As a child, I think I associated badges with community arts. You would go to some local event and there’d be a badge-making stall where you could write or draw on a circle of paper and have it made into a huge badge.
These badges were as big as your hand; often you’d get NUCLEAR POWER? NO THANKS! badges too.
But punk coincided with the development of the small badge. As calculators and radios miniaturised, so did the metal pin badge. And one company, Better Badges, seized the opportunity. It’s described by wikipedia as:
“a small but culturally crucial company formed by Joly MacFie (b.1950) in West London, which created the very first punk badge in 1976 and went on to produce an estimated 40 million pins over the next six years.”
Part of the success was down to advertising in the NME with a ‘top ten’ of badges sold each week. My 1979 style advisor, Clare, said that my 2 inch Tom Robinson Band badge was ‘the wrong size’ so I left it in my room and ordered some much smaller badges via the NME.
Forty years later, there seems to be some interest on ebay in punk badges, with 4 people bidding on a ‘Rare Clash Badge’ and quite a few collections going for £20 or more. In 2017, a Better Badges exhibition in New York featured the personal 10,000+ Better Badges collection belonging to Kevin Pedersen.