GSUSA recently announced the new Girls’ Choice outdoor-themed badges that will be available this fall. They are: Outdoor Adventure (Brownie), Horseback Riding (Junior), Archery (Cadette), Paddling (Senior), and Ultimate Recreation Challenge (Ambassador).

The results made me wonder what were the most popular badges of the past?

I used the sales figures reported in the 2005 edition of the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide by Mary Degenhardt and Judith Kirsch to find out. (I assume those numbers only go to 2004, and the book has not been updated.)  The results are grouped into the Worlds to Explore Era (1980-1999) and post-Worlds to Explore, when the border colors changed but most of the designs did not.

As I’ve previously written, for Cadettes between 1963 and 1980, the clear winner was Social Dancer.  Juniors in the same period, went for Troop Camper followed closely by Cook.

Brownies: 1986-1998

Brownie Try-Its were introduced in 1986 with 15 awards. They program was a huge hit, so additional Try-Its were added in 1989, 1993, and 1997. That makes it hard to compare overall totals, since some were available for more years than others. (Some names changed along the way, too.)

, Girl Scout History Project
The top five Try-Its of the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five were Girl Scout Ways (5.8 million), Playing Around the World (4.2 million), Food Fun/Make It, Eat It (3.8 million), Making Music (3.6 million), and Dance/Dancercize (3.6 million).  The top outdoor-themed Try-It ranked seventh: Outdoor Fun/Eco-Explorer, with 3.2 million.

Juniors: 1980-2001

The Worlds to Explore program, introduced in 1980, divided badges into five categories. Badges for each category had a specific border color: Arts (purple), Out-of-Doors (yellow), People (blue), Today and Tomorrow (orange), and Well-Being (red). Four of the top five Junior badges were from the World of the Out-of-Doors:

The all-time favorite of Juniors in the 1980s and 1990s was First Aid, with nearly 3 million sold. Followed close behind were Troop Camper (2.9 million; the design changed in 1990); Horse Lover (1.8 million), Swimming (1.4 million), and Wildlife (1.4 million).

, Girl Scout History Project
The top five Junior badges from the Worlds to Explore era.

Cadettes & Seniors: 1980-2004

Cadettes and Seniors were a remarkably consistent group, with nearly identical results in both time periods.

, Girl Scout History Project
The most popular Interest Projects from 1980-1996 (top) and 1997-2005 (bottom).

Under Worlds to Explore (1980-1996), teens chose Fashion, Fitness, and Makeup (301,391; it had a purple border its first year), Creative Cooking (262,163), Camping (204,851), Games (167,056), and Child Care (160,052).

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the favorites were Cookies and Dough (153,989), Creative Cooking (111,638), From Fitness to Fashion (97,469), Camping (93,923), and Child Care (86,509).

Juniors: 2001-2004

Juniors of the early twenty-first century were evidently a patriotic group, interested in good grooming, and still happy to go camping.

, Girl Scout History Project
Popular Junior badges, 2001-2004.

Top selling Junior badges were Cookie Connection (290,165), Looking Your Best (198,647), Girl Scouting in the USA (197,634), United We Stand (186,761), and Camp Together (171,069). Past favorites remained popular, including First Aid (6th), Horse Fan (11th), Outdoor Fun (12th), and Outdoor Cook (13th).

I was surprised at how popular United We Stand was. It was part of the trio of badges, including Wave the Flag for Brownies and American Patriotism for Cadettes and Seniors, issued following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These three were not included in the handbooks; leaders had to download the requirements themselves.

Brownies: 1999-2004

Brownies at the turn of the century also stuck with some favorite topics, including Cookies Count (1.6 million), Girl Scout Ways (1.55 million), Manners (1.2 million), Art to Wear (1.17 million), and Caring and Sharing (1.08 million)..

, Girl Scout History Project
Top Brownie Try-Its, 1999-2004.

Cookie-themed awarded topped all three post-Worlds to Explore badge categories.

Top of the Charts

Drumroll, please, the most popular Girl Scout badges between 1963 and 2004 were:

, Girl Scout History Project
The most popular badges between 1963 and 2004.


10 responses to “What Were the Most Popular Girl Scout Badges?”

  1. Thank you for doing this.  I enjoyed your findings.  It doesn’t surprise me at all that outdoor activities and camping have always been popular.  The Daisies and Brownies are under considerable influence by their leaders. Christie CrahanHeritage CommitteeGreater Los Angeles

    1. Thanks, Christie!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! It just bears out what I’ve been saying on the comments about the voting on the new badges. Many were hoping for new camping badges. Camping has always been an integral part of Girl Scouting, and a reason many join. Yes, you can go camping without badges for it, but with the pressure to get the Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards and with cookie sales taking up a month and a half (instead of two weeks like when I was a Scout), there isn’t much time to fit in the badges needed for ranks and awards. If they can take a trip or go camping AND get a badge for it, they will! At the convention, girls were pushing for an Outdoor Journey. I think many were hoping for more camping badges.

    Date: Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:17:10 +0000 To:

  3. Tamara Sampson Avatar
    Tamara Sampson

    Cookies are not our favorite badge topic but we have always earned cookie badges- the requirements are mostly covered each year when you prepare for sales, so why not. My girls want to do more outdoor activities and badges. We are some what limited in Michigan as to when we can realistically complete out door requirements

  4. I would add the data is a little skewed in calling them “favorite” badges. When my daughter earned Bronze, there were a choice of required badges that had to be earned, which would make them higher on the list of badges earned, but not necessarily most popular

  5. In many areas, the “COOKIE SELLING” related “badges” are NUMEROUS, but… Because the unofficial policy is “everyone sells” it is not difficult to earn a proficiency badge in this area.

    For many of the individual girl earned recognitions and awards, there are specific proficiency badges that MUST be earned, as several already pointed out. Not as many badges now since the new program is based upon completing a series of three Journey books and activities per grade level.

    A true test, what badges, besides those required are being ordered by troops. Since the method is based upon the sales of the individual badges and the correlating assumption that girls in Girl Scouting are earning and wearing those badges.

  6. It’s true that sales aren’t a perfect measure of badge popularity, but it is the best metric I’ve found so far.

  7. […] When most of the badges Camilla has earned since starting Girl Scouts in 2011 have been about doing things (cooking, first aid, you know—practical stuff), I guess Looking Your Best just didn’t sit right with her. In fact, I learned later, Looking Your Best was one of the most popular Junior badges until well after my time, according to this excellent Girl Scout history blog. […]

  8. […] more popular than others, including implementing circular management principles, introducing the Worlds to Explore program, reconfiguring the Edith Macy Center into a year-round training facility, and the introduction of […]

  9. Could somebody tell me the names of the most popular badges from 1963-2004?? Please and thank you

Leave a Reply


%d bloggers like this: