Faleristics from "falerii," which were awards given
to Roman soldiers. According to some the term was actually coined in Russia
to describe the study of badges and insigniae. The term seems to
be in wide use in Europe, and implies awards such as for example might
be affixed to the clothes on
one's chest, and by extension, other "meaningful" jewelry one might pin thereon.
The field divides into two categories:
1) things worn by members of military style organizations of whatever function, and
2) civil badges, pins, etc.
In general, includes medals, orders (higher class medals), rank & unit insignia, etc. Military medals are usually issued with documents, and become more valuable when the documents and medals go together. Militaria collecting is a popular hobby. Medals are desired on the faleristica side and on the militaria side, so prices are tending to rise. By extension, the field includes the badges, etc. of any or all uniformed organizations: police, firefighter, nurse, life-saving society, secret service, scouts, etc.
In general, badges and buttons and pins that say or mean something, rather than just being nice looking jewelry. The meaning can range from an admission to an event to a political statement to a local souvenir, advertisement, commemorative of event, etc. Things like this have been and are being made all over the world. Their popularity tends to come and go from country to country. Examples of times and places when pin use boomed were England -1920s, Germany - 1930s, USSR - 1930s-80s, China - 1950s-80s, USA - 1960s. Thousands of types of pins were made during these periods by public and private entities.
There are three possible collecting methods:
2. Theme - communist countries, airplanes, things relating to streetcars, music, women, atomic
energy, space flight, sports, etc.
3. One of each country - It is probably possible to find a badge of each country. I have one
from Guinea. If nothing else the UN sells flag badges of every member nation and observer.
There are no good general militaria catalogs like there are for coins. Some nations are well published, some are not published at all. There are plenty of whazzits on the militaria market. By and large, though, the orders and medals sector is fairly well defined. Popular countries for
orders and medals are USA, British Empire, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Russia. Adequate specialized references exist for most of these. Chinese stuff is showing up now, and Nepalese, and there are no good catalogs.
For the civil stuff there's hardly anything. The Nazi German tinnies are treated in a new 3 volume catalog which I haven't seen yet. The USSR, British, USA have not been dealt with at all.
BRIEF DISCUSSION OF SEVERAL COUNTRIES
1. BRITAIN - From the turn of the 20th century until the 50s badges were popular in the Empire. Schools, businesses, service organizations, veterans groups and similar, voluntary and commercial organizations of all kinds issued pins for membership, conventions, to commemorate this or that, as donation tokens, etc. Many of these are enamelled brass and handsome. Most of the items are cheap, availability is spotty. There are thousands of types from all over the Empire.
2. GERMANY - Pins became popular in Germany during WWI. Use accelerated
during the Weimar and early Nazi periods, reaching a peak in the late 30s,
when the government got heavily involved in their production. Many
of these are made of tin plated steel, with or without paint or enamel.
Brass is not very common. Aluminum, magnesium alloy, and plastic
were less often
Nazi pins on Nazi themes tend to be relatively expensive, and many have been faked. Nonpolitical pins are often very cheap, but on the other hand are often unidentifiable. There is no wholesale of these at this time.
3. USA - While political badges have been distributed in USA for over 200 years, the heyday of message pins was the 1960s. Tens of thousands of types were made in that period. Virtually nothing has been published on them, they are not widely available, and when found in junk stores, being not old enough for antique stores, they are extremely cheap.
4. WARSAW PACT COUNTRIES - Starting in the 30s in the USSR pins began
to be issued by various organizations. The practice grew, until by
the 60s thousands of enterprises, ministries, local governments, schools,
military organizations, etc. were issuing badges to members, visitors,
tourists, for conferences, exhibits, etc. etc. etc. From the 60s
on the vast majority were made of enamelled aluminum, though other materials
are known, including silver. Generically these badges are known in
Russia as znatchki, meaning a small badge of little importance. By
the 70s znatchok manufacture was booming. For the Lenin Centennial
in 1970 many hundreds of different Lenin badges were produced. Badge
production continued to increase through the 80s practically until the
of the regime. Since 1992 production seems to have dropped precipitously.
Led by the glorious example of the USSR most of the Warsaw Pact countries issued pins too. The odds on champion seems to have been Czechoslovakia, from which country I've seen hundreds of different types.