AA Badges

In June 1905, the British Automobile Association (AA) was created in London’s “Trocadero” restaurant. According to well-respected sources, one of the initial reasons for the creation of this club was to protect members from “speed traps,” along with education about driving laws, provision of maps and a meeting place where auto enthusiasts could talk about cars.

The AA has provided many services to its members over the years – including driving instruction, breakdown assistance, and publications, like maps and the “AA Member’s Special Handbook”. For many years, the official headquarters for the AA was Basingstoke, United Kingdom.The AA continually grew over the years, adding more services as the automobile industry expanded. By 1914, there were more than 80,000 members in the AA. By 1939, nearly 35% of all UK drivers were members of the AA. As of 2008, there were an estimated 12 million members of the club.

Every member of the Automobile Association received a car badge that could be attached to their vehicles radiator grill using screws. There are rumours that at the time Police officers often gave preferential treatment to motorists with AA badges displayed prominently on their cars. Over time, these AA car badges have become collector’s items: Automobilia.

The AA Car Badges Numbering System

The first 100 badges were issued in April 1906; these early badges can be easily traced, but later badges are more difficult to track. Initially, badges were made of brass, and over time this metal was replaced with nickel, and then white-metal chrome.

The first secretary of the AA was Stenson Cooke. Early versions of the AA badge had the word, “secretary” written on the front, with the reverse including a phone number. The round AA badge, was referred to as the Stenson Cooke badge or Frying Pan design after it was issued in 1906.

There are a variety of different badge styles – the most common being the square, oval and two-piece intertwined “AA” letters on a metal front plate with a separate yellow background plate (shaped like the outline of a light bulb).

The AA numbering system is based on an assigned “issuing number.” Early versions of this issuing number that have fewer than five digits were listed on the leg of the badge. When numbers grew larger to six digits, the number was moved to the top of the circle. Some have been confused about the serial number listed on the badges, believing that these were membership numbers; but, they are actually specially-assigned issuing numbers.

Common AA Badge Styles

The 1906 to 1911 badge style was the first series with a simplified “AA” pattern. It had a shorter leg than later versions. From 1907 to 1967, there were square badges with a yellow background made; in 1967 this square was replaced with a round design.

AA badges dates

The most common AA badge was derived from the combination of the original “AA” for the Automobile Association lettering with the “M” from the Motor Union after the two organisations merged in 1911. They combined the letters creating an intertwined “AA” lettering that resembled an “M” from a distance. This pattern ran from 1911 to 1945.

The “AA” design, size, type and metal changed after 1925 when only nickel or chrome was used instead of brass. There were only 10,000 copies of the winged long shank version, which was started in 1930. After 1945, the style changed with a more oval shape and the addition of a convex bulge replacing the flat surface. Different styles have different locations for the holes for screwing the badges onto the cars: one on either side, two at the bottom or in all four places.

There are a couple of supplementary types of badges that include the 1914 to 1920, pentagon-shaped, light-car badge for two or three seaters with only 11.9 horsepower. The other rare variety is a Commercial Vehicle Section brass badge that was manufactured from 1911 to 1930 with a red background in a basket-weave design; after 1930 it was chrome. There are also smaller badges made for motorcycle enthusiasts that had a heart-shaped token on them during World War I.

Badges from the British Empire (South Africa, New Zealand, and Zambia) are very rare.

A pennant on top of the badge’s circle signified that the owner was a member of the Automobile Association Committee. Since these AA badges officially belonged to the membership club, they were supposed to be returned when membership ended. An “R” stamp below the serial number means that the badge was returned and reissued.

The text on later AA car badges includes the following:

“Property of the {local club location} This badge must be returned when membership ceases”.

Here is a list of the most common AA badges in collections:

  • The original brass “AA” lettering
  • The chrome-plated metal “AA” lettering crossed, two pieces with metal front piece and yellow back
  • piece can be inserted behind lettering, winged insignia on top,
  • AA Car Essentials, magnetic GB plate badge for rear of vehicle, black lettering with white background,
  • Square piece with “AA” in black lettering has yellow background
  • Oval-shaped “GB” car badge in black lettering, gray background
  • White silver “AA” letters crossed, winged insignia on top, grayish background
  • Hexagon-shaped insignia, “AA” is enclosed in what looks like a necklace with an open clasp in front,
  • basket weave background, two holes on either side and at bottom (rare)
  • AA Relay with arrows, black lettering and yellow background
  • British Empire pieces (rare)

Decoding The AA Badge Serial Number

AA Car Badge Numbering System:

  • 1 to 999,999 = issuing date between 1906 and 1930
  • A – P suffix = issuing date between 1930 and 1945
  • RST suffix = issuing date between 1946 and 1956 [flat motorcycle badges]
  • WXYZA suffix = issuing date between 1956 and 1967 [domed motorcycle badges]
  • 0A to 0Z prefix = issuing date between 1945 and 1957
  • 1A to 9A prefix = issuing date between 1957 and 1959
  • 1B to 9B prefix = issuing date between 1960 and 1961
  • 1C to 9C prefix = issuing date between 1962 and 1963
  • 1D to 9D prefix = issuing date between 1964 and 1965
  • 1E to 9E prefix = issuing date between 1966 and 1967

Pricing AA Badges

AA car badges can be purchased at markets selling automobile collections. Web sites also sell these AA car badges. Try to verify the authenticity of the piece by comparing its issuing number to style for that period.

Finding car badges in the original packaging adds value to a piece. Some of the most attractive AA car badges are the chrome-plated metal badges in pristine shape that shimmer in the light. Accessories include fixing bolts and crossed box keys.

The prices for AA car badges range from a couple UK pounds to hundreds of UK pounds.

Issues that affect an AA car badge price include the following:

  • Condition (Unopened, new and unused are more valuable)
  • Age
  • Rarity
  • Style

The rich history of the Automobile Association makes AA car badges an interesting collection item. These badges have a number of styles. Use the AA car badge numbering system to verify the authenticity of an item you are considering by matching the issuing date to the style of that period.