Gotta Catch ‘Em All!… Collector Pins That Is

After months of doom and gloom about Rio’s Olympic capabilities,  things seem to be running far better than anticipated. As a (very) amateur runner myself I love watching the sprints and marathon coverage, as well as the diving, swimming, gymnastics and beach volleyball. Though honestly, any time in the next two weeks if the games are on, I’m probably going to plunk myself down in front of them for a while, regardless of what’s on.

Another neat thing-to me-about the games is their tie to collector pin trading, something I know a little bit about. Since the modern Olympic games, collector pins have been a part of the games. The first modern games in 1896 featured three  pins: one for judges, one for officials, and one for the athletes. If you haven’t guessed, the amount of pins for each successive set of games has increased exponentially since then. Nowadays, if you believe theCollector Pins “Pin-heads” as they’re called, collector pins are more influential than money in places, and are in fact used as tips at restaurants and in taxis.

Pin collectors at the games will spend a lot of their free time trading, wheedling, and bartering their way into a particularly unique or coveted piece. They’ll put down money for the commercially sold pieces, but the truly memorable and desirable pins will be the ones that are traded for, and for some pieces, once they’re obtained, they will never be up for trading but will instead be displayed alongside other highly unique and priceless pieces.

Someone interviewed in an article about the pins said that the craze at the Olympics could only be related to another worldwide obsession: Pokemon Go. He pointed out that just like the game, collectors will spend a lot of free time wandering around the grounds and then battling other collectors to get what they want without parting with too many of their own favorite pieces. And the kicker is that perhaps the rarest and most sought after pin of this year’s Olympic Games features, you guessed it, a Pikachu, smiling beside the Olympic Rings. Catch’ em all!

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These Lapel Pins Could Land You In Jail!

Don’t get me wrong, I know the power of lapel pins. I know that they can inspire, incite action, comfort, or amuse. But in North Korea, lapel pins are more than a way to personalize an outfit or reflect a cause: they’re mandatory. That’s correct. Every adult citizen of North Korea is required to wear a pin bearing the image of Kim Jung Il or his father, Kim Il Sung.

And so, when a bag containing about 200 pins bearing the image of the late dictator, Jung Il, were found near the DMZ inside the border of South Korea, it was not assumed that they were set down by accident and left. It appears that this deposit of North Korean propaganda is just another in a long string of antagonizing tactics used to push one side or the other and instigate war.

Police have the pins in custody (I love how that sounds!) and they’re investigating how they lapel pinsgot into the country. If they do find an individual in South Korea responsible for the pins, that person could face up to seven years in jail. For pins! But for years, both sides have devised ways of sending propaganda to each other. Though in the case of South Korea, their propaganda sometimes came in the form of basic necessities like food and even socks. North Korea’s impoverished citizenry is the focus of concern for humanitarian organizations in South Korea. Their efforts to send supplies to North Korea are often  responded to with threats for military or nuclear action, and so the South Korean government does its best to prevent such humanitarian aid from being sent in the first place.

Recently though, South Korea has been blasting K-Pop (think the Asian version of the Backstreet Boys) and anti-North Korea broadcasts across the border, with North Korea sending back similar broadcasts and floating balloons with dictatorial propaganda pamphlets back over into South Korea. I openly admit it sounds insane.

The reality of the situation in North Korea is obviously very serious, and their threats are not to be taken lightly. But I cannot help but be both amused and impressed that lapel pins are enough to start country-wide investigations and that retaliation might be blaring the Korean Justin Timberlake back over the border to the North.

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Service Star Flag pins and their meaning

As the political season kicks into high gear, we at PinMart start getting news alerts about what the candidates and their entourages are wearing on their suit jackets. Usually it’s timeless American Flag lapel pins, but yesterday there was a barrage of news stories on a pin that Democratic VP candidate Tim Kaine was wearing. Some years ago, Kaine had done humanitarian work in Honduras, so when he gave his DNC speech on Wednesday, his flag lapel pin, which was clearly not the American Flag, it was at first IDed the Honduran flag. This riled up critics who expressed anger that Kaine was not paying tribute to his own country. But upon closer scrutiny, and confirmed by Kaine, the flag he was wearing was discovered to be a blue Service Star flag pin. That is because two days ago his son Nat, a marine, deployed overseas.

This uproar made me realize that perhaps the American public isn’t as familiar with these flag pins as I thought they were. And that an informational blog was needed. So here you go!

The Service Star flag, or Blue Star Banner as it’s sometimes called, was designed by a WWI Service Star Flag PinArmy Captain. He had two sons in active duty and thought it would be a fitting tribute to their service. By WWII the practice became widespread to display a Service Star flag banner in the window of your home if you had children deployed, with one star for every child in harm’s way. It even led to an organization called Blue Star Mothers of America, who would create care packages to send to soldiers overseas. And in the intervening decades, the stars have come to represent more than just sons: the US government notes that they can recognize all members of an immediate family, from mothers and fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.

The proper way to hang this flag, when not in the form of a lapel pin, should be indoors, with the logo facing out the window. And if tragedy does strike, a gold star is added to the blue star, to indicate a fallen family member.

Symbols like this, whether in the form of lapel pins or the traditional flag, provide great comfort to those who have family members in the military, protecting American and its allies across the world. It serves as a way to recognize others also suffering the same worries, and provides a network of community support.

So I hope this was helpful. And I hope that next time you see Kaine, or anyone in your community wearing this lapel pin, that you’ll recognize it and its importance to the families of service that men and women fighting all over the world.

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Political Pins, Policy, and Protesters, Oh My!

No pressure or anything, but the 2016 US Presidential election is possibly one of the most important elections in our country’s history. I say this because we are a world-policy-driving country in the midst of a world that is dealing with terror attacks, race wars, environmental upheaval, and a host of other as of yet unthought of issues. And our choices, if both the Democratic and Republican conventions go according to speculation, are the first woman to hold the office of President or the first man without any prior political or military experience to take the office. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.

This Monday the Republican party will holds its national conventioNationalConvention16n in Cleveland, Ohio. Here delegates will formally nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate, and he will likely accept that nomination. It will be four days of speakers, platform-planning, and excitement-building programs, aimed to pull the party together and planning the way forward to the November elections.

Then the following week the Democrats will host their own National Convention, nominating Hillary Clinton, this one in Philadelphia PA. Their convention will run much the same, though no doubt their agreed-upon party platform will look markedly different.

One thing all the delegates can agree upon, regardless of party affiliation, is their love of political swag. The spectacle is easily half the reason some of the delegates enjoy going to the convention, and it’s certainly one of the main reasons I enjoy watching the televised portions of it. Everything from outrageous hats and costumes to the more traditional political pins and ribbons will be on display. Think of conventions like the political Lalapolooza: with every trending and established political “rock star” taking part.

There will no doubt be protests outside both venues, and personally, as long as they’re peaceful, I’m all for that. That’s part of what makes our country great: the ability to speak freely and openly about important issues. And also the passion that both the delegates and the protesters alike feel for issues facing this country. We always need passion: now we just need the next great leader who can channel that passion into policy.

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An End to Memorial Pins

It’s not an easy thing to talk about: all of this violence happening to police and to the people they are sworn to protect. The truth is that none of this should be happening, and we shouldn’t have to talk about it at all. Or rather, I wish that we didn’t need to talk about it anymore. As a human I watch the news and sometimes cannot bear what I see. As someone who works with awareness products for a living, I feel exactly the same way.

The understanding that doctors and scientists all over the world are working each and every day to improve and remove the likes of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and Lyme disease (to name but a few) makes wearing a pink breast cancer ribbon, or a red heart disease ribbon, feel hopeful, as well as a way to honor those who have been taken from us. But when I see requests flowing in for awareness ribbons to remember young black men who were killed during routine traffic stops, or the horror that was Dallas last week… it’s almost too much to take.

Our business is built on recognizing and inspiring change with products like memorial pins memorial pinsand bracelets and the like. But I don’t think there’s a single person here at PinMart that wouldn’t gladly give up all of the orders that come in after tragedies like Sandy Hook, 9/11, or the Dallas massacre. I would like nothing more than to never see a black awareness ribbon pin, or a heart with “Remember…”, ever again.

But we’re not there yet. This world is full of the painfully beautiful and the just plain painful, and you can’t, as yet, have one without the other. But that doesn’t mean we should turn off and shut down. It’s time to renew our faith in our fellow man, to be kind to strangers, and to be cautious about labels and stereotypes.  And not having to put together another order for a memorial service for someone who’s life was cut short… that matters.

Here’s to doing everything we can to be our very best, most compassionate, patient selves. Here’s to kindness. And here’s to crazy cat lady pins, and avocado pins, and snow cones and martini glass pins. To pins that make us smile.

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Happy Holiday Weekend from PinMart!

Ah, the obligatory 4th of July blog post! I don’t say that grudgingly, as this is one of my absolute favorite holidays, especially as I get older. It’s an opportunity to celebrate family, friends, and community, as well as our country and all it stands for. When I was a kid it was mostly about the fireworks, and the excitement around the subsequent landscape or siding damage that inevitably occurred. Now the fireworks are still wonderful, but the social aspect with friends and family is just as much fun.

And the 4th has grown to be so much more than just a backyard BBQ holiday. Summer festivals are scheduled for the 4th, parades, block parties and craft shows. You could fill up every minute of your long weekend going from one festivity to another. Or you can simply relax in the backyard with a book for the long weekend. And in a way, that’s a good analogy for the American spirit, and the 4th of July celebration. We have the freedom to do whatever we want this weekend, because previous generations, and current service men and women, won that right for us.

Keeping in line with that, Americans show their pride in any number of ways. Some go to Patriotic lapel pinsbaseball games and sing the National Anthem with gusto (if not perfect pitch). Others don patriotic lapel pins before hitting the golf course. Someone like me, I’ll likely probably go out looking for some live music and dance the night away with a diverse crowd of my fellow Americans. In my opinion nothing brings people together quite like live music.

Whatever you end up doing this holiday weekend, we at PinMart hope you’re safe and happy! Because this great country has unlimited things to see, do, experience and enjoy. And for those of you shooting off your own fireworks purchased from those roadside kiosks up in Wisconsin or Indiana: be careful! I know those massive shells are cool but boy can they light up a tree if they’re aimed wrong.

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Souvenir Pins Are Great Travel Companions

Road trip season is here! And “road trip” can mean literally putting rubber to the road and exploring our great country the old fashioned way. Or it can mean jumping an airplane to explore parts unknown in the USA or around the world. Summer is a great time to go exploring, no matter how you do it. And one of the best parts of “road trips” is the mementos that you bring back from your journeys. Souvenir pins are proving to be a popular choice this year.

I make a point of looking for souvenir pins wherever I go, be that a museum right here in Chicago or all the way in California at the Winchester Mystery House (which is Souvenir pinsmindbogglingly cool, by the way). Collectable pins are great because they’re unique, they represent a place and time in your explorations, and they travel well. Much better than a 1/4 scale replica of the Capital Building in Washington DC, for example. And instead of having to take time to put all of your paper souvenirs into a scrap book, pins go right up on your cork board and voila!

Another neat accessory I’ve seen recently for travelers is world map cork boards for you to attach your pins to. So now you have a memento of an experience, and a map to see geographically where you’ve been! I’ve seen a few in person and they make great conversation pieces, with people pointing to different pins to hear the story behind it.

No matter how you travel this summer, try to get out and go exploring! Whether it’s your home town or across the world, everywhere you go has something interesting, unique and fun to offer. And be on the lookout for souvenir pins when you do. Just remember to take them off your lapel if you’re going through airport security… word to the wise, they trip those metal detectors every time.

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Custom Lapel Pins Are Going Viral

It’s safe to say that lapel pins are taking over the internet. With marketplaces like Etsy out there, and web savvy people who know how to create their own website storefronts, combined with companies like PinMart who will create (just about) any thing your heart desires, the possibilities are endless. And I cannot tell you how cool it feels to go on something like Instagram or Buzzfeed and see content featuring custom lapel pins that I’ve personally had a hand in: it’s seeing a little bit of you stretching out across the world and make it a bit more colorful, unique, and edgy.

Custom Lapel Pins from Choonimals

Recently a Instagrammer (is that a word?), a creative person and pin designer herself, posted a snarky-in-a-good-way comment on how cliche custom pin designs are becoming, and I have to say I definitely saw some parallels between what she was saying and what I see daily here at PinMart. Bart Simpson, pot leafs, cats, skulls. Yeah… that actually pretty much covers a lot of the designs that cross my desk on any given day. However, as a producer as much as a designer, we also see a lot of really fantastic, unique stuff, from “Trapeze Jesus” to a the charmingly crooked smile of internet sensation Princess Monster Truck (as drawn by the geniuses at Choonimals).

And while we discourage plagiarism, and we can’t crank out images that someone else has the copyright for, we LOVE all the creative designs we see coming in these days. When I started (boy I sound old saying that) we did predominantly corporate logos, baseball trading pins, and Lion’s Club pins. Nothing wrong with that, but to be fair, they all start looking pretty much the same after a while. Then in the last year or two, novelty pins have just exploded, and it has been awesome. Vegans, roller derby girls, music fest junkies, beard enthusiasts, and yes, crazy cat ladies, have come out in force to fill the internet, and my inbox, with amazing, insane, and hilarious designs and I salute you all!

The Instagrammer I mentioned above, by the name of Penelope Gazin, added, “They remind me of tattoos, because people decorate themselves with their favorite images that also tell a story about themselves,” and I think that’s the best part of lapel pins. Whether you’re wearing a Lion’s Club pin or a Rastafarian banana, chances are you’re proud of whatever you’re pinning to yourself. You tell a story with custom lapel pins just like you do with any other piece of clothing or jewelry, or even tattoos. So wear that Purrmaid pin, or that Sad Keanu lapel pin with pride, and know we at PinMart can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

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Safety is big business

There’s one thing I know is true-well, two if you count always listening to your mother-and that’s that safety matters. Safety first. Safety is job one. There are a thousand slogans about safety and its importance at home, at school, especially in the workplace.  Some are cheesy, others are clever, but all are correct. Our lives are one big spin of the danger roulette wheel without precautions and safety protocols.

June is the month that businesses focus on safety, whether it’s unveiling new safe procedures, or pinpointing areas for improvement and setting goals for the rest of the year. And while you may roll your eyes at the pamphlet on the proper way to lift from your knees and not with your back, workplace safety lapses cost American businesses north of $170 BILLION every year, according to the experts in the field: OSHA. I don’t have to tell you that is a lot of money (but seriously, that’s a LOT of money).

And believe it or not it’s not all injuries incurred at construction sites or down mine shafts. Office environments can be dangerous as well, if in sometimes sneakier ways. Sitting in front of a computer screen all day sounds innocuous until you realize what that constant safety lapel pinsbad posture is doing to your neck and back after years of sitting. Ergonomic office furniture, as well as encouraging employees to get up, walk around and stretch their legs is a very vital safety protocol that prevents millions in medical bills. And getting up for five minutes to clear your head is definitely a mental safety protocol, if you ask me.

Safety is serious business. And it’s a genuine business into itself, with companies built around helping other businesses and organizations run in a safer, more efficient manner. They create programs with incentives that run from safety lapel pins to paid vacation days and other perks. These programs may cost money in the short run for a business, but it’s guaranteed to reduce costs in the long term when businesses spend less on medical insurance payouts and sick days for injured employees.

And even if you don’t have the resources to get professional safety analysis and program instruction, common sense and simple goals go a long way. Targeting what causes the most problems and then setting goals to lower or eliminate that problem can be genuine lifesavers. And with whiteboards proclaiming “It has been 64 days since we’ve had an accident” along with swag like safety lapel pins or lanyards, can be reward enough to keep working safer, and smarter.


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How aware are you about allergies?

It’s safe to say that in our connected, content-driven 21st century world that we’re very “aware”. Social media keeps us up on our third cousin twice removed and their upcoming birthday, while 24 hour news makes sure we know every terrible thing a politician says about another politician. We almost can’t avoid this awareness. But something that sometimes gets overlooked, or at least under recognized, are food allergies. This month is designated National Food Allergies Awareness month, and I think it’s probably one of the more informative awareness campaigns out there, and wearing things like awareness ribbon lapel pins is a great way to start important conversations.

How many times have you requested no pickles on your burger only to sit down, take a bite… and taste the sour crunch of a pickle? Super annoying, I know. But imagine you’re Awareness Ribbon Lapel Pinsdeathly allergic to pickles. That sour crunch could mean a life threatening reaction is about to occur. What if it didn’t even take biting into that pickle, but just having your burger made where pickles are also used could cause the same reaction? Chances are you’d start limiting your restaurant options to places that could promise that no pickles ever make it into the kitchen. And needless to say, that really limits where you can eat out.

I know someone who’s son has this problem. Peanuts, and other nuts as well, are as dangerous to him as arsenic is to us. And unlike arsenic, nuts are in everything, and not just restaurants. Nuts are in classrooms and lunch rooms, they’re at food courts in the mall, baseball games, and in enclosed spaces like airplane cabins. So for her and her son, going to school is potentially poisonous, as is going to the mall, or cheering the Cubs on at Wrigley Field… and taking a trip across the country by plane is almost absolutely out of the question.

But because her son looks so healthy otherwise, and is as active and outgoing as he is, many people take for granted that his health could be compromised with something as seemingly innocent as a peanut. So for them, things like allergy awareness ribbon lapel pins are a great and vital way to start a dialogue about the seriousness of her son’s situation. Because while you might look at Reese’s peanut butter cups and worry about things like calories, for millions of people, they’re  not just dangerous to the thighs: they’re actually deadly.

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