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RSPB HISTORY

September 1996. It was over 100 years since the RSPB first came into exissence, and things had moved on a long way from the group of women who had campaigned so successfully against the slaughter of birds for the hat trade. Now the RSPB were managing around 150 nature reserves and were at the forefront of tackling the many issues that threaten our wildlife and enviroment.

The RSPB was also heading towards a million members, whose help is vital to support the charity’s work. Andit was the push towards this amazing milestone that prompted, the first RSPB pin badges, the “Million Members Stick-pin”. For just a small suggested donation, people could support the RSPB and take away an attractive reminder of their gift

Four enamelled badges - Bittern, Bullfinch, Puffin and Red Kite - were commissioned and produced by manufacturers ‘West Country Marketing’. And distribution started in the 1997/98 financial year. There is no record why these species were selected, but we can imagine that the Bittern was because of the concerted conservation effort to try and cling onto this enigmatic reed bed bird, which was on the verge of extinction in the UK. The Red Kite was also a species on the brink, but the RSPB was on a mission to bring it back to its former haunts. But the Puffin and Bullfinch? We can imagine that was purely on looks - they must be two of the most attractive and popular birds.

You will notice that the badge numbers look out of sequence! Numbering didn't start until 2000/01, but the order chosen was random and not according to production runs. But we assure you these were the first four!

In the following year, 1998/99, fore more pins were added, all of highly charismatic species - the evocative Lapwing, the garden-favourite Robin,the endangered Hen Harrier, and our most colourful bird, the Kingfisher.

In 1999/2000 a further four badges of popular species were added - Barn Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, and the Swallow - bringing the total to twelve. The collection was slowly growing!

In 2000/01, three further badges were commissioned - Goldfinch and Wigeon in enamel, and a speshial silver ‘coloured’ issue of the Skylark for the Millennium, chosen because by now its populations were known to be declining so dramatically. It was an emblem for the era–a once common bird whose celebrated song was now being lost from so much of the countryside.

From 2001/02, the badges were manufactured by Rocket Badges - Mute Swan, Avocet, Yellowhammer, Green Woodpecker and the first international-flavour of the collection, the European Bee-eater.

The five issued in 2001/02, (#16-20), had for the first time, their numbers printed on their presentation backing cards.

In 2000 over £77,000 was raised from pin badges; in 2001 this rose to over £200,000 In 2001, a percentage of the collection went to RSPB partnership work abroad, the amount donated being approximate to the value from the Bee-eater pin donations.

So there had then been twenty different designs at this point. Or had there?! In fact, there was the ‘other’ RSPB Bullfinch, facing left rather than right, made for distribution by Centre Parcs, to mark their involvement with the RSPB. And there was a Bittern, commissioned by the Co-operative bank to promote their work with the Society and especially their involvement with the wetlands, released in November 2001. There are also ‘different’ red kites, the original, with green wing tips another with black, although officially these are the same issue pin, and this pin has also latterly been manufactured with an orangey body.

The Co-opetrative Bank’s involvement with the pin badge campaign in 2001 had raised nearly £3000 from badges available on their branch counters.

Because the general campaign has flourished, it was decided to number the badges in 2000/01 but instead of numbering the originals in order of issue, they were simply drawn from the box and numbered that way, so we then had a system of numbering which went

1.Heh Harrier 2.Lapwing 3.Red Kite 4.Swallow 5.Great spotted Woodpecker 6.Robin 7.Puffin 8.Bittern 9.Blue Tit 10.Barn Owl 11.Wigeon 12.Skylark 13.Bullfinch 14.Goldfinch 15.Kingfisher 16.Avocet 17. Yellowhammer 18.Mute Swan 19.Green Woodpecker 20.Bee-eater.

For the 2002/03 Pins, they turned to our RSPB Local Groups. These are the dedicated groups of volunteers out in the community who organise all sorts of social and fundraising activities for the RSPB . They asked the committees to shortlist four birds for production and they chose Tree Sparrow, Nuthatch, Gannet, and Long-tailed Tit.

As 2002 was such a good year for takings from pin badge sales, it was decided to issue more mid-year, and in November 2002 the Snowy Owl, was launched. The popularity of Harry Potter and his pet Snowy Owl, Hedwig, made this a popular choice.

As the millennium was now well out of the way, it was also decided to update the #12 Skylark pin with a ceramic colour coating, and to re-design #11 the Wigeon, which hadn’t been a particularly good seller.

The badges for the next season (2003/04) were again short listed by local groups, and the choice made was; 26.Wren 27.Capercallie 28.Song Thrush, 29.Waxwing, and 30.Osprey. These were initially issued at the Spring 2003 Members Weekend, and took the ‘series’ collection to 30. The American number symbol, that of the (#), was omitted from the backing cards.

For the year 2002/03 the sum raised from pins was in the region of £130,000 again a record!

There was talk in late 2003 of dropping some of the less popular pins such as the Wigeon and the Skylark, and trying to establish just how many of the less popular pins were still unsold, with the aim of putting the scheme on a more secure financial footing, and hopefully eliminating the cost of producing and distributing the slow movers of the range.


A project to be known as the Sustainable Income Project (SIP) was launched and twenty of these ‘slow movers’ were gradually removed from general circulation, leaving a core ten pins to each collection box. It is likely that the quality of the pins is also critical, and the withdrawal so shortly after their introduction of the Song Thrush and Wren may have been down to their inferior design.

The core ten pins being left in circulation at this time were; 4.Swallow, 6.Robin, 7.Puffin, 9.Blue Tit, 10.Barn Owl, 13 Bullfinch, 14.Goldfinch, 15.Kingfisher, 19.Green Woodpecker, and 24.Long-tailed Tit.

There were to be no new pin designs for the general series in 2004, but there were some regional pins being developed. In the spring it was decided to bring two of these into the general series - the Grey Heron from the ‘No Airport at Cliffe’ campaign, and the Peregrine.

The Heron was an ideal flagship for the campaign to stop the ludicrous idea of building the world’s biggest airport slap bang across some of the most protected places for water birds in Europe. What is traditionally the largest breeding colony of Herons in Briton is at our Northward Hill nature reserve, which would have been completely destroyed by the airport. The  Peregrine meanwhile was still very rare and heavily persecuted. These were added as numbers 31 and 32 respectively.

In addition, the Avocet, the logo bird of the RSPB, had dropped out of the top 10, but was redesigned.

The Puffin was re-issued in November 2004 on a new backing card bearing the logo, “Safeguard our sea life”, and a Wandering Albatross was issued for the campaign to stop the damaging long-line fishing practice.

In December 2004 the Wren, the Song thrush, The Avocet and the Yellowhammer were re-designed.

In October 2005 there was a complete re-organisation in the way pins were dispatched and marketed. For the first time, insects and mammal pins were issued, and the new pins had a different backing card. The series was called “British Wildlife”, and included birds.

The Brent Goose was taken from the ‘No Airport at Cliffe’ set and included with these new badges, although it was simaller than the original.

The mammals included in the British Nature set were; Baby Common Seal, Badger, Bottle Nose Dolphin, Otter, Fallow Deer, Hedgehog, Pipistrelle Bat, Red Squirrel, White Hare. Insects were; Common Blue Damselfly, Ladybird, Peacock Butterfly, Red Admiral, Sand Lizard, and Great Yellow Bumblebee. After a short run of the latter this badge changed to the Yellow Bumblebee and an extra black stripe was added to its abdomen.

The birds in the British Wildlife collections were; Blackbird, Chaffinch, Common Tern, Golden Eagle, Goldcrest, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Jay, Kestrel, Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Shag and Tawny Owl.

Note that the Oystercatcher is flying. An image of one sitting was used on a proof badge and is not available–-only two were made!

In March 2006 the Natterjack Toad, Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Swift, Black-tailed Godwit, Mallard and flying Osprey were added to the collection. The Natterjack, with its distinctive yellow line down its back, is found in the heartland pools at the RSPB’s headquarters The Lodge. The Osprey is of course the big draw to our Loch Garten reserve, towhere they first returned after becoming extinct in the UK’

By April 2007, several new pins had been added; the Buzzard, Cirl Bunting, Common Crane, Dartford Warbler, Greenfinch, Kittiwake, Pied Wagtail, and Turtle Dove. Dropping off the list were Green Woodpecker, Skylark, Waxwing, Chough, Black-winged stilt, Gannet, Little Egret and Avocet.

The Crane was produced as a special pin for our East England region and was not generally available in our collection boxes, as was the Kittiwake which was available in Scotland and the South East.

In the insect and mammal selection, a Swallowtail Butterfly was added, such a gorgeous and rare feature of some of the Norfolk broads reserves such as Strumpshaw Fen, and the White Hear was removed.

In November 2007 a seasonal Robin was introduced and in the subsequent year (November 2008) a second edition was created.

In July/August 2007, six new international badges were released to promote our work in Sumatra helping to save the rainforest there. These were; Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Elephant, Sun Bear, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Argus Pheasant, and Red Naped Trogon,These six badges were displayed on their own backing card and were the forerunner to the new backing cards that were to be used in 2008. These were larger and folded into three, and contained an invitation to people to join the RSPB to sopport our work. This was not really a new idea, as the four badges created in 1997 were supplied with a slip of paper in a sealable plastic bag again inviting people to join the RSPB.

Also at this time, the RSPB tried a new manufacturer who produced a limited run of three bird of prey badges; a revised Red Kite, Hen Harrier and the new Peregrine head.This was to support our Birds of Prey campaign, givin that so many continue to be illegally persecuted around the UK each year.

The Peregrine’s dark head was created by using the base metal as the colour, but subsequent production of this by our normal sopplier used black enamel. We also introduced the new Starling badge. Only now that Starling populations have fallen so drastically are people beginning to see the beauty and character of this once abundant species–-it has struggled so much that it is now on the Red List of Species of Conservation Concern.

Later in the year in October 2008, the RSPB added eight new flower badges.Unsure how they would  be received, they have turned out to be very popular. The species included in the set are; Poppy, Snowdrop, Hairy Violet, Daffodil, Primrose, Foxglove, Cornflower, and Daisy.

In addition to this two more species - Clouded Leopard and Agile Gibbon - were added to the Sumatran range. The Great Argus Pheasant was not proving popular and was dropped from this set.

Before these badges were put into production there were three original Sumatran badges that were used to generate support for this huge project they were not supplied on a card and were Tiger (head), Rajah brookes Birdwing Butterfly, and Red Naped Trogon which was larger and a different colour to one supplied on backing card.

Only 100,000 of this original batch were made(approx 16,500 of each).

In October 2007 the British Wildlife Backing cards had the Scottish Charity number added. (Charity N. England and Wales 207076. Scotland No. SCO37654).

In April 2008 the new green ‘tri-folded’ backing cards were produced, and with this change of backing card came some more new badges; Bearded Tit, Buzzard (revised),Black Grouse, Chough (revised), Corncrake, Golden Oriole, Great Crested Grebe, Lapwing (revised), Nuthatch (revised), Stone- cerlew, and Easter chick (March 2008).

As 2009 approached the RSPB realised that quite a lot of stock was in circulation and made the decision not to order more badges for that year.

However if you were fortunate enough to live in Scotland, a special Slavonian Grebe badge was made and only available from one of our Scottish reserves - Lock Ruthven. This badge was also produced on our new backing card which was going to be used for the next delivery which would not be until May 2010. Limited to only 2000 badges the Grede will be quite collectable, and is a beautiful image of one of our rarest water birds.

As May 2010 approached, there was much exitement with the intention to release 35 new badges. Many of the previous designs were to be removed from the current packs to make way for these new designs which would be produced on the new green card first revealed with the Slavonioan Grebe. Instead of producing the badges in three different packs they would be split into seven packs making them better suited for distribution. These packs would be as follows;

Bird of prey pack,

 Including new species Golden Eagle (flying), Merlin, Hobby and Sparrowhawk, and a re-relased Marsh Harrier to the design as when on the ‘60 years at Minsmere’ card.

Garden bird pack

Including the Magpie which was incorporated in the RSPB pin badge collectors group’s Members Badgf.

Flower pack

 No new badges

Wildlife animals

Including new badges Fox, Highland Cattle and Red Deer Stag.

Wildlife bugs

Including new badges Comma Butterfly, Ruddy Darter, Emperor Dragonfly, Garden Tiger Moth, Holly Blue Butterfly, Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Orange-tip Butterfly and Raft Spider.

Water life birds

Including new badges Barnacle Goose, Dipper, Eider, Pintail, Spoonbill and Teal.

Marine pack

Including new badges Cuckoo Wrasse, Razorbill, Leatherback Turtle, Orca, Seahorse, Starfish and Velvet Crab.

For those of you good at maths you will see that this list does not equal 35! That’s because an additional Scottish pack was produced, only available in Scotland, that included Crested Tit, Goldeneye, Pine Marten, Ptarmigan, Scottish Crossbill and Scottish Wildcat.

International badges

All around the world, in different countries, are sister organisations to the RSPB, all working in partnership under the umbrella charity BirdLife International. Or, to put it another way, the RSPB is BirdLife International’s UK,s partner. The RSPB is very blessed to have lots of experience to share, and one way we have done this is though the pin-badge scheme. You have already read about the Bee-Eater badge that was made to help our overseas projects but the RSPB has also produced other badges requested by our overseas partners.

These aren’t normally available in Britain, and it has been difficult to track down the history of these badges before 2008. However, since 2008 a limited number of these badges have been made exclusively available to members of the RSPB Collectors Group. (When it was active)

Service pins

In 2001, the International Year of the Volunteer, a special pin was made that was an oval relief, ‘non-ceramic’ Avocet. They were given out in very specific circumstances. In the RSPB’s Central England Regional, for example, they were issued to retiring committee members as a thank you for all their hard work over the years, and were also given to all attendees at the 2001 ‘Volunteers Conference’ in Corby.

Also in 2001, as part of a project conceived by the Volunteer Unit, RSPB volunteers with long service were presented with special badges, all non-ceramic, They were a Swift for 5 years’ service, Puffin for 10 years, Kingfisher for 15 years, and Osprey for 20 years, all presented in plastic display boxes. There was then an Avocet (silver plated) for 25 years service, an oval white gold Bittern for 30 years. A rose gold Red Kite for 35 years and a 9ct gold Golden Eagle for 40 years service. These were presented in a jewellery ring box.

Other non ‘series’ pin.

It was decided in November 2002 that the Wildlife Explorers, the RSPB group for young people, should have their own set of pins. The characters from the childrens’ magazines were chosen, and three characters, #1 ‘Owlbert’ the Tawny Owl, #2 ‘#2 Rookie’ the Rook, and #3 ‘Red’ the Red Squirrel, were created and numbered one two and three in that order. These are earily distinguishable in collection boxes as they are mounted on red trimmed cards with the Wlidlife Explorers logo.

In the early 1990s this badge showing a diving gannet was issued to anyone on a RSPB cruise from Briblington who joined the RSPB whilst on board. This pin was part of a campaign to preserve sealife.

Projects and campaigns

Along with the new pins for 2003/04 there were four pins commissioned for the ‘No Airport at Cliffe’  project; the Little Egret, Grey Heron, Brent Goose and Ringed Plover, all of which would have had vast swathes of their habitat destroyed if the scheme went ahead.These pins are not numbered as they don’t form part of the general ‘ series’ issue, and were originally only available in the area of Cliffe, Kent.

In the summer of 2004, it was decided to produce a Wandering Albatross to support the ‘Save the Albatross, campaign, and in 2005, the Wandering Albatross was issued. This campaign was to highlight the terrible losses of albatrosses on the world’s oceans,hooked and drowned as they tried to grab bait deing lowered into the seas on giant ‘long-line’ fishing lines. Thousand upon thousand albatrosses are lost eack year this way,putting most of the worlds species in danger of extinction. The pin was issued on two different coloured backing cards, one white one yellow.

A new Snowy Owl, this one perched, was released for the Climate Change awareness project. Here is a creature that is like the bird equivalent of the Polar Bear, requiring the tundra's of the world to breed.

Also, in May 2007, the Crested Tit was created (limited to 1000) but was only available to the general public if they became a ‘Friend of Abernethy’. This was supplied on it’s own backing card.

Regionals

There are also now ‘regional specialty’ pins, currently of Chough and Peregrine available from April 2003. Again, these are available only in specific areas of the UK where these birds are present in the wild.

In the year 2000 we purchased an area of land which became our Rainham Marshes reserve in London. Containing one of the healthiest populations in Britain of the fast declining Water Vole, it seemed appropriate to create our ‘Vinny the Vole’ badge. The reserve at Rye Meads in Hertford shire also had a special badge produced,.

In May 2005 it was decided to launch a special pin for our Titchwell reserve, in the shape of’Sammy’ the long staying Black-winged Stilt, A White-tailed Eagle was also produced to commemorate 100 years of the society working in Scotland.

In June 2007 the reserve at Minsmere funded the creation of a new badge only available from the reserve. This was to celebrate the reserve’s 60th birthday and this badge (Marsh Harrier) was limited to 2000.

In November 2010 three new regional badges were produced. Firstly the Bittern, an important species that had shown increased breeding success, partly due to the RSPB’s reserve management. Available from the Titchwell reserve.

Secondly two new badges, designed by members of the RSPB Pin Badge Collectors Group and Friends of the Lodge, to celebrate 50 years at ‘The Lodge, (The RSPB’s head office). Available from The Lodge shop.

RSPB pin badge collectors group.

With such a diverse and exiting rang of RSPB pin badges, some of them with with very small production runs, their collectability was increasing. Members of the public were selling RSPB pin badges on e-bay for quite considerable sums, and it became clear that there was a need for a resource to help collectors locate rarer badges, and the potential to raise more money to sopport the RSPB’s incredible range of work.

So in January 2008 the RSPB Pin badge Collectors Group was formed. Co-ordinated by Mark Weston a volunteer in the South-East Region. Old Stocks of RSPB badges were recalled from the local groups and regional offices. To help ensure that rarer badges raise money for conservation, the Collectors Group decided that it to should offer them for more than the traditional suggested donation of £1 . In its first year, the group raised a fantastic £32.000, and membership of the group soon topped 100.

For a reasonable joining fee, the collectors receive up-to-date information on new releases, access to proof badges that are often different to the production run, and access to the old original and rarer badges that are still available.

In order to thank its group members for their support, they are allowed access to the RSPB’s International badges that were made by the RSPB for its Birdlife international partners. Limited to 100/200 of each they are issued on a new numbered Collectors Group card and only offered to members of the group.

It was suggested that the Collectors Group had a members’ badge. By using the design of an old RSPB badge and swapping the bird species with something more appropriate to collectors (the Magpie!), The badge was created, and kindly funded by the group’s first member, Mr C>M> Frood.

The group finished end of 2012

So who would have thought it?! Those little badges pinned to many a lapel, hat or binocular strap have given so much pieasure to so many, and at the same time have generated an amazing amount of funds to help conserve amazing wildlife and wildlife places. And now on top of that they are a genuine collectors’ item. You can just see them turning up at an Antiques Road show of the future!

All rights reserved

The wed site was compiled dy Ian Mennell and is correct to the best of my knowledge but if you have any comments or further information pleas feel free to contact me by Email

ianmennell@btinternet,com

Thanks go to Barry Turner Local group, who conceived the original History, and Mark Weston RSPB Pin badge Collectors Group Leader, who compiled the Pin-badge Catalogue (not on General release) Witch some information was obtained from.

The History is only up to 2010

If any one wont's to fetch it up to date please contact