So far, no one has ever donated a button to the Book Fair that says “Kiss Me, I’m Irish!” But we do get what are known in the trade as “pinbacks”. These are fun to look at, but perilous indeed to browse through. You’d never guess it, but pinbacks have pins on their backs.
Political buttons galore come through, from what I am still convinced was an original Woodrow Wilson to that Obama for U.S. Senate pin we saw recently. I’ve never known which is more collectible really: the folks who make it or the folks who had their day in the sun and then disappeared. (Someday I’ll tell you the sad story of the pins I bought specifically because I KNEW the candidate didn’t have a chance, and I felt his election stuff might be good for a laugh some day. Hey, in 1976, it was obvious that Ronald Reagan was too old to try again.)
Advertising pins are more reliable. Everybody needs a Spuds MacKenzie or a Morton Salt Girl pin. I can’t imagine why no one sends me any of those old Chicago Tribune buttons from the days when they REALLY had the “World’s Greatest Comics”: the ones with pictures of Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie and Andy Gump, and the rest of that clan. And they appeal to buyers from all political parties.
Buttons with goofy slogans are good for a buck or too as well. Believe it or not, there are still people who wear a cap that they have crammed to clattering with pins like: “Mutants for Nuclear Energy” or “My Other Car is a Bike” or “Don’t Just Do Something; Stand There!”
The Book Fair itself has sometimes indulged in buttons. There was the year all of us shift bosses wore “ASK ME” buttons, some of which were decorated with scratch-and-sniff dill pickle stickers, in honor of the Dill Pickle Award given at Bughouse Square. (Don’t ask; the company went out of business or we could have sold thousands of those stickers.) One year our sponsor gave us buttons that dared people to “Get Caught Reading”. I myself produced buttons for quick and easy money, one in honor of the Sherlock Holmes exhibit (great idea, but they were delivered the day after the grand opening) and one for true Christmas shoppers at the Very Merry Bazaar. Dedicated to every Scrooge in the crowd, it urged “Just Say Humbug!” Couldn’t sell it. People would pick it up and say, “My brother would love this…but I shouldn’t encourage him.” Did I ever tell you about easy money? It ain’t easy; usually, it ain’t money, too.
Hey! What happened? This was supposed to be an Irish blog in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and it turned into a discussion of pinback doodads. We get lots of doodaddery, of course. Last year, we had one of those papier-mache rocks you’re supposed to hide your spare keys in and then leave it around where no one will notice.
What’s that got to do with anything? Well, it’s a sham rock.