A badge is a small accessory that carries a big meaning to it's holder. They can be used for many different purposes, such as the rare military Medal of Honor badge to a Girl Scout merit badge received for selling cookies. Below are listed several different popular terms associated with earning and receiving badges.
Patch – A special kind of badge tag made from cloth. The patch often has special embroidery representative of the service or merit achieved and can be sewn onto clothing. Boy and Girl Scouts often use patches.
Name Tag – A badge used to identify a person. They are often made from laminated plastic and include the name and picture of the individual. It can be worn around the neck with a lanyard pin and it's purpose is to certify that the holder belongs to a certain organization.
Law Enforcement Badge – A special kind of badge worn by members of law enforcement such as police or firemen. They are often made of metal and each town will have a custom design. It is against the law to make copies of a law enforcement badge and use it without actually being a member of law enforcement.
Ranking Badges – These are still used in the military to determine the rank and file of soldiers. Common types are aviation badges, parachutist badges, and marksmanship badges. Another common badge is the service stripe. For many branches of the United States military, each service stripe represents three years in the military.
Nursing Pin – A decorative badge worn by nurses that is given to them upon graduation from their nursing school. The badge is symbolic of the college they attended and representative of the history of the nursing program.
Badges are primarily used for identification and recognition. However, they are used in many contexts.
For example, Boy and Girl Scouts earn merit badges for competence in various areas. Meanwhile, a law enforcement officer's badge is used to identify him or her as such. Conventions and conferences use badges to identify legitimate attendees. Identification badges generally carry the holder's name and sometimes photo. Facilities often use employee badges for security, and these are designed not to be easily forged. They may use security features including bar codes and holograms.
Most identity badges are worn on lanyards. Law enforcement officers generally wear badges or 'shields' pinned or clasped to their uniform. Merit badges are often sewn on. Of course, all of these designs are also used for badges purely intended as fashion statements. These may be standard designs or custom, and are often used to make a statement or show loyalty to, for example, a television show.
Police shields are generally made of metal and engraved. Firefighters and emergency medical technicians often wear similar badges. Laser engraving is used on metal and wood badges and also on plaques. Both badges and plaques may be used for corporate awards. They also have a place in politics, with campaign pins being worn to indicate support for a candidate. Convention name tags may be simply printed onto paper or card and inserted into plastic holders. They are often designed to be as cheap as possible and are not expected to last long. Press passes tend to follow a similar design, but are often laminated. Military badges vary, with campaign badges often taking the form of cloth patches. Military identification is often done using metal dog tags.
Needless to say, bulk purchases often carry a discount, but technology allows single custom items to be purchased for a reasonable price.