Our History

Over 30 years of the Badge Collectors Circle


The beginnings

The Badge Collectors Circle was founded in 1980 by Frank Setchfield. The aims of the club were to discover and record the history of British non-uniformed badges, those badges worn by the British public, which reveal a great deal of our social history.

Frank had collected a multitude of things as a child in the 1950-60s including badges.

Whilst at Ripon College he ran a student 'newsletter' called Colditz. The official rag magazine had been banned but 'Colditz' quickly caught on as a more regular replacement and resulted in a charity revue in 1977 and the production of a button badge. This was the late 1970s and the UK was in the grip of a badge explosion. From the popular culture of punk rock through to political pressure group campaigns Frank recognised the social history and became a serious collector of button badges, and it was not difficult, as they seemed to be everywhere.

The Circle began as a direct result of the Midland Arts group badge exhibition in Nottingham in December 1979. Frank was able to get in touch with the collectors who exhibited and those who just came to view as well as other collectors who he had corresponded with in 1978-9. The first newsletter went out in July 1980 free of charge and the Circle was born.

These humble beginnings in 1980 saw a newsletter going out every month of the year. These early newsletters were often very thin as the Circle tried to find its way. Collectors of all types of badges were gradually attracted. By 1982 over sixty collectors had joined ranging from Trade Union, Brewery, Golly, Football, Rugby, Advertising, Butlins holiday camps, Cycling, Home Front, and of course general collectors such as Frank himself who collected Button badges.

A change in 1983 saw the Newsletters going out bi-monthly and it was Newsletter 42 in July 1985 that was first titled ‘The Badger’. The title stuck and became synonymous with the club, collectors more often saying they were a member of ‘The Badger’ rather than the longer winded ‘Badge Collectors Circle’.


Circle Takes Shape

The publication in 1986 of Frank’s book ‘The Official Badge Collector’s Guide From the 1890’s to the 1980s’ helped to publicise the Circle which grew accordingly reaching over 250 members by the late 1980s. The workload became too much for Frank who was a very busy primary school teacher, and as result Frank’s mum Mary was recruited as secretary, a role which she fulfilled right up to 2000.

The newsletter developed a lot during this period although it was still very cheaply produced and held together with enthusiasm. Photocopies were often poor and even text could at times be difficult to read.

As a result Frank was always delighted when members sent in articles- it wasn’t so much about the finished product as about the badge information and during this period John Eagles, Ian Smith and Martin Whittaker were regular contributors

Collectors were often attracted to the Circle by its eclectic nature, specialist badge groups existed for areas such as Football, Brewery or Trade Union Badges but many specialist collectors found the pooling of general information useful and newsletters provided a great chance to swap or sell the badges that came their way which didn’t fit into their particular category.

The Circle developed rapidly through the late 1980s. Frank quickly realised that it was a whole area of badges that he did not collect that drew in the most members. The quality enamelled metal items were what most collectors were after. The appeal of these was, not simply in their value, which inevitably was far greater than the vast majority of button badges, collectors enjoyed the quality enamelling that it took to produce these miniature works of art. Whether it was the art-deco song badges or the quality of a Miller enamelled bowling club badge it was clear that these were in many ways more collectable. It also quickly emerged that one particular area of enamel badges drew in more members than any other-Robertsons Gollies.

In November 1984 Joyce Mellor produced a ‘checklist’ of Gollies-one of the early works to come directly through the newsletters. Joyce also started a postal auction which later passed to Barry Croucher, Richard English and then John Manley.

This period saw a lot of Golly activity as the numbers of such collectors began to become dominant within the club. Ian Craig emerged through the pages of the Badger with an excellent series of articles and drawings which stood out through his excellent art work and making the most of the black and white format. Ian’s work was very popular and this resulted in the special ‘Robertson Collector’ series of badges being issued through the newsletters, especially for ‘Badger’ members.


Circle Expands

Newsletter subscription in 1990 was £5 per annum (£3 for unwaged) for six issues and this period saw the Circle expand as collectors were attracted by an increasing number of auction lists and adverts. It is true to say that many newsletters consisted mainly of lists of badges

In July 1989 Ian Craig produced the design of our own ‘Badger’ enamel badge and logo. This proved popular and eventually over a period of fifteen years fours different colour versions of the badge were issued.

Colin Dodds took over the Golly checklist mantel and would include his eagerly awaited updates in the newsletter.

Frank continued to be frustrated at the lack of interest in button badges but undaunted continued to write articles and list badges. This era saw Jackie Raggett, Julia Mealing and Judith Forsythe become regular contributors with lists of button badges. Russell Field became a regular seller with his ‘Little Gems’ page and even put pen to paper to write his ‘novel’, ‘The Curse of the Vampire Golly’

Frank himself issued booklets on the button badges of McDonalds, Wimpy and Beefeater as well as Father Christmas and Pantomime issues. These were well received by the small band of button badge collectors who continued to be a minority in the club.

The mid 1990s saw the Circle break the 300 member mark almost a third of these being Golly collectors. In 1993 the very first strip cartoon ‘It’s The Badger’ was produced for the newsletter by Gavin Sellick. Gavin’s clever artwork and sense of humour was much appreciated by readers and it ran for over four years with many being re-used in later years. Newsletter 100 in March 1995 was issued with a special cover drawn by Gavin.

The Swapmeets continued to be noted by visitors for their friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Quorn would also attract collectors from far a field some travelling from Europe and America. The Quornmeet in 1994 witnessed the visit of Walter Koenig-the actor who famously played Chekhov in Star Trek. Even though Walter was a member (and an enthusiastic collector of Disney and many other badges) at the time it was a great surprise when he turned up.


Ever Increasing Circle

The increase in membership led to a great increase in members conducting their own auctions.

The auction lists in turn attracted more members and by the end of the millennium membership had swollen to over 500 and this figure could easily be doubled by the way the newsletters were passed around to non members.

1995-1999 saw the hobby continue to develop rapidly, much information was published either in the newsletters or indirectly through the newsletters. Robertson Golly badges and those from Butlins holiday camps, for example were the subject of many booklets, lists and articles.

John Hammond produced and continually updated his superb Trade Union badge listing, primarily through the band of Trade Union collectors with their own newsletters, but John also benefited from the Badger and was a keen BCC member who always attended swapmeets until his very untimely passing.

The Swapmeets also saw large numbers of people attending. There were two a year at Quorn until 1991, after which Quorn was always held annually in the autumn and the spring was left free for other areas of the country. Swapmeets were held at ; New Malden (1992), Bromley (1993/4), Stoke-on-Trent (1995-2006),Pinner (2001/2/3), York (2002/3), Worthing (2003) and Eastbourne (2004). Jane Terry and Nigel Pigstock organised all 12 meets at Stoke.


Swapmeet Swell

The early years of the new millennium witnessed a further growth in the Badger membership. The effect of the decision in 2001 to end the issuing of Gollies through Robertsons food products created a swell of interest. There was a clamour for the buying and selling of Gollies and the number of auction listings in the Newsletter further increased. Membership topped the 500 mark as Golly collectors swelled the ranks.

The 2000-2004 period also saw the publication of a superb series of articles by John Manley. John produced various articles on enamel badges and his work on manufacturers and their backstamps was groundbreaking

The Quorn Swapmeets continued up to 2010. The heydays of Quorn being between 1995 and 2005 with over forty stall holders and up to three hundred through the door. The autumn Quorn Swapmeets were usually blessed with good weather but the 2002 Swapmeet will be remembered by those who attended for the hurricane that also turned up! The premises officer nearly closed the school due to the conditions, thankfully the meet went ahead, although some collectors had an extra night in Leicestershire as their trains were cancelled.

The Badger was also taken by the British Museum department of Coins and Medals, from the 1980s right up to 2010. The museum often sought the help of the newsletters and Philip Attwood published two detailed listings of their badges ‘Acquisitions of Badges 1978-1982’ , followed by ‘Acquisitions of Badges 1983-1987’. In 2004-5 an exhibition, Status Symbols: identity and belief on modern badges, was at the British Museum from 22 July 2004 to 16 January 2005.


Ever Decreasing Circle

As the internet became more widely used members drifted away to ebay for their buying and selling needs. From 2006 onwards membership began to fall, several long term members sadly passed away. By the end of 2010 membership was just over 100 and the final newsletter was issued. Thirty one years produced 186 newsletters –the internet now offers the Circle the chance to record much of the information that is not already online.

Throughout the whole life of the newsletters Frank continued to include studies of British button badges. This was despite the fact, much to his frustration, that there were very few button badge collectors among the membership. Important work was done solving numerous ‘queries’ and establishing the provenance for many sets of classic button badges.

The 2005-2010 period saw the auction listings dwindle basically down to one list per issue. The Golly bubble well and truly burst and collectors drifted away to ebay.

The newsletter went quarterly in 2007 in an attempt to cut costs and keep it all going.

There was still a hardcore of members who carried on regardless.

Regular contributors during the period also included Kathy Moxom , Cliff Francis and Dave Spear. Dave sent in Butlins updates for every issue with the very latest details of the new badges issued at Butlins remaining three camps.

There were regular query solvers and those who wanted them solved, hopefully this will work much better on this website, although the newsletter did function very well as a query solver.

The Quorn Swapmeets also slowly began to dwindle with a happy hardcore of regulars.