Coming of age by Norman B Call.

It’s time for another art form, long overdue to be recognised in the world of Koi. That of the beautiful and sometimes intricate designs of the koi badges that represent koi clubs and koi events all over the world.

Being ‘Koi Kichi’ and a graphic designer it is only natural for me to collect these sometimes rare momentoes in my travels. I collect anything that has to do with Koi; coffee mugs, watches, belt buckles, t-shirts, etc. But my real passion are these jewels of the Koi hobby, pins. I started collecting koi pins in the early 80’s. With the limited numbers usually produced for a show, it became obvious to me that some of these pins would become hard to come by someday. My collection consists of 144 club and show pins and twenty more koi related pins. Many of these pins have a special memory of an event, good times and friends. Now when I go to a koi event I will buy several pins if available, to trade with other avid pin collectors.

Friends and koi hobbyists over the years have given me pins they have been saving for me just to see if I will buckle under the weight and cry for mercy. These fellow hobbyists I thank you sincerely. I display myself shamelessly to acquire more pins of course, but the real reason is to peak the curiosity of others and to entice them into the hobby. Hopefully showing other koi clubs what beauty can be created to represent their club or event.

The Koi pin was a late bloomer. Southern California was the birthplace on the North American continent for the koi hobby in the 50’s and 60’s. Not untill the early 80’s did the koi pin show up however. The Southern California Koi Club and the ZNA Orange County Chapter were the first, then the ZNA Southern California Koi Club and the Associated Koi Club of America (AKCA). The Ventura County Koi Club introduced a show badge in 1985 from then on it was a hit coast to coast.

Many Koi pins are exquisite in design and others are beautifully simple. Some clubs carry the same theme from year to year such as the Ventura Koi Club with members designing each years koi pattern, one for each of the 13 show varieties. (1997 sees the 13th badge depicting the gin-rin variety – ed). By the way, the 1986 pin featured the grand champion of the 1985 show. Nowadays it is not uncommon for the grand champion Koi to be featured on next years pin.

Other clubs have a variety of different designs and shapes. One of the very first (1983)was the ZNA Orange County club. It featured the ZNA scaled pattern. Their third annual show pin (1985)had 1984’s ‘Founders award’ winning Tancho Kohaku depicted on it.

Many clubs have been sponsoring Koi shows for many years before a pin made its debut. The Southern California Koi Club was the first Koi club in the USA, founded in 1968. However, it wasn’t until their 15th annual show (1983) that they produced their first show pin. It depicted a beautiful Kohaku on a dark blue background. The Central California Koi Society presented their first show pin at their 18th annual show (1996) I am proud and honoured to have designed this clubs logo and pin.

Since the early days of the AKCA, the Koi hobby has grown, .. no exploded across the country. The Mid-Atlantic in early 85 consisted of a club in Pennsylvania, which was then joined by Virginia in 87. By 1989 the Mid-Atlantic had their premier koi show with member clubs from five states. Now, the Mid-Atlantic is host to almost all of the eastern states with over 1046 member families and producing beautiful cloisonne pins. An example is the Mid-Atlantic 7th annual 195 Longwood Gardens Koi show pin designed by David Hester. The Shiro Utsuri is beautifully framed by an arbour of roses.

A lot goes into the design for a club logo, or a show pin. Some times they end up being one and the same. Maureen Hansen designed the logo for the Koi Club of San Diego and it became the show pin for 86, 87, 88, and 90. Talented artists in almost every club are demonstrating their creativity.

In the USA the AKCA holds an annual seminar which is hosted by one of the associated clubs. This forces them into action pin-wise. This happened to the Santa Clara Valley Koi and Water Garden Club. The club pin was designed by Alice Rosner and the accompanying AKCA Seminar pin was designed by Mary Jane Ishida. The pin depicted the Golden Gate Bridge and micro-chips to represent the silicon valley – one of my favourites. This seminar pins show the history and integrity of the host club. For instance the Mid-Atlantic 1994 AKCA (Baltimore) pin is very patriotic. The “Pride of Baltimore” ship floats on a light blue background with the American flag proudly displayed. This pin is in the shape of Fort Henry and two Koi, one with the pattern of the east coast and the other with the west frame the ship. The 1996 (Florida) pin has a whimsical pink flamingo, an alligator, Disneyland’s red tour bus and of course, a space shuttle taking off from the Kennedy space centre. It also depicts the best showa I have ever seen in cloisonne. One of the largest Koi badges I own was designed by Doris and Chuck Poppe for the ZNA Potomac Club. This pin depicts a Kohaku, the ZNA logo and the White House on a light blue background, this pin pretty much says it all.

The Pacific Northwest Koi Club Association (PNKCA) has ten convention pins to their credit. The member clubs are from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Canada. Like the AKCA, the PNKCA has it’s conventions in different locations hosted by the various clubs. This produces a nice variety in style and content. The North West Koi and Goldfish Club has a marvellous artist who designs their show posters, programmes and their pins. Her name is Patti McGee. Patti designed the logo for the 1992 (Portland) seminar, the great Northwest is amply displayed with green forest, blue waters and Mount Hood in the background.

America doesn’t hold the monopoly on koi pins. Now there are fantastic koi pins from clubs the world over, such as the Netherlands, Africa, Australia, Japan and many more. Japan has produced the least amount of Koi pins per number of shows. Koi tie clasp and tie tacks have been their thing.

The British Koi Keepers Society (B.K.K.S) has many sections, (affiliated clubs) much like our AKCA. Each section has their own koi show and as expected many have their own section badge and some produce a different show badge each year. (Norm obviously knows something I don’t – ed). The Brits have not been into Koi badges as long as the Americans but they’re catching up. The B.K.K.S has the biggest show outside of Japan and has now produced a theme show pin since 1993. Some of the section pins are very unique, one of my favourites is the Essex Section. Another favourite is the Crouch Valley Section, the logo is a cartoon Kohaku with a cane and top hat reminding us of Groucho Marks and Fred Astaire. This pin was designed by Alan Rogers, the now B.K.K.S Chairman and senior judge. It has special memories for me. It is difficult to single out a favourite design. Each pin has its own meaning and is a piece of art in itself. I really enjoy the different cultural designs from country to country.

I can go on and on naming artists and describing fantastic pins forever. I regret that I cannot name every artist and describe every pin in this article. Maybe someday I’ll write a book on the subject, if there is enough interest.

The quality of the pin has come a long way since the 40’s and early 50’s. The glass/enamel is better and the colours more pure. The casting is now easier, less expensive and much improved in quality. Pins are being made for almost every type of club, sport, franchise and event. America has become the largest user of pins in the world, a multi-million dollar business with Taiwan the largest producer. The demand is now incredible.

It may have been difficult for clubs to finance the production of show pins in the past, but no more. Today there are so many people in the koi hobby, club and show pins can provide a sizeable profit. Pins are made in many ways, photo-etched enamel (the least expensive), photo-etched plate, die-struck high relief, die-cast enamel, or die-struck cloisonne which is the most expensive.

If your club has already developed a logo, your work is half done. If not most pin manufacturers have in-house graphic capabilities for a small fee. Your local pin representative will have samples of the many types of die cast on hand for you to choose from.

This is a great way for clubs to expose themselves to the public and promote goodwill. Art is a great way for a club to develop an identity. The Koi pin can truly be a piece of art and should be appreciated as such. So how about producing a pin for your club/koi show. Koi pin collectors like myself would be grateful. Thanks for the ART. Save me a pin.



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