For more than two hundred years the American flag has served as the symbol of our nation’s strength and an inspiration to millions. The beauty of the flag has been regaled in poetry and song. It is displayed on more homes and professional buildings than any other flag in the world, and I recently read that on the average we drive by an American flag at least three times a day. Yet, with all of this exposure and familiarity, how much do you really know about our flag?

Betsy Ross is reported to have sewn the first American flag in May of 1776. A little over a year later, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act declaring that the flag of the U.S. be made of thirteen alternating red and white stripes, and that the union be represented by thirteen white stars on a field of blue. This thirteen star flag is the most common of all flags, having been made continuously since 1777. Their design is favored by flag makers and it is not uncommon to find one of considerable age that is still in mint condition. It was used as the official flag of the U.S. Navy until 1916.

U.S. Navy small boat flags were made during the Centennial, Bicentennial, the Civil War, and the Revolutionary War. Few survived the Revolutionary War, making them of considerable interest to collectors and history buffs. Value varies based on condition, age, design, and size.

The second most common American flag is the 48 star, followed by the 45, and 46 star variations. Unless they can be connected to a famous person or event in history they are of minimal value.

Although only official for one year, the 49 star flag was made in large numbers, making it easy to find. The exception to this rule would be a 49 star flag made for the U.S. Navy. Other commonly found flags are those with 38, 39, 42 and 44 stars.

By law, since 1818, the star representing each new state is added to the flag on the fourth of July following admission to the union. One of most rare flags is the 43 star flag that became official on July 4th 1890. If you are fortunate enough to have one of these flags it can bring upwards of $400 at specialized auction.

It is a common misconception that Civil War flags are of great value. Thousands of American flags were made during this period by the North and a lesser number by the South, making them of modest value. The valuable flags for the Civil War era are the military flags made to honor a specific battle or regiment. These are highly sought by collectors and command a premium price.

Documentation and photographs establishing historic provenance can greatly increase the value of most any flag. If you have the good fortune to be in possession of a historically significant flag, make certain to protect your documentation from deterioration with proper storage methods.

Collectible flags should be displayed folded in a case or in a straight hanging position and should never be flown outdoors. For instructions on the proper way to fold a flag go to www.usflag.org/foldflag.html. Nylon or Tough-Tex flags are great for everyday use and are available for a few dollars online. Until next time . . . .Linda

Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835 or lkennett@indy.rr.com.