. Ranger captains received gold badges; the shields issued to lower ranks were silver. The badge on the left is a fake, though similar authentic badges exist.

Set 3

©TRHFM, Waco, TX

©TRHFM, Waco, TX

Answer: The badge on the right was the official badge of the Rangers from July 1957 to October 1962. Called the “blue bottle cap badge,” the solid, “modernized” design was universally reviled. The left-hand badge is a fake. According to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, “No genuine Texas Ranger badges are known to exist with ‘Frontier Battalion’ engraved on them.”

Set 4

©TRHFM, Waco, TX

©TRHFM, Waco, TX

Answer: The left-hand badge, called the “wagon wheel badge,” has been the official Texas Ranger badge since October 1962. Each is made from a Mexican five-peso silver coin. The badge on the right is a “fantasy badge.” According to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the most common designation on such badges is “Co. A.”

How did you do? If you answered correctly for more than one without benefiting from a lucky guess, you did better than most people, including Texans. Give yourself extra points if you knew Rangers proved their legitimacy with Warrants of Authority, not badges, prior to 1935.

For more information about the Texas Rangers—including the history of the organization, biographical sketches of individual Rangers, and all kinds of information about badges and other insignia—visit the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum online at TexasRanger.org. The museum and its staff have my utmost gratitude for their assistance with this post. They do the Rangers proud.


While we’re on the subject of Rangers…

TheSecond-BestRangerInTexas_200x300On June 1, Western Fictioneers, a professional organization for authors of western novels and short stories, announced the winners of the 2015 Peacemaker Awards. Presented annually, the Peacemakers recognize the best western historical fiction published during the previous calendar year.

I’m happy to say “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” received the award for Best Western Short Fiction. “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” tells the story of a washed-up Texas Ranger and a failed nun who find redemption in love.

The award marked the second time in two years a short story published by Prairie Rose Publications has been honored with a Peacemaker: Livia J. Washburn’s “Charlie’s Pie” received the Best Western Short Fiction award in 2014.

Available in paperback and e-book

In addition, Prodigal Gun, also published by Prairie Rose, was named a finalist in the Best Western First Novel category. Prodigal Gun is the first novel-length romance ever nominated for a Peacemaker.

I don’t say any of that to brag…

Oh, heck. Who am I trying to kid? I’m bragging. (Sorry, Mom!)

There really is a larger point, though: I think the award and nomination are important, but not because the books are mine. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right stories. There’s a hint at something much broader here: At long last, it seems, romances of all lengths are being recognized as “respectable literature” outside the romance category. That’s good news for all of us who enjoy a genre too often scoffed at and snubbed by the larger community of authors and readers.

Over the past eighteen months, a number of books published by Prairie Rose Publications have been nominated for or received awards of all kinds. If that’s any indication, PRP is off to a great start. Founded in August 2013 by Livia Washburn Reasoner and Cheryl Pierson, the company is and always will be dedicated to publishing traditional westerns and western romance written by women. Nevertheless, in less than two years, PRP has expanded to include young adult, inspirational, paranormal, and medieval lines. The “little publishing company” releases some darn fine fiction. I’m proud it publishes mine.


To celebrate good fortune in so many areas of my life, I’ll gift a copy of “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” to two folks who are brave enough to tell us how many of the badges above they identified correctly. To the comments with you!



+ posts

49 thoughts on “Texas Ranger Badges: Fact or Fiction?”

  1. I’ll be brave…I got only one right, the last one. I was surprised to say the least.

    Thank you for the great post.

    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  2. Hi Kathleen, I got them all right, but only because I own the fakes. Bought them at a cowboy festival. I was surprised to discover in my research that early rangers didn’t have badges, unless they made them themselves. Some did out of Mexican coins.
    I used the warrant of authority in a story I wrote. If I wasn’t a writer I wouldn’t know this stuff.

    Congratulations on your big wins!

    • Margaret, you cheated. 😉

      I was surprised badges showed up so late in the Rangers’ history. Who knew they ran around all those years with a piece of paper in their pocket? What if they got caught in a rainstorm or fell off their horse in a river? Of course, the Rangers were so tough, they’d probably just glare at any impending dampness and get it to retreat.

      Thanks for the congratulations! I’m still trying to get my head out of the clouds.

  3. Well — I got 3 out of 4 right. Don’t know how–I know nothing about the badges. I am a pretty good multiple choice test-taker however, probably from years of practice. What a fun post!

    I am thrilled to learn that your short story took first in the Peacemaker Awards! Congratulations!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the quiz, Kathryn! You got three right by GUESSING? You must have been the envy of all the other kids in high school and college. 😉

      Thank you for the congratulations. I was kinda thrilled, too. 🙂

  4. didnt get any right,,but i dont much about those type of badges,,my uncle however was sheriff in our county for several years,his badge was much different

    • Vickie, telling one Texas Ranger badge from another is tough. According to Mr. Johnson, very few people can distinguish real badges from fakes. You took the quiz, though, and that took guts. 🙂

      I hope you behaved yourself while your uncle was sheriff. It’d be downright embarrassing to have to arrest one of your own kin. 😉

      Got you in the drawing!

  5. I actually got them right but I was guessing – I went for the older looking or unusual ones lol.

    • Well, you started out strong and choked in the final laps, Colleen. That’s not too uncommon with those dang badges. I was surprised to find out how common it is for people to try to pass off forgeries, toys, and fakes and the real thing!

      You’re in the drawing! 🙂

  6. I have to confess, I’d seen most of these before, so I got them correct. Still, it is such a fascinating history. Thank you for bringing it to light. So much history, so much mis-information. (SIGH) Doris

  7. Hi Kathleen, I got a badge from set one for my brother in law when I was at the Ranger Museum in San Antonio…only it had his name on it LOL. Great post today.

    • At least you got it at the museum and not off eBay! 😀 I need to visit the museum again. It’s a fascinating place. When I do, I intend to get one of the authorized faux badges the gift shop sells. Glad you picked one up while you were there! Every dollar the museum takes in helps with expenses. 🙂

  8. I got all 4 right and I knew about the warrant of authority due to my reading. I saw several ranger badges during my time at DPS and as a police officer and deputy sheriff. I was both in different areas. I guess I had an advantage.

    • Connie, I didn’t realize you were with all those agencies. You have my applause, lady. Law enforcement is one tough, thankless job.

      Since you were a DPS officer and the Rangers are now a division of DPS, you’d darn well better be able to pick out the real badges! 😀

      Got you in the drawing, my friend. 🙂

  9. I have to admit I got 1 right – the first one – and that was a guess. Liked the post and learned, which is always good. I’m glad “The Second Best Ranger in Texas” and “Prodigal Gun” won because they were both great reads.

  10. Great post, Kathleen. Although I’m ineligible to win the prize, I actually got all four right. But then I did a blog about the Texas Rangers here yesterday, so had an opportunity to review some of my research. Like Tanya, I have real badges from the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco. For a book, as I mentioned yesterday, I research the Rangers a whole lot. The original badges were made from a five dollar peso. And, you’re right, the rangers did not wear their badges because sunlight reflected off of them and that’d give away their location when they were tracking. They didn’t even keep them on their person when they were scouting, but they hid them beneath their saddle in some fashion. I’m not a horsewoman, so don’t know much of anything about saddles … my historical heroes basically, get on a horse and off of it! LOL But, I thought it was interesting that they didn’t even wear their badges on their person. As time has come along, the styles have changed, but I wouldn’t buy one from anywhere but the museum or hall of fame gift shop. Thanks, Kathleen, my fellow filly, for a great post. I’m gonna go purchase your book right now…I’ve heard nothing but good about it! Big hugs my friend, Phyliss

    • Phyliss, I saw your post while I was posting mine, and I thought, “Must be Texas Rangers Week at Petticoats & Pistols.” 😀

      I read your post yesterday and got sidetracked before I had a chance to comment. What a thrill it must have been to find your books inside the display case! One of these days, I hope I’ll get an honor like that. You and Linda both deserve every honor you get. Love both of y’all — and your writing — to pieces.

      BIG HUGS, my friend!

    • This would be why Byron Johnson gets so frustrated, Quilt Lady. Lots and lots of folks get snookered every year by people selling fake badges. Personally, I wouldn’t want the Rangers coming after me for selling a badge, either real or fake. Those are some tough officers!

      Got you in the drawing! 🙂

  11. I got 2 right,and a third one was a guess , but I got it right.
    Thanks for the chance to win your books!

    • You GO, Diana! Three out of four (without cheating, like a couple of the Fillies did 😉 ) is a great record!

      I’ve got your name in the Stetson. Good luck in the drawing! 🙂

  12. Kathleen, great post! I always enjoy your posts–I learn so much Texas history from you Texas ladies! Phyliss yesterday, you today…we love those hunky rangers, don’t we?

    Thanks so much for the kind words about PRP. We are thrilled to have you with us, and so very happy for those wonderful honors in the Peacemaker Awards–to be a finalist in the Best First Western Novel is SUCH an honor, and then to win the award for Best Western Short Fiction–AWESOME! You are one talented lady and a wonderful writer–and a good friend.


    • Aw. You’re makin’ me blush over here Okie. At the same time, I wondering what’s gotten into you to make you say something nice to a Texan. Are you feeling okay? 😉

      Yes, we do love hunky Rangers! I can’t believe I actually wrote about a good guy for a change. My heroes tend to prefer the Outlaw Trail. 😀

  13. Hi Kathleen!

    What an interesting part of history. I must admit that I didn’t get any of them right. But I do find the entire thing fascinating. : )

    • Glad you enjoyed the post! I find the Rangers fascinating — especially the hunky ones in romances. 😉

      The real-life Rangers are beyond fascinating, both historically and today. Oddly, much of what folks hear about them isn’t legend.

  14. Kathleen, you’ve earned the right to brag so get with it, girl! Congratulations on the Peacemaker Award!!!! I’m so happy for you. And for Prodigal Gun too. Both are excellent. You’re a fantastic writer.

    On the badges, I got two right. Hanging my head in shame. I may get kicked out of Texas!

    Enjoy the accolades! You’ve earned it.


    • Linda, I ain’t lettin’ nobody boot you outta Texas. Shoot. If they’re lettin’ all them Yankees and Californians in here, the least they can do is keep the Real Texans. 😉

      (You’ll notice I’ve carefully avoided saying how many I got right. 😉 )

      Thank you for the congratulations and the kind words. You cannot imagine how much that means to me.


  15. I actually got all but one right — the “blue bottle cap” one. And I actually looked at it and figured it was a trick question type of deal, but I picked the other one anyway because the blue one was ugly! (the first one, I was pretty sure about; the others were partly lucky guesses.)

    • That blue bottle cap badge is hideous! No wonder the Rangers themselves hated those darn things. I keep wondering whose bad idea that was.

      Thanks for stopping by, Judith! You’re one busy lady. 🙂

    • LOL! Sounds like you enjoyed the post, Sandra. I always get tangled up in these things, too. I’m also one of those people who annoys absolutely everyone else because she has to read every word on every historical marker. 😀

  16. Kathleen – I only got one right. But, like you stated most of them carried a piece of paper for identification. Congrats, on the Peacemaker Award & the Prodigal Gun. Thanks, for writing such great books for us to enjoy….cowboys never go out of style.

  17. I got all 4 right, not actually guessing, trying to use a little logic about what might be right, but I sure won’t claim any real knowledge about the Texas Rangers. Very interesting post, thanks!

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