The U.K.'s Automobile Association (AA) was formed on June 29, 1905, by a group of motoring enthusiasts in London, England. The Breakdown Cover website reports that as the popularity of the newly formed AA grew the group began to issue badges to be attached to the front grill of a member's car.
According to the AA website, the initial reason for motoring enthusiasts meeting at London's Trocadero restaurant on June 29, 1905, was to find a way to bypass police speed traps for motorists. In 1905 the AA had just 100 members, which subsequently grew such that, by 1914, 83,000 motorists were members. Breakdown Cover reports that, by 2008, the Automobile Association counted more than 12 million members. Versions of the AA badges issued throughout the history of the association have become collectors items in the 21st century, with various versions sought out by collectors of automobilia.
The Breakdown Cover website explains the first 100 badges were issued to AA members in April 1906 and were formed from brass. The first AA badges are known as secretary, or Stenson Cooke, badges because the word "secretary" was printed on the front of the brass badge and the phone number of the AA printed on the reverse. The first secretary of the AA was Stenson Cooke.
Various types of AA badges have been used through the history of the AA, according to Breakdown Cover. In 1925 brass badges were phased out to be replaced by nickel or white-metal chrome badges. The basic styles used for creating AA badges are square or oval in shape with some being made in two pieces with the AA letters on one piece and a separate yellow background plate attached to an automobile radiator grill.
The Breakdown Cover website reports the first style of AA badges featured a circular-shaped badge with a long leg at the bottom. These were issued between 1906 and 1911. Square badges with a separate yellow background were released by the AA from 1907 to 1967 when they were replaced by a circular design. From 1911 to 1945 the AA badge was designed to incorporate the letter "M" into the design to stand for the Motoring Union, with which the AA merged in 1911.
According to the Old Classic Car website, AA badges carried issue numbers up to the year 1967. These numbers were often confused with membership numbers. AA badges can be dated by their issue number; for example, numbers 1 to 999,999 were issued between the years 1906 and 1930. Speciality badges carried issue numbers such as numbers with an R, S or T prefix that were issued to motorcycles from 1945 to 1956.