Let your flag wave! June 14 is Flag Day, a day we celebrate America’s flag — which probably was not made by Betsy Ross, btw. Flags are one of the most popular collectibles. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed an act establishing an official flag for the new nation. The resolution stated: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” On August 3, 1949, President Harry S. Truman officially declared June 14 as Flag Day.

Antique American flags might be among the easiest collectibles to date. If a flag is said to be from a certain year, most of us know to count the number of stars and verify how many states there were that year.

But also pay attention to the number of stripes. In May 1795, an act of Congress provided for a flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes to mark the addition of Vermont and Kentucky. It was this flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the patriotic poem that later supplied the words for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

A very rare flag with 17 stars and 17 stripes from about 1804 recently sold for $46,740.

It wasn’t until 1818 that Congress passed an act to reduce and then keep the number of stripes at 13 to honor the original colonies while continuing to add a new star with each new state that was admitted.

If you are interested in collecting vintage flags, storage and care are very important.

To preserve rare or important flags, don’t fly them as they can be easily damaged. Rare flags should be professionally mounted and framed.

For other flags, store them in an acid-free box with acid-free tissue paper. Those can be found at good stationery, framing or museum supply stores. Put the tissue loosely around the center of the laid-out flag. Loosely fold the flag around the tissue trying to avoid creases. Add more tissue wads as needed. Place the flag in the box with tissue around it. If the flag is smaller, try and store it flat and unfolded. Keep any paperwork, including receipt, with the flag.

Keep the box with the flag in a dry, dark, cool space.

american flag 15 stars 15 stripes smithsonian

The 15-star and 15-stripe “Star Spangled Banner flag,” repaired and restored and now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.



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