Badge mania. (Published as Bernie’s Badges) by Bernie Woollands.
It’s not unusual for Koi keepers to collect Koi related artefacts. For many years the Rinko magazine contained a feature called “Koi’s ornament” that focused on Koi in the arts. I think the current day badge design and manufacture deserves a similar place in our Koi folklore because it is practised internationally and the work of one is often the inspiration for another.
I never intentionally set out to collect badges, or pins as our American cousins call them, it just sort of happened. When I attended my first National show in 1987 I bought the current B.K.K.S badge and later on in 1988 I got my section (the South East) badge. For a couple of years I was content to wear these two as a sign of my allegiance and did so until the B.K.K.S introduced two more badges, the kohaku and the 20th anniversary badge. At this point pinning on the four badges every time I went to a Koi event became a chore, so I transferred them to my hat. Things stayed stable for a little while and then two things happened that made me a Koi badge collector. The first event was the arrival of Stan Ranson from the Ventura County Koi Club of California. This section was twinned with mine and when Stan visited the UK he presented me, along with many other Koi keepers up and down the country a number of American pins. I think I got three, which were added to my hat. The second event occurred at 1990’s National, Glyn Bowman of the Norwich section noticed my hat, chastised me for not having a Norwich section badge and then promptly gave me one. From that moment on I became a badge collector and since then I have managed to amass quite a collection (58 at the last count) by buying them at section shows, but mostly swapping them with other collectors up and down the country. Adam Davis (East End) and Pete Iredale (East Pennine) being my main source of supply.
In the short time I have been collecting I have seen a marked improvement in the quality of the badges, mainly in the manufacturing process. A look at the two B.K.K.S badges, the original and the 25year anniversary will show you what I mean. The section badges interest me the most. A lot of work and thought has gone into their design with most of them trying to include a Koi and a local feature to adequately identify the club, London’s Big Ben, Mid Somerset’s Apple and the North East Davy Lamp being fine examples, while Crouch Valley developed their own ‘Croucho’ character and eventually brought him to life with a fine badge. Several section’s are now on their second badge, the Pennines, Crouch Valley and the Merseyside section to name a few, The Essex section has two too, but you have to look closely to tell the difference – it’s the quality of the cast.
The Americans, ever innovative have produced a number of theme badges. Ventura County by producing a series of badges, starting in 1985 depicting the 13 show varieties. The Mid Atlantic Koi Club immortalise the previous years Grand Champion on their show badges. Belgium and the Netherlands now have their badge and so to do many Japanese although so far I have been unable to obtain one of these. While many countries and clubs strive to depict the ultimate fish in the variety of their choice I think the B.K.K.S still have the edge with their kohaku with the pattern of the UK but then I’m probably biased.
Now in it’s fourth year the B.K.K.S has it’s latest show badge – the Utsuri which comes free with the Show Magazine. It, along with badges from other years are also available from the B.K.K.S stand, a good place to start your collection. The National show badge is a favourite of mine incorporating many of the design elements that I consider make a good badge, a theme (the series of varieties), the B.K.K.S kohaku and a quality die stamp. Like many members of the South East section I feel a close affinity to the National show badge, it being designed by one of our members who we think was inspired by our sister club Ventura County. It should be mentioned that the Australians have also got in on the act producing a kohaku for the 20th anniversary, a sanke for their 21st and are continuing the series theme with their ‘National’, they however, have chosen the bekko for the fourth in their series.
Nowadays my badge collection is housed in five small display cases (adapted photo frames) and adorn the walls in my study. Fifty odd badges became too big a burden for my hat, but even though I don’t wear so many I always carry a pocket full of swaps just in case I see a badge I don’t have. Occasionally I have to use all my powers of persuasion to get someone to part with their badge, but on several occasions I have been touched by a fellow Koi keeper giving me a badge that they have been saving for me all winter knowing my passion. Most badges in my collection hold some memory or other that makes it a personal thing. It’s the associated memory that makes it easy to answer the question that is often asked, “Which one’s your favourite?” – the Koi-less East Pennine, even though it lacks a Koi it still manages to portray the hobby, as well as remind me of two superb section pond visits to them and the many friends made doing so.
This year you’ll find me at the National working in the benching tent and occasionally on the prowl looking for the badges that I haven’t got and wherever possible promoting the idea of section badges amongst those who don’t have one. It’s no longer a case of not having enough members to justify the costs – look upon them as a means of raising section funds. I believe there are enough collectors out there now to make it a viable investment. I understand the O.D.D. badge company will be at the show. They manufacture the National badge, as well as the K.H.F’s. I used them to make the ‘new’ South East’s and found them very helpful (hint, hint). The West Wales section displayed a beautiful emblem with Koi replacing the Prince of Wales feathers at their show last year that would make a great badge. I am also looking forward to the design the Scottish section chooses, a Koi in a kilt? who knows?
Regardless of whether you share my interest in badges, you share my passion for Koi – so enjoy the show and look forward to seeing you next year – the Bekko year?